• Protestors march towards NSW Parliament House (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Activists say nothing has changed since Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations 12 years ago. Some took to the streets and others to social media to call for an end to the overrepresentation of Indigenous kids in care.
Keira Jenkins

13 Feb 2020 - 6:26 PM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2020 - 6:26 PM

Marking 12 years since the national apology to the Stolen Generations, Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR) organised a rally to call for an end to what they say is the continuation of the Stolen Generations.

GMAR founder Hazel Collins said the child welfare system is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

"The fact of the matter is, there's more children being taken today than 12 years ago when, God bless him, Kevin [Rudd] said sorry," she told NITV News.

"Unfortunately we're still out here fighting for the rights of children who are out there in out of home care.

"And I do say it's unfortunate that we're still having the same argument, the same discussion and the same debate, trying to force government to make a change and sit down at the table and have constructive conversations with us as a people... to finally put a stop to the theft of our children." 

Ms Collins said she wants governments to listen to Aboriginal people and will continue to fight until she sees change in the system.

"Out of respect to our ancestors we have to continue to fight for our children," she said.

"We as adults we have a voice, we can stand up for our children but the most important thing is, we need to respect that our children don't have a voice so we have to give them that.

"We have to give them the opportunity and the right to be returned to their families so that one day they can grow up to be a proud, Aboriginal person.

"We are the oldest culture in the world. Our ancestors fought so we could stand here today and continue to fight for our children and their right to be heard.

"We can make change. It's only by standing together that we can do it, and we will bring our children home."

'The battle isn't over'

While online, the #ourkidsbelongwithfamily campaign was spreading across social media platforms.

Rarriwuy Hick said she started the campaign three years ago to spread awareness of the over representation of Indigenous kids in the out-of-home care system.

"My nephews were taken away end of 2016 by Territory Families," she said.

"We had no idea where they were and who they were with. One day they with with us, the next they were completely gone.

"That Christmas was full of sleepless nights.Territory Families didn’t respond to any of our emails or phone calls.

"In our case, my nephews were not given a fair chance of exploring all options before being taken straight to a strangers house.

"We fought tirelessly to get the boys back with family. We needed them home with us. But our voices weren't being heard.

"Territory Families did everything in their power to ignore us. But I wasn't going to allow that to happen. We took our story to social media.

"Our campaign #OurKidsBelongWithFamily was born from the realisation that no matter how many hoops we jump through trying to please and satisfy the current welfare bodies, there  always existed the chance that we were not going to get the boys back.

"So in order to shine a light on this issue we decided to bring our story to the world. We decided that we were not going to sit on our hands and wait for Territory Families to grant access to our children."

Ms Hicks nephews are back in the care of their family now.

She said while the apology is an important anniversary, it's also a hard day for her personally.

"The battle isn’t over," she said.

"Children are still being removed from their families and we have no knowledge of how many. The statistics get higher and higher every year.

How do we protect these children and stop the suffering, grief and loss? The day I found out my nephews had been taken away, and to not be informed of their removal, has been one of the most painful experiences of my life.

"It's also the anniversary to the release of our campaign #ourkidsbelongwithfamily and days after the boys came home. Back to family.

"Its quite an emotional time for us as a family. still hard to celebrate. We are left with scars and fear. We still fear that they will be removed again."

'The systems haven't changed': Peak bodies say out of home care still failing our kids
On the anniversary of the national apology to the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people say they're still calling for a change to the system that continues to fail Indigenous children.