Friday, July 19, 2024
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Sorry? Then let’s fix it

Apologies are hollow if you keep doing the very thing you said “sorry” for.

On May 26, Australia will mark Sorry Day. We’ve been observing this day for 23 years, and it’s been 13 years since the historic apology to the Stolen Generations in parliament.

All those apologies and yet more and more Aboriginal children have been taken from their families and communities over the last two decades.

Nationwide, government authorities remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids from their homes at 10 times the rate of other, non-Indigenous children. Our kids are taken away younger, they stay in the damaging out-of-home care system for longer, and they are less likely to be returned to their families than their peers.

Looking at this shameful situation, you might wring your hands and say: “But how can we fix it?”

I have good news for you: Aboriginal people have several solutions.

Many of these solutions are in the Bringing Them Home report, published in 1997. Sorry Day commemorates the date this report was handed down in parliament. It’s freely available online; I encourage you to read it and honour the testimony of those brave Stolen Generations members who shared their stories.

More recently, the Family Is Culture review delivered damning findings into the treatment of more than 1,100 Aboriginal kids who were taken in a single year in NSW. Its recommendations echoed many of those in Bringing Them Home, emphasising the importance of early intervention, family support services, and accessible and culturally informed courts.

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT runs a children’s care and protection law practice, supporting families to navigate those courts and the complicated legal system.

We desperately want to help more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families keep their kids at home, but we are limited by inadequate funding. If you would like to take positive, meaningful action this Sorry Day, you can donate to ensure together we have an even greater impact – www.alsnswact.org.au.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person concerned about authorities getting involved with your kids, please call us – we are here to help. We are on 1800 733 233.

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Karly Warner is a Palawa woman and CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.

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