IMPASSIONED locals converged at the Tamworth Family and Community Services (FACS) centre yesterday to demand answers about the continued removal of indigenous children from their families.
Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) and NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the high rate of removals of Aboriginal children – one in 10 – was leading to another “stolen generation”.
GMAR NSW founding member Aunty Hazel condemned the “patronising attitude” of the department.
She said the continued theft of Aboriginal children was traumatising, and disconnected them from their family and culture.
“We are demanding that our children come home. We are experts with our children. Our babies have the right to remain with their family,” she said.
“We need to stand up and talk about the little ones being taken and the trauma that has been inflicted.”
The meeting came after it was reported police had been called in to remove eight children from their home in Moree earlier this year.
The family’s youngest child had died but a coroner’s report cleared the family of any suspicion.
All eight children have now been returned after six months in state care and the GMAR have demanded FACS provide answers to the family.
“If a child does need to be taken from their parents, there is a whole network of family who love those babies and will care for them in their own community,” Aunty Hazel said.
GMAR presented FACS with a proposal to change the way Aboriginal children are removed by placing them with relatives and working closely with families earlier to reduce removal rates.
Hunter New England Family and Community Services district director Marie New said they would propose an expert local committee in two weeks’ time to consider the GMAR proposal.
“We are absolutely pleased to be able to work with the grandmothers to improve practice on the ground,” Ms New said.
“Our greatest wish is that children should live safely with their family.”
She said the department did not take removal lightly and the term “stolen generations” was “extreme”.
“The number of Aboriginal children coming into care is on a decline in recent years,” she said.
“About 85 per cent of Aboriginal children removed are in kinship care with family or with Aboriginal carers.”
Mr Shoebridge said it was fundamental Aboriginal communities had the right to self-determination.
“If a child does need to be removed, the first port of call needs to be the community … instead of them being whisked hundreds of kilometres away,” he said.
“We are repeating the mistakes of the past.”
He commended indigenous locals for protesting and breaking the “wall of silence” by forcing the department to respond.
“Unless the rest of Australia pays attention, we will continue to have stolen generations.”