Gomeroi elders distraught at the high rates of Indigenous child removals in northern New South Wales have created a program designed to keep families together and keep children out of the welfare system.
“We need the families to come together in an environment where there is no distrust or nervousness about child welfare services,” Gomeroi elder Yvonne Kent told BuzzFeed News.
The Aboriginal Mediation Service, run by the Tamworth Family Relationship Centre, is a voluntary program that was designed by Gomeroi elders in the area to encourage Aboriginal families to resolve their problems before the intervention of the department of Family and Community Services (FACS).
Kent points to Australia’s history of forced Indigenous child removals, called the Stolen Generations, as the main reason why families don’t seek help, which means children are at a higher risk of being removed down the track.
“Over the years our mob have lost that trust of these services, whether it’s FACS or other government organisations, the barriers go up straight away with the Aboriginal community,” Kent says.
The mediation service will allow couples who are separating or fighting to receive advice, counselling and to work out a plan to ensure children are cared for and protected with the help and guidance of Indigenous elders.