Seven years ago today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people mobilised on the lawns of Parliament House to watch Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologise to members of the Stolen Generations, and promise that “the injustices of the past must never, never happen again”.
But today, grandmothers from across the country will march on that same lawn, saying that it is happening again. In fact, they say, it never stopped. There is a ‘continuing Stolen Generations’.
The proof is in the statistics.
Since 1998, the year after the ‘Bringing The Home report publicly revealed the scale and scandal of child removals – the rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken from their families has risen by 400 per cent.
Since Kevin Rudd said ‘sorry’, the rates have jumped by 65 per cent.
Today, there are 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
The crisis has led to the emergence of Grandmothers Against Removals groups from all over Australia. A strong delegation of the grandmothers have been in Canberra all week, camped at the historic Aboriginal Tent Embassy, waiting for today.
They will rally from midday today, calling for the return of their children.
The grandmothers have released a statement saying “we march in solidarity with the many Aboriginal families who suffer the fresh pain of forced removal every day. We march in solidarity with black children who run away in fear from foster care placements and institutions every night.
“We march to mark seven years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an ‘apology’ to the Stolen Generations of the 20th century, an apology loaded with the worst hypocrisy, given the crescendo of forced child removals that took place under the watch of his government.”
The grandmothers won a meeting with Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion on Monday, after appearing behind the cameras of breakfast television while shows like Sunrise and Today were covering the leadership spill.
They are calling on urgent action to address the rising number of Indigenous children removed from their homes. One of the requests is for an independent overseer to assess cases of child removal.
They also want a national restoration program to “bring our children home”.
Senator Scullion reportedly told the grandmothers he would work with them on the request.
The grandmothers say in the statement released today that many of the 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids removed are for alleged “neglect”, which is difficult to define.
“It is a term used to denigrate Aboriginal culture and the love and care provided by Aboriginal families and communities. It is a term that masks the systematic neglect of governments that enforce conditions of extreme poverty and social trauma on our communities.
“It is used to justify a continuing project of forced assimilation.”