Around 100 Aboriginal grandmothers and supporters gathered at the Redfern Block on May 26, and marched to the Families and Community Services (FACS) office, as part of a National Day of Action on the anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report.
The action was organised by the Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), a national network initiated by families who are directly affected by the child removal crisis. It is fighting to bring an end to continuing stolen generations.
The rally called and end to forced removals; Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare; a Commonwealth-funded program to reunite Aboriginal children with their families and communities; and local implementation of the “guiding principles” that were negotiated with Tamworth FACS last year. These principles mandate family group-conferencing, rather than forced removal, and take steps towards local forms of self-determination.
Outside the FACS office, Aunty Jenny Munro told the crowd: "They have tried for 228 years to break us, and are still trying. Yet we have survived. Stop taking our babies!"
Grandmother Aunty Hazel told the rally: "The government needs to be made accountable for destroying our culture and abducting our children. We want our babies home now."
Gary Oliver, from the Aboriginal Legal Service, said: "The ALS is calling for an independent body, under Aboriginal community control, to review all cases of children in care. The voices of GMAR need to be heard."
Sorry Day, May 26, marked 19 years since the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report, which exposed the horrific impact of policies of forced Aboriginal child removal. The report also detailed how many of the dynamics that led to the Stolen Generations continue in contemporary Australia, through the discriminatory actions of child protection departments in every state and territory.
Since then, the theft of Aboriginal children has increased more than five-fold and is now one of the most urgent crises facing Aboriginal communities.
On June 30, 1997, there were 2785 Aboriginal children in “out of home care”. Today there are more than 15,000.
Most of these children have not been placed with Aboriginal families; and relatives are routinely denied “kinship carer” status without justification. Children, including newborn babies, are being taken from parents who are homeless, while social housing is under attack. Children are being taken from women experiencing domestic violence, or caught in addiction, while shelters and programs are closed down.