Following the filing of class action proceedings earlier this year, the federal government has announced a financial redress scheme for living Stolen Generations members who were removed as children from their families in the Northern Territory and ACT.
In late April, Shine Lawyers and funded by Litigation Lending Services (LLS) filed proceedings against the Commonwealth, demanding compensation for the forcible removal from their families as children, from 1910 to the 1970s.
Shine special counsel Tristan Gaven said at the time 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.
On Thursday, 5 August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $378.6 million financial and wellbeing redress scheme for living Stolen Generations members who were removed as children from their families in the NT and ACT prior to their respective self-government, as well as the Jervis Bay Territory.
The scheme will provide eligible applicants with a one-off payment of $75,000 in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal, a one-off healing assistance payment of $7,000 in recognition that the action to facilitate healing will be specific to each individual, and the opportunity to tell their stories confidentially with senior government officials and receive written or verbal apologies.
The scheme will open for applications in March of next year and receive applications until the end of February in 2026.
“Earlier this year I met with the Healing Foundation and survivors of the stolen generations and I committed then that I would look at this important issue,” Mr Morrison said.
“Today we are delivering on that commitment with practical action that will positively impact the health and wellbeing of Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt added that supporting intergenerational healing is essential in Closing the Gap.
“Through the Commonwealth’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, the Morrison Government is committed to working in partnership and listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Mr Wyatt said.
“This announcement reflects the Government’s commitment to recognise and acknowledge the wrongs of the past as part of the nation’s journey to reconciliation, and this scheme represents a major step forward towards healing.”
Response from plaintiffs and funders
Responding to the announcement, Shine and LSS said that they “cautiously welcome” redress to be provided, noting that its clients and group members who are set to benefit are “elated”.
However, they noted, “while we are proud to have provided a platform for the voices of survivors and their relatives to be heard in the lead up to this announcement, we are disappointed to see that the announcement is silent on reparations available for the descendants of First Nations Australians who were removed from their loved ones”.
“We note this is the second attempt by the government to address this serious atrocity,” the firm and funder detailed.
“It took the launch of substantial legal proceedings to have the Government act and we will be holding them accountable at every stage of the implementation of this redress scheme.”
Until such time as the firm and funder have considered the details of proposed compensation to all class members and the pathways to implementation, the statement concluded, they noted that they will “continue to operate with caution and are unable to say how it will impact the class action proceeding, filed earlier this year”.