Advocate, Vanessa Culbong with Grandmother Brenda Narrier - Image, Gerry Georgatos

Advocate, Vanessa Culbong with Grandmother Brenda Narrier – Image, Gerry Georgatos

When will Australians stand up and say “stop taking the children”? Australia is in a new grip of the Stolen Generations, and with numbers of children taken in tsunami-like proportions, worse than ever before. In recent weeks I have met a score of parents and grandparents who are fighting to have their children returned home, having been removed in the last couple of months. Today, I met with members of the family of four year old Brendah Narrier. They are not only crying out for her return but are asking why was she taken in the first place.

According to the Commonwealth Government 1997 Bring Them Home Report, at the time 2,785 First Nations children had been removed from their families. This figure alone was horrific as it was higher for removed children during any of the Stolen Generations years, generally attributed as 1900 to 1970. But nearly two decades later, there are now nearly 14,000 First Nations children removed from their parents. It is believed that at least 10,000 and possibly up to 50,000 First Nations children were removed from their families during the whole of the Stolen Generations.

17 years later we have a 400 per cent rise in the number of child removals per annum.

“14,000 children removed is a far greater number of children removed in any year over the Stolen Generations period,” said University of Technology Jumbanna House senior researcher, Paddy Gibson.

Brendah is four years old. She has been brought up in Perth by her maternal grandmother Phoebe. Brendah’s mum, Alannah Hayden gave her daughter to Phoebe from immediately after her birth. Brendah is the only child of her biological father, Justin Narrier. Mr Narrier wants her daughter to be raised by his mother. Ms Hayden continued on with life, 300 kilometres away in the country town of Merredin with her four other children, but none of whom are Mr Narrier’s children.

In early August, the Department of Child Protection removed an injured baby from the care of Ms Hayden and his father. They then removed the siblings while police investigated how the injuries were acquired. But surprisingly they then removed the half sibling from the Perth grandmother, though she had never lived in the Hayden household and had been brought up by the grandmother, Phoebe, since birth.

Ms Hayden had returned home one day to find her eight month old baby with bruises and facial injuries and she rushed the infant to Kellerberrin Hospital. The child was later transferred by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth where he underwent surgery and his condition stabilised.

Department of Child Protection Acting Director-General, Emma White said the children had been taken and placed into care “to ensure their safety while an assessment of the situation takes place.”

They are in emergency foster care with White families.

Detective Senior Sergeant Hu Le Tessier said that they would allege the injuries to the infant occurred while in the care of the father. At the time Sergeant Le Tessier said, “We will allege he caused the child a head injury.”

So why did the Department of Child Protection remove Brendah from her grandmother when she is not a biological child of the man in question, nor has ever lived with him and who lived with the grandmother 300 kilometres afar?

“It is both heartbreaking and outrageous,” said Brendah’s paternal grandmother, Brenda Narrier.

Ms Narrier said that everyone wants Brendah returned to her maternal grandmother. “This is what my son wants, what Brendah’s mother wants, what I want, what everyone wants.”

“Even DCP told us that she should be with Phoebe, so then why take her in the first place and disrupt her life?”

“Brendah is not happy where she is, she has silent tears, sadness and needs to be with her grandmother.”

“All the children removed are sad in being removed but DCP had no right to extend its reach to Brendah by the most tenuous association. It is obscene.”

“Where has the grandmother Phoebe done any wrong? Brendah is loved, well fed, nurtured beautifully.”

The biological father, Justin Narrier said, “My grandparents were taken and so was my mum and so was my dad. And now they have taken my daughter.”

“Is this ever going to stop?”

“How long will this pain go on for?”

The only reason Mr Narrier’s parents were taken was because they were ‘Black’. Ms Narrier lived on a Mission at New Norcia while Christianity was pushed on to her. Her future husband spent his youth hundreds of kilometres south at the Roelands Mission. Ms Narrier only saw her father again late in life, and her mother in the last eleven years of her life. The late Mr Narrier saw his mother again only in the twilight of her life but never saw his father again. His father, Brendah’s great grandfather, “came to Perth looking for his children who had been taken away only to be hit by a car and died.”

Advocate Vanessa Culbong said, “How can the DCP justifying taking a child out of someone’s care without any good reason?”

“How can any Government justify DCP doing this?”

“How can Australians sit idly by and just accept that this is going on throughout a nation that Prime Minister Tony Abbott keeps on saying is a civilised, fair and lucky country, one he reckons is indebted to its British invaders?”

“Brendah should be returned immediately to her maternal grandmother.”

“And 14,000 other children should be brought home. How could Kevin Rudd make that Stolen Generations Apology when more children were removed in his time than in the generations before, and how can this Government hold its head up and stare into the eyes of Aboriginal people it hurts again and again and again?”