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Class action applicant accuses Qld of robbing him of identity

The lead applicant of a class action into the Queensland government’s decision to remove Indigenous children from families has accused the state of also trying to take his name from him.

user iconNaomi Neilson 10 April 2024 Big Law
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In what it claimed was a move to protect the identity of children, the Queensland government applied to have the Federal Court redact the names of the lead applicants of reunification class actions.

The actions alleged the government failed to adhere to child placement principles in the Child Protection Act after Indigenous children were removed from their caretaker’s custody. The action has been divided into the “parents case” and the “children’s case”.

Appearing on the applicant’s behalf, Dr Kristine Hanscombe said the application to redact the name of the lead applicant in the parents case had made him feel as if the state government “has taken everything from him and now wants his name”.

 
 

Pending ongoing negotiations between the parties, Lawyers Weekly has chosen not to name the lead applicant due to legal reasons.

“[The lead applicant] decided he would carry the burden for himself and the group members … why should he have his name taken away, particularly where there is no material before Your Honour to show the sheer fact of his name would be information that identified or was likely to lead to the identification of a child,” Hanscombe said.

“I frankly don’t understand how that connection is made.”

Hanscombe likened the situation to a prosecutor making a suppression order to redact the name of a criminal accused.

Christopher Murdoch, counsel for the Queensland government, said there was a “real risk” that even with redactions for the children, the name of the adult applicant could lead to the identification of a child.

When pressed on why he did not make a suppression order as soon as the matter was filed, Murdoch said the issue had not “crystalised” until the court floated the idea of publishing material online.

Murdoch added that the government was prepared to continue negotiations with the applicants to determine how best redactions should be made, but he flagged that his client was willing to make an application if these negotiations were not successful.

Given the “fairly unusual situation”, Chief Justice Debra Mortimer agreed to leave the parties “to have your negotiations and see where we land”.