SYDNEY – Politicians in northern Australia said Tuesday they are considering putting neglected Aboriginal children up for adoption, sparking fears of a new “stolen generation.”
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles, Australia’s first indigenous state or territory leader, said he is advocating the plan on a case-by-case basis to protect vulnerable children.
“Whatever we do has to be about making parents take responsibility for their kids,” he told the Northern Territory News.
“And if they won’t, (we’re) prepared to provide alternative solutions. If that means those kids are loved and cared for by other parents, then so be it.”
Giles said Aboriginal children are often in high-risk situations and fearful of going home to households awash with alcohol and violence, but insisted there will be no mass grab of youngsters.
“I think it needs to be negotiated (with biological parents), but there has to be a point in time where you take the necessary steps to protect children,” he said.
Some Aboriginal advocates said they are deeply concerned at any adoption proposal amid fears of another “stolen generation” — children who were taken from their families and placed under foster care with white families or institutions under a misguided policy which ended only in the early 1970s.
“Absolutely horrified that an indigenous chief minister should start to have this conversation publicly in the way that he has,” Northern Territory Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation spokeswomen Vicki Lee Knowles told the ABC.
“I think he’s misinformed about the consequences of the impacts of removing those children,” she said, but acknowledged something needs to be done.
“Where (there is) absolutely no other option, there is room for adoption,” she told the national broadcaster.
“But within an Aboriginal family . . . the loss of culture, land and language has a long-term impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of those children who are removed.”
Aborigines are the most disadvantaged Australians, with indigenous children twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as other children.
While accurate data on child abuse and family violence in Aboriginal areas is scarce, the Australian government has said many children grow up in communities where violence has become “a normal and ordinary part of life.”