Aboriginal people who live a traditional lifestyle are being punished with the removal of their children by child protective services in what is being called a new Stolen Generation, a researcher says.
More Indigenous children have been removed from their families today than at any time in Australia’s history, said Paddy Gibson, a senior researcher with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at University of Technology, Sydney.
Mr Gibson pointed to the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner’s annual report showing that in the year to June 30, 2013, five times more Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children were being put in care, with 126 non-Aboriginal and 624 Aboriginal children taken from their parents.
This was predominantly due to neglect issues rather than physical or sexual abuse, Mr Gibson said.
“There are a lot of children out there in real trouble, and families that do need support to provide a safe environment for kids to grow up in, but too often we are seeing Aboriginal cultural practices themselves being classified as neglect,” he said.
Aboriginality ‘held against them’: Paddy Gibson
Frequent travel to visit family, and overcrowding in houses when relatives visit disrupted children’s routines and stability, Mr Gibson said, citing the department.
“It’s basically their Aboriginality being held against them in far, far too many instances.”
He said it cost up to $300 per night to keep a single child in care, which he described as “obscene when you consider the poverty these families are in”.
There are strong Aboriginal people in every community who badly need resources and support to help deal with the issues facing our families and to keep our kids safe in their culture.Town camp leader Barbara Shaw
“[The NT Government] won’t invest in the services that are needed to increase the incomes of those families struggling to survive in many cases, which is often the catalyst for the government moving in.
“It’s a very cruel and punitive process, and it’s very rightly being described by the families living through it as a new Stolen Generation.”
The Intervention Rollback Action Group will hold a forum on the issue in Alice Springs on Wednesday night.
“There are strong Aboriginal people in every community who badly need resources and support to help deal with the issues facing our families and to keep our kids safe in their culture,” town camp leader Barbara Shaw said in a statement.
“We are all part of extended kinship networks; there is always somewhere they can turn without removing children, but the resources and support need to be on the table.”
Mr Gibson said National Sorry Day events were being held around Australia this week to protest Aboriginal children being taken away from their families.