The national body for members of the Stolen Generations has welcomed legislation that will enact the Federal Government’s $379 million Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme.
The Redress Scheme was announced as part of the Federal Government’s Closing the Gap implementation plan and allocates $378.6 million for compensation for living Stolen Generations survivors who were taken from their families in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory.
Two Bills have been introduced to the Lower House: the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme (Facilitation) Bill 2021 and the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021.
Both Bills have been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration, with a report expected on October 14.
A spokesperson for the Healing Foundation said the legislation was a positive move.
“The Healing Foundation welcomes the legislation,” they said.
“[The] Healing Foundation called for this in a Budget submission and Fiona Cornforth called for this at the National Press Club in June.”
The Scheme is expected to be in operation by March 2022, and the Foundation’s spokesperson said they would work closely with the Commonwealth on the scheme.
“The Healing Foundation will work with Minister Ken Wyatt and NIAA on the details of the scheme. Any detail about payments security, privacy, safety will be worked out before March,” they said.
“Individual Stolen Generations groups will be able to present their cases to the Government in that time.”
“It’s now up to the NIAA to work with Stolen Generation groups and members to get the most equitable solution for survivors.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the Bills will protect Stolen Generations members from redress payments being “hampered by other Acts”.
“This legislation means that survivors receiving the payments can be assured their payments will not be used to repay any Commonwealth debts, and that their eligibility or access to Commonwealth payments, pensions, benefits or services will not be affected,” Minister Wyatt said.
“With many Stolen Generations survivors being of an advanced age, the imperative to act now has been brought into sharp focus.”
The redress scheme will be available to Indigenous people who were removed from their family because of their race by government, police, churches, missions or welfare bodies in the Northern Territory or Australian Capital Territory before their self-government.
Applicants will be able to access a one-off harm recognition payment of $75,000, and a healing assistance payment of $7,000 as well as the opportunity to share their story and receive an apology from the Government.
The scheme will not affect eligibility for the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
At the announcement of the Stolen Generations Redress scheme, Aboriginal Affairs Ministers in Queensland and Western Australia suggested the move may prompt the States to look at establishing their own redress schemes.
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson said he would be “taking advice from the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA on this latest development”.
“While I understand the redress scheme is limited to three Territories and does not apply directly to Western Australia, I will be examining the Commonwealth Government’s initiative in detail, to understand how it might impact conversations happening in WA,” he said.
Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said the Palaszczuk Government would “closely consider” the Commonwealth’s announcement.
“We are committed to reframing the relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and righting the wrongs of the past,” he said.
By Sarah Smit