C$350-million compensation program . . .
The Australian federal government announced on Thursday a C$350.5 million program to compensate survivors of the ‘Stolen Generations’ in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Region (ACT). The ‘Stolen Generations’ refers to an assimilation program run between the 1910s and 1970s that saw the government, churches, and welfare groups forcefully remove at least 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities and placed in group homes or foster care. The four-year compensation program will begin in March 2022 and will include up to C$69,433 in compensation per individual.
Long time coming . . .
Survivors of the Stolen Generations have been speaking out for decades. As part of a national inquiry into stolen children, a 700-page report called Bringing them Home was tabled in parliament in 1997. The issue of compensation was among the report’s 54 recommendations. While former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology in 2008, and other state governments have created their own compensation programs, the federal government had resisted financial compensation. Ian Hamm, a member of the Stolen Generations and a chair of the campaign organization, Healing Foundation, said of the federal government’s recent announcement: “It is not all about money … this is about recognition of the personal experiences and the lives and the impact this had on ordinary Aboriginal people in their childhood and set them on a life course that they shouldn't have gone down.”
Federal-state divide . . .
Part of the reason the federal government had resisted financial compensation was due to states having their own programs. For example, Tasmania announced a C$4.6 million program in 2007, and in 2016 New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria each announced reparations programs ranging from C$5.5 million to C$55 million. However, during the era in question the Northern Territory and ACT were not self-governing jurisdictions, and responsibility, therefore, resides with the federal government. While the new scheme will likely go a long way in helping families and communities heal, reconciliation is not a one-time action or program – it does not, for example, answer the question of what will happen with an ongoing multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against the federal government in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
- The Healing Foundation: Stolen Generations
- The Sydney Morning Herald: Stolen Generations survivors launch class action against Commonwealth
- The Sydney Morning Herald: Territory Stolen Generations survivors to share $380 million reparation scheme