Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) is calling for Aboriginal control of a review recently announced by NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) Minister Brad Hazzard into all Aboriginal children removed from their families NSW from 2014.
The announcement comes in the wake of the recent protests on ‘National Sorry Day’, and a forum called by Minister Brad Hazzard to consult with Aboriginal organisations and communities concerning the growing crisis of large scale removal of Aboriginal Children into Out-of-Home Care (OOHC). In NSW 1 in 10 Aboriginal children are currently in OOHC.
“Minister Hazard has only committed to to this review as a result of growing pressure and protests led by GMAR, a grass-roots community organisation founded by Aboriginal grandmothers fed up with a lack of consultation with Indigenous families and communities about their children. We are still waiting for a meeting with Mr Hazzard, who made a commitment to meeting with our group last November. For any change to happen, this review needs to be independant from FACS and Aboriginal controlled”, said Suellyn Tighe, a GMAR member from Coonabarrabran.
GMAR also believes a key focus of any review must be the identification of opportunities for the speedy reunification of Aboriginal children with their families and communities.
This will require resources for support and where necessary, for litigation, to realise the best interests of the child through reunification.
“This review is well overdue but it needs some teeth,” said Padraic Gibson, a researcher with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at University of Technology, Sydney who supports the work of GMAR.
“GMAR has extensive experience working on a voluntary basis with Indigenous families fighting for the return of their kids. Winning reunification through the review of thousands of cases will require a serious commitment of resources to ensure the voices of families are heard,” he argues.
“We still need to push to ensure this happens in a timely fashion and that it is a fair and FACS continues to work with GMAR during this process,” says Laura Lyons, a member of GMAR Sydney, noting that “thus far no one has committed to a time frame.”
Both GMAR and Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) have publicly expressed their willingness and interest to play a central role in ensuring the review is in consultation with and representative of Indigenous families and communities.
“Appropriate support services and opportunities must be made available to make this work. Our current experience is that FACS is not willing to give up control of children, meaning litigation is necessary to get kids home,” says Gibson.
GMAR calls on Minister Hazard to respond to these positive offers and initiatives from interested Aboriginal community organisations. These assurances are necessary to ensure that the review is independent and one whose outcomes will ensure Aboriginal self-determination in decision making about Aboriginal children’s best interests.
The group Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) was formed in January 2014 in an effort to highlight the process of removal used by the New South Wales Department of Children’s Services.
For more information contact
Grandmothers Against Removals GMAR
Ph: Suellyn Tighe 0467 460 582
Padraic Gibson 0415 800 586
Laura Lyons 0499 406 292
GMAR members and spokespersons are available for comment or interview.