A New South Wales woman who had her newborn son taken from her shortly after he was born says she has no idea where he is despite spending the past eight years battling to bring him home.
For eight years, a mum from northern New South Wales has been battling to have her child restored to her care.
The young Aboriginal mother, who cannot be identified, was just 21 and had a one-year-old baby at home when her newborn son was taken from hospital just days after his birth.
She has not seen or heard from him since that day.
Her harrowing story is part of what many believe is a new generation of stolen children in the state.
Today, one in 10 Aboriginal families in NSW has had a child removed.
Since the Bringing Them Home Report was released in 1997, there has been an almost five-fold increase in kids in out-of-home care.
Family and Community Services District Director for Hunter and New England, Marie New, says it’s a complex issue.
“For Aboriginal communities, disadvantage across more areas that child protection is clearly an issue in NSW and across the country…however, we have decreasing numbers of children coming into care – Aboriginal children – and it’s worth noting that 85 per cent of the children in care are either with family or with Aboriginal carers,” she says.
But many families remain confused about the legislative process and way in which children are removed and then restored.
Cherryl Orr is a Sydney lawyer who specialises in child removal cases and was removed from her own family as a child.
She says that while there are many cases of children in crisis where removal is the best option, it should always be the extreme last resort.
Ms Orr fears that children who aren’t placed in out-of-home care with Aboriginal families will continue the cycle of Aboriginal child removal and be disconnected from family and culture.
“We should be working to keep Aboriginal children with their families,” she says.
“How do you do that? You do that with early intervention; you do that with early engagement , not early removal.”
In the case of the New South Wales mother, the baby’s great-grandmother attempted to intervene but was told she was too old, despite already having other children in her care.
According to the mum, the child was removed due to concerns over domestic violence.
She was given guidlenes by the Department to improve the situation for the two children that remain in her care.
She left her partner, moved closer to family, got herself a new house and ensures that her kids attend school, but still she waits for answers.
“Every day I think about you my son,” she says.
“My heart is aching untill you come home…I love you my boy.”