The removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their families has forced crisis meetings between the NSW State Government and Indigenous elders. The group Grandmothers Against Removal has met with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services to request the Aboriginal community be consulted before any removals take place. Click here to listen.
ELEANOR HALL: The removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their families has forced crisis meetings between the New South Wales Government and Indigenous leaders.
Elders from the group Grandmothers Against Removal are asking officials from the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services to consult the Aboriginal community before removing children.
They say the Government is removing children from their families at such a high rate that they risk creating “another stolen generation” as Will Ockenden reports.
WILL OCKENDEN: It’s been a weeklong series of meetings with Indigenous elders, their communities and the New South Wales Department of Family Services.
The meetings were held in Moree, Dubbo and Tamworth – brokered by state Greens MP David Shoebridge over concerns about the rate of Aboriginal children being taken from their families.
Suellyn is from Grandmothers Against Removal, a group campaigning for more community involvement before the removals take place.
SUELLYN: People are coming forward and what’s happening is while they’re coming forward, they’re telling us their stories and what we’re hearing is generational, generational stories of involvements with Family and Community Services.
WILL OCKENDEN: She says at the meetings, people have been sharing their personal stories of children being removed.
SUELLYN: When you hear some of the aunties talking about their experiences it is heartbreaking.
WILL OCKENDEN: But she says the main concern of the group, and many in the community, is that there are way too many Aboriginal children being removed.
SUELLYN: It’s increased five-fold since the Bringing Them Home report and that in itself should be statement enough into proving that there’s something that needs to be done and something that needs to be changed.
WILL OCKENDEN: The Bringing Them Home report was published by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 1997.
Suellyn says the situation was bad back then, now it’s a crisis.
SUELLYN: So one in 10 Aboriginal children are in care. That’s more than 6,000 people. More than 6,000 children in New South Wales are in care.
WILL OCKENDEN: The issue has been simmering since January, after police raided several homes in the state’s north to remove eight Aboriginal children.
The father of the children claimed that police has pointed guns at him during the raid, a claim the New South Wales Police have always strenuously denied.
But Suellyn says in most cases she objects to the use of police and the Government instead should work closer with families.
SUELLYN: The lack of accountability on behalf of DOCS (Department of Community Services) in their removals, you know, families for instance aren’t getting information, they’re not given reasons why, you know, they’re coming into their homes and removing their children.
WILL OCKENDEN: The New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services has agreed to provide the group within two weeks its proposal to better involve elders and the community.
KATE ALEXANDER: The rate of Aboriginal children is of great concern to us.
WILL OCKENDEN: Kate Alexander is from the Department of Family and Community Services.
KATE ALEXANDER: We do know that Aboriginal children in New South Wales are over-represented in all areas of disadvantage and that includes rates of removal and being known to the child protection system.
We do take, I mean I suppose we are pleased to notice that the rate of children, Aboriginal children entering into care is going down in the last couple of years and that we are reassured by the fact that the great majority of Aboriginal children in care in New South Wales are cared for by family and Aboriginal carers.
None of that though does anything to step away from our concerns that we want to do a lot more to work with Aboriginal families to keep their children with them.
ELEANOR HALL: And that’s Kate Alexander from the New South Wales Department of Community and Family Services, ending Will Ockenden’s report.