This article was originally published on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, has a straightforward message for commentators who conflate the experiences of the Stolen Generations with the experiences of vulnerable children and families today.
“We’ve identified the steps we need to take to protect children and families, so let’s get on with it rather than muddy the waters,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“Just days after the anniversary of the national Apology to the Stolen Generation, radio commentators made headlines by conflating past government policies that led to the Stolen Generations with the critical issues our communities, families, and children face today.
“We should, in fact, be very clear about distinguishing between these two experiences.
“Previously, our children were forcibly removed, institutionalised, and sent into domestic service or farm labour. Many of these children were never reunited with their families.
“This is not the same situation we face today, and no fair-minded Australian could wish that injustice to be repeated,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“It is inaccurate to equate the injustice experienced by the Stolen Generations with the difficulties experienced by vulnerable children and families today.
“All of us, radio talkback hosts included, can contribute to the important public conversation we need to have about protecting our children, our young people and our vulnerable families.
“Let’s start with an acknowledgement of the injustices of the past and commit to a renewed and respectful relationship with Australia’s First Peoples.
“Let’s also look at the evidence of the circumstances of vulnerable children today, and consider what steps we need to take to protect our children.”
Commissioner Gooda said his 2015 Social Justice and Native Title Report examines the overrepresentation of our children and young people in child protection systems
Recommendations in chapter five of this report include:
- Recommendation 17: The Australian Government takes steps to include child welfare targets as a part of the Closing the Gap, to promote community safety and wellbeing and reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the child protection system.
- Recommendation 18: State and territory governments take steps to establish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioners in their jurisdictions.
- Recommendation 19: Australian, state and territory governments should collaborate to support greater investment in research and the quality of information relating to child protection through greater funding and the establishment of a National Institute of Indigenous Excellence in Child Wellbeing.
- Recommendation 20: The Australian Government recognises the crucial link between child wellbeing, and early childhood education and care services, and supports greater investment in early childhood services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children including through renewed funding for Aboriginal Children and Family Centres.
- Recommendation 21: The Australian Government supports long-term investment in healing initiatives including services, research and evaluation.