• More than 1000 people gathered to discuss child welfare. (Supplied)
More than a thousand child welfare experts have gathered in Canberra to address the alarming rates of child removal within Indigenous families.
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Source:
NITV News
13 Sep 2017 - 12:58 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2017 - 12:58 PM

Almost 1200 delegates from around the country are in Canberra this week to discuss ways forward to tackle the alarming rates of Indigenous child removal.

SNAICC Deputy Chair, Geraldine Atkinson, said child removals are at a crisis point. 

"We have high numbers of children who are in out-of-home care that are being removed from their families as we speak," she told NITV News. 

She said every effort needs to be put in as a community to ensure Indigenous kids are nurtured in their own homes and practicing culture. 

"We wanna make sure we're maintaining our cultural practices so our children are learning about their culture, that they're involved in all the stories, song, dance, art, kinship ties," she said. 

"[This is] what needs to happen for our kids to regain self-confidence, self-esteem, their identity and believing in their Aboriginality will only make them stronger."

The 7th SNAICC Conference brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, policy makers, researchers, government representatives, other non-government organisations and industry representatives to drive positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

SNAICC Chairperson, Sharron Williams, said the conference will enable child welfare experts to share knowledge and discuss challenges. 

“I think the most important thing the SNAICC National Conference offers is a space for so many of us working to create positive change to share our knowledge and experience, and to learn from one another,” she said. 

The conference is the largest of its type in the southern hemisphere, with around 1100 delegates attending over 70 concurrent sessions, yarning circles, panels and workshops - providing a powerful and inspiring learning experience for attendees that is culturally rich, interactive, and culturally safe.

This year the conference coincides with the 20th Anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report, paying tribute to the Stolen Generations. 

“The 7th SNAICC National Conference focuses on the 20-year anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report, providing an opportunity for us to acknowledge the past, paying tribute to the Stolen Generations, while also collectively discussing ways in which we can respond to the needs of the present,” says Ms Williams.

Today, there are around 15,000 Indigenous children in out-of-home care, with many fearing a second Stolen Generation is upon us.

Geraldine Atkinson is holding hope for this generation that history doesn't repeat itself. 

"What we wanna do is put a stop to those practices and highlighting what has occurred in the past, and ensure it doesn't happen in the future," she told NITV News. 

Healing Foundation CEO, Richard Weston, says governments need to learn from history. 

"What we're confronted with is a set of circumstances that are not of our making, they're the historical results of colonisation and those and whole range of factors have combined to make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, individuals and communities vulnerable," he told NITV News. 

He says this is one of the reasons why we see a large number of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care. 

"We see more of the going into the juvenile justice system, the adult justice system, and we're just not addressing those historical impacts of the past. The response we get from government is inadequate because they're based on a punitive approach." 

Delegates from this week's conference, like Ms Atkinson, are echoing calls for governments at all levels to work with them and listen to their solutions. 

She says the government needs to talk to the Aboriginal community to understand the implications of policies and practices. 

"[They need] work together with the community to ensure we have a good transitioning process, that what we're is that were building up services in the community, that were not destroying or pulling them down, so that we can make it better for all Aboriginal children." 

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Almost 20 years after the Bringing Them Home Report, Indigenous kids are still nine times more likely to be in out-of-home-care. Now there are calls for an Aboriginal-led review.