Northern Territory-based survivors of the Stolen Generation have issued legal proceedings against the Commonwealth, demanding compensation for the forcible removal from their families as children, from 1910 to the 1970s.
A class action has been filed in the NSW Supreme Court by First Nations Australians based in the NT for injustices endured by thousands of Indigenous families.
The proceedings are being run by Shine Lawyers and funded by Litigation Lending Services (LLS). The case follows extensive consultation with affected NT community members, the firm said in a statement.
‘Our stories have to be told’
Shine special counsel Tristan Gaven, who is representing the class, said that it is “impossible to improve the future without acknowledging the past”.
“We estimate that there are around 4,000-6,000 Northern Territory members of the Stolen Generation eligible to register for this class action. The Commonwealth was responsible for tearing apart Indigenous families in the Territory and it’s up to the Commonwealth to make amends,” he said.
“Nearly every state and territory has acted on recommendations to compensate Indigenous Australians who were victims of the Stolen Generation, but nothing has been offered to those affected in the Northern Territory, that’s why we’ve filed this class action.”
The class will include claimants such as Heather Alley, who Shine noted was nine years old when she was forcibly removed from her mother in Mataranka to Mulgoa in NSW.
“I loved my mother and when she passed away, it took me 30 years to find the strength to even say her name. That’s how much the loss of her shook me,” she said.
“In my 84 years, I think I only ever got to spend eight with her, and she was a good woman who loved me dearly.”
Ms Alley attained a diploma of counselling, after being “very broken for many years”, and has attempted to trace her ancestry but without luck.
“My mother never knew her mother. They’ve wiped away entire generations, like they never existed,” she said.
“I joined this class action because I believe our stories have to be told.”
A ‘shameful’ refusal to compensate those in the NT
LLS chief executive Stephen Conrad said that the Commonwealth’s “inaction over too long a period of time to address this terrible injustice” has given rise to these proceedings. “LLS is honoured to provide a pathway for a resolution. We are proud to support First Nations Australians in this fight for justice,” he proclaimed.
LLS director Warren Mundine – who is also a board director of SBS and executive chairman of Nyungga Black Group – added that he was proud to see First Nations people fighting for a meaningful apology and resolution.
“If this was to happen today, there would be serious public global outrage and criminal charges laid on all involved for these barbaric acts,” he submitted.
“The Government needs to acknowledge that First Nations People will never know what life might have been like if this tragic theft of innocence and identity didn’t occur.”
The funder’s chairman, Shaun Bonett, also commented that it is “shameful that the Commonwealth has refused to pay compensation to members of the Stolen Generation in the Northern Territory, despite their own recommendation to do so. All other states with similar policies have paid compensation to those affected”.