Former Family and Community Services (FACS) caseworker and delegate to the FACS NSW Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG) has joined national protests on Sorry Day to condemn, what many are calling, “the ongoing Stolen Generation”.
Over 15 protests have been organised nationwide demanding the return of “stolen children” and Aboriginal community control over the care and protection of Aboriginal children. Protest details attached and below.
A press conference will be held this morning at 10am outside the head office of FACS NSW, 4-6 Cavill Avenue, Ashfield. Speakers include Debra Swan (former FACS worker), Aunty Hazel (Grandmothers Against Removals) and Greens MP David Shoebridge (NSW Parliament).
“I will be joining protests happening around the country to say that the forced removal of our children continues today in unacceptable numbers. I have seen the injustice, how unfair this system is. I was a caseworker for 13 years, but couldn’t bring myself to go to work any more with the way this department is mistreating Aboriginal people”, said Debra Swan.
In a national statement issued to mark May 26, protest organisers say, “Since [The Bringing Them Home Report was published] the number of our children being removed has exploded – from 2,785 in 1997 to 13,914 in 2013 – a five fold increase. In NSW, ten percent of Aboriginal children are in “out of home care”. Across the country, it is almost six percent of Aboriginal children, more than ten times the non-Indigenous rate, and the figure is rising every year”. Please find full national statement attached and below.
Swan continued, “The Department is still pushing an agenda of assimilation. They look down on Aboriginal cultural practices and disrespect the way our families operate. Discrimination leads to removal”.
At FACS head office today, NSW Secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter, will launch‘Better Outcomes for Aboriginal People and Communities Aboriginal Strategy 2013-2015’.
Aunty Hazel from Grandmothers Against Removals Gunnedah (GMAR) and signatory to the national statement said, “While FACS host a Sorry Day event inside their head office today, thousands of Aboriginal families are grieving for their stolen children. The hypocrisy is criminal”.
“If FACS is serious about working at a local level then it needs to use an empowerment framework. Aboriginal families and service providers must be decision makers in the care and protection of children, not just subject to token consultation”, Aunty Hazel continued.
GMAR, in conjunction with expert lawyers, have developed a proposal for an Aboriginal Community Liaison Committee (ACLC) which would be tasked with preventing child removals and securing the return of children to their families. A copy of the proposal is available upon request.
“At a protest in Tamworth last month, the local FACS office agreed to trial the ACLC but has not returned our emails since. We want this implemented immediately to hand back control to Our People so we can bring our babies home”, continued Aunty Hazel.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson, David Shoebridge, has endorsed the national protests and is working with affected families for the necessary systemic change.
“This national day of action is confirmation that Aboriginal child removal is an endemic problem across the country that requires urgent attention from all levels of government”, he said.
Shoebridge continued, “Sorry needs to be more than a one off speech, it needs to be combined with a commitment to deliver justice, and there can be no justice while so many children are still being taken,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Swan concluded, “If our kids keep getting taken off us, our culture will be fractured even further. We are not just going to just sit back and let the Stolen Generation continue”.
OLIVIA NIGRO | +61 401 955 405
DAVID SHOEBRIDGE’S OFFICE | 9230 3030
10AM | HEAD OFFICE FACS NSW
4-6 CAVILL AVENUE, ASHFIELD.
SYDNEY | 2PM | STRAWBERRY HILLS FACS OFFICE
219-241 CLEVELAND STREET, STRAWBERRY HILLS
CONTACT: 0401 955 405
BRISBANE | 10AM | QUEENSLAND PARLIAMENT HOUSE
GEORGE STREET, BRISBANE.
CONTACT: 0407 687 016
PERTH | 10.30AM | DEPARTMENT CHILD PROTECTION
189 ROYAL STREET, EAST PERTH.
CONTACT: 0429 212 567
ALICE SPRINGS | 7PM 28 MAY | TOWN COUNCIL COMPLEX
CONTACT: 0438 816 851 OR 0415 800 586
Say NO to Continuing Stolen Generations | Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Welfare
Returning children must be the priority | No forced adoptions | Support and services to prevent removals
We, as Aboriginal Grandparents and parents, have called protests across the country on May 26 demanding the return of our children who have been forcibly removed by child welfare agencies.
More Aboriginal children are now being taken away than at any previous time in Australia’s black and white history – this cannot be allowed to continue. It is time for affected families and supporters to come together and fight what our families and others are calling yet again another Stolen Generation.
Each year, May 26 is marked as “Sorry Day”, the anniversary of the release of the Bringing them Home report in 1997, which laid bare the horrors of the Stolen Generations of the past century.
Bringing Them Home also sounded the alarm that an “unacceptable” number of Aboriginal children were still being removed by child welfare agencies. Driving these removals is the entrenched poverty faced by our communities, and continuing racist and ignorant attitudes amongst welfare workers.
Since then the number of our children being removed has exploded – from 2,785 in 1997 to 13,914 in 2013 – a five fold increase. In NSW, ten percent of Aboriginal children are in “out of home care”. Across the country, it is almost six percent of Aboriginal children, more than ten times the non-Indigenous rate, and the figure is rising every year.
Removals that are happening now are no different to those in the 20th Century. Police are regularly sent with weapons to rip our children away. Mothers who fight back are jailed. Babies are taken from their mothers at birth. Some children in remote communities are placed on aircraft and flown hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away from their families to be placed with non-Aboriginal carers.
Removals routinely happen without any attempts to work with families. This is criminal. If there is a crisis situation and children are unable to remain in a household, options for care should be negotiated with the family group and the broader Aboriginal community, not be enforced through removal into non-Indigenous foster care. Rehabilitative assistance must be given to the affected families to allow for future return of the children. We want more Aboriginal workers for our communities and for all non-Aboriginal welfare workers to have cross-cultural training. All welfare workers must be accountable to their own protocols and procedures to ensure the inclusion of our families in decisions that affect our lives. The ultimate goal, however, must be self-determination for our people in the care and protection of our children.
We have virtually no rights within the current system. The “rules of evidence” do not apply in the Children’s Court. Welfare workers can file statements full of anonymous stories and have magistrates approve removal without any chance for parents to be heard. Many parents are not represented in court and those who are often have to wait months to put their case forward. We are stopped from speaking to the media about our cases while they are before the Children’s Court. The “Aboriginal Child placement principle”, supposedly law in every state, is routinely ignored and extended family networks are pushed out of decision making about our children. Child welfare agencies are renowned for subverting their own policies and procedures and are described as “a law unto themselves”.
There is currently a Royal Commission into sexual abuse in institutions, yet these same organisations are being given big contracts to manage our children in the rapidly expanding out of home care industry. NSW has recently passed legislation which will make it easier for adoption or long-term guardianship for children only recently removed, destroying any chance of reunification. Governments across the country are considering similar reforms.
We have formed a national network to call for a national people’s movement that can build the grass-roots pressure to stop the ongoing Stolen Generations and fight the systemic disadvantage facing our people. We demand resources to lift our communities out of poverty – the real “neglect” that is used to justify taking our children.
Stop stealing our children. They belong to us not government departments. We want returning children to their families to be the priority! We want the forced adoption policy absolutely abolished. Our children are not orphans, they have loving families! We want the punitive child removals to stop. Child welfare agencies must work with Aboriginal families and provide supports and services to ensure families stay together.
We demand Aboriginal community control over all decisions affecting the welfare of our children and families.
Signed: Grandmothers Against Removals (Gunnedah, NSW), Indigenous Social Justice Association, Brisbane Sovereign Embassy, Perth Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Intervention Rollback Action Group Alice Springs and Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney.