NSW Groups Fear Second Stolen Generation Over Adoption Reforms
Tuesday, 13th November 2018 at 4:54 pm
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal and community groups fear a bill reforming child protection and adoption laws in New South Wales will sever Indigenous children’s connection to culture, and result in a second stolen generation.
NSW Parliament will consider amending the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act and the Adoption Act on Tuesday, which if passed would make it easier to adopt without the consent of parents, meaning children could be taken away from the care of extended family, and place a two year limit on finding a permanent home.
Principal legal officer at the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) Nadine Miles, told Pro Bono News the two year limit was particularly concerning, because it would mean there was less chance children could be placed back with their family if the court decided it was appropriate.
“It will essentially make it easier for Aboriginal children to be adopted out of the care and protection system and placed with a brand new family, where those connections to culture and family will not take precedence as they do now,” Miles said.
Community and legal organisation have criticised the rushed nature of the bill, which has been pushed through parliament without any actual engagement of communities or groups that work with children and families affected by the changes.
Acting ALS CEO, Janelle Clarke, said the fact there had been very little consultation with groups was shocking.
“The NSW government must listen to the voices of Aboriginal people and recognise that the solutions for our children rest with us,” Clarke said.
“These reforms are based on outdated policies which risk permanently severing Aboriginal children from their families and culture. They will do nothing to address the crisis in child protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in NSW,” Clarke said.
Myles said she understood the current system wasn’t perfect, but there needed to be consultation.
“We have no issue with the need for there to be reform… but the community services sector including the Aboriginal Legal Service and others have not been given a proper opportunity to make comment and to engage on these reforms in a genuine way,” she said.
Tim Ireland, SNAICC – Voice of Our Children CEO, suggested that investments in early prevention methods were needed to engage families and communities in ensuring the safety of children, rather than these proposed changes.
“Speeding up adoptions through artificially imposed timeframes will undermine rather than uphold the best interests of vulnerable children,” Ireland said.
State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Sarah Mitchell, told Pro Bono News the government believed Aboriginal children should maintain a strong connection to culture, and had invested millions to ensure the right reforms would be made to protect children.
“We have invested more than $90 million over four years to support parents to change when their children are at risk with two new evidence-based service models to improve family preservation and restoration,” Mitchell said.
Miles said all groups, including state Labor and The Greens, were calling for the bill to go to an inquiry, but were not confident it would.