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Sorry isn't enough: Stolen Generations call for action

When Arrernte man William Tilmouth was just a little boy he was taken from his parents, who were both also survivors of the Stolen Generations. He was moved to Croker Island, 250km off the coast of Darwin, where he lived and attended school with other Aboriginal children stolen from their families. From the mid-1800s right up until the 1970s, many Aborigingal children were forcibly removed from their families through government policies and have become known as the Stolen Generations. Tuesday marks the anniversary of the February 13, 2008 national apology to the Stolen Generations by then-prime minister Kevin Rudd. Mr Tilmouth, who chairs First Nations not-for-profit Children's Ground , is using the anniversary to call for action, as the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care continues to grow. “At the age of five my mother passed away and welfare swooped,” he said. “The light-skin ones went south and the dark-skin ones went north and that was the conveyor belt. “My life from then was institutionalised.” Indigenous business Message Stick has organised a breakfast on Tuesday at Canberra's Parliament House to commemorate the apology. Prime minister Anthony Albanese, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and human rights campaigner Tom Calma will speak at the event, which will screen a pre-recorded speech by Mr Rudd. First Nations kids are 10.5 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children. “The statistics are damning, it just keeps going in the same direction,” Mr Tilmouth said. “The system is stuck at the crisis driven end, as opposed to prevention. “We do not want to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, downstream, we want to be working upstream preventing the crisis before it can occur.” Mr Tilmouth and other Indigenous leaders are calling for all governments to rethink the way they do business with First Nations people, communities and organisations. “There needs to be a massive systems change where control is relinquished back to communities,” he said. “Many organisations like Children's Ground are gathering an undeniable, growing evidence base that demonstrates First Nations systems lead to positive outcomes for our children. “When we empower our people, when we have accountability, and we can target resources at the grassroots then we see change.” Mr Tilmouth said Indigenous-run organisations, like Children's Ground, are accountable to the people they serve. “It hurts, but we'll keep shaking the branches and trying to bring about change, and we'll do it by proving First Nations-led systems lead to real, positive outcomes for our children and our communities.” Tuesday's breakfast will be attended by members of the Stolen Generations, their families and supporters, including Gary Oliver, who is leading a delegation from Knowmore Legal Services to Canberra to participate in events to mark the national apology and also to meet with politicians and stakeholders. Knowmore provides free and independent legal advice for survivors of child sexual abuse and has been helping people with the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme , which offers financial and wellbeing support to survivors removed from the Northern Territory, ACT and Jervis Bay.

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