New Stolen Generation - Yolngu Nation says 'No' to the Removal of it's citizens

Yingiya Mark Guyula 13 February 2017

Removal of Yolngu Children form Arnhem Land

In the last month I have been made aware of eight children who have been taken from the lands of the Yolngu Nation and stolen away to Darwin by the NT Government. The communication I am receiving from community members is that there are many more children that have been removed. Children are being taken off their country and literally out of the arms of their family, despite protective legislation and policies.

The Yolngu kinship structure is composed of several mothers and fathers, many grandmothers and grandfathers. It is very hard to exhaust this list of people when looking for someone to provide care for a child.

In 2015, Grandmothers Against Removal reached an agreement with Department of Families and Children Services in NSW on a set of guiding principles aimed at giving Aboriginal communities more control over child protection issues. In Arnhem Land I want the same opportunity for the Yolngu Nation with the intention of giving Yolngu clans control over the welfare of Yolngu children.

Yolngu leaders and Yolngu people – we are a sovereign nation. Without a treaty and without our consent, what makes the NT Government think they can take our citizens from our lands, especially the most vulnerable of our society- our children. I am walking in both worlds with the aim of creating a treaty whereby Yolngu people can maintain culture and have the right to self-determination while working in partnership with all Australians. We seek unity, but the NT Government is acting with cruel and oppressive behaviour.

As you can see, the issue of child removal goes to the very core of sovereignty, self- determination and Treaty. If the NT Government is taking Yolngu children off Yolngu country without the consent of the Yolngu community and placing them in a foreign community with foreign carers, then they are abusing the entire people group.

I demand the NT Government stops the practice of removing Yolngu children from their family and their country and their culture. I want the Government to engage with myself and Yolngu leadership about giving Yolngu communities the authority and resources to work in partnership to protect Yolngu children from harm: including the harm that occurs when they are removed from their culture.

(Monday the 13th is the Anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008).

- Yingiya Mark Guyula MLA , Independent Member for Nhulunbuy, Kendall Trudgen

Members of Grandmothers Against Removals protesting against the overrepresentation of indigenous children in the child-protection system on the steps of the parliament house of New South Wales in Sydney
Members of Grandmothers Against Removals protesting against the overrepresentation of indigenous children in the child-protection system on the steps of the parliament house of New South Wales in Sydney on 13 February, 2014

(Time: Ian Lloyd Neubauer)

Supporting Documents

In Australia, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, which has been incorporated in legislation and policies across Australia, outlines a preferred order for Aboriginal out-of-home care

Carers within the family and kinship networks

Non-related carers in the child’s community and then

Carers in another Aboriginal community

NT Legislation: CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN ACT 2007 (NO 37 OF 2007) - SECT 12

Gunnedah grandmothers fight against the removal of Indigenous kids (Stop Stolen Generations)

Aboriginal children

Kinship groups, representative organisations and communities of Aboriginal people have a major role, through self-determination, in promoting the wellbeing of Aboriginal children.

In particular, a kinship group, representative organisation or community of Aboriginal people nominated by an Aboriginal child’s family should be able to participate in the making of a decision involving the child.

An Aboriginal child should, as far as practicable, be placed with a person in the following order of priority:

  1. a member of the child’s family;
  2. an Aboriginal person in the child’s community in accordance with local community practice;
  3. any other Aboriginal person;
  4. a person who is not an Aboriginal person;
    but who is sensitive to the child’s needs and capable of promoting the child’s ongoing affiliation with the culture of the child’s community (and, if possible, ongoing contact with the child’s family).

In addition, an Aboriginal child should, as far as practicable, be placed in close proximity to the child’s family and community.

In 2010 the NT Children’s Commisioner Howard Bath conducted an inquiry that recommended that a family placement be adopted - which empowers and resources the extended family of an at risk child, in decision making about their protection. The Inquiry report articulates “the need for Aboriginal controlled child and family service organisations … Building on its commitment to self determination, the Inquiry proposes a comprehensive conceptual model for consideration of and participation by Aboriginal people in the delivery of programs and services to Aboriginal children and young people involved in the child protection system and in all aspects of decision-making.”
(Growing them strong, together: Promoting the Safety and Wellbeing of the Northern Territories Children, Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory 2010, page 18)

Further to this, the current NT Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne has also made a statement to the current Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children stating that “ more indigenous children should be placed with Aboriginal families. The NT has the highest child placement rate in the country but a comparatively low rate of placement of Aboriginal children in kinship care.”
(NT Aboriginal Survival Rest on Inquiry,, 12 Oct 2016)

Article 23 of the UN Rights of Indigenous People: “In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions. “