The Commonwealth’s 1996 Inquiry Into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children From Their Families (‘the Stolen Generations’ Inquiry) documented the damage done to Aboriginal people, their families and community by past ‘welfare’ practices directed towards the assimilation of Indigenous children into the mainstream population. This occurred across Australia. In August 1997 the Tasmanian government was one of the first to make an official apology to the Aboriginal community for this. The Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 (Tas) remains the only legislation in Australia to make financial redress to the survivors of the government removal of Aboriginal children policy and practice. Then Premier Paul Lennon made an impassioned speech to Parliament and the Bill received bipartisan support.
The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 (Tas) says that an Aboriginal organisation must be consulted before an order is made as to where an Aboriginal child is to reside following family breakdown (s9(1)). Court decisions must take into account what the Aboriginal organisation says. There are no such provisions under the Adoption Act 1988 (Tas) but the community welfare authorities do observe a protocol to the same effect. Under this protocol Aboriginal organisations will also be consulted where Aborigines seek to contact their natural parents or vice versa.
Currently, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) states that in making parenting orders, the court must take into account the child-rearing practices of a child’s Torres Strait Islander or Aboriginal culture.