Sorry Day Rally Sydney-Bring the Children Home

GMAR 26 may

‘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!

https://www.facebook.com/events/582506925256664/

29 Jan 2016| Grandmothers Against Removals Snap Protest at FACS, Strawberry Hills

29 JAN 2016| GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST REMOVALS SNAP PROTEST AT FACS, STRAWBERRY HILLS

 

“FACS did not engage with me or my family at all, they just took the babies” – Kukulangi Grandmother demands stolen grandchildren are returned to Queensland family

 

Grandmothers Against Removals Sydney [GMAR] and supporters will protest outside Family and Community Services [FACS] in Strawberry Hills at 12.30pm today to demand the immediate return of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from a Queensland family and placed in out-of-home care in Sydney.

 

Kukulangi Grandmother and founder of Brisbane Sovereign Grannies Group, Aunty Karen Fusi, will address the protest to demand a meeting with FACS for the return of her grandchildren. She says she was not even notified when her grandchildren were removed.

Currently, there are more than 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in “out-of-home care” on any given night – the highest number of children forcibly removed in Australian history.

“FACS has a duty of care to my grandchildren to notify me, as their grandmother, of any concerns for their wellbeing. FACS did not engage with me or my family at all, they just took the babies”, said Aunty Karen Fusi.

She continued, “I am a concerned grandmother who has flown from Queensland to Sydney to support my daughter to make sure her children are returned to Queensland and their family and community. I am very afraid that in Sydney they will lose their Aboriginal identity”.

This protest forms part of a growing national movement against the ongoing Stolen Generations and is calling for a national restoration program to return stolen children to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Protest organiser and member of GMAR Sydney, Michelle Hoogesteger, says the grass roots movement is gaining momentum as affected families and communities across Australia are increasingly confident to speak out.

Only a few days ago on Invasion Day (aka Australia Day) thousands of Aboriginal families and supporters protested across the countryagainst the ongoing systematic racism of government policies and institutions. The contemporary Stolen Generations is the epitome of this racism”, she said.
Welfare is being used as a weapon against Aboriginal people instead of providing essential support services. GMAR has called a national protest on 11 February outside Federal Parliament House in Canberra to mark the anniversary of the Apology. Families will not stop until they are heard!”, she concluded.
 

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Hoogesteger: 0405 709 881

Guiding principles for strengthening the participation of local Aboriginal community in child protection decision making

Click here to view the “Guiding  principles for strengthening the participation of local Aboriginal community in child protection decision making” developed by Grandmothers Against Removals.

Purpose: This document creates a set of guiding principles for FACS and local Aboriginal communities to work together in the practical application of the Act and relevant policies. The aim is for the document to be used by individual communities and FACS District offices across NSW to establish and guide their working relationship. It also sets out the structure of a State Wide Advisory Group to oversee the implementation of these guiding principles. These guiding principles envisage Aboriginal communities forming their own local advisory groups to:

• ensure Aboriginal community participation in decision making regarding the care and protection of Aboriginal children, as required under the Act and ACIF;

• support Aboriginal families and reduce the number of forced removals of Aboriginal children from their immediate and extended families;

• improve the access by Aboriginal people to local services and supports, and where recquired, interagency cooperation; and

• develop pathways of family restoration for Aboriginal children currently in out-of-home care.

The document is not intended to bind local communities. Rather, it aims to support Aboriginal self-determination by presenting a template that has been endorsed by GMAR, FACS and the NSW Ombudsman and can be adapted to suit the needs of individual communities. It will be important that this document is promoted widely to Aboriginal communities across NSW to enable them to opt into the arrangements it establishes and fulfil the new functions envisaged for local communities effectively.

Sydney Public Forum: Join the fight against child removals| 5th Dec 2015

Sydney public forum: Grandmothers Against Removals and the fight against continuing stolen generations

Saturday December 5
2pm Redfern Town Hall

https://www.facebook.com/events/182637692082568/

More Aboriginal children are being removed from their families by “welfare” agencies than at any time in Australia’s history – with more than 15,000 in “out of home care” nationwide. These numbers are rising rapidly. Services for struggling families are being cut back and tougher policies are being rolled out that see children removed for longer periods of time, including a push for adoption.

Grandmothers Against Removals is a national network, initiated by families who have direct experience of child removal. We fight against forced removals, for return of stolen children and for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. We are preparing for a major mobilisation at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, February 11-13 next year to mark the 8th anniversary of Rudd’s Apology. We have just launched a ‘guiding principles’ document, negotiated with FACS in Tamworth, which if followed would see family group conferencing and a community role in decisions about how to deal with crisis situations, rather than forced removal. But we need to maintain vigilant to ensure these principles are actually implemented and spread out across the state and country.

Come along to this forum to hear about the work of the Grandmothers, share your stories about the fight against child removal and help make plans for the mobilisation in February.

Canberra protest on Thursday February 11
12pm rally Aboriginal Tent Embassy Canberra – march to Parliament House
Bring the children home – Stop forced removals – Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare
Join the Grandmothers Against Removals for a protest to mark the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations – sorry means you don’t do it again! We will be meeting at the Tent Embassy in Canberra until February 13 to discuss the road ahead for our struggle – please come and join us.

Sorry Day protests – Perth – May 24 – May 30

On ‘Sorry Day’, May 26, the national network Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) will lead a protest in Perth against continuing Stolen Generations. This date marks 18 years since the release of the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report. This report detailed the horrors of the Stolen Generations of the 20th Century and called for urgent action to stop the continued removal of Aboriginal children from their families by ‘child protection’ agencies.

Since 1997 however, the number of Aboriginal children being forcibly removed has increased more than five times, with more than 15,000 Aboriginal kids in foster care today. In WA more than half of all children in ‘care’ are Aboriginal, despite being less than 5% of the population. This is an urgent national crises and affected families are fighting back. Grandmothers Against Removals stand as representatives of Sovereign Aboriginal Nations and fight for restoration of their sacred children to their people. Over the past 18 months the group has forced the issue into the national and international media spotlight, helped many families win their children back and forced negotiations with welfare departments in different states.

GMAR is appalled that WA Premier Colin Barnett is using “child protection” as an excuse to forcibly remove entire communities from their lands, recycling the same lies about child abuse used to justify the NT Intervention. These forced closures will be systematic child abuse on a massive scale, putting families into destitution, more kids into foster care, more adults into prison.

GMAR is leading a conference at Matagarup, the Perth Tent Embassy from May 24 – May 30, to strategise for the future and to march on May 26. Western Australia has been chosen as a focus for the conference to show solidarity with communities facing closure and help build links between the struggles. Your support is vitally important to help us fight for the right of children to live with their families and the right of all Aboriginal people to live on their lands and determine their own futures.

Donations are urgently required to assist with the costs of travel, accommodation, food and other logistics for the conference. Please give generously and spread this message through your networks.

Donations can be made to:
Grandmothers Against Removals WA
BSB: 633 000
Account Number: 154 186 902

For more information contact:
Vanessa Culbong 0475 790 046
Albert Hartnett 0478 166 033

16 MAR |SMH | Racism ‘a factor’ in child removal | Saffron Howden

An alarming number of Indigenous children are being taken from their parents.

For nearly three excruciating days, Albert Hartnett had no clue where his 18-month-old daughter, Stella, was being kept.

Social workers and police officers arrived at their inner-Sydney home one Saturday morning in mid-2012 with paperwork entitling them to remove his baby.

Among the concerns that prompted such drastic action was that Stella did not have her own cot in which to sleep, the dishes had not been done, there were cobwebs on the ceiling, and there appeared to be dog faeces on the floor of the apartment. But, Hartnett says, “[we had] no dog at the time”.

The police had reported the family after visiting the unit on unrelated matters. However, by Monday afternoon, after threats of legal action, a long meeting with NSW child protection officials and an assessment of the home, the baby was returned to the family’s care.

“They basically did everything back to front,” Hartnett says.

In recent years there has been an alarming increase nationally in the number of Indigenous children removed from their parents and placed in out-of-home care – anything from foster and kinship care to family group homes and residential homes with paid staff.

According to the Productivity Commission, 14,991 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care in mid-2014. Indigenous children accounted for nearly 35 per cent of all children in care despite making up only 5.5 per cent of Australia’s total child population.

The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, who last month gave evidence before the Senate inquiry into out-of-home care, says racism is playing a part in the over-representation of Indigenous kids in the child protection system.

“We know that there’s a level of racism in our community,” Mitchell says. “You’ve got a really high level of surveillance of Aboriginal communities. I do think there’s a level of racism, whether it’s intended or not.”

But she says there are myriad other factors, including problems with the system itself.

“I also think that the way we invest in care and protection is at that removal end, not at the family support end.”

Foster care, Mitchell says, should only ever be a short-term response to children at risk of harm. State-based child protection authorities should be using supervision orders – where parents are offered support to help improve home life and then monitored to ensure the child or children are safe – “a lot more”.

“We’ve really got to change things up completely,” she says.

The experts acknowledge the tragic social context in the high level of interaction between child welfare authorities and Indigenous families, including the intergenerational trauma caused by past removals of Aboriginal children from their parents, culture and land.

But they are also more likely to be victims of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault, to have higher hospitalisation and mortality rates for injury, and are over-represented in the juvenile justice system and among the homeless population.

In its 2014 publication, Indigenous Child Safety, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) also found the death rate for Indigenous children from intentional self-harm was nearly seven times the rate for non-Indigenous kids.

“The reasons for the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection system are complex but may include the legacy of past policies of the forced removal of some Aboriginal children from their families, intergenerational cycles of poverty, and cultural differences in child-rearing practices,” the institute concluded.

“Other factors such as disadvantaged socioeconomic status, violence, drug and alcohol abuse and inadequate housing may be associated with greater risk of child abuse and neglect.”

Paddy Gibson, a senior researcher at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), says the child protection system is, in effect, punishing Indigenous parents and families for their disadvantage.

“The government response to the very real social issues and social trauma that [are] out there in Aboriginal communities is a punitive one,” he says. “Child removal is being funded as a solution to the social problems.”

Welfare workers are also not taking cultural differences into account when they decide to remove a child. For example, Aboriginal children generally have a greater degree of autonomy than their non-Indigenous counterparts and the most common reason cited for taking Indigenous children from their parents is “neglect”.

“Overwhelmingly, the removals are for neglect or emotional abuse, which are both subjective,” Gibson says.

For “Uncle” Albert Hartnett, who is now heavily involved with Grandmothers Against Removals, the child protection system is a sign of a wider malaise.

“Australian society has lost touch with its humanity,” he says.

12 Feb | ABC Radio National | The increase in Indigenous child removals | Natasha Mitchell

There’s been a sharp rise in the number of indigenous children being placed in out of home care. Indigenous “Grandmothers against Removals” are demanding a national reunification scheme for children and their families and an independent review of the welfare policies driving these statistics. The grandmothers say we’re in danger of creating another stolen generation. So can we reduce child removals while at the same time acting in the best interests of indigenous children? Click here to read more.