Stolen Generation fears keep kids in abuse

SENSITIVITIES over the issue of the Stolen Generation risk preventing authorities from removing abused indigenous children from their families, an Aboriginal leader has warned.
Mick Gooda, former chief executive of ATSIC, told a conference in Alice Springs that cultural considerations should always give way to the safety of children.
``Dare I say it, but let's use the R word -- removal,'' Mr Gooda told the conference on childhood.
``I believe we have become too sensitive about this word. Visions of the Stolen Generation will come to mind, and believe me when I say there is no way I am advocating a return to those times,'' he said.
``Intervention this time has to be about the best interests of the child, and not based on the colour of its skin and the planned destruction of a culture.'' Mr Gooda, chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, said the removal of indigenous children from their families should occur only as a last resort. Other forms of intervention involved no more than concerned relatives or friends offering help.
He acknowledged that intervention had ``all of the nasty connotations'' of taking the children away.
``But there comes a time when someone has to say enough is enough,'' Mr Gooda said.
``I say, if the situation warrants, then removal has got to be an option that is available.''
Mr Gooda said one of the biggest changes to emerge since the days of the Stolen Generations was an attempt by governments to place at-risk Aboriginal children with Aboriginal families.
But when this was not possible, he said, the fact that an Aboriginal family was not available should not stop the child from being removed from abuse.
``Protection of our kids becomes paramount,'' he told The Australian after the conference.
``It overrides cultural considerations.''
Mr Gooda said he believed sensitivities about the Stolen Generations made some people ``think twice'' about intervening when a child was at risk of abuse or neglect.
``I think the sensitivities cloud people's judgments,'' he said.
``Potentially they could harm these kids. The considerations of kids overrules the cultural considerations.''
His comments were backed by Warren Mundine, incoming national president of the ALP and a member of the National Indigenous Council.
``At the end of the day, the real issue is the child's interests and the protection of the child,'' Mr Mundine said. ``It's paramount and overrides everything.''
NSW state Labor MP and senior left-wing indigenous figure Linda Burney agreed.
``One of the problems over the years has been the reluctance of agencies to step in where there is suspicion of abuse, for not understanding and fear of being branded racists,'' she said. ``And they also have the stolen generation issue in their mind.
``I think that has changed, and obviously if a child is being abused, the authorities have an absolute responsibility to do something about it.
``But it's important the authority places that child in a culturally appropriate setting, with extended family in an Aboriginal context.''
Lara Wieland, a fellow of the Cape York Institute for Indigenous Policy, who has been working in indigenous communities for five years, said she backed Mr
Gooda's comments ``100percent''.
``As a female health professional working on communities, lots of women come and disclose things to me about abuse'' Dr Wieland said.
``For instance, the discovery of a proven STD in a very young child ... is serious, and can only happen one way. Yet I have never seen an acceptable outcome.''
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone said children's welfare must be the paramount consideration.