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Too many Indigenous children are taken from their families – it doesn’t have to happen

Indigenous educator, Chris Sarra, comments in The Guardian (23.5.17) on the continuing practice of removal of Aboriginal children from their families, calling it a ‘national crisis’ demanding urgent action. But, the author asks, are Australians willing to listen to solutions?

‘Most Australians take for granted the right to grow up happy, safe and well, learning and surrounded by family. Yet, as you read this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being removed from their families, communities and cultures at a rate nearly 10 times that of non-Indigenous children.

‘For Aboriginal children, growing up with family and culture is not only a human right, it is profoundly fundamental to the healing process from intergenerational trauma caused by decades of injustice.

‘Reflecting on the political ideology of the past few decades, we have a system that has perceived Aboriginal families as needing to be “fixed”; a mindset that causes government to do things “to” us and not “with” us. We have a systemic deficit approach towards policy surrounding the First Peoples of this country.

‘Nowhere is this more destructive than in the way we treat the protection, safety and security of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. These dangerously entrenched attitudes lie at the heart of many systemic inequalities, and cause us grave concern for our children’s’ futures.

‘Tonight, around 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will sleep away from their homes. Away from their families and separated from their cultural identity. We know without a major change that number will triple by 2035.

‘When the ground-breaking Bringing Them Home report was released in 1997, Australia was shocked to learn that 20% of children living in out-of-home care were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Now, 20 years later, our children make up 35% of those in care. This is a national crisis.’

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