They’re not supposed to, but the grandmothers ignored the rules and took their protest to the front doors of Parliament House on Thursday.
They gathered on the famous multi-coloured forecourt mosaic by Papunya artist Michael Nelson Jagamara.
Their message: give our children back.
“I had a little grandson, 15 months old, stolen. There were four [NSW Department of Community Services] workers and eight police. They said they were there for the safety of my grandson,” Gunnedah Aunty Hazel Collins told the crowd.
“I’m proud to stand here and say I got my baby back; not out of the goodness of DOCs’ heart, but because they fear what we can do.”
Aunty Hazel is one of the founding members of the Grandmothers Against Removals movement.
Since being formed in 2014, the movement has found members across the country.
From northern New South Wales, to Queensland and Western Australia, grandmothers have spoken up about what they’re calling a new stolen generation.
Since Kevin Rudd’s Apology in 2008, the numbers of children being removed has gone up dramatically.
The latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show the rate of Indigenous children in “out-of-home care” has “risen steadily since 2010, from 40.4 to 51.4 per 1,000 children”.
As of June 2014, there were just under 15,000 Indigenous children removed from their immediate families.
Nyoongar woman Vanessa Culbong alleged the racist policies of the West Australian Government were the reason for the 1,882 Indigenous children in out of home care.
“They [the WA Department of Child Protection] went to the school and grabbed my little niece,” she said.
“Grabbed her and took her straight out of the classroom to the court, all by herself, no representation. Within eight hours they flew her all the way to Queensland.”
Unity, protests and supporting other grandmothers is the key to returning the “stolen children”, according to Aunty Hazel.
“We’ll get our babies back. They've got no choice but to work with us. It's time for us to have complete control over the welfare, care and protection of our babies,” she told the protest.
“No longer do we have to stand and say ‘Can I?’ We are a proud people. Let’s not bow down like beggars and say please.”