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Indigenous leaders say Stolen Generations redress scheme must go further

Rachael Knowles -

The Morrison Government has announced a Stolen Generations redress scheme for survivors in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, and Jervis Bay Territory.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme during his Closing the Gap Implementation Plan address on Thursday.

The commitment sees "$378.6 million over five years for a financial and wellbeing reparations scheme for living Stolen Generations survivors who were removed as children from their families in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory prior to their respective self-government and the Jervis Bay Territory".

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the measures are critical to continue the country's Reconciliation process and support healing for Stolen Generation survivors and their families.

"The scheme, for living survivors who were removed as children from their families in then-Commonwealth Territories, includes a one-off payment in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal and gives each survivor the opportunity, should they wish, to tell their story and receive an individual apology," he said.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney fronted media following the announcement, welcoming the Government's announcement.

"Labor welcomes the money that has been committed to reparations and we are pleased to see the Government coming onboard in relation to that," she said.

Despite welcoming the announcement, the Shadow Minister raised questions about the support for families of those who have passed away.

"This is for surviving members of the Stolen Generation; we know that so many of those members have passed away," she said.

"The question has to be, well what about those people? And the ongoing trauma that their families are experiencing?"

On the eve of National Sorry Day this year, Senator Lidia Thorpe proposed a Stolen Generation compensation package on behalf of the Greens.

The package provided $200,000 as a starting point for reparations, alongside an additional $7,000 payment to each survivor for funeral expenses and psychosocial services.

Senator Thorpe said whilst the Greens are happy to see the major parties adopting their policies, "watering them down dilutes justice being served".

"What's $75,000 for a lifetime of trauma? It's half of what was offered to survivors of institutional child sex abuse, despite many First Nations people experiencing institutional child sex abuse after they were stolen from their families," said Senator Thorpe.

"Reparations are welcome development, but this doesn't go far enough. This is baby steps towards writing the wrongs the Australian governments created generations ago."

Senator Thorpe accused the Government of "throwing crumbs and calling it a victory".

"This Government needs to be realistic about how effective this money will be towards healing. How much of this compensation is going to have to be spent on mental health services treating transgenerational trauma, that the Australian governments caused?"

Currently, Shine Lawyers through the funding of Litigation Lending Services (LLS) are pursuing a class action against the Commonwealth Government on behalf of Stolen Generation survivors in the Northern Territory.

LLS Director and Bundjalung, Yuin and Gumbaynggirr man Warren Mundine said the organisation welcomes the redress scheme.

"I am pleased, but now the devil is in the detail. We want to make sure that people don't fall off the wagon," he said.

"This is good, now we'd like to see things like this happening across Australia."

Mundine said despite their excitement over the announcement, LLS wants to ensure each survivor and their family gets what they deserve.

"We will be waiting for the details to come out around how it is going to operate, we don't want it to become a bureaucratic process," he said.

The Government's commitment is an act that validates the experiences of survivors, Mundine said.

"This is not some made up stuff, people's lives were ruined," he said.

"I had tears when I sat and listened to some of the people telling their stories. [This scheme is] the validation of what happened to you, your family and your community."

By Rachael Knowles


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