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Open letter to NT Chief Minister Adam Giles

by Jack Andrew Wilkie-Jans, A&TSI Affairs Advocate

To The Honourable Adam Graham Giles MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. Cc: The Honourable Alison Anderson MLA, Northern Territory Minister for Children and Families


write to you, this open letter, Chief Minister Giles in the hope that you and your Government will re-assess and reevaluate your current stance on the issue of forced adoption. Adopting out children does not fix or address the reasons the adoption would be forced to take place in the first instance. In Australia, Government lead and initiated adoption or forced removal and adoption of children, as opposed to Judicially lead, is and always has been the coward’s way of addressing issues regarding the mistreatment or neglect of children. Placing children into strangers’ homes as opposed to empowering the families and communities by building a stronger and more

efficient and holistic education, health care & social services system is the easy alternative. Placing children into strangers’ homes instead of furthering a commitment to fund, support and sustain community services in the work they do to build stronger townships is the cheaper and, policy wise, lazy option. Your Government in the Northern Territory need to start listening to the people that voted

you in on the pretense and promise of building a stronger Northern Territory with safer and healthier communities - communities which cannot begin to thrive or heal if divided once again. Yes being in Government means governing for all, even those who didn’t cast the vote the CLP’s way, and yes it does mean making the tough decisions on behalf of all but there is a difference between the tough decisions and the right ones, the Page 1

easy route and the challenging one. Most Governments look to see immediate results within the first term in order to be re-elected however the results you seem to seek, in that you wish to see safer communities and children, will be short lived. You claimed you are “prepared to provide alternative solutions” to the issues facing Aboriginal children in your Territory but this is not an alternative, alternative measures usually require something new not something recycled. I do agree that if one is in immediate or imminent danger then one should be taken to a safe place but until the danger is proven to have abated, however, this forced adoption issue is alarming as it blurs the lines of what “safe” means when compared to the definitions and repercussions of being instead in a place that is “alien” and societally & culturally “different”. Who or which body will be responsible in assessing whether a parent(s) are unfit to raise their own child and by what new guidelines or determinations? Meaning what changes to legislation will your Government implement that differ to pre-existing laws/acts? Will the Department of Child Safety and Services be the body ultimately responsible? One could argue that it is hard enough already for them to adequately and effectively deliver their full scope of services considering the move towards forced adoption; I fear that the decision makers will be overworked as it is with continuing and maintaining their department/ services other roles on top of removing and placing numerous children, leaving high potential for mis-use or sub-par assessment. Which body will become the “watch-dog” to ensure that the forced removal and adoption of children by the State as opposed to the Courts isn’t abused? The throw away statement of yours Chief Minister which Page 2

mentioned how it would not be mass removal or mass forced adoption instead it would be “case by case” in no way confirms that there will not be future, staggeringly high rates of forced adoption. Case by case does not guarantee against en’masse. What is even more concerning about forced adoption is that under some circumstances, it can be illegal for birth-parents to make contact with the child until they are 18 years old. I don’t see any attempts being made to tighten the criteria and checks for adoptive parents or foster carers and given some of the horror stories one hears about, I think it would be best for the Government of the Northern Territory to focus, not just on where these children may be coming from, but also to seriously consider where they may well be going to for the most part of their development. Many people in the Northern Territory have grave concerns as do I regarding the consideration of forced adoption, especially due to the fact that the Intervention has still not seen any legitimate, long-term or wide-spread positive outcomes since its inception and I feel that it will be the same in this instance. Forced adoption is a quick fix to the more obvious problems, but and as shown by the Intervention, leaves long-term negative consequences. What will happen when this new generation of adopted children come of age? I hope the Giles Government are prepared for such days, what do you plan to do to enable adopted children to return home to their correct land and families once they are old enough? Will there be, as there are in Court ordered fostering of children, a process for birthparents to regain their children or will they be branded and judged for their lifetime? The media, Australians and Northern Territorians and the Northern Territory’s parliamentarians of today need

to understand and accept that with forced adoption, there will also be forced removal and this is the element of the process which concerns me as it is playing idealism and politics with the lives of and futures of children. I hope your ministers and MLAs Mr Giles are prepared to live and own the fact they allowed forced removal of children as well as forced adoption. In conclusion I fear that the consideration of forced removal and adoption should remain in the hands and powers of the Judiciary and current laws. To build a better tomorrow for the Northern Territory and for troubled families the current Giles Government must support the Courts and the current laws with working community services and adequate funding to ensure the Court’s work and rulings are adhered to and deterred against more thoroughly and effectively. That is where your Government can do and should do things differently than previous ones. You, Chief Minister, were quoted saying that previous Governments “have failed to adequately protect Indigenous children from abuse and neglect for fear of creating another Stolen Generation”, well in this instance if you are to go further on this issue, the failure that will become your Government’s will be one that lasts for generations and Governments onward. I urge you, your ministers and Government to be brave and to tackle the issues of child neglect and abuse in a way that is appropriate for a Government of this day and age to do so and to address the one problem sphere which is neglectful and abusive parents by strengthening supporting and re-affirming the relevance of current processes and means of punishment and resolution, as opposed to enveloping the children and the adoption/foster system for the unforeseeable future.

Open letter to Adam Giles