If you’re an Indigenous Australian, I’m sticking a warning in here for you because you may find this post upsetting.
In Queensland, the number of Indigenous children in care more than doubled from June 2005 to August of this year. Not only that, but less and less kids are being placed with Indigenous carers/families. In fact, 30 per cent of children in care in NSW are Aboriginal. It’s 24 per cent nationally. And you want to know what percentage of Australian children are Aboriginal? 4.4 per cent. (Sorry, I don’t have the stats for Torres Strait Islanders. Here’s my source.) That’s totally disproportionate removal on the part of the responsible government agencies. That’s not good enough.
There are babies being removed from the care of some of the Indigenous women giving birth in prison. Debbie Killroy from Sisters Inside says, ‘How is contact maintained? The all-important contact not just for the bonding process but to prove to the Department of Family Services that you’ve had contact, that you care, that you are a good mother. The mother complains and the prison authorities offer video conferencing.’ (emphasis mine) Not only is this incredibly traumatic, it’s a self-perpetuating practice: if one’s child is taken away from the start, it’s that much more difficult to prove oneself a capable parent, and the relevant agency has all the, well, agency. I would like to know on what grounds these children are being removed and how on earth anyone could think video conferencing is an appropriate compromise. But whatever’s going on here? Taking babies away from Indigenous prisoners is a pattern. That’s not good enough.
This all would be absolutely horrible enough just on its own. But Australia has a history of stealing away Indigenous children. These children are called the Stolen Generations. Until 1969, this was government policy. You can read more about the policy and its effects in this factsheet. I recommend that anyone not familiar with this click through.
And you’d think following all that pain, current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s official apology (yes, it took until 2008) and the ongoing disadvantages non-Indigenous Australia has heaped on the First Australians, not to mention the particular issues with moving Indigenous Australians from their spiritual/cultural communities and homes, this is something we’d want to avoid even a passing appearance of. There are lots of problems in lots of Indigenous communities as a result of systemic racism; this hugely disproportionate removal of children is not the way to fix the problems or ensure the best for children. It’s not good enough.
Regarding the first story, Vanessa Kirk of Aboriginal Women for Change said ‘We’re saying that the Stolen Generation hasn’t stopped – we’re not saying it’s a new breed of the Stolen Generation – these are the same families that experienced removal from prior to the Bringing Them Home Report.’ (emphasis mine)
I’m also troubled that this isn’t being reported widely – as you can see from the dates of the articles, I’ve been pulling together the few media links in this post for weeks now – and that there are different sets of data depending on which group or agency one is consulting (again, do click through). And can I just point out that this is not the only way Indigenous children are being taken away from their families.
So for anyone who thinks Australia is a non-racist country, or that racism is just an individual loudly proclaiming ‘I hate [group],’ or that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are just lazy and stupid and responsible for their own problems, try again. This is a pattern. This is racism. It’s hurting children. And it’s nowhere near good enough.
Note: Just to make it absolutely clear, I’m not saying abused and neglected kids shouldn’t be cared for properly. I’m saying the numbers of children being taken into care speaks to more than abuse and neglect within Indigenous communities.