"We have to stand up as one and give our babies a voice - We haven't abandoned them, we love them, we want them back where they belong,” says Aunty Hazel
Grandmothers Against Removals was founded in Gunnedah, NSW, by Aunty Hazel Collins when her daughter, Helen Eason, had her baby son, Tyson, forcibly removed. Tyson was Helen’s fourth child to be placed into the child protection system. After a continuous experience of dysfunction with the Department of Families and Communities, Aunty Hazel turned to the other grandmothers within her community and came to realise the racism and violence embedded in the removal of Indigenous children. “They don’t only take the children from the parents as such, they take them from the whole family, the community, the culture.” says Aunty Hazel.
Grandmothers Against Removals was started in 2014 by First Nation Grandmothers who were directly affected by forced child removals. GMAR was set up to address the systemic issues embedded in child removals and to advocate for more cultural and community based care.
Now, GMAR has grown into a national network of families and organisations, fighting against the systemic and racist removal of First Nations children.
It is unsurprising that decades since the Bringing Them Home report or since the National Apology (issued by PM Kevin Rudd), Indigenous children are still being taken from their parents in even greater numbers than before. The fact is that the Stolen Generations never ended.
As of February 2020, there are 17,979 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out-of-home care. This number does not include the large number of children in permanent care orders or children who have been adopted, so the actual number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have been removed from their families is far higher. Our children are now 10.6 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children. If urgent action is not taken, that rate is projected to double in the next 10 years.
Children belong within their own communities and with their culture. Separating children from their families and placing them into the homes of strangers and alien environments creates a lifetime of trauma. It perpetuates the racist and discriminatory practices of the State on Indigenous agency and isolates the child from a culture of community care.