NT government risks new stolen generation

May 24, 2013
NT Country Liberal Party leader Adam Giles.

Australia’s first Aboriginal parliamentary leader, Adam Giles, announced on May 13 that his government would increase the number of Aboriginal children removed from their families. Concerns that a new stolen generation could be created were putting children at risk, he said.

The NT Country Liberal Party leader Giles said: “There are situations in the Northern Territory where nobody has been prepared to support a permanent adoption of a child for fear of Stolen Generation. There is a lineup of families out there who say, ‘If you want help with children, we’ll be happy to foster a child, look after a child.’”

It is estimated that 100,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families between 1901 and 1969, now known as the stolen generation. The damage this has done to Aboriginal culture and language is well-documented, as is the mental and emotional damage done to the children themselves.

The NT’s children’s commissioner Howard Bath spoke on ABC Radio’s the World Today on May 14. Bath did not oppose Giles’ comments, but did say: “My concern about some of the public statements that we're hearing is that, you know, that the focus is on things like adoption rather than the need for family support and intervention programs for these vulnerable families, because at the end of the day, adoption does need to be considered, does need to be expedited as a process, and often is and sometimes is in the best interests of the child.”

Since 2007, the number of Aboriginal children removed from their families in the NT has almost doubled and two-thirds of those removed are placed with non-Aboriginal families.

This reality has led Aboriginal elders to condemn Giles’ statements and call for more support for Aboriginal families.

One such elder is Reverend Djiniyini Gondarra of the Yolngu people. In a letter printed on May 16 he said: “The dysfunction in our communities is caused by decades of neglect, and is now further exacerbated by the disempowering policies of the federal and NT governments. As people with dignity, we also want to improve the lives of our people, especially the children who represent our future. But we need your help to do this, not your punishment and more pain for our people.

“I ask you, Mr Giles and the government that you represent, is the only solution to condemn parents and take away their rights as a human being to raise their own children? Or is there another way that can support parents to organise their family affairs in a way that is culturally appropriate and that gives them the capacity for control and discipline, imbued with love and care?”

[Gondarra’s letter is available to be read in full].

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