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Queensland government accused of ‘modern stolen generation’ in Federal Court, interstate class actions planned | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Thousands of First Nations families across Australia are expected to join class actions alleging racial discrimination by state governments that removed their children from their care.

Two landmark lawsuits have been launched in the Federal Court in Queensland, with cases in other states expected to follow. 

Shine Lawyers special counsel Caitlin Wilson said the racial discrimination claims date back to March 1992 and involve “alarming” allegations.

Ms Wilson said mothers claim their children were taken from them when they presented to hospital after having a fall, when they asked for help with buying baby formula and when they rang police to report domestic violence from their partner.

“The evidence is infuriating and it’s a national problem which needs to be addressed,” she said.

“Children are being deprived of cultural and family connections. They suffer intergenerational trauma and struggle with mental health issues, all of which is preventable.”

Federal Court told children denied their heritage

The Queensland class actions are spearheaded by Brett Harold Gunning and Madison May Burns, who are suing the state over what’s been labelled a “modern stolen generation”.

At an initial hearing today in the Federal Court, a barrister for the applicants, Kristine Hanscombe, said they represented two claims — one for the parents and another for the children.

Dr Hanscombe said Ms Burns’s case represents children who suffered racial discrimination when they were “deprived” of their connection with their family and their First Nations culture.

The Federal Court heard modern Queensland Indigenous children have been denied their heritage.(ABC News: Sarah Collard)

“Ms Burns is a very apt representative for this group,” Dr Hanscombe told the court.

“You couldn’t be much more deprived of your First Nations heritage than Ms Burns.”

Dr Handscombe told the court Ms Burns was removed from her mother’s care as a baby and, despite repeatedly trying to obtain information from the state government about her First Nations heritage, she was “rebuffed”.

“She knows she’s a First Nations person, and that’s it,” Dr Hanscombe said.

“She doesn’t know anything about her linguistic connections, she doesn’t know anything about her country, she doesn’t know anything about her culture, and she can’t pass on that to her new child now she has become a mother.”

Lawyers for Ms Burns are arguing she suffered ongoing discrimination at the hands of the state government, which violated federal Racial Discrimination laws and failed to follow state child protection laws.

Dr Hanscombe told the court the class action did not relate to the removal of children, but what happened afterwards.

The court heard Mr Gunning represents parents whose children were taken from them.

Dr Handscombe said Mr Gunning, and those he represents, allege they suffered racial discrimination when the Department of Child Safety refused to reunite or restore relationships with their children, even after they complied with conditions that had been set out by the Department.

Goal posts ‘keep getting moved’

Jerry Tucker is a special counsel with Bottoms English lawyers, which is handling the Queensland class action. 

Bottoms English Lawyers special counsel Jerry Tucker

Special counsel Jerry Tucker says many claimants are traumatised.(Supplied: Bottoms English Lawyers)

“A parent can do everything that is asked of them to satisfy the [state government] of the child’s safety, but those efforts bear no fruit,” Ms Tucker said.

“The goal posts for reunification keep getting moved.”

More than 100 people have signed up to the Queensland class action, which seeks compensation, a formal apology and demands change within the system to help reunite families affected by the department’s alleged conduct.

Ms Tucker said a lot of the claimants are “traumatised” by their experiences.

“They do see it as a modern stolen generation or at least similar to the protection era,” Ms Tucker said.

“[There have been] devastating impacts on these families that need to be addressed.

“Most of all, we want to remedy the negative effects of the department’s actions on generations of Queensland families, including the significant intergenerational trauma which has followed the department’s actions.”

Counsel for the state government Christopher Murdoch said decisions made by the department were not based on race.

“The state’s contention is that at all material times, any steps that were taken were based upon what was considered to be in the best interests and wellbeing for the children concerned and the steps that were taken, were not taken on the basis of race,” Mr Murdoch told the court.

The Department of Child Safety told the ABC it would inappropriate to comment while the case was before the Federal Court.

The Queensland class actions case will be next heard again in the Federal Court next April.

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