‘Sorry Day’, May 26, will mark 19 years since the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report – a report which exposed the horrific impact of policies of forced Aboriginal child removal during the 20th Century. The report also detailed how many of the dynamics that led to the Stolen Generations continued in contemporary Australia, through the discriminatory actions of “Child Protection” departments in every state and territory. Since then, the theft of Aboriginal children has increased more than five fold and is now one of the most urgent crises facing Aboriginal communities.
On June 30 1997, there were 2,785 Aboriginal kids in “out of home care”. Now there are more than 15,000. The majority of these kids have not been placed with their Aboriginal families; and relatives are routinely denied ‘kinship carer’ status without justification.
Children, including newborn babies, are being taken from parents who are homeless, while social housing is under attack. Children are being taken from women experiencing domestic violence, or caught in addiction, while shelters and programs are closed down. Many families are being persecuted by Family and Community Services (FACS) simply for being Aboriginal. Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) is a national network initiated by families who are directly affected by the child removal crisis.
GMAR is fighting for the implementation of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, to bring an end to continuing stolen generations. The report said: “Our principal finding is that self-determination for Indigenous peoples provides the key to reversing the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems of the States and Territories and to eliminating unjustified removals of Indigenous children from their families and communities”
May 26 will be a National Day of Action demanding self-determination; along with demands for a Commonwealth-funded program to reunite Aboriginal children with their families and communities. Here in Sydney, GMAR will lead a march on the Redfern FACS office, demanding local implementation of the “guiding principles” that were negotiated with Tamworth FACS last year. These principles mandate family group-conferencing, rather than forced removal; and take steps towards local forms of self-determination.
Watch out on the GMAR NSW Facebook page for updates on actions in other towns and cities – or organise your own march on May 26!