The 13 February 2017 was the ninth anniversary of the Australian Government’s formal apology for the Stolen Generations. From 1910 to 1970, up to one third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (100,000 children) were forcibly removed from their families and sent away from their communities. They were classified according to their skin colour and put into Christian missionaries where they suffered abuse and neglect, or they were placed with White foster families who did not understand their needs. These children were forced to forget their language, culture and spirituality, and in many cases they were not told of their Indigenous heritage.
The Bringing Them Home report of 1997 gathered evidence of the impact this cultural genocide had on Indigenous Australians, showing that it led to intergenerational trauma, poor health, and socio-economic issues. The report made 54 important recommendations to end the cycle of violence against Indigenous Australians.
Twenty years later, Indigenous children are being removed from their families up to four times the rate.
Research finds that 36% of all children in out-of-home care are Indigenous (N=15,455). This rate continues to increase. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children are 9.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous kids to be in out-of-home care.
The number of children aged 0-17 years who were the subject of substantiated* reports of harm or risk of harm, rates per 1,000 children by Indigenous status 2014-15. Source: AIHW via AIFSBetween 5% (in the state of Tasmania) to 44% of Indigenous children (Western Australia) who are in out-of-home care are placed with family. That means that, even in undertaking the racist policies of removal, the Government fails to follow its own guidelines to place children with family. The overwhelming majority of non-Indigenous children are placed with family.
Indigenous children are over-represented in out-of-home care due to institutional racism and lack of understanding about Indigenous family systems and culture. The policy and services focus should be on well-funded, properly resourced and Indigenous-led responses, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and community strengths.
The #OurKidsBelongWithFamily social media campaign was started by actress Rarriwuy Hick, whose nephews have been taken from her family, an injustice she is seeking to reverse. Hick’s video (below) highlights the need to end the removal of Indigenous children from their families. She says:
“On this day in 2008, Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations. Yet still, thousands upon thousands of Indigenous children are being removed from family. My nephews included. All children belong with family. So help me fight this fight. Send a photo of yourself, your friends, or your family holding this message up.” [Message uses hashtag and “You’re Not SORRY.”]
Hick then directs photos and videos of solidarity to her Facebook page, which she has also been sharing on Twitter.
Australia is still contributing to another Stolen Generation.
Australia, let’s put an end to this cultural violence – bring First Australian children home to their families and let’s start the reparations to communities, as they are owed!
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