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WA Stolen Generations Petition

by Tony Hansen, Aboriginal Co-Chair, Bringing Them Home WA Inc. and Alan Carter, Non-Aboriginal Co-Chair, Bringing Them Home WA Inc.

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Tony Hansen. Image: supplied

It is 25 years since the Bringing Them Home Report was released and many of the 54 Recommendations have not been implemented! Two of the most important recommendations relate to Compensation or Reparation for Stolen Generations Survivors and we believe that “…the time has come to say fair’s fair” and we are seeking your support for a Petition to make that happen!

In August 1995, the then Attorney General, Mr Michael Lavarch asked the Human Rights Commission to undertake an Inquiry into “… the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families by compulsion, duress or undue influence, and the effects of those laws, practices and policies”. This Inquiry, which was undertaken by prominent Aboriginal Lawyer, Professor Mick Dodson, and retired High Court Judge, Sir Ronald Wilson, and led to the production of the Bringing Them Home Report, which was tabled in the Federal Parliament on 26th May 1997.

The Bringing Them Home Report found it difficult to accurately determine the number of children removed around Australia due to the loss of many records or the lack of data and information in those records that have survived. However, they concluded that nationally “…between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970”.

Recent research undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in collaboration with the Healing Foundation has, however, determined that here in Western Australia approximately 57% of the Adult Aboriginal Population are either Stolen Generations Survivors or their descendants. The impact of these past policies of removing Aboriginal children from their families has had a significant impact in WA with evidence of significant levels of intergenerational trauma.

The Inquiry's third term of reference related to “…the principles relevant to determining the justification for compensation for persons or communities affected by such separations”.

Given the significant legal experience of the two Commissioners, their examination of the issues relating to reparation or compensation was extensive and they sought a range of legal and other opinion. In the Bringing Them Home Report, they concluded that “…official policy and legislation for Indigenous families and children was contrary to accepted legal principle imported into Australia as British common law and, from late 1946, constituted a crime against humanity. It offended accepted standards of the time and was the subject of dissent and resistance. The implementation of the legislation was marked by breaches of fundamental obligations on the part of officials and others to the detriment of vulnerable and dependent children whose parents were powerless to know their whereabouts and protect them from exploitation and abuse.”

This led to two Recommendations in the Report relating to this issue:

Components of reparations

3. That, for the purposes of responding to the effects of forcible removals, `compensation' be widely defined to mean `reparation'; that reparation be made in recognition of the history of gross violations of human rights; and that the van Boven principles guide the reparation measures. Reparation should consist of,

1. acknowledgment and apology,

2. guarantees against repetition,

3. measures of restitution,

4. measures of rehabilitation, and

5. monetary compensation.

Claimants

4. That reparation be made to all who suffered because of forcible removal policies including,

1. individuals who were forcibly removed as children,

2. family members who suffered as a result of their removal,

3. communities which, as a result of the forcible removal of children, suffered cultural and community disintegration, and

4. descendants of those forcibly removed who, as a result, have been deprived of community ties, culture and language, and links with and entitlements to their traditional land

 

Since those recommendations were made 25 years ago, all State Governments except Queensland and Western Australia have established compensation schemes for Stolen Generations Survivors. The most recent State to announce a Compensation Scheme was the Victorian Government which opened the Stolen Generations Reparations Package on 31st March 2022.

Bringing Them Home WA, which advocates on behalf of Stolen Generations Survivors and their families in Western Australia, in partnership with the Kimberley Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, has established an Online Petition to the WA Legislative Council which states:

” We the undersigned are concerned that the Parliament of Western Australia has not taken action in accordance with Recommendations 3 and 4 (Components of reparations) of the Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (1997).


We therefore ask the Legislative Council to undertake an Inquiry into Compensation Schemes in other States and Territories in Australia for those who suffered because of forcible removal policies and make recommendations to the Government of Western Australia in relation to the establishment of a Compensation or Reparation Scheme in that regard in Western Australia.”

 

We are calling on all fair minded Western Australians to sign this online Petition ( LC e-Petitions (parliament.wa.gov.au) ) in the spirit of the well-known Midnight Oil Song “Beds are Burning” which says, “The time has come to say fair’s fair!”


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