Moree grandmother says National Apology means nothing, removals still happening

CALLS FOR CHANGE: Jennifer Swan pictured with her mother Mary Swan, niece Lorilie Haines and granddaughter Jasmine.
CALLS FOR CHANGE: Jennifer Swan pictured with her mother Mary Swan, niece Lorilie Haines and granddaughter Jasmine.

On February 13, 2008 when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the historic National Apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples, Moree grandmother Jennifer Swan was full of mixed emotions, mostly positive, about the future for Aboriginal people.

Those feelings changed a few years later when her own grandchildren were removed from their homes and placed in out of home care.

“My feelings are that the Stolen Generation has never ended; it never stopped,” she told The Moree Champion during Moree’s National Apology Day celebrations at Pius X Aboriginal Corporation.

“Apologies mean nothing because reparations are still being fought for.

“Today means nothing but a word to me.”

Ms Swan, a founding member of Grandmothers Against Removals NSW (GMAR), believes there has been no change in the treatment of Aboriginal families since Kevin Rudd said sorry to the Stolen Generation. 

In fact, Ms Swan said the removal of Aboriginal children from their homes has increased.

“There hasn’t been any change,” she said.

“There are 17,000 Aboriginal kids in out of home care as we speak.

“We have the greatest removal rate in the world of First Nations children.

“Since the Apology, the increase has been tenfold.”

GMAR was founded in 2014, not long after Ms Swan’s own grandchildren were taken and placed into care.

Ms Swan believes the removal of an Aboriginal child from their family has significant repercussions.

“I’d encourage everyone to read the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report,” she said.

“There are so many stories of disconnect, oppression, trauma that the removal of a child from their families has.

“Grandmothers Against Removals is working on making change so kids stay within the Aboriginal family network.”

In 2016, GMAR created the ‘Guiding principles for strengthening the participation of local Aboriginal community in child protection decision making’ document which was passed by then Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard.

The document outlines ways FACS and Aboriginal communities can collaborate and coorperate on child protection matters, particularly the role of Local Advisory Groups through which local Aboriginal communities can participate in decision making regarding the care and protection of Aboriginal children.

“It gives step-by-step directions to how FACS should engage and interact with the Aboriginal family, so the child isn’t removed,” Ms Swan said.

“It’s been instrumental in making change.”

Ms Swan said while the document has made a “slight difference”, there’s more to be done to stop Aboriginal children from being removed from their families.