• Elders panel at Tuesday's hearing of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. (NT Royal Commission)
Elders told the inquiry that Aboriginal children need to remain in their communities rather than be taken away by child protection workers, as they lose their culture and ‘soul’.

Aboriginal children who have been removed from their community do not know their culture or when they are allowed to return. Some do not come back, the Northern Territory child protection royal commission has heard.

Elders say they are not consulted by welfare workers before children are removed from their communities.

"We know people. We know their background," said Minawarra Japangardi Dixon, who is part of the Kurdiji group of senior community members in the remote town of Lajamanu.

"Welfare, they are coming in and just taking our kids away, and that's not right for us."

Maningrida Elder, Andrew Dowadi, said it was difficult to explain the significance of culture for Aboriginal children and their community.

"Kids being taken away, it's like you're taking the loss of his whole soul, whole future, whole identities, culture, the skills, family, relations, neighbours, communities. They won't be there.

"It's just like carving those things from the kids' life. It's completely gone," Mr Dowadi told a hearing in Darwin on Tuesday.

"We've got to try and bring this culture back to the children."

Mr Dowadi said that despite having gateways into the Maningrida community, such as the Bunawarra group of senior community members and dispute resolution elders, they are not consulted by welfare workers, which shows a lack of respect for their culture and Aboriginal law.

"They just fly in, looking at the children, no respect, and even the Elders, they don't come and let us know, the Bunawarra people."

Mr Dixon said extended family members could look after children who cannot remain with their parents.

"We would like our people to stay there to learn our culture and stay with us," he said.

"Instead of welfare taking the kid, we can give it to our own sister or brother. As long as they stay in the community, not taken away."

Mr Dixon said sometimes the children do not come back, and those who do, often don't know their culture.

"Welfare taking that kid away, not only is taking away that kid, it's taking his culture away and taking his songline and land."

AAP

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