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After the Apology: sorry means you don't do it again

Why has removal of Indigenous children risen, 20 years on?

Indigenous children are still being removed from their families at increasing rates, despite the clear links to negative child health and education outcomes. Why and how is this still happening?

The 2008 Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was lauded as a defining moment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.

Unfortunately, since then, and in the last two decades after the watershed Bringing them Home Report, the Australian Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families, removals of Indigenous children from their families have risen in Australia.

In response to these alarming statistics and the detrimental impact on the children, their families and communities, Professor Larissa Behrendt made a landmark documentary exploring the continued practice of child removal and the community responses.1

Central to the story is the plight of an extraordinary group of women, Grand Mothers Against Removal, who are not only taking on the system that has historically removed Indigenous children from their families, but changing it.

We had a special screening, followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker, barrister and Professor Larissa Behrendt and special guests on the following night.

The University of Sydney’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, moderated the conversation with Professor Behrent and Boe Rambaldini, Director of the University’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Heath.

This event was held on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 November at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Larissa is a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman. She is the Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is admitted to the Supreme Court of the ACT and NSW as a barrister.

Larissa is a Land Commissioner at the Land and Environment Court and the Alternate Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Board, a member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law. She is the Chair of the Humanities and Creative Arts panel of the Australian Research Council College of Experts. She is the author of several books on Indigenous legal issues.

She won the 2002 David Uniapon Award and a 2005 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for her novel, Home. Her latest novel, Legacy, is due for release in October this year. Larissa is a board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Tranby Aboriginal College and a Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. She was named 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

Boe Rambaldini a proud Bundjalung man and Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in the Sydney Medical School. Boe, born in Grafton in northern NSW, has attained extensive experience and skills from over thirty years of experience at a senior management level in Local, State and Federal governments, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, NSWALC and the NGO sector.

Prior to his appointment at the University of Sydney, Boe worked in the NSW Centre for Oral Health Strategy (NSW Ministry of Health) and was responsible for the Aboriginal portfolio, managing the Aboriginal NGO Grant funds to Aboriginal Medical Services. 

Lisa’s traditional roots lie in a beautiful, forested region of south western NSW, but her own life has been lived in urban Sydney, mostly on the Land of the Gadigal People. Lisa was appointed to the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Services and Strategy at the University of Sydney in 2018. Her previous role was Pro-Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership, Pro-Vice Chancellor Engagement and Provost Parramatta South at Western Sydney University.

Her career has progressed through positions as epidemiologist, public health officer, postgraduate health and medical student, registered nurse and counsellor. She was the Inaugural Chair of Indigenous Health at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Public Health and Community Medicine for 13 years.

Lisa’s background has made her acutely aware of the lack of available data to identify underlying issues in the health for Aboriginal people who today usually reside in the large metropolitan and urban centres of Australia. Lisa is working to provide that data. She achieves this through extensive and comprehensive networks, research and an impressive list of credits to her name, including presentations, publications and conference papers, public domain reports, journal articles, leadership, teaching and research.

[1] Source: After The Apology (Film) - Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/resources/movies/after-the-apologyAfter the Apology

Event image: Press still via After the Apology

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