NSW paves way for new stolen generation

A rally against the forced adoption of Aboriginal children at NSW Parliament House on November 7. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Another stolen generation looks certain to be created in New South Wales after the state Coalition government passed an adoption law that makes it easier for foster parents to adopt a child who they have had under care for less than two years.

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill, which was passed on November 22, grants the Children’s Court the power to decide whether a child should be restored to their family or that the child be adopted by their foster parents.

Grandmothers Against Removals spokesperson Debbie Swan said she worries the new law will lead to a new generation of stolen Indigenous children.

Aboriginal children make up only 5% of under 18-year-olds in NSW, but 37% of all young people in care.

Child protection specialist Paul Grey from the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat told SBS that family and community services already have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placement principles in place for finding safe homes for Aboriginal children.

He said the purpose of the principles is to preserve the Aboriginal child’s sense of identity and connection to culture. But this is set to change.

Labor shadow family and community services minister Tania Mihailuk said that budget cuts to Family and Community Services (FACS), as well as the 5- to 10-year long waiting lists for housing in most parts of Sydney and regional NSW, would make it impossible for many Indigenous and marginalised families to demonstrate to the Children’s Court that their children should be restored to them.

NSW Greens spokesperson David Shoebridge questioned a system in which just 7% of child protection funding goes to keeping children at home while the rest goes to out-of-home care.

Shoebridge asked why more support is not given to families who are struggling to cope.

“The most common reason the state government gives for taking Aboriginal children is so-called neglect,” he told NITV on October 25. “That’s often an indicator of real, ongoing, entrenched poverty, inadequate housing, health outcomes, and income.

“Those problems are rarely if ever fixed in a two year period.

“The child protection system is racially biased towards Aboriginal families and puts more resources into tearing families apart than supporting them.

“Child protection services need to focus on early intervention and prevention and allow Aboriginal people and organisations to lead this desperately needed reform.”

Under the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act, the Aborigines Welfare Board had the power to remove Aboriginal children from their families and place them into care under its “assimilation” policy.

The result was the Stolen Generations.

Despite the widely-acknowledged trauma and destruction to individuals, families and communities of such policies, the NSW Coalition government has shown how determined it is to revert to a race-based paternalism.

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