Category Archives: GMAR Campaign

Sydney Public Forum: Join the fight against child removals| 5th Dec 2015

Sydney public forum: Grandmothers Against Removals and the fight against continuing stolen generations

Saturday December 5
2pm Redfern Town Hall

https://www.facebook.com/events/182637692082568/

More Aboriginal children are being removed from their families by “welfare” agencies than at any time in Australia’s history – with more than 15,000 in “out of home care” nationwide. These numbers are rising rapidly. Services for struggling families are being cut back and tougher policies are being rolled out that see children removed for longer periods of time, including a push for adoption.

Grandmothers Against Removals is a national network, initiated by families who have direct experience of child removal. We fight against forced removals, for return of stolen children and for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. We are preparing for a major mobilisation at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, February 11-13 next year to mark the 8th anniversary of Rudd’s Apology. We have just launched a ‘guiding principles’ document, negotiated with FACS in Tamworth, which if followed would see family group conferencing and a community role in decisions about how to deal with crisis situations, rather than forced removal. But we need to maintain vigilant to ensure these principles are actually implemented and spread out across the state and country.

Come along to this forum to hear about the work of the Grandmothers, share your stories about the fight against child removal and help make plans for the mobilisation in February.

Canberra protest on Thursday February 11
12pm rally Aboriginal Tent Embassy Canberra – march to Parliament House
Bring the children home – Stop forced removals – Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare
Join the Grandmothers Against Removals for a protest to mark the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations – sorry means you don’t do it again! We will be meeting at the Tent Embassy in Canberra until February 13 to discuss the road ahead for our struggle – please come and join us.

16 MAR |SMH | Racism ‘a factor’ in child removal | Saffron Howden

An alarming number of Indigenous children are being taken from their parents.

For nearly three excruciating days, Albert Hartnett had no clue where his 18-month-old daughter, Stella, was being kept.

Social workers and police officers arrived at their inner-Sydney home one Saturday morning in mid-2012 with paperwork entitling them to remove his baby.

Among the concerns that prompted such drastic action was that Stella did not have her own cot in which to sleep, the dishes had not been done, there were cobwebs on the ceiling, and there appeared to be dog faeces on the floor of the apartment. But, Hartnett says, “[we had] no dog at the time”.

The police had reported the family after visiting the unit on unrelated matters. However, by Monday afternoon, after threats of legal action, a long meeting with NSW child protection officials and an assessment of the home, the baby was returned to the family’s care.

“They basically did everything back to front,” Hartnett says.

In recent years there has been an alarming increase nationally in the number of Indigenous children removed from their parents and placed in out-of-home care – anything from foster and kinship care to family group homes and residential homes with paid staff.

According to the Productivity Commission, 14,991 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care in mid-2014. Indigenous children accounted for nearly 35 per cent of all children in care despite making up only 5.5 per cent of Australia’s total child population.

The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, who last month gave evidence before the Senate inquiry into out-of-home care, says racism is playing a part in the over-representation of Indigenous kids in the child protection system.

“We know that there’s a level of racism in our community,” Mitchell says. “You’ve got a really high level of surveillance of Aboriginal communities. I do think there’s a level of racism, whether it’s intended or not.”

But she says there are myriad other factors, including problems with the system itself.

“I also think that the way we invest in care and protection is at that removal end, not at the family support end.”

Foster care, Mitchell says, should only ever be a short-term response to children at risk of harm. State-based child protection authorities should be using supervision orders – where parents are offered support to help improve home life and then monitored to ensure the child or children are safe – “a lot more”.

“We’ve really got to change things up completely,” she says.

The experts acknowledge the tragic social context in the high level of interaction between child welfare authorities and Indigenous families, including the intergenerational trauma caused by past removals of Aboriginal children from their parents, culture and land.

But they are also more likely to be victims of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault, to have higher hospitalisation and mortality rates for injury, and are over-represented in the juvenile justice system and among the homeless population.

In its 2014 publication, Indigenous Child Safety, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) also found the death rate for Indigenous children from intentional self-harm was nearly seven times the rate for non-Indigenous kids.

“The reasons for the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection system are complex but may include the legacy of past policies of the forced removal of some Aboriginal children from their families, intergenerational cycles of poverty, and cultural differences in child-rearing practices,” the institute concluded.

“Other factors such as disadvantaged socioeconomic status, violence, drug and alcohol abuse and inadequate housing may be associated with greater risk of child abuse and neglect.”

Paddy Gibson, a senior researcher at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), says the child protection system is, in effect, punishing Indigenous parents and families for their disadvantage.

“The government response to the very real social issues and social trauma that [are] out there in Aboriginal communities is a punitive one,” he says. “Child removal is being funded as a solution to the social problems.”

Welfare workers are also not taking cultural differences into account when they decide to remove a child. For example, Aboriginal children generally have a greater degree of autonomy than their non-Indigenous counterparts and the most common reason cited for taking Indigenous children from their parents is “neglect”.

“Overwhelmingly, the removals are for neglect or emotional abuse, which are both subjective,” Gibson says.

For “Uncle” Albert Hartnett, who is now heavily involved with Grandmothers Against Removals, the child protection system is a sign of a wider malaise.

“Australian society has lost touch with its humanity,” he says.

22 March | The Guardian | Another stolen generation: how Australia still wrecks Aboriginal families

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The mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents continues unabated – where is the outrage?

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, “There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would’ve been hung years ago, wouldn’t I? Because [as an Aboriginal Australian] you’re guilty before you’re found innocent.” The child’s grandmother demands to know why “the stealing of our kids is happening all over again”. A welfare official says, “I’m gunna take him, mate.” See link below for more.