PROTEST: 'Sorry means you don't do it again'
"SORRY means you don't do it again."
This was one of the many placards carried through Lismore's CBD on Tuesday morning when a group marched through the Lismore CDB to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to protest about the removal of jarjums, Aboriginal babies and children, from families.
The signs were carried by members of several groups, including the Ballina Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) and supporters who met with some FACS representatives after their march from Heritage Park along Molesworth St.
Protest spokeswoman Tania Marlow, said the situation where babies and children had been removed was extremely distressing for the families involved.
Ms Marlowe said the group was desperate to get answers as some families had not heard or seen their children in months or even years.
"We are rallying today for the best interests for our jarjums," she said.
"We march to give support to our Bundjalung families to gain access to their children and gain updates on their social, physical, mental and cultural well-being.
It is estimated more than 6000 Aboriginal children are currently in out-of-home care in NSW.
A 2012 Productivity Commission report says that of 3000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in NSW who were were placed in out-of-home care, none were placed with next of kin or in homes of Aboriginal or Torre Strait Islander families.
A 2014 Productivity Commission report concluded outlined that NSW has the highest number of child removals, with 10 percent of Indigenous children in out-of-home care managed by FACS
Ms Marlowe said the GMAR are a voice for other families and children who feel unable to speak against the system being accused of creating a new stolen generation.
Protester Charmaine Harris said hers and everyone else's hearts were breaking
"It's like our hearts have been ripped out and thrown on the ground," she said.
"Our homes will never be homes until our babies are returned."
Nationally GMAR and the NSW Greens are placing a direct challenge to the New South Wales Government, saying its removal policies are not working.
Greens MP David Shoebridge, who walked with the protesters, said there was was a lot of strength, wisdom and capability in the community here which is bring ignored by FACS.
"We want FACS to pay attention to what we are saying," he said.
"These mothers and grandmother have asked questions about their children and do not get a response."
Richmond Police District Chief Inspector Nicole Bruce said it was a peaceful march.
"We had a nice discussion with organisers and were able to facilitate a progressive walk along the roadway," she said.
"We also negotiated for a few people to talk with FACS management."
A FACS representative said the Department of Family and Community Services is focussed on improving outcomes for Aboriginal people through increasing the participation of Aboriginal parents, communities and advocates like GMAR in decision-making and developing solutions that prioritise children living safely at home or with relative or kinship carers.
"FACS welcomes and values the role of GMAR and is committed to working together with them to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and families" the representative said.
"Local FACS staff have been meeting regularly with GMAR to strengthen this relationship and to seek their views and advice on casework in Northern NSW."