In a monumentally historic move, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will pay reparations to some of this country’s Stolen Generation.
Morrison told Parliament on Thursday that $378.6 million would be allocated to redress the human damage of Stolen Generation policies, including one-off payments of $75,000 Australian dollars for its victims.
“This is a long called-for step, recognising the bond between healing, dignity and the health and wellbeing of members of the Stolen Generations, their families and their communities,” Morrison said.
“To say formally, not just that we’re deeply sorry for what happened, but that we will take responsibility for it.”
The Government states the Scheme will provide practical support for Stolen Generation survivors to address their often-complex health needs.
The Healing Foundation, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address trauma, has been campaigning for the Stolen Generation redress for 11 years.
Speaking on ABC Radio, CEO Fiona Cornforth said that the reparations “will mean so much”.
The package includes not just money but an opportunity for survivors to speak and tell their stories which Cornforth said is “an important component.”
“We know, working alongside survivors and Stolen Generations organisations, that this can mean so much. It progresses people on their healing journey”
“There’s no end state where people are healed, but we know that it makes all the difference. It’s again, being heard, but it’s also having your story validated, it’s also feeling like you do belong in a community that understands you and supports you. And, as you’ve heard, this means a lot.”
In a statement, Cornforth has said that “redress is fundamentally about acknowledging the past wrongs inflicted upon Stolen Generations, and the lifelong experience of trauma and grief that is still carried as a burden today”.
Reparations for children who were forcibly removed from their families in Commonwealth-controlled territories – the ACT, Northern Territory, and Jervis Bay – are long overdue.
“Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, and most recently Victoria have accepted responsibility for the harm caused to Stolen Generations by establishing redress schemes that include ex-gratia payments as well as community reparations,” Cornforth has said.
The Stolen Generation policies are some of the most grotesque and inhumane practices ever undertaken in this country and it continues to cast a deep shadow across our nation’s history.
From 1905 through to the 1970s, tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from their families and their homes to be raised in foster care with white families under an official ‘assimilation’ policy that sought to effectively destroy Indigenous culture and people. It was nothing short of genocide.
While it was officially ended in 1967, Indigenous activists have long criticised government child protection policies that see an overrepresentation of Indigenous children moved into foster care and away from their families.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology for what had happened in 2008 describing it as a “great stain on the nation’s soul”.
In 2018-19, the AIHW estimated that there were 3,200 Stolen Generations survivors and 9,800 descendants residing in the NT; and another 400 survivors and 2500 descendants residing in the ACT. Estimates of the numbers of people removed in other Commonwealth territories e.g., Jervis Bay are still being established.
To be eligible for the new scheme, recipients need to have been under 18 when they were forcibly removed from their families in the Northern Territory, the ACT or the Jervis Bay Territory.
It is thought to benefit some 3,600 survivors.