It's Sorry Day. But 'Sorry' Means It Shouldn't Happen Again

Many people are concerned that there is another stolen or lost generation happening.

26/05/2016 2:58 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST

Today is Sorry Day, where we take time to reflect on the awful policies and practices that resulted in what is commonly known as the Stolen Generations. The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and land is a blight on Australian history. Although we as a nation have apologised for the trauma and hurt, these practices continue.

It is on this day that Australians would be particularly shocked to hear that Aboriginal kids are being taken into out-of-home care at a disproportionate rate. Aboriginal children make up less than five percent of the general population yet they make up 35 percent of children in out-of-home care. In my home state of WA, it is just over 50 percent. Many people are concerned that there is another stolen or lost generation happening.

In 2015, I tabled a national senate inquiry report into out-of-home care, the report made 39 recommendations on how to improve the system. This has largely been ignored by the Federal Government. This would be heartbreaking for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander grandmothers who are campaigning around the country to stop removals. They are called Grandmothers Against Removals and they are remarkable women trying to bring their grandchildren home.

We need to invest in measures to reduce the numbers of kids going into care and do better where kids do end up in care.

There are significant challenges facing the system, and addressing this means addressing systemic and interrelated issues linked to social disadvantage. This includes family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health services. There is a real lack of family support services to build safe and resilient environments for children.

For children that do enter the care system, the outcomes are often poor. The Greens package puts funds into improving the out-of-home care system itself. Ensuring cultural competency, cultural care plans and consultation with Aboriginal communities is a cornerstone of the package that seeks to improve the system.

Although the system itself must be improved, the most important thing we must turn our attention to this Sorry Day is reducing the appalling numbers of Aboriginal children in care in the first place. Today, Grandmothers Against Removals marched the streets calling for their kids to be returned home. The package sets out how we can reduce the numbers of kids being put into care.

Twenty million dollars for projects that would aim to reduce kids going into care is a starting point proposed by the Greens. We must develop early intervention approaches that effectively support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families at risk of entering the out-of-home care system, including providing Aboriginal family support workers. This will ensure that vulnerable families receive the support they need. We must also identify ways to improve participation of Aboriginal children and young people in decision making where appropriate, including before entering into care. This will help work to reduce the rate of entry into out-of-home care.

Grandmothers Against Removals are already saying a second Stolen Generation is underway. This package by the Australian Greens seeks to do what the Government has failed to. We cannot close the gap while so many Aboriginal kids are going into out-of-home care. We can and must do better before it is too late.

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