Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned of a second Stolen Generation, describing the numbers of Indigenous children being removed from their homes in recent years as “chilling”.
Speaking on the eve of the release of this year’s Closing the Gap report — a report card on how Australia is faring in improving Indigenous health and education — the former Labor leader said the nation needed to do better.
“The uncomfortable truth is that the story of Indigenous child removal is bad – and it is getting worse,” Mr Rudd said at an address at the Australian National University in Canberra on Monday.
He said in 2006, 6497 Aboriginal children were in out-of-home care around Australia. In 2007 it had jumped to 7917 and by mid-2015 – the most recent year of recorded data – it stood at 15,432.
In nearly 40 percent of the 2015 cases, no Indigenous organisation was consulted and no extended family or community carer was found.
Mr Rudd said the lack of proper procedures flew in the face of laws put in place to prevent another Stolen Generation.
He said removal of an Aboriginal child should be a last resort and if removal was necessary the child should be placed within the extended family or within the Aboriginal community near their natural family.
If an Aboriginal placement was not available, then in consultation with Aboriginal and Islander child care agencies, the child could be placed with a non-Aboriginal family on the assurance that the child’s culture, identity and contact with the Aboriginal community were maintained.
“I will never condemn anyone for removing a child from harm,” Mr Rudd said
“But it can be done in consultation, with Indigenous authority, with Indigenous responsibility, and with Indigenous support.
“Or it can be done with total disregard of community, culture and family.
“Even better, let’s do all that is possible to prevent the harm, rather than just react to it.”
Mr Rudd said $500 million in cuts to Indigenous programs and frontline services wasn’t helping close the gap for Indigenous Australia.
He said the Closing the Gap reports were usually a “political disaster” for whoever was in government, but he said it was important to measure what was happening in Australia.
Mr Rudd delivered the first Closing the Gap report to Federal Parliament in 2009 – a year after his public apology to Indigenous Australia for the damaging laws and policies of successive governments.
At the time, the Federal and State governments agreed to invest $4.6 billion over a decade to programs aimed at closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.