A new Australian law that will allow children to be adopted from foster care without their birth parents’ consent could create a new “stolen generation” of Aboriginal children, community groups say.
The term refers to the thousands of indigenous youths who were taken from their homes and put in foster care with white families under assimilation policies that persisted into the 1970s.
Under amendments to child protection laws passed by the New South Wales parliament Thursday, parents of children in care have two years to reclaim them before they can be found a permanent home elsewhere.
The New South Wales government said the change would prevent vulnerable young people from being moved around multiple foster homes.
But critics say the provision will disproportionately affect Aboriginal children, who account for just five percent of under-18s in the state, but more than a third of those in foster care.
Shadow families minister Tanya Mihalik told broadcaster ABC that no one wants to see children languishing in care.
“But nor do we want to see a situation where we’re setting up a stolen generation.”
NSW Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward defended the new rules as necessary for youngsters to experience some stability.
“Unfortunately, there are some parents that continually apply to a court to stall the adoption process,” Goward wrote in a column for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.
“This is particularly destabilising for a child or young person,” she said.
“That is why we are reforming the law to ensure children have a safe and loving home for life within two years of entering the child protection system.”
Aborigines are among the most disadvantaged Australians, with far higher poverty and incarceration rates than other population groups.