The NSW Liberal Government has tabled an outrageous new bill to allow forced adoptions of children in foster care. Under current laws parents must consent to adoption. These laws remove the need for consent—parents may not even be notified there is an application in court to adopt their children.
Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward delivered a formal apology from the NSW Government to the victims of forced adoption practices imposed from the 1950s-70s.
Now, with an election due in March and only six sitting days left of the current parliament, she is trying to force laws through to facilitate a repeat of these policies.
This would be a disaster for poor and marginalised families struggling to deal with a draconian child protection system. Already, parents suffering from acute poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental health or other problems are too often punished by ripping children away, rather than given access to resources and support.
There will be a huge impact on Aboriginal children, who are ten times more likely to be removed by this racist system. Over the past five years, a protest movement led by Aboriginal grandmothers has highlighted the “continuing stolen generations”, with more children being removed now than ever before.
Goward’s bill will make it impossible for many children removed to be returned to their families. The laws impose a maximum two-year time limit to decide whether “restoration” is possible. If not, children must be put into a permanent “guardianship” placement, where the Department has no oversight and there are no rights for family members to even visit their children.
Guardians will also be able to apply to the Supreme Court for adoption, allowing them to change a child’s identity.
As clearly documented in the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, these are precisely the circumstances that lead to abuse.
A snap protest on 7 November was jointly called by Greens MP David Shoebridge and Labor Shadow Minister Tanya Mihailuk. Labor have promised to repeal the laws if elected next year, but Mihailuk urged people to support further protests to try and knock them out now.
The rally was well attended by Community Legal Centres, Aboriginal rights groups, survivors of past adoptions and families battling the current system. Unions with members on the front line of this issue brought delegations, including the PSA, who represent child protection workers, the ASU and the Nurses Federation. Stop work action by the PSA and further demonstrations can create a crisis around the bill and kill it off.
By Paddy Gibson