First Nations activists call for an end to the racist practice of stealing Black children

February 20, 2023
Sorry Day in Sydney. Photo: Rachel Evans

Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall told a Sorry Day protest that Gadigal people had kept their children safe on country for “thousands of years before the colonists invaded”.

He was speaking at the February 13 protest, organised by AbSec — New South Wales Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation, on the 15th anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology for governments stealing First Nations children.

AbSec’s John Leha said: “This system is racist and stealing Aboriginal children is being perpetuated as an industry with children being removed at devastating rates.” At the time of Rudd’s apology, around 8000 First Nations children were in out-of-home care.

Uncle James “Widdy” Welsh, from the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, described being removed from his family and being forced into the infamous Kinchela Boys Home. As many as 600 children were kidnapped and forced to live in the home, near Kempsey, NSW, between 1924 and 1970.

Aunty Deb Swan, from Grandmothers Against Removals, spoke about the campaign that started nine years ago, for children to be returned to their families. “When Rudd made his apology, there were 8000 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. Now there are 26,000,” she said. 

Professor Paul Gray, from the Jumbunna Unit at the University Technology, Sydney, called for the promise to be delivered. “These interventions have not worked and will not work. This system has never changed and it is still based on the same flawed assumptions.”

Gray said it was 25 years since the Bringing Them Home report and called on the federal government to establish an Aboriginal Commissioner for the rights and interests of children. He also wants the recommendations from the 2019 NSW Family is Culture Review: Independent Review of Aboriginal Children and Young People in Out-Of-Home-Care Report to be implemented. “We need urgent action to end the harmful systems, end the delays and place decisions back in the hands of our community.”

Dunghati and Gomeroi woman Lyn Morris said: “I am here today as a legacy for my grandmother, my mother and my four children who were stolen. And, as a stolen child myself, my legacy is shown in my resistance and persistence for our sovereign birthrights and for our kids to belong to our families.

“My lifetime experience shows me that protection of Black kids is not much more than a cash flow for the government. I have been begging the Department of Community Justice, Newcastle, and Life Without Barriers, a white service, to see my children for 10 years.”

Morris said that millions is spent keeping her kids, and others, in foster care where they are “isolated and completely disconnected”. She said community solutions were needed and “our grandmothers and mothers’ pain to be recognised”.

Bundjalung woman Vanessa Turnbull Roberts said she was taken from her family when she was ten and a half. “My experience, and all my work with families fighting to get their children back, tells me we need to abolish the Department of Community and Justice department. We can’t trust social workers or midwives in hospitals and we need to demand restoration and healing.”

Stolen Generation survivor Aunty Rita Shillingsworth also addressed the rally. Leha called on all parties running for office in NSW to support the campaign to keep Aboriginal children with their families. “We don’t want any more words; we want action,” he said.

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