Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) attended the launch of a “guiding principles document” in Tamworth on November 9 to be implemented by Tamworth Family and Community Services (FACS).
The document was negotiated with GMAR after a series of protests last year that targeted the Tamworth FACS office, which had removed an unprecedented number of Aboriginal children from their families. The campaign forced FACS to admit that the situation needed to change.
The guiding principles, if properly implemented, will mean families will be consulted before children are removed, and a local advisory group of Elders/Aboriginal community members will liaise with FACS on a regular basis. If these principles are followed there should be no need to forcibly remove children from their families — there are always family networks that can take children in crisis situations.
GMAR members expressed concern and frustration that forced removal of children has continued in the region, despite FACS's commitment to changed practice. They also demanded that every case of Aboriginal children in “out of home care” be re-opened immediately with a view to restoration.
Suellyn Tighe gave this speech on behalf of GMAR at the launch.
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It is time to speak the truth and remove the cataract lenses from the paternalistic system and its own self-serving rhetoric. We must confront the sheer numbers and over-representation of Aboriginal children in the care and protection system.
Too often we hear only the statistics. We need to stop reducing these Aboriginal children to mere numbers. Every one of the 15,000 Aboriginal children in care has a name, a family and culture. All have stories to learn and tell. Do not reduce these Aboriginal children to nameless and faceless statistics because it appears too hard or impossible to bring about change.
We are here today due to the bravery of GMAR, who had the courage to stand up and say “no more”.
No more will we stay silent on the unprecedented removals of Aboriginal children in this country.
No more will we accept political paralysis and social acceptance of these appalling practices of historical and present-day governments and their agents of removals.
No more will we accept practices that enable self-appointed “race powers” that facilitate the calculated and deliberate disconnection of Aboriginal children, of successive generations from their families, identity and cultures, forever changing their stories.
No more will we stay silent on the subject of a fundamentally flawed system that exerts its power over the children of the oldest living and continuous cultures in the world.
Now is the time to eradicate these paternalistic practices from the consciousness of Australia. There are those who say this notion is too difficult but if we look to the wisdom of others such as Francis of Assisi it cannot be clearer.
“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
GMAR has started “doing what's necessary” and “what's possible” to highlight the silent plague of unprecedented numbers of removals of Aboriginal children.
So, here we are today seemingly doing what most thought was “the impossible”: launching the Guiding principles for strengthening the participation of local aboriginal community in child protection decision making, an initiative of GMAR.
This document is the first step. There will need to be vigilance and commitment as to its implementation.
Today we stand at a juncture in history. We will be judged on whether we stayed the course of unprecedented removals and vacant apologies, or we set our collective sights on bringing about and embracing positive change by saying no more.
GMAR has begun the journey and invites all Australians irrespective of race, creed and political allegiances to tread this path with us, and unite with a steadfast commitment to positive change.
We will undoubtedly face many challenges but none of these will be insurmountable. We must not waiver in the shadow of these challenges. Too often we forget that with challenges come opportunities. We must stand as a nation, to seize the opportunities as they present to us.
We are preparing for a major demonstration next year, marching on Parliament House in Canberra on February 11. This will be followed by conferencing at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy until February 13 to mark the eighth anniversary of Kevin Rudd's Apology.
Stop continuing stolen generations!
Sorry means you don't do it again!