26 May 2017
Today marks a very important anniversary for members of the stolen generations and their families, as it will be 20 years since the "Bringing Them Home" report was tabled in Federal Parliament.
The "Bringing Them Home" report was incredibly significant for the stolen generations of the 1970s, because for the first time the terrible history of this era was presented along with a very clear road map for the future. The Healing Foundation has coordinated commemorative activities around the twentieth anniversary of the "Bringing Them Home" report under the banner "#BTH20". It has also called for urgent action to address the impacts of unresolved trauma and announced initiatives to generate greater awareness of stolen generations issues in schools and communities.
I do not want to cite statistics, because referring to people in terms of statistics is a kind of colonisation of them, but it is important to go back to the history and the 54 recommendations of the "Bringing Them Home"report and to note that, unfortunately, things have not improved.
The latest figures from June 2016 reveal that 16,846 Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care, compared to fewer than 3,000 when the report was first tabled. When we think about the stolen generations and intergenerational trauma and we reflect on those figures, we realise we need to go back to the drawing board.
Since the 2008 national apology, the number of Aboriginal children in care has increased by 65 per cent. We need to ask ourselves why, 20 years after the tabling of the report, there is a record number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
The Healing Foundation's latest report has outlined four priorities to achieve long-term change and urged the Federal Government to adopt them. The first is a comprehensive needs analysis to inform the delivery of more effective services and to measure these services.
I have noted before in this Chamber that, when I worked as a lawyer in the Northern Territory, a number of services are not put into practice because they are thrown at service providers who are not accountable enough.
The second priority for long-term change is to establish a national scheme for reparations.
The third is to coordinate compulsory training around stolen generations trauma so that the organisations working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are better equipped to provide effective and appropriate services.
The final priority is to initiate a comprehensive study of intergenerational trauma and how to tackle it. We all want this situation to improve, and it is time that we put energy into the very difficult task of empowering Aboriginal people to find solutions themselves.