My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 27 November 2018

by ray goodlass

New forced adoptions law will create another stolen generation

Late at night last Wednesday, on its final sitting day for the year, the NSW Liberals voted to pass their cruel forced adoption bill into law.

Child welfare organisations, survivors of past forced removal practices, and thousands of individuals all came together to oppose these laws.

There was opposition from both Labor and the Greens, but sadly not enough to vote down these cruel new laws.

What many expected to happen today has happened despite the united call from Aboriginal people and the child welfare sector.

“These laws will mean more vulnerable, often Aboriginal, children will be forcibly removed and taken permanently from their families” said MP David Shoebridge, the Greens Justice spokesperson.

This is in clear contrast to the advice of almost every single welfare agency, Aboriginal organisations, survivors of past failed removal policies and legal body, who have told the government that these laws take us backwards.

The weeks of campaigning against these damaging laws has given strength to the growing alliance between the community, the Greens, Labor and everyone in the sector who has taken the time to understand the damage these laws will cause.

Let’s look at the detail of this sorry situation. The bill places a two year limit on the amount of time a child can remain in out-of-home care prior to the court having the power to order they be adopted.

These laws are set to disproportionately affect Aboriginal communities that are facing a system that’s increasingly removing their children. First Nations children and youths make up only 5 percent of people in this state under 18, but 37 percent of young people in out-of-home care.

First Nations groups have long asserted that current Indigenous child removal practices are a continuation of the paternalistic policies that saw hundreds of thousands of children taken during the 70-odd years of the Stolen Generations.

And these new laws are just more of the same. Not only does the legislation place an extremely tight maximum time frame on families seeking restoration with their children, but it also seeks to remove the judicial oversight of guardianship arrangements and it restricts provisions around parents applying for variations of court orders.

“This is going to totally annihilate Aboriginal culture,” said Aunty Hazel Collins, a founding member of Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR). “This is genocide in the first degree and it should be abolished.”

And the Gomeroi woman understands all too well how unreasonable the proposed new forced adoption time limit is. “My own daughter fought for seven years to have her child returned,” Aunty Hazel explained. “Families are not going to get their children back within two years.”

“Nobody has the right to sign off on an adoption, when that child is not an orphan,” she added. “That child has parents, grandparents and family that want them back.”

The new law comes despite the findings of the Independent Review of Out-Of-Home Care in NSW report, which NSW family and community services minister Pru Goward stalled the release of for 18 months.

The damning report found that the NSW out-of-home care system “does not improve outcomes for children and families with complex needs”. And the $1.86 billion spent over 2015-16 was “crisis driven” expenditure and “not well aligned to the evidence”.

The report also found that Aboriginal children are overrepresented in the system. It revealed that around 7.5% of Aboriginal children in this state were in out-of-home care with only 1 percent of non-Indigenous kids.

Following the release of the report last June, Ms Goward rejected calls for the establishment of an Aboriginal child and family commissioner. “We’re not creating a separate system for Aboriginal children,” the minister told ABC radio.

However, as far as First Nations groups like GMAR are concerned, there’s already a separate system in place for Indigenous children under the guidance of FACS and it was implemented a very long time ago.

Fortunately this does not mean a permanent victory for the forces of darkness. “With the passage of these laws, the struggle has only begun. The Greens commit to reversing these laws in the first 100 days of a new parliament after the March 2019 election. We invite all MPs to join with us,” said David Shoebridge.

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