Australia is in danger of overseeing "another stolen generation" as the number of Aboriginal children being removed from their families and placed into out of home care spirals, according to the Greens.
It was revealed last week that Indigenous children are far more likely to be put into care than non-Indigenous kids. Michael Lavarch, the Keating-era attorney-general who commissioned the 1995 Bringing Them Home report, wrote in The Guardian that, as of June 2015, 15,000 of the 43,000 children removed from their families were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
"This is 35 percent of all children placed in out-of-home care, yet Indigenous children are only 5.5 percent of all children aged 0-17. The removal rate for Indigenous children is 52.5 per 1,000," he wrote in The Guardian.
Michael Lavarch gives a brilliant speech, on a crucial issue. No new Stolen Generations! We need a COAG target now! https://t.co/PR8HpirkVO— Family Matters (@fam_matters_au) October 8, 2016
Senator Rachel Siewert, the Greens ATSI spokeswoman, said the figures were unacceptable and showed a failure in how government policy addresses Indigenous issues and culture.
"We are in danger of having another stolen generation. A number of people have been calling for better programs, for the government to take a different approach," she told The Huffington Post Australia.
"When there is concern of children in danger, obviously action needs to be taken. But we need to make sure it is genuine danger, and make every effort to keep them with their families."
Siewert said current policy was too uniform and one-size-fits-all. She claimed decisions around children and care did not take into account factors around Indigenous culture and child-raising, especially in more remote and traditional communities. Siewert said, for instance, that there have been cases where child welfare workers have attended a home to find no food in the house; but that that can be down to the fact several households in the same family may always eat at the one house, explaining the lack of food in the other houses.
Siewert also called for more attention and focus to be given to advisory bodies and support programs for Indigenous people to be staffed by Indigenous people.
"We need to make sure we have those early family support programs in place, not being chopped and changed all the time. We need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities involved in the decision making. There is a strong push to have an ATSI body responsible for decisions on out of home care," she said.
"A lot of this isn't rocket science, we've know a lot of it for years, they just need to get on and do it. We know Aboriginal-controlled and developed programs are the ones that work, whether out of home care, drug and alcohol programs or whatever. We know it works best when Aboriginal people are developing and running them.
"We need to have a lot more family support packages where people's specific needs are met. We have a few excellent programs. There are some where women are pregnant, supporting them from the start, then supporting them when the baby is young and growing. They support parents to be great parents from the start, and are very successful, but the funding comes and goes, and they could be better supported."