26 May 2016| Redfern Protest: Grandmothers Against Removals demand urgent action to stop forced child removals on National Sorry Day

Grandmothers Against Removals NSW

Media Release 25 May, 2016 for immediate release

Redfern Protest: Grandmothers Against Removals demand urgent action to stop forced child removals on National Sorry Day Grandmothers and other Aboriginal people directly affected by forced child removal by Family and Community Services (FACS) will lead a protest in Redfern on Sorry Day, May 26, as part of a National Day of Action against continuing stolen generations.

More than two years of campaigning by Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) has forced a recognition from all levels of government that the unprecedented number of Aboriginal children being removed from their families is unacceptable.

GMAR will use both the Sorry Day protest and a series of high-level meetings with senior FACS personnel and NSW Minister Brad Hazard over May 26-27 to push for substantial commitments to both change practice and allocate funding for programs which can stop the removals and reunite children with their families.

In particular, GMAR is demanding the roll-out across NSW of ‘guiding principles’ committed to by FACS in November 2015. These principles would see family group conferencing replace forced removal as the initial response of FACS workers to child protection concerns. The principles also allow for Aboriginal community participation in decision making.

GMAR is also demanding substantial funding for a reunification program to review all cases of Aboriginal children in care with a view to returning children currently caught in the foster care system and supporting their families to deal with any continuing concerns.

Debra Swan from Moree, a former FACS caseworker and GMAR spokesperson said:

“GMAR welcomes the opportunity for further dialogue with FACS management and Minister Hazard on the child removal crisis and their recognition that the number of our kids being removed is unacceptable. But this fight is far from finished. Just from our networks we know of so many children who are still in the foster care system who should be back with their families. To prove they are serious, we will be pushing for major financial commitments, particularly for a reunification program that can bring children home”.

Hazel Collins from Gunnedah and GMAR spokesperson said:

“Our fight has exposed and shamed FACS for the theft of children. We have seen serious changes in practice in Gunnedah as a result of the implementation of the ‘guiding principles’ signed in November 2015. This proves family group conferencing and community consultation can stop the forced removals. There’s no more time for excuses – these principles should be immediately rolled out across the state. Open the books on all of our kids that FACS are still holding and bring them back to their families. We won’t stop fighting until all the children are home.”

Suellyn Tighe from Coonabarabran and GMAR spokesperson said:

“All of the 16,000 Aboriginal children in ‘care’ across Australia have names, families and a culture rich in its diversity and complexity. All have stories to learn from and to tell. Do not reduce these children to statistics because it seems impossible to make change. History will judge this government on whether it stayed the course of taking unprecedented numbers of children from their families, or whether we all worked together and took the opportunity to make fundamental and positive changes.”

“GMAR have begun the journey. We call on all people across Australia regardless of race to unite with us. No more will we accept political paralysis and social acceptance of the appalling practices that facilitate the deliberate separation of Aboriginal children from their families and their culture. No more will we accept self-serving rhetoric from those in power – now is the time to act.”

What: Protest against continuing stolen generations led by Grandmothers Against Removals

When: ‘Sorry Day’, Thursday May 26, starting 12:30pm

Where: Rally at the Block, corner of Caroline and Louis st Redfern. After speeches, we will march to the FACS office on Chalmers st, Surry Hills.

Contact:

Debra Swan: 0413 732 344

Hazel Collins: 0423 902 746

Suellyn Tighe: 0467 460 582