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Senator Thorpe says Burney failing to protect children, in wake of 10 year old's death

Senator Lidia Thorpe has called on the Albanese government to urgently implement the recommendations of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, following news that a 10 year old First Nations child has died by suicide while under the supervision of the WA government.

The final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was delivered in 1997, but to date the majority of its recommendations have not been implemented. 

Many of the recommendations point towards the need for a national approach that affords First Peoples self-determination over decisions about their families and children.

The news of the child's death comes as several state governments face racial discrimination class actions over removal of First Nations children from their families, in breach of Aboriginal Child Placement Principles.

This years' Closing the Gap annual report showed rates of Indigenous suicide have increased, as have the number of First Nations children being removed from their families. 

Evidence shows that children removed from families are at a higher risk of suicide, and have an increased likelihood of contact with the criminal legal system.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported on the poorer health, social and emotional wellbeing outcomes in children removed from their families.

In 2006 a First Nations child was 5.7 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than a non-First Nations child, but by 2022 this figure had ballooned out to over 14 times more likely.

In March Senator Thorpe delivered a letter to the government, cosigned by twelve federal crossbenchers, calling for action on child removals, and for the newly established National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s commissioner to oversee the implementation of recommendations.

Quotes attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe – Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung independent Victorian Senator

“Minister Burney and the Prime Minister are failing to protect First Nations children. They should be deeply ashamed of the news of this young boy's death. 

“The recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report clearly point to the need for federal leadership on this. 

“That report is sitting on Burney's shelf – she should read it and implement its recommendations urgently. 

“Under Labor, government departments are taking babies just moments after birth, before mothers even get the chance to hold them or see their faces. It’s atrocious cruelty. 

“Our babies are not safe in these systems of child stealing – they never have been. It’s not protection, it's a national shame.

“Today kids learn about the stolen generation in school, but what they’re not taught is that these policies never ended. The removal of First Nations children is an ongoing genocidal project being perpetrated through government policy every day. 

“The closing the Gap report showed that Labor are subjecting a whole new stolen generation of children to the trauma of removal. 

“We know what Burney and Albanese will say – they’ll throw up their hands and say this is a state responsibility. But this is a national atrocity that is unfolding in every state, they need to show some leadership.

"Labor are in government in every jurisdiction except Tasmania – Albanese and Burney should be taking this opportunity to lead their colleagues towards life-saving reform, not dodging responsibility. 

"There are incredible community-controlled programs that provide culturally safe and self-determined wrap-around services for First Peoples and their families, which are proven to work. 

"This includes Bubup Wilam in Victoria, Yarrabi Bamirr in ACT, and Nelly’s Healing Place in NSW, to name a few. 

"Alongside implementing the Bringing Them Home recommendations, Labor must properly resource programs like these and expand similar programs nationally in collaboration with First Peoples. 

"I send my love and strength to this young boy’s family and community. I’m fighting with you for justice."

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