The Greens today announced a Bill to prevent First Nations child removals, implementing the findings of the groundbreaking “Family is Culture” report to end the ongoing Stolen Generations.
Despite decades of political promises, Aboriginal children today are 11 times more likely to be taken from their families than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
The Family is Culture report by Professor Megan Davis found widespread systemic failings in the child protection system and made a range of recommendations for essential legislative reform.
The Report was commissioned by the NSW Government and delivered to them in October 2019, but the government has refused to even consider any of its proposed legislative reforms before 2024.
Greens MP David Shoebridge and Aboriginal Justice spokesperson said: “Two years ago Professor Megan Davis set out the changes that are needed to reverse the stolen generations in NSW, but the government refuses to act. This is a crisis and if the government will not act, the Parliament must.
“First Nations children are still being stolen from their families, their culture and Country, despite all the empty promises and tears from politicians.
“The First Nations communities and organisations we have worked with to draft these law reforms don’t want more promises, they want action.
“The appalling rate of removal of Aboriginal children in NSW is an act of continuing violence against Aboriginal communities with child ‘welfare’ institutions that are not culturally safe for Aboriginal families.
“The system is rigged - instead of working to keep families together and addressing systemic problems such as entrenched poverty and inadequate housing and health, it seems designed to take children away.
“The government’s own report found alarming failings yet it is refusing to change the law, instead condemning another generation of First Nations children to trauma and suffering – this is worse than negligence because we know the lasting damage this is causing.
“Aboriginal communities know what is best for their children and they are determined to keep families together, to raise their children on Country and within culture. But the system is against them.
“These vital reforms are long overdue and if made law will keep more families together and prevent the lasting trauma and tragedy of separation,” Mr Shoebridge said.
In September 2016, the former Minister for Family and Community Services in NSW announced an Independent Review of Aboriginal Children and Young People in Out of Home Care. Led by First Nations legal expert Professor Megan Davis, the “Family is Culture” Report examined the reasons for the disproportionate and increasing number of Aboriginal children and young people being taken from their families in NSW.
The report found widespread non-compliance with legislation and policy and a child protection system that is failing to protect or support Aboriginal children and their families. The report made 126 recommendations for systemic reform however the government has refused to even consider legislative reforms until 2024.
The Greens’ “Family is Culture Review” Bill has been drafted with extensive involvement with stakeholders and seeks to implement the 17 critical recommendations for law reform made by the report. This includes legislating for the right to self-determination which was identified as a systemic failing in the existing framework. The Bill:
· For the first time requires the principle of Aboriginal self-determination to guide all decisions about what is in the best interests of Aboriginal children
· Mandates early-intervention and support to keep families together
· Requires the Children’s Court to set out how it has applied the principle of self-determination
· Enshrines a stronger mandate for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in the child protection system including:
o The Children’s Court must not make a final care order unless it expressly finds that the permanency plan has been approved by a recognised Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation;
o The Court must hear from a community representative or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation with a relevant connection to the community before making a care order.
o Holding government accountable: the Minister must table in Parliament a plan, with twice yearly updates, that sets out the actions taken to engage with First Nations people to negotiate and agree about implementation of programs and strategies that promote self-determination.