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First Nations reunification class action, investigations launched across Aus

The child protection departments in all Australian states are now the subject of a class action or an investigation into the alleged failures to reunite Indigenous children with their families.

user iconNaomi Neilson 30 November 2023 Big Law
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Bottoms English Lawyers launched one of the class actions against the Queensland government over its alleged failure to adhere to the child placement principle in the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld).

In addition to scrutinising the actions of the department after a child is removed, the class action will investigate an alleged failure to reunite families; a lack of support for children in the system with their culture and connection to the Country; and a failure to place these removed children in out-of-home care with other Indigenous families.

The act requires a child should only be placed with family members or with First Nations carers unless the options have been exhausted, in which case they can then be placed with non-Indigenous carers.


“We expect 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 concerns,” special counsel Jerry Tucker said.

Bottoms English Lawyers said it hopes thousands of group members across Queensland can secure financial and non-financial remedies.

Group members are also seeking a “well-resourced consultation process” to assist with the restoration of family relationships and training for staff interacting with First Nations families in a “trauma-informed and culturally sensitive manner”.

“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,” Ms Tucker said.

Shine Lawyers announced it will investigate the departments in NSW, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia to determine whether they engaged in unlawful racial discrimination by placing Indigenous children in out-of-home care.

Special counsel Caitlin Wilson alleged an alarming number of Indigenous children were forced into the foster system despite evidence they never should have been removed.

Shine Lawyers intends to file complaints in the Australian Human Rights Commission before they commence court proceedings.

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

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