Aboriginal timeline: Stolen wages

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2002

  1. The Queensland government launches the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations offer. It is capped at $55.6 million and designed to be distributed to living former workers, but not families of deceased workers.

2004

  1. The New South Wales government apologises for the stolen wages and entitlements which occurred under the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act and subsequent laws until 1969.

    I take this opportunity to formally apologise to the Aborigines affected and offer the assurance that any individual who can establish they are owed money will have it returned. — Bob Carr, NSW Premier [1]

  2. The Minister for Community Services, Carmel Tebbutt, announced that the NSW government would establish an Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme (ATFRS). It will repay wages or other money that was paid into the Trust Funds between 1900 and 1968 and never repaid.

2005

  1. ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) organises a National Day of Action for stolen Aboriginal wages on Human Rights Day. ANTaR estimates that more than $1 billion in today's value was lost or stolen from Aboriginal families across Australia.

2006

  1. Claims close for Queensland's Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparation scheme. It received less than half the number of claims expected by the government [2]. $35.87 million of $55.6 million was unclaimed.

  2. The House of Senate in the Australian federal parliament passes a motion, introduced by Democrats Senator, Andrew Bartlett, to conduct an inquiry into stolen wages. The submission deadline of 28 July is extended to the 28 of September. The enquiry receives 129 submissions.

  3. As a result of the enquiry a Senate committee releases the 'Unfinished Business: Indigenous stolen wages' report which received "compelling evidence that governments systematically withheld and mismanaged Indigenous wages and entitlements over decades". It also found that these practices "were still in place in the 1980s".

2007

  1. The Western Australian government announces an investigation into the nature and extent of the 'Stolen Wages' issue. A taskforce was required to report to cabinet by mid-2008.

  2. ANTAR launches 'Hard Labour, Stolen Wages', a report on stolen wages, written by historian Dr Rosalind Kidd. The report gives a state by state account of the history of stolen wages.

  3. The Victorian government appoints an officer to sift through almost 100 years of records in state and Commonwealth archives to determine whether Victorian Aboriginal people are owed wages.

    For each of my 'employment' placements, I was not asked if I wanted to accept the employment offer; nor did I know the terms and conditions of my employment (including rate of pay and hours of work). — Lesley Williams [3]

2008

  1. The Aborigines Welfare Fund worth $10.8 million is absorbed into a new Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education foundation, which the government says will supply about 100 scholarships a year worth $20,000 each to young Aboriginal people.

    Also to be absorbed into the foundation will be about $15 million unclaimed from the $55.4 million stolen wages reparations fund set up by the Beattie government in 2002 [4].

2009

  1. The NSW government changes the Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme to allow a panel consider larger payouts and take into account non-documentary and oral evidence when considering applications.

2012

  1. The WA State Government announces the Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme which invites people born before 1958 to apply for payments of up to $2,000 if they had directly experienced government control over their income. The Scheme only compensates wages held by the government, not wages held by private industry or for unpaid work. The low amount causes outrage among Aboriginal people. More than 1,200 people receive compensation [5].

    Some people might have spent their entire working lives without receiving any income and the West Australian Government gave them $2,000. — Judy Harrison, lawyer, Kununurra Community Legal Centre [5]

  2. The Department of Indigenous Affairs in Western Australia finally releases the report of its 2008 Stolen Wages TaskforceDownload the 2008 Taskforce report.

2015

  1. The Queensland government offers a further $21 million in compensation for wages withheld from Aboriginal people.

  2. The Western Australia Aboriginal Legal Service prepares a legal challenge to the Western Australian government's limited compensation offer for stolen wages.

2016

  1. Hans Pearson, 77, uncle of prominent Aboriginal elder Noel Pearson, sues the Queensland government to recover wages he claims were stolen from him more than half a century ago. He is the lead claimant in a class action involving 300 Aboriginal people who say they were not paid for years of labour as stockmen or domestic workers. [6]

2019

  1. A class action Hans Pearson took to the federal court in September 2016 on behalf of an estimated 10,000 Aboriginal workers in Queensland who had their wages stolen last century is settled with the state government for $190m. His class action covered 1939 to 1972, when he and his fellow Aboriginal workers had their pay given to the state under the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897. It is Australia’s fifth-largest class action settlement.

References

View article sources (6)

[8329] Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme information sheet, State Records Authority of New South Wales
[8338] Koori Mail 406, 'Stolen Wages lifeline', p.1
[8349] Stolen Wages committee submissions, loc. cit., submission #82
[8353] 'State Government's dodgy deal', Courier-Mail, 30/11/2008
[8361] 'Long fight for stolen wages for Western Australia's Aboriginal stockmen and women', ABC 27/7/2015
[8370] 'Noel Pearson's uncle leads class action against Queensland Government to recover 'stolen wages'', ABC News 13/9/2016

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2020, Aboriginal timeline: Stolen wages, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/stolen-wages?page=2>, retrieved 5 June 2020

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