Lost in a flawed system: Australia's 'stolen' children

Lost in a flawed system: Australia's 'stolen' children
From Al Jazeera - April 17, 2018

The experience of having her four children, including her 15-month-old son, removed from her care by authorities over a seven-year period, is still painfully raw for Helen Eason, an indigenous Australian woman.

"They take your young from you and you have so many taken, you are not whole," she says."Even when they come home, as much as they are all there, all the pieces can never ever be put back together."

Australia has a dark past when it comes to removing indigenous children from their families.

In 2008, then-prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised for last century's government policies that saw more than 100,000 indigenous children removed from their homes and placed in institutions or with white families.

But today more indigenous children are being removed from their families than ever in the country's history. The number has almost doubled in the decade since the apology.

Indigenous children are almost 10 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than non-indigenous children. And the alarming increase in removals has sparked a fierce debate about whether Australia is creating a new stolen generation as this 101 East documentary reveals.

'A subtle extension of the stolen generation'

The Aboriginal community is bitterly divided as to the best way to care for indigenous children at risk.

While some say children at risk must be removed from their families, others say more should be done to help keep children with their parents.

In cases where children ca not stay with their families, indigenous council executive Walter Shaw says it's vital that they remain within Aboriginal communities.

Of the Aboriginal children in foster care, 40 percent are placed with non-indigenous families.

"If you remove Aboriginal children from the Aboriginal community, you might as well shut down Aboriginal communities," says Shaw, chief executive of Tangentyere Council, which provides services to indigenous people in Central Australia.

"One could say that these children being placed into the care and protection of welfare and the foster care arrangements with non-Aboriginal children is that they are being indoctrinated with values other than being Aboriginal people," he says. "I think it's a subtle extension of the stolen generation."

Shaw believes kinship care is the answer.

"I think we need to move to a system where we support Aboriginal families that are functional and strong to become those foster carers."

If you remove Aboriginal children from the Aboriginal community, you might as well shut down Aboriginal communities.

Walter Shaw, chief executive Tangentyere Council

Serious drug, alcohol and violence issues

If a community is dysfunctional, if you take a child from one family and put them in another family but still in that community, the dysfunction is still there ... Putting their culture before their rights as human beings, that's where the system is failing them.

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