Children are being removed from their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families at never before rates. Why? In NSW, one in every ten Aboriginal children have been removed from their families – from a racialised lens it does not get worse anywhere else in the nation; it does not get worse anywhere else in the world. Why are Government agencies not working to improve the lot of poor and struggling families in order to keep them together – this is in the ‘best interests’ of the child – instead of predominately ‘meddling’ and tearing families apart? It is fact that the majority of children have not been removed because of sexual or physical abuse.
It is not possible that one in ten children is ‘neglected’. So, why then are Governments allowing for children to be removed at the world’s highest rates?
But each year more children are being removed than during any year of the cruellest of periods, the Stolen Generations. It is not just happening in NSW, but right across the nation. In every year since 2010, the Western Australian Government reported an increase in children removed from their Aboriginal families. In every year since 2010, the removal rate increased by around 10 per cent.
In 2010, 1,492 Aboriginal children were taken from their families in Western Australia. This increased to 1,607 in 2011, and to 1,775 in 2012, and 1,962 in 2013, and to 2,114 last year and to 2,338 as of July this year.
That’s 2,338 Aboriginal children from a total of 4,503 children removed from their families in Western Australia – 53 per cent. This is around one in 15 of the State’s Aboriginal children removed.
When Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are removed at these rates it appears critically that the Australian Government and its services are overtly judgmental, biased and yes, racist. If children are being removed for other than physical and sexual abuse then why are our Governments shying away from highlighting and responding to the underlying factors – the racialised economic inequalities, the acute poverty our nation continues to dish out to many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities, the lack of healing it has failed to sponsor and deliver to victims of the Stolen Generations (which ended early 1970s), to the victims of the reserves and most Church-run missions where many were sexually, physically, emotionally and spiritually abused – where depressions, breakdowns, clinical disorders, fear, anger and hate were borne.
Those still living – and their children – who were removed during the Stolen Generations are at least twice as likely, and up to three times, more likely to finish up in prison, three times more prone to depression, mental health disorders and in ideating suicide. We know the impacts of removing children from their families – it is ruinous, decimating and the impacts are intergenerational. Each child needlessly removed devastates many.
It must be understood that the majority of children are not being removed because of sexual abuse or injurious violence. Thousands of families and children are fighting for reunification but for the majority they will fail to achieve this. They will lose their childhoods and some their sanity by the time they meet up again. Years pass before they find each other and for many anger and hate has accumulated and ironically the majority of the lives of those removed are not improved for the separation.
Children who are abused, sexually or physically injured should be removed but certainly not for anything else. Families should be supported and assisted and for any Government to argue that they are doing this to the best of their ability is a lie.
The current trends demonstrate the crisis will long continue and worsen. On these trends, the future speaks of an ancillary narrative where prisons will be built, where these prisons will be filled by the pain and suffering of those removed, where this nation will continue on its infamy as the mother of all jailers of the descendants of its First Peoples, where the suicide crisis among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, one of the world’s worst, will worsen from the humanitarian crisis today to the devilishly catastrophic.
The Bringing Them Home Report 1997 argued that around 50,000 children had been taken during the Stolen Generations. Since this report’s findings more Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children have been removed than during the Stolen Generations. In the 18 years since the report, the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children removed has increased by 500%. Nationally, in 1997, 2,785 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children were removed; but in Western Australia alone, nearly as many Aboriginal children have been removed in 2015. In NSW alone, where it is worst, it is more than twice times as many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children that have been removed in comparison to 1997. The promise in the air of 1997 has long gone and it is now toxic.
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children comprise only 4.6 per cent of the Australian child population.
Nationally, in 2015, 16,000 Aboriginal and/Torres Strait Islander children have been taken from their families – that is one child removed for thereabouts every 20 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children. This is a moral abomination. In Western Australia, where the removal rate is 2nd worst in the nation, it is one child removed in every 15 children and in NSW it is one child in every 10.
It is outrageous, disgusting and despicable that 10 per cent of Aboriginal children in NSW are in the care of the State – compared to 1.6 per cent of NSW’s non-Aboriginal children residing in the care of the State. Whether White or Black, poverty is not a reason to remove children. Most psychologists I know state, “You should do everything to keep families together, and with the exception of the most obvious reasons, you must not separate children from family.”