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Cruel destruction of First Nations families sparks class action

Heartbreaking stories of First Nations families being torn apart could lead to a class action targeting allegations of widespread racial discrimination across a number of state governments. 

 Shine Lawyers is investigating claims from March 1992 to present day on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are currently, or were previously in state care, and their families. 

The investigation is looking into the practices of child protection departments in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, to determine whether they engaged in unlawful racial discrimination by unnecessarily placing Aboriginal children into out of home care. 

Some of the claims being investigated include; 

  • A mother having her child taken from her after seeking help at a hospital following a fall. She had no previous interactions with the department, police or any possible reason for being separated from her baby. 

  • A mother being told to pump breast milk at a police station after her child was removed because of her partner’s historical domestic violence offending. 

  • A child being removed because a mother requested assistance with buying baby formula. 

  • DOCS workers taking a child from a mother’s arms after she rang police about her abusive partner. 

Class Actions Special Counsel, Caitlin Wilson, says an alarming number of indigenous children who never should have been separated from their families are being forced into the foster system. 

“The evidence is infuriating and it’s a national problem which needs to be addressed. Children are being deprived of cultural and family connections. They suffer inter-generational trauma and struggle with mental health issues, all of which is preventable,” Ms Wilson said.   

“When Shine Lawyers began investigating these potential claims, it was evident the responsible state governments and those within the child protection departments knew about the significant over-representation of Indigenous children in the system.   “There have been countless reports and inquiries, yet in the past 10 years alone, the over-representation of Aboriginal children and/or Torres Strait Islander in out of home care has increased in every jurisdiction in Australia.” Ms Wilson said.    

Shine Lawyers intends to file complaints in the Australian Human Rights Commission, a necessary step before commencing court proceedings.  To be a part of this class action investigation, you must:   

  • Identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander; and:  

  • be an adult who was removed by the relevant department in NSW, Victoria, SA or WA as a child; or  

  • be a cultural parent or carer who has or had a child/children in their care removed by the relevant department in NSW, Victoria, SA or WA; or  

  • be a person who has otherwise experienced discrimination during their dealings with the relevant department in NSW, Victoria, SA or WA. 

The relevant departments in each state are: 

  • NSW - Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) 

  • Victoria – Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) 

  • SA – Department of Child Protection (DCP) 

  • WA – Department of Communities (DOCS).

To find out more, head to our website.

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Shine Lawyers acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, waterways and community. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.

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