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Stop pussyfooting around where Indigenous children are concerned!

By Anthony Dillon

For many years I have been challenging the war cry of blactivists and their supporters who promote the myth that Indigenous Australians are the victims of endless racism. We are told that Coon cheese is racist, the anthem is racist, and Australia Day is racist. We are told that racism is the cause of high incarceration rates and are fed the poisonous myth that Indigenous people in custody are more likely to die than non-Indigenous people in custody. The obsession of assumed racism is the perfect distraction from addressing the real problems facing Indigenous people like community violence and child abuse in all its various forms.

Of course, few blactivists like to talk about these elephants, or if they do, they are always framed as expressions of racism. I want to talk about one of these elephants that truly is racist which I have had involvement with recently—the removal of a child with Indigenous ancestry from her loving parents. However, this is not a case of racism for the reasons chanted by blactivists; it is racism, because the parents of the child, well foster parents actually, are not Indigenous, and therefore not considered appropriate carers.

I am not at liberty to give too many details, but this story is not rare in Australia. If this child is returned to kin, there is a real risk to the child’s safety and wellbeing.

There are guidelines in place, based on flawed and deeply racist ideology, that any child with Indigenous ancestry in need of care and protection, is best placed with Indigenous carers. Consider the claim on a government website about the ‘The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.’ It states: “If no other suitable placement with Aboriginal carers can be sought, children are placed with non-Indigenous carers as a last resort, provided they are able to maintain the child's connections to their family, community and cultural identity.” Mmm, a “last resort”—does that sound a bit racist? If a non-Indigenous child was in need of care and protection, would we be allowed to say that the child could only be placed with Indigenous carers as a last resort?

I have no problem with Indigenous children placed with non-Indigenous carers, so long as the carers provide a loving, nurturing, safe environment for them. Sometimes potential Indigenous carers are not available. When this is the case, then there is absolutely no problem with Indigenous children being placed with non-Indigenous carers. Children thrive in an environment of love, and love does not come in Indigenous and non-Indigenous varieties.

When non-Indigenous carers are considered unsuitable carers for Indigenous children purely because they are of the wrong race, the race card of ‘culture’ is played as justification. We are told that apparently Indigenous children have a need for Indigenous culture (whatever that means) which can only be provided by Indigenous carers. Now imagine the outrage if Indigenous carers were considered not appropriate to look after non-Indigenous children because they were not considered ‘culturally appropriate’?

In a similar manner, Mick Gooda, who previously served as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, has a straightforward message for those who conflate the experiences of the stolen generations with the experiences of vulnerable Indigenous children and families today: “Previously, our children were forcibly removed, institutionalised … This is not the same situation we face today, and no fair-minded Australian could wish that injustice to be repeated … It is inaccurate to equate the injustice experienced by the Stolen Generations with the difficulties experienced by vulnerable children and families today.”

Children need love, a safe home, clean environment, opportunities to learn and play, and access to nutritious food. Cultural considerations, in my opinion, do not even make the top 10 list of considerations. However, if someone can demonstate to me that Indigenous children have cultural needs that are so radically different from that of non-Indigenous children that they are best placed with Indigenous carers, then I may reconsider.

Let’s do all we can to support Indigenous families to care for their children, which most are doing already. But when this is not possible, and children are at risk of harm, then those children have the same rights as any other Australian children to a loving home; and why shouldn’t they, as they are Australian children. To provide them with a lesser standard of care is racism.


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