Hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander grandmothers from across the country converged on Parliament House in Canberra on February 11, to demand an end to the high child removal rate of Aboriginal children.
Most of the elders participating in the protest were members of the Stolen Generation themselves, snatched from their families as children as part of official government policy.
Today, they say, the removals continue unabated, continuing to tear families apart, denying Aboriginal children their culture and creating a new generation of lost children.
The women are part of the Grandmothers Against Removals action group, a national network uniting women across the country, with groups operating from the remotest parts of Western Australia to the centre of Sydney. Their aim is to campaign to bring the children home and demand Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare.
Eight years after Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations, the stark reality is that more Aboriginal children are being forcibly removed from their families and placed into out of home or foster care than ever before. The numbers are rising rapidly, with a 42% increase in child removals in Victoria alone in the past 12 months. In the past 15 years the rates of children being removed has increased by almost 400%.
About 15,000 Aboriginal children are in care, compared with 2400 in 1997. The most common reason — 40% of cases — cited for Aboriginal child removals was neglect, a sweeping category that could comprise many things.
The Grandmothers have held protests over the past two years to mark the anniversary of the Apology and to push the issue of continuing crimes of forced removal into the national spotlight. After marching on Parliament they stayed at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy until the Apology anniversary on February 13 to continue discussions about how to take the fight forward.