© Marianna Day Massey/ZUMA Press
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 YolÅ‹uw Makarr Dhuni (YolÅ‹uw 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 YolÅ‹uw 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 YolÅ‹uw 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 YolÅ‹uw 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.”