Deal struck to end removal of Aboriginal children


A long-awaited agreement has been reached to prevent Aboriginal children from being forcibly taken from their families and communities in western New South Wales.

The group Grandmothers Against Removals has finalised a deal with the Department of Family and Community Services that will see Aboriginal elders consulted if concerns are raised about a child's welfare. Women from Coonabarabran, Moree and Gunnedah joined forces after warning there had been an "unprecedented increase" in the number of children being removed. The group's Suellyn Tighe said they had developed a model that would give Aboriginal people greater input into the care of their children.


"To actually change the power imbalance that's happening now with Family and Community Services," Ms Tighe said.

"You're removing Aboriginal children from their Aboriginal families and their communities and taking them off country, that's not good enough.

"So this document is bringing to the attention of FACs that Aboriginal families and communities have a great role and probably the most important role."

The agreement is being signed in Tamworth next month.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said it was a long time coming.

"It's wonderful to finally get a result after literally the better part of two years dealing with bureaucracy but it has been a fruitful exchange," Mr Shoebridge said.

"We've had real assistance from the ombudsman's office but fundamentally it's been driven by courageous, strong Aboriginal women who want to make a difference in how their kids are cared for in community."

Ms Tighe said the group would watch closely to ensure the department adhered to the agreement.

"I can say I feel more confident in the fact that we've got this document and the minister has looked over it and other Aboriginal organisations have looked over it.

"I think that we still have to reserve judgement on that a little bit basically because we have to see then how this implemented within Family and Community Services."

Mr Shoebridge said the deal could be rolled out across Australia.

"This is a template agreement that can be applied literally in any community across New South Wales and hopefully when it works in New South Wales, it can be applied across the entire country because Aboriginal people need to be at the centre of decision making about their kids."

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The grandmothers who are stopping the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their homes

"....The news that activist group Grandmothers Against Removals had successfully negotiated a deal with the NSW Government to ensure that elders are consulted in cases of children at risk was a story that gave me hope. Formed in January this year, a collective of Aboriginal women across various regions in NSW stood together and challenged the government to serve our communities and our children better. What prompted action by these women was news that there has been dramatic increase in the number of Aboriginal children being taken into care. ... "


See also "Our communities and families have the capacity to care for our children"