Do forced adoptions mean forced assimilation?
Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney Media Release 4 June 2013
Do forced adoptions mean forced assimilation?
The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) has joined Northern Territory Aboriginal leaders and the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry denouncing insensitive comments made by the Chief Minister Adam Giles that his government will “remove neglected Aboriginal children from their parents and place them in adoptive homes if necessary”. Mr Giles said that governments had failed Aboriginal children because of fears they would be accused of creating a new Stolen Generation and that he would not be put off by such accusations.
Mr Giles’ comments appear to confirm STICS’ long held belief that the 2007 Intervention, which was to care for and protect Aboriginal children has been a failure. Sadly, the 10-year extension of the Intervention under the misnomer Stronger Futures and inappropriate and unsuitable government policies looks set to continue the cycle of devastating impacts and disempowerment of Aboriginal people and communities.
A broad definition of neglect is a failure to provide for a child's basic needs, including adequate food, safety, shelter, clothing, supervision, hygiene or medical attention. Neglect results from abject poverty and high levels of disadvantage that is entrenched in many Indigenous communities. Other compounding factors include overcrowded or inadequate housing, high unemployment, lack of basic essential support services and infrastructure. Neglect is the leading cause for Aboriginal children entering the child protection and out-of-home care (OOHC) systems.
The Productivity Commission released its annual report on government services in January 2013. Section 15 of this report includes shocking statistics that show the disproportionate rates of Aboriginal children being placed in OOHC. "The rate of children in out-of-home care per 1000 children in the target population aged 0–17 years was 55.1 for Indigenous children and 5.4 for non-Indigenous children". In other words, in today's Australia, Indigenous children are being placed in out-of-home care at ten times the rate of the non-Indigenous children and young persons. On 30 June 2012, there were 573 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in the NT compared to 265 on 30 June 2007 – more than double the figure of 265 before the Intervention commenced.
However, Mr Giles should become familiar with the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Child Placement Principles (ACPP) to ensure compliance with the ACPP requirements “to consult with representatives from the child’s family, kinship group or appropriate Aboriginal organisations in order to make the most informed placement decisions that are in the best interest of the child”. The "Aboriginal child placement principle" operates in all Australian jurisdictions, with varying degrees of compliance and in the NT the rate is less than 20 per cent.
Perhaps Mr Giles should consider improving the operation and efficiency of his government given extraordinary comments made by the acting head of the NT Office of Children and Families, Ms Jenni Collard.
Ms Collard told The Australian on May 22, there was a lack of proper checks; care plans were out-of-date and had created "case drift" that reduced a child's chances of being reunited with its family. Ms Collard also said that while her department was good at taking kids into care, it was "not very good at looking after them and not necessarily providing care that's any better." Ms Collard also said “cases of child neglect are falling through the cracks as the Northern Territory's under-resourced child protection agency bounces between crises” and “Sometimes the agency is doing more harm than good”.
It seems governments have learned nothing from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (1997) report, Bringing Them Home and its conclusions that previous government policies of forced removals and assimilation, the associated inter-generational effects, cultural differences in child-rearing practices were common themes of the Stolen Generations and also factor in the over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection and out-of-home care systems today.
Regrettably, Mr Giles underestimates the trauma and impacts of adoption on some children and adults and appears not to heed the words and intrinsic sentiments contained in the Apology made by Prime Minister Rudd to the victims of the Stolen Generations in February 2008 and the Apology made by Prime Minister Gillard to the victims of forced adoptions in March 2013.
STICS calls on the NT government to respond to and address the entrenched social and economic factors that contribute to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the statutory child protection system; and also establish Aboriginal specific intensive family support services that are adequately funded to support and encourage Aboriginal parents to care for their children and to take responsibility for their safety and welfare.
This is a much more suitable alternative to removing children from their families, culture, community and country and almost guaranteeing the creation of another “Stolen Generation”.
Sue Gillett, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney
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