Girls and Children: Stages of Institutional Violence 4c - Ongoing child theft


Ongoing theft of children by the colonial state

Vanessa Turnbull Roberts is pictured, looking at the camera with strength and determination in her eyes. A quote from her is written to the right "Sorry means you don't do it again. That same year that Kevin Rudd said sorry was the same year I was removed, and 10,000 other children were removed as well..." - Vanessa Turnbull Roberts.

[imagecaption] ‘Vanessa Turnbull Roberts speaks to Marlee Silva on Mamamia’s Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast, the Bundjalung woman, law student and activist says she is part of the ongoing Stolen Generation, which continues to affect Indigenous people. [/imagecaption]

‘Child removal is no less distressing today than it was in the past. Two years ago, here in Western Australia, I witnessed inadvertently the immediate aftermath of Aboriginal child removal and the pain of a young child in great distress. No Aboriginal people were even present to comfort him as he tried to make his way free and back to his family. It was cruel and unfathomable that our children could still be treated in this way.’ 

Hannah McGlade, Noongar researcher, on child removal in 2017


In Australia the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in parliament on 26 May 1997. More than two decades on, the rates of forced removal of Indigenous children are higher than ever before.

The documentary After the Apology highlights how, even following the (belated) formal apology by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the ongoing genocidal practices of the state impact on families and communities,  leading to contemporary generations of stolen children. Considerable resistance, however, has also emerged through the establishment of Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) networks nationwide and the Family Matters Campaign who support women in advocating for the right to bring their children home.

Despite strong efforts by communities to keep kids on country and with their families, attacks on their rights continue. Despite continuing opposition from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peak agencies and communities, in New South Wales (NSW) in 2018 laws were passed that will allow children from the state’s foster care system to be adopted without parental consent.

Young people involved in the child protection system are over-represented in the youth justice system, such that the Australian Law Reform in 2019 called for a national inquiry into this issue. In Western Australia, we see a literal playing out of the child welfare to prison pipeline: two children removed by the state were  warehoused at Banksia Hill Youth Prison because there ‘are no vacancies at any residential or community care homes in WA’.

This graphic shows a black doll silhouette at the centre on top of a white handprint which is featured on a red stop sign.

[imagecaption] ‘Stop’ logo. Artist: Blak Douglas. ‘I am using my art to tell this story. The fractured bands around each black doll in my paintings symbolises the danger of removing a child from family. The damage is irreversible, not only to that child, but to the generations to come, who don’t know who they are or where they belong,’ 2014. [/imagecaption]


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