Scenes from the rally against the forced removal of Aboriginal children. Photos: Cory Wright
Aboriginal communities from around Australia gathered in Brisbane yesterday to rally against child welfare agencies and state governments that protestors accused of creating ‘another Stolen Generation’.
The group of about 200 people converged on Roma Street in the CBD to bring attention to the forced removal of 14,000 Indigenous children from their families.
About six per cent of the national Indigenous child population is in out-of-home care, more than ten times the non-Indigenous rate, the National Aboriginal Strategic Alliance to Bring the Children Home (NASA) reports.
The Brisbane Sovereign Grannies Group (BSGG) and Grandmothers Against Removals (GAR) spoke at the rally and said the Stolen Generation is ‘continuing’.
“Nothing has changed for over 170 years. They’re stealing our children, they’re stealing them from the mothers when they’re still in their hospital beds,” Aunty Pat Leavy, a senior member of the BSGG, said.
Aunty Pat said child welfare agencies are over-zealous in the removal of Aboriginal children and Indigenous communities should have control over the welfare of Aboriginal children and families.
“We need to have control back, and some of us elders have to sit on those committees to help make the decisions about our children,” Aunty Leavy said.
“We need to teach them [child welfare agencies] our way. We already had our own system back in the old days of who will look after the children.”
Founding GMAR member Hazel Collins said the ‘theft’ of Aboriginal children nation-wide has not been adequately discussed because Indigenous people feel ‘disempowered’.
“When these thieves come into our home and steal our babies, our babies are put under this minister and Lord knows when we can see them, how many times we can see them,” Aunty Hazel said.
“When are they going to come and sit down and talk to us? We have the right, our children have the right, to be together, to know who we are.
“We are not asking, we are demanding the return of our children.”
Aunty Rhonda Collard, whose family was ‘stolen’ for four generations, also spoke at the rally, describing the consequences of removing Aboriginal children from their communities.
“I know what it’s like to be removed – it leaves a big hole in your heart and that can never, ever be healed. It might leave a little scar there but it still hurts,” she said.
“So I don’t want this for our beautiful generation coming up – the ones that are being removed now – they need to be with their family, they need to be growing up with their culture, need to be growing up on their land.
“It wrecks all our relationships because we don’t know how to act, so it’s a long term effect that these little precious babies will suffer. I’ve been through it – it’s a life sentence.”
The rally ended with a march through the city escorted by police, with many people draped in Aboriginal flags and holding placards.
In response to the protest, a spokesperson for Queensland Child Safety Services said the Government only removes children when they are assessed to be at risk of significant harm and all other options have been explored.
“The over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection system is clearly a concern,” the spokesperson said.
“Child Safety Services seeks to protect children from harm, or risk of harm, and find them safe places to live when their parents cannot or will not care for them.”
The spokesperson said Queensland Government is currently committing $1.5 million to reform Indigenous family support services and $1.4 million will go to culturally appropriate child protection practice.
This investment is also going toward the employment of an additional 10 Indigenous practice leaders.
The Bringing Them Home (1997) report found that forced removal of children is a form of racism and assimilation.
Since 1997, the numbers of children in out-of-home care has increased five-fold, the National Aboriginal Strategic Alliance to Bring the Children Home said.