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Major class actions launched against Queensland government over First Nations reunification failure

Bottoms English Lawyers Media Release

First Nations children and parents have launched landmark class actions against the Queensland government for their systemic failure to reunite families removed under child protection laws.

The cases allege Queensland’s Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and failed to follow the Child Placement Principle in the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) by refusing or failing to reunite or restore family relationships, failing to support children within the system to learn and practice their culture, language, or maintain their connection to Country, and failing to place children with Indigenous family members.

The Child Placement Principle in the Child Protection Act requires the Department to place Indigenous children removed from their parents with family, or First Nations carers if possible. It is only when these options have been exhausted that First Nations children should be placed outside their community with non-Indigenous carers.

It is also claimed that in some cases, the Department failed or refused to provide information about removed children’s First Nations families.

Bottoms English Lawyers Special Counsel, Jerry Tucker, is leading the class actions, which cover First Nations parents and children across Queensland.

“The cases do not make allegations about Departmental decisions to remove a child, but instead focus on their actions once a child is removed, specifically the actions taken when placing a child in the care of others, and actions taken when families attempt to reunite with removed children,” Ms Tucker said.

“We expect that the evidence will demonstrate a deeply concerning culture of failing or refusing to reunite or restore family relationships between removed children and their parents, even after the parents have wholly or substantially complied with the Department’s stipulated conditions.

“Systemic failure to adhere to the Child Placement Principles breaches internationally recognised human rights, and has resulted in fractured family units as well as severing connections to culture and community.

“Every one of these stories is shocking and heartbreaking but we know there’s so many more out there. We’re encouraging as many people as possible who have been through similar experiences to register their interest in the class action and join our pursuit of justice for First Nations families.”

Lead applicant for the parents’ case is Brett Gunning, who is Aboriginal, and has spent more than a decade trying to reunify with his three children. He was removed from his own biological mother at 30 days old.

“DOCS kept moving the bar. I kept reaching their milestones and then once I did, they kept moving the bar higher and higher. I could never obtain my children,” Brett said.

“This is just intergenerational abuse of my family, from my grandfather to my mother, my mother to me, now me to my kids. Four generations. I’ve suffered greatly with depression; I’ve had to leave everything behind.”

Lead applicant for the children’s case, Madison Burns, was taken into the care of the Department when she was born. She was placed in numerous foster homes, residential group homes and motels until she was 18.

“DOCS saw me deteriorate. As a kid, you start blaming yourself. You start getting into your own head that it’s me – and that’s why they won’t tell me why this stuff is happening to me,” Ms Burns said.

“I know nothing about my culture. I have dark skin and I know I’m Aboriginal and that’s it,” she said.

”When DOCS told me there were no foster carers, and residential group homes were full, I would ask “why remove us? If you can’t even give us somewhere to go.”

The Department also refused to tell her of her First Nations relatives.

“Our applicants and many thousands of group members across Queensland seek both financial and non-financial remedies from the Queensland Government,” Jerry Tucker said.

“They want a well-resourced consultation process designed to facilitate the restoration of family relationships for those impacted by the Department’s actions. They want training for staff to interact with First Nations families in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive manner. They want a formal and public apology for the Department’s child removal practices. They want financial compensation.

“But 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.”


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  1. Lorraine

    Follow the chain of command, the weak spots, the callous decisions, the not-my-job workers, those with a racial superiority complex, and lay the blame accordingly.
    A ‘Department’ is not a human, and to blame a department is like saying that a non-human entity is at fault, therefore absolving the humans who are actually making the decisions.

    Residential homes are lucrative, high needs kids are lucrative. Fixing the issue, seeking better and healthier outcomes mean a child is worth less to the system.

    Follow the chain of command, follow the money.

  2. New England Cocky

    The Anglophiles in all government, clinging to 18th century social values long superseded by recent history, have to lift their game and realise that Aboriginal persons have at least the same rights & responsibilities as the government public servants throwing their metaphorical weight around with impunity.

    My question is, ”Why are government agencies hesitant in removing kids from upper middle class families having one or more alcoholic adults?” Don’t the self-entitled Anglophiles deserve the same treatment from government agencies seeking to protect kids from abuse within their natural families?

  3. Terence Mills

    This is a press release from a firm of lawyers in Cairns who are pitching for potential litigants to join a class action.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Terry, these are actually sent to us by a media company.

  5. Clakka

    Glad to read this news.

    It’s well past time the ugly dysfunctional 19th century brutal system of separation / annihilation run in Qld and all its droogs were brought to brook.

    Wishing the class action, all its participants and others affected, strength and success.

    Now that I know, I can keep my eye on it.

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