Grandmothers from Gunnedah, known as Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), will protest at Tamworth FACS at 12.30pm today to demand the restoration of children they say have been “stolen” from their community.
Condemning recent changes to the NSW child protection legislation, they say the crisis of Aboriginal child removal will worsen and entrench “ongoing stolen generations”. Currently, there are over 6200 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care state-wide which is the highest number ever recorded.
Affected families and supporters from across NSW and Queensland will join the protest alongside NSW MP David Shoebridge. Buses and convoys have been arranged from Moree, Brisbane and Sydney.
GMAR say that FACS typically refuse to work cooperatively with families to ensure access to necessary support. They say abrupt removals have become standard practice, creating intense trauma and dislocation for the children, families and community at large.
Aunty Hazel, founding member of GMAR, said, “We demand that FACS work with families and support them. Don’t just take the children. Prevent the removal! Keeping families together must be a priority”.
GMAR chose to protest on a Friday afternoon to draw attention to what has been termed FACS’ “Friday special”.
“FACS are renowned for coming and taking babies on a Friday afternoon when families have no recourse to access legal advise or services. Families are completely disempowered and left to deal with the trauma of removal without any support. We’re here to let them know very strongly that we will not allow this to continue”, added Aunty Hazel.
NSW MLC David Shoebridge has pledged to lobby on behalf of affected Aboriginal families to have their concerns about FACS addressed.
“The law and the culture of child protection must be changed to ensure that families are first and foremost receiving support and assistance and that child removal is only ever a last resort”, Shoebridge said.
“NSW has the highest incidence of Aboriginal child removal rates in all of Australia, with the deeply distressing figure that one in 10 Aboriginal children are in out-of-home-care. In this State the stolen generation is not just historical, it is happening in 2014”, Shoebridge added.
“The Minister for Family Services deserves some credit for recently acknowledging that the number of Aboriginal children in care is unacceptably high. However the tragedy is that recent changes to child protection laws are likely only to drive it higher”, he continued.
In a meeting with FACS management yesterday, GMAR demanded the immediate review of at least twenty cases of child removal in the Hunter New England district with a view to restoring these children to their families within the next four weeks. FACS has not yet confirmed if they are willing to do this.
“This is only a starting point. We want to see change. We want support for families so we can bring the children home. Until that time, we will be on FACS doorstep”, concluded Aunty Hazel.
GMAR has called a national day of action on May 26 to mark Sorry Day, the anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report.
MEDIA CONTACT: OLIVIA NIGRO 0401 955 405
DAVID SHOEBRIDGE’S OFFICE: (02) 9230 3030
PHOTOS, AUDIO & VIDEO OF PROTEST AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST