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NT Indigenous leaders challenge Chief Minister's adoption claims

Indigenous leaders in the Northern Territory have hit back at comments made by Chief Minister Adam Giles that children that are neglected should be adopted out, regardless of fears that the government policy was reminiscent of the Stolen Generation.



Rev. Djiniyini Gondarra

Paul Bleakley Australian Times UK 22 May 2013

Indigenous leaders in the Northern Territory have hit back at comments made by Chief Minister Adam Giles that children that are neglected should be adopted out, regardless of fears that the government policy was reminiscent of the Stolen Generation.

The Yolnjuw Makarr Dhuni (Yolnjuw Nations Assembly) wrote an open letter to Mr Giles earlier this week saying that they "vehemently oppose(d)" the proposed adoption policy and called on the Chief Minister to work in collaboration with Indigenous communities to resolve issues of abuse. The Yolnjuw Makarr Dhuni represents several Indigenous clans and over 8,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples in the Northern Territory.

In the letter Rev. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM wrote: "The majority of our people live in Third World conditions, with poverty, unemployment and disadvantage a part of everyday life. The struggle of families to raise their children properly comes from this lack of stability, not from a lack of responsibility. Like everyone else in the world, we love our children deeply and want the best for them. We need support to do this. Not for our children to be taken away from us.

Rev. Gondarra also addressed Mr Giles claims that the system was failing the Indigenous population, with only one Aboriginal child being adopted out as a result of neglect despite widespread abuse in Indigenous communities.
Rev. Gondarra said that, in reality, government protective services were quick to remove Aboriginal children from their homes, with many Indigenous families living in fear that their families would be torn apart.

Rev. Gondarra wrote: "Mr Giles, you claim that only one child has been taken away and given up for adoption in the last 10 years. But the fact is, about 60 children are being taken away every month in the NT by child protection services. Children are being taken away from us at numbers not seen since the Stolen Generations.

"Our families already live in fear. If our babies do not put enough weight, child protection officers come in by force to take them away. We already live under such heavy control, with no respect or support given to us. This law will paralyse our people. Help us to give our children the standard of life they deserve, instead of destroying our families."

The Yolnjuw Makarr Dhuni used their open letter to Mr Giles to call for more family support programmes in Aboriginal communities that would bring families together to resolve issues at a grassroots level. They claim that removing Indigenous children from their families would contravene the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees them the right to enjoy their own culture and remain in their own communities.

The Yolnjuw Makarr Dhuni open letter is supported by Graeme Mundine, executive officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and a prominent campaigner for Indigenous rights. He said that Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory had been "systematically disempowered" since the start of the federal government's 2007 intervention and that the government should focus on addressing the core issues facing Indigenous communities rather than looking at adoption as a solution.

Mr Mundine said: "No one wants a child to be harmed in any way, and as a community we have a responsibility to protect children. But we know from past experiences that removing children causes long term harm to the child, their family and their community. There are other alternatives, other culturally appropriate alternatives, such as family support groups and family group conferences."

"Our families already live in fear. If our babies do not put enough weight, child protection officers come in by force to take them away. We already live under such heavy control, with no respect or support given to us. This law will paralyse our people. Help us to give our children the standard of life they deserve, instead of destroying our families."

KEEPING THEM HOME

Elder Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra calls for
ACTION

The most recent data shows that the number of children being moved into out-of-home care in the Northern Territory has just about doubled since 2007. Two-thirds of these children are being placed with non-Indigenous families away from their communities.

Elder Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, as spokesperson for Yolngu Makarr Dhuni calls for this trend to be reversed by increasing family support services in communities. He has written to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, asking him for his support.

If you would like to support Djiniyini’s request click on these files:
pdf KEEPING THEM HOME
pdf Letter from Djiniyini Gondarra to Adam Giles
pdf What Did We Learn from "Bringing Them Home"?

A Yolnju child has a spirituality, his own 'skin', his culture, language, and place in his community. He belongs to that country and its people. You are committing a deep wrong by taking that away from him.

We are invite your, your networks/groups to consider this urgent action – KEEPING THEM HOME and write to or telephone Adam Giles, NT Chief Minister. See below for concerns and right click on 3 blue links. If you have trouble with links please go to the website - Concerned Australians.

About 60 children are being taken away every month by child protection services, he says. “Children are being taken away from us at numbers not seen since the stolen generations.”

The Yolngu child has a spirituality, “skin”, culture, language and a place in the community.

“You are committing a deep wrong by taking that away,” he tells Mr Giles.

Dr Gondarra’s community supports kinship-care placements and direct negotiation and resolution with parents, extended family and clan leaders. May 21st 2013 http://tracker.org.au/2013/05/9207/

Please give your support by writing, emailing or telephoning NT Chief Minister Adam Giles asking him to:
  • Increase Aboriginal-managed Family Support services in all Aboriginal communities including the establishment of Family Group Conferencing processes when there are concerns regarding child safety.
  • Reverse the decision that cut funds to the Community Sector.

This is a matter of urgency. We do not wish to see the emergence of another Stolen Generation.

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles:
GPO Box 3146
Darwin NT 0801
Telephone: 08 8928 6500
Facsimile: 08 8928 6621
Email: Chief.Minister@nt.gov.au