More Aboriginal children than ever ripped from their families

Grandmothers Against Removals

At a time when more Australian Aboriginal children than ever before are being ripped from their families, communities and country by white ‘welfare’ authorities, grandmothers from across the vast continent rallied in Perth in the west for a week-long conference about the trauma. The “Grandmothers Against Removals” (GMAR) held a national protest on ‘Sorry Day’, May 26th, which marked 18 years since publication of the ‘Bringing Them Home’ reportThat report detailed the horrors of the Stolen Generations in the 20th century and called for urgent action to stop the continued removal of Aboriginal children from their families by ‘child protection’ agencies.


But since 1997 the number of Aboriginal children being forcibly removed has increased more than five times, with more than 15,000 Aboriginal kids now in foster care. In the state of Western Australia (WA), arguably the most racist in the country, more than half of all children in ‘care’ are Aboriginal, despite being less than 5% of the population.


This is an urgent national crisis and affected families are fighting back. Grandmothers Against Removals stand as representatives of Sovereign Aboriginal Nations and fight for restoration of their sacred children to their people.


Over the past 18 months the group has forced the issue into the national and international media spotlight, helped many families win their children back and forced negotiations with welfare departments in different states to recognise the importance of Aboriginal People in communicating the issues to the affected families.


GMAR is appalled that WA Premier Colin Barnett is using “child protection” as an excuse to forcibly remove entire communities from their lands, recycling the same lies about child abuse used to justify the Northern Territory Intervention.


These forced closures will be systematic child abuse on a massive scale, which will render communities dysfunctional, place more kids into foster care (1 in 9 aboriginal children are removed per day), place more adults into drug and alcohol abuse and will raise the rate of imprisonment even higher than it currently is, which will also increase the risk of more deaths in custody.


The gathering aimed to strategize for the future and sought approval to unite the issues surrounding child removals, which will enable the Grandmothers group to format child services to incorporate concerns of Aboriginal communities and include their expert Aboriginal advice.


Western Australia was chosen for the conference to show solidarity with communities faced with forced removals and now with the current forced closures of more than 192 communities throughout Western Australia and South Australia.


These closures will have dire consequences for community members and in particular the issue of forced removals and other areas of Aboriginal disadvantage.


“The removal of Aboriginal children from their families by government agencies appears to be the highest child removal rate in the world,” writes investigative journalist, Gerry Georgatos. “I cannot find a statistic anywhere in the world that is worse than Australia’s removal rate of Aboriginal children from their families. Only the Lakota First Nation people appear to suffer a comparative high child removal rate but this still a long way behind what is happening to this continent’s First Peoples.”


“If more children are being taken today from their families than were in any year of the Stolen Generations then it must be argued that Australia is the mother of all racism.”


The Perth rally at the Aboriginal Embassy heard from leading Aboriginal activists. Wiradjuri social justice stalwart Les Coe said the removal of children from their families is the issue of our times.


“We just want to live. We just want to raise and nurture our children. We are all guilty of a crime. We are guilty of being born Aboriginal in our own country.”


Here are some of the other speeches at the rally:


Paddy Gibson – senior researcher at Jumbunna House, University of Technology and helping hand to Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR)


Jenny Munro – Wiradjuri Elder, social justice stalwart, founder of Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Sydney – one of the original founding members of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care.


GMAR stalwarts, Debbie Swan (former Department of Family Services whistleblower) and Sue Ellen Tighe.


Gerry Georgatos – suicide prevention researcher.

“On February 13, the Prime Ministerial Apology for the Stolen Generations [by former Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd in 2008] was celebrated seven years old but in each of those seven years since the Apology more children have been removed than in any year of the Stolen Generations,” Georgatos notes.

On the day Rudd delivered his apology to parliament in Canberra, Georgatos was at a rally outside with Hazel Collins, who eighteen months prior had started the Grandmothers Against Removals group ago from her hometown of Gunnedah.

She said, “More than 15,000 of our children in the last year alone have been taken from us. This is worse than ever before. No-one else is standing up in the ways that matter to bring this all to a head so it stops, so we are. We will continue to do what we do and have this cruelty to our people come to an end.”

On that day, Western Australia’s Vanessa Culbong said, “We want our babies back. They take them from us at every chance, from the hospitals at birth, from our homes, while we are playing with them in the parks.”

On that day, Walpiri Elder, Audrey Martin, who spoke in language, said that it took more than two years to find a lawyer who could help her reclaim her two grandchildren. Ms Martin was an actor in the film, Rabbit Proof Fence, but soon after bringing attention to the world of what is happening in Australia then herself endured this personal nightmare.

“They said I smoked and that I drank. They said the children were not going to school. They said they were neglected, they said many things. But these things were not true. But we had no one to turn to. It took a long time to find a lawyer.”

Ms Martin said by the time the children were won back through the courts much damage had been done. They were losing their first language, their cultural identity and their self-esteem.


Stop Stolen Generations:

An “Indigenous Advancement Strategy” (IAS) has offered Aboriginal communities in South Australia less than 10% of the funds they require. Incomprehensibly, this is ON TOP of the Municipal Services cuts which are presently threatening Western Australian community closures, writes Sister Michele Madigan of the nearly 900 Catholic Sisters of Saint Joseph, who minister in seven countries.

“As a Catholic of my era I know that saying sorry, which can be hard enough, doesn’t mean anything much unless appropriate restitution is made. If you stole something and even confessed it in the Sacrament now known as Reconciliation, you needed to return it, or something of like value. At the time of the Apology, however, the Federal Government was continuing its predecessors’ policy of Intervention in many of its punitive forms in the Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory. 


“Sadly, seven years on, this reversal of Sorry continues to gain momentum, the latest intervention being the Forced Closure of Communities. Thankfully the situation in WA is now well known with tens of thousands of people actively demonstrating their sorrow in Australia and overseas in A/NZ, USA, Mexico and other countries on May 1. Socially aware Melbourne deserves special mention!

“However, much less well known is what is about to eventuate across the nation on July 1, the day when the IAS cuts to Aboriginal Communities will be enforced.

“Raukkan is just one of the South Australian Aboriginal communities which heard in late March of the upcoming cuts under the IAS. The people are shocked funds have been diverted to well-endowed organisations including the Australian Football League.

‘There’s been an assumption we don’t know how to manage our own issues.’ Yalata Community where I was privileged to live 20 years ago, is a community of 300 people, and is 800 km west of Adelaide.

“It is where the people were moved to in 1952 when making way for the British nuclear tests. The Yalata Community CEO concluded from a meeting with the Federal Aboriginal Minister in April and after the IAS cuts were announced: “It was quite clear that the impacts and consequences of the decisions, they hadn’t anticipated, they hadn’t foreseen.”

All but one of the ten services the Community runs have been defunded; 30 jobs are to be lost. There must be a similar story across the nation. As Yalata Chairperson, Mima Smart OAM pleads: ‘people need to live on their own country.’

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23rd June – Brandenburger Tor: Collection of signatures for the petition to support a Sovereignity/Treaty-Debate in Australia, addressed to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations.


24th June – Schloss Bellevue: Appeal to the Queen after her visit to Schloss Bellevue.
27th June – Lustgarten: Cultural event in support of the Third Call to Action against the closure of Aboriginal Communities.
By Bella Bropho, Swan Valley Nyungah Community


We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and are happy and proud of all you are doing in support of our People under threat in their Communities on their Homelands.   

It is the plan by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Premier of Western Australia Colin Barnett - they are safe and warm in their own Homes. What about us, the First People of this Land since Time began and our Culture and Spiritual Beliefs? 

We are the First People of the Swan Valley in Western Australia and we are homeless, many of our People are living on the streets, some of our People have died. We were made homeless in 2003 by the Premier at the time, Geoff Gallop, closing down our Community by lies and dishonesty, by force.  

We want our Sacred Land of our Community on Bennett Brook on the Swan Coastal Plains on the outskirts of Perth Western Australia returned to us, so we can look after the Land and our Sacred Beliefs. We have been here in the Swan Valley since the Beginning of Time.  

Other Aboriginal Communities of the Land called Australia now have been closed including Oombulgurri, out from Wyndham in the Kimberleys.  

All our People, their Communities of women, men, children, young people, Old People, are now under threat of being forced off their Ancestral Lands and away from their Sacred Beliefs and Sacred Places by Premier Barnett and his Government in Western Australia, and by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Federal Government.  

We thank you all from our hearts for your support in making a stand in public in your country.  

It is good to know that you are there, strong and standing on behalf of us, the First People of this Land, the Oldest Living Culture in the World. 

We would like the Pope to know what is being done to us, and also all concerned People of the World. 

We are still on protest in tents at Matagarup (Heirisson Island), our Sacred Land on the Swan River, on the doorstep of the City of Perth, WA, with many other homeless Aboriginal People from Communities closed down already or under threat, seeking refuge with us.   

Tomorrow, Saturday 30th May we the Homeless Aboriginal People will be gathering with big numbers of Families, Friends and Supporters on Matagarup, with didgeridoo, Bands playing and a barbecue, damper and tea. We will think and speak of you. 

Please pass this on, and we send our thanks and appreciation to you all.

Bella Bropho

Spokesperson for the Homeless Swan Valley Nyungah Community - kicked out of our Home, our Community in 2003, many of us now to live and die on the streets, and on behalf of all Homeless Aboriginal People from other Communities.