Created by: Diet Simon | Linksunten Indymedia | 14 February 2015.
Aboriginal grandmothers have protested to Australian politicians about the increasing removal of Aboriginal children from their families to be placed in homes or with foster families, many of them non-Indigenous. Grandmothers were among about 100 Indigenous protesters who marched from the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra to parliament house on Friday, 13 February. In 2008, then [Labor] prime minister, Kevin Rudd, apologised on behalf of the federal government for the decades-long systematic removal of Aboriginal children from their families. The practice started in the 1800s and continued until the 1970s.
The grandmothers issued a communique, which reads in part:
"Today we march in protest against the unprecedented theft of Aboriginal children from their families by so-called "Child Protection" agencies across Australia.
"We are in urgent need of protection from the criminal actions of these Departments, who persecute Aboriginal families and mobilise police to terrorise children with forced removals.
"More Aboriginal children are forcibly separated from their families at this moment than at any time in history.
"We march in solidarity with the many Aboriginal families who suffer the fresh pain of forced removal every day.
"We march in solidarity with the black children who run away in fear from foster care placements and institutions every night.
"We march to mark seven years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an "apology" to the Stolen Generations of the 20th Century, an apology loaded with the worst hypocrisy, given the crescendo of forced child removals that took place under the watch of his government. ... "
"Last year, 200 kids were taken out of school in Africa [by terrorist group Boko Haram] and the world was horrified,” elder and tent embassy member, Les Coe, was quoted by The Guardian Australia online.
"In the last seven years since Rudd made his apology, 15,000 kids have been taken and nothing has been said. We don’t hear boo from anyone. That is state-sponsored terrorism.”
Coe was angry at the policies of state and federal government that he said were ripping families apart.
"All their crimes are crimes against humanity that they are committing against us. It is genocide all over again for stealing our children,” Coe said.
He said the 2008 apology was hollow rhetoric. "Sorry means nothing. I say ‘fuck sorry.’”
Rudd, who addressed a breakfast in Sydney to mark the anniversary, said words must be followed up with actions.
"The purpose of the apology I delivered to Indigenous Australians was not to provide the nation a fleeting feelgood moment.”
Grandmother Priscilla Whiteman told Gerry Georgatos, correspondent of National Indigenous Radio (NIRS), that "at-risk children need the support of their communities, rather than being removed by the government." The grandmothers demand introduction of a reunification programme for children placed with non-Indigenous families.
Grandmothers Against Removals spokesperson Aunty Hazel Collins, said "governments should allow community-driven care of at-risk children rather than removing them from their extended families." The CEO of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), Frank Hytten said "it's typically not part of governments' agenda to spend money on preventative services”.
Prominent Aboriginal journalist, Amy McQuire, reported on the online news service, "new matilda”: "Seven years ago today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people mobilised on the lawns of Parliament House to watch Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologise to members of the Stolen Generations, and promise that "the injustices of the past must never, never happen again". But today, grandmothers from across the country will march on that same lawn, saying that it is happening again. In fact, they say, it never stopped. There is a ‘continuing Stolen Generations’”. Go here if you want to support the fight against this.
The Alice Springs radio station of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) focussed its reporting of the protest on one Alice Springs woman’s appalling treatment by the authorities. She said the Northern Territory government had "'no right' to remove children from her care".
Rose [not her real name] has brought up a number of children in Alice Springs, some of whom are now grown up with kids of their own.
"They're all my [family]...I grew them up. Their mothers and fathers [are] drinking, that's why I look after those kids."
"But in 2013, authorities removed two children who were under her care and placed them on temporary protection orders. The grounds for removal were later overruled but it would be over a year before the children were returned.
"’They were taken away for no reason, in cold blood,’ " Rose said. "They had no right, those people working for the government...I was growing them up, growing up those little kids.’"
Researcher and activist Paddy Gibson said child removal numbers are at crisis level and reflect a new Stolen Generation.
A nationally broadcast ABC programme, "Life Matters”, aired a demand for an independent review of the welfare policies driving the sharp rise in the number of indigenous children being placed in out of home
A panel comprising Debra Swan (Grandmothers Against Removals and former indigenous child protection worker); Jeremy Sammut (Research Fellow Centre for Independent Studies); Sue-Anne Hunter (Manager Aboriginal Children's Healing Team, (VACCA); and Deidre Mulkerin (Deputy Secretary, Family and Community Services, New South Wales) discussed the issues around the question, ‘can we reduce child removals while at the same time acting in the best interests of indigenous children?’
A current affairs service offered to hundreds of volunteer-run community radio stations across Australia, "The Wire”, noted: "Aboriginal rights campaigners are bringing Aboriginal issues back to the forefront of government policy. They are dedicated to ensure sovereignty rights are met for Aboriginal people. These campaigners are made up of the young and the old. Veteran campaigners are teaching the younger generation the importance of using your voice and standing up for your rights as an Aboriginal person.”
National Indigenous Television also covered the grandmothers’ protest, but its videos can only be accessed in Australia.
Other media coverage of the protest:
NITV News - 12 February 2015: "Fighting for their kids; The Grandmothers Against Removals tell their story in the nation's capital." | SBS News: Stolen Generations forum marks Apology anniversary | "Stolen Generations are worse than ever before", testify affected Aboriginal Families on Anniversary of National Apology | ABC Alice Springs: 'Give back our children', Aboriginal grandmother says | The Wire: Aboriginal rights in the hands of a new generation
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WGAR Background: Removal of Aboriginal children and the continuing Stolen Generation
A Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (WGAR) provides a free emailed news service. It monitors the media, including alternative media, focusing on:
gives priority to grassroots Aboriginal voices and grassroots voices in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples' rights. Subscribers can expect to receive about 3-4 e-newsletters each week.
To subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the words "subscribe WGAR News" in the message header.
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