By Dr Camille Nakhid
A group of Indigenous Australian grandmothers have organised themselves to stop the Australian government from taking away Indigenous children from their immediate families and their mums and dads.
The group — who call themselves Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR) — says the stealing of Indigenous children has been going on for more than 20 decades and the group is fighting the government to have the children returned to their families.
Linda Jackson, a 61-year-old Indigenous woman, a child of the Stolen Generation, said she was taken away from her mother in the 1950s when she was a baby in Western Australia. She said her parents had no rights to them so she and her siblings were placed in institutions and missions and the practice of taking Indigenous children away from their families has continued ever since.
Catherine Jackson, Linda’s 42-year-old daughter, said that GMAR was formed because of the large numbers of Indigenous children who were being taken from the hospitals as soon as they were born or from the family homes.
“It’s like a slave industry but better for the white man because they are taking innocent children who will grow up not knowing their culture,” says Jackson.
Jackson blames the high rate of teenage and youth suicide among Indigenous Australians on their growing up without knowing their culture. The police, says Jackson, come in with the DoCS (Department of Children’s Services now called Family and Community Services) social worker and take the children away without any consideration for their families or the children’s well-being.
The children are then placed in “horrible situations with people who don’t know how to handle Indigenous kids” and taught the “white man’s ways”. The children are put “in unsafe care where they are raped by paedophiles…they get beat up, they get stressed out, they don’t eat properly. They can’t sleep because they don’t know what’s happening to them. They’re innocent children so it’s very scary for them, very scary”.
The Stolen Generation is not a thing of the past.
Catherine Jackson says it began more than 200 years ago — when “the white man came here and invaded this country” — and it continues today.
GMAR became involved because of their continued concern for the growing number of suicides among Indigenous youth and the large numbers of children going missing. “Not just children, people that are Aboriginal. They were just being slaughtered and wiped out never to be found when the white man finished with raping these kids in care. What do they do with the kids, you know?”
Laura Lyons,* herself a grandmother who has had children and grandchildren stolen from her, agrees that the children have suffered at the hands of their caregivers: “I know through neglect of these white carers our children have died while in care.”
GMAR has been active in the last two and a half years since it was formed and says that stealing and selling Indigenous Australians is a money industry. “They see dollar signs…they think that they can sell these children into adoption agencies. It’s just another slave industry where the white man can come in, take whatever and sell the kids off”.
“They get thousands of dollars per child” says Linda and says that Indigenous Australian families get half the amount of money for fostering a child than white families.
Laura said that she knew of one residential care facility where the carer was being paid the sum of A$11,000 per month for the care of 3 children, aged 11, 10 and 8.
According to GMAR, the police and government officials give a number of reasons for taking the children, such as the use of drugs and alcohol in the families, unsafe homes, accusations of molestation in the family, and often use prison records and mental health records against the families.
“They’ll come up with allegations that have never been proven before but all of a sudden they’re there. So then they build up a case on lies against families,” says Jackson.
One of the grandfathers, Christopher Simpson, said he was taken as a child up to Bomaderry. Back then, he said, a car pulled up full of Aboriginal children and they were taken to Bomaderry where he stayed for 16 years, 14 of them in a home without his own family. The grandfather said that children were kept until they were 21 and that “if you’re a good worker they won’t let you go”.
According to Linda Jackson, the boys are stolen to carry out domestic work, farm work, dairy work or sent to the cattle stations.
Linda Jackson has had three of her grandchildren taken away from her. The grandchildren are currently 14, 2 and one year old. It has been 14 years since the eldest was taken away. Linda Jackson said there was no reason for the grandchildren to be taken away.
“The white woman she come in my house and saying we were all drinking and on drugs. And I’ve never taken drugs! And there was no alcohol there. All of my grandkids. I raised all of my grandkids. Even my sister’s daughter too. I mean this white woman turns up to the door. Sees the Aboriginals in there, then she puts an act on, goes, ‘Ah black fellas, I’m gonna get attacked!’ You know what I mean? Then she goes, ‘I’ll be back in about half an hour’. Goes and gets a tank full of cops!’
‘Still a mystery’
Linda Jackson still does not know why the woman showed up at her place. “It’s still a mystery to me. Why? Because she had no reason to come there.”
Linda Jackson’s son had been arrested and the son’s wife and child had been taken to the police station. Catherine Jackson said that her mother should have been given the option to take the grandchild but the police and government officials put the child in welfare. “So my niece has grown up without family and got a new family.”
The grandmothers of GMAR have vowed to keep fighting to take back their stolen grandchildren and to reunite them with their families and culture.
Associate Professor Camille Nakhid of Auckland University of Technology is a contributor to Asia Pacific Report and chairperson of the Pacific Media Centre Advisory Board.
- *Laura’s story will be featured in an upcoming edition of Asia Pacific Report.