On the sixth anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology, a rally outside the NSW parliament demanded an end to what activists are calling a new Stolen Generation—removals by child protection departments.

The rally was initiated by a group from Gunnedah, the Grandmothers Against Removals, and heard eyewitness accounts from families who have had children removed by the NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS).

Opening the rally, Greens MP David Shoebridge said that since the Bringing Them Home report on the Stolen Generations was released in 1997, there has been a five-fold increase in Aboriginal child removal. One in ten children in NSW are currently living in care.

Aunty Hazel, a founding member of the Gunnedah grannies group and grandmother to over 30 children told the crowd, “our children are losing their ancestral footprint by being removed…stolen children will always be on the fringe of society because they’re turfed out of care at 18, and they don’t know how to go back.”

“‘Sorry’ doesn’t mean a thing to us when our babies are being ripped from our arms.”

Toni McPherson from the Gold Coast grannies group spoke about how DOCS took her grandchild within hours of being born—one of four taken that week from the hospital. “Women are being told when they’re pregnant that children will be removed…How can they decide parents are incapable of parenting when their baby has just been born?”

Mary Moore, from a community support group for families affected by child removals, spoke about how DOCS is unaccountable and misconduct is rife. “Criminals get a review,” she said, “but not stolen children.” NSW Liberal Minister for Community Services and Women Pru Goward wants to make adoption a priority for children taken into care, but as Moore pointed out, adoption shouldn’t be an option for children with families.

What Aboriginal families desperately need is not more punitive measures, but investment into services and community development to ensure families can stay together.

The discrimination of the Stolen Generations era is very much alive today. Aboriginal people live in constant fear that government agencies can come into their homes at any time and start splitting up their families and communities.

As Aunty Hazel said, “we have the right to be empowered, instead of disempowered, by a system that isn’t working for Aboriginal people…but we can’t beat the system alone.”

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