Commonwealth to deliver $379 million redress scheme for Stolen Generations survivors

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday August 5, 2021

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt listens to Scott Morrison delivering his statement on the Closing the Gap Implementation Report
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt listens to Scott Morrison delivering his statement on the Closing the Gap Implementation Report, August 5, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The federal government will deliver a financial and wellbeing redress scheme for Stolen Generations survivors from the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory, who were removed from their families as children.

The reparation scheme is one of the initiatives announced as part of a $1 billion Closing the Gap Implementation Plan unveiled by the government today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the implementation plan would ensure state and federal governments are held to account to achieve real reconciliation.

“It highlights the real and practical actions to be taken across all areas of government and also commits funding to actions that will ensure we get there. We’ve listened together and are taking action together,” he said.

“This is a truly whole-of-government plan, developed by ministers, departments and agencies across the commonwealth with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners, in particular the Coalition of Peaks.”

The $378.6 million redress scheme will open for applications from March 2022, and will run until June 2026.

Under the scheme, eligible applicants will receive a one-off payment of $75,000 in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal. They will also receive a one-off healing assistance payment of $7,000, and the opportunity to confidentially tell their story about the impact of their removal to a senior official within government, have it acknowledged and receive a face-to-face or written apology for their removal and resulting trauma.

Families of a Stolen Generations member who passes between today and March 2022 will be able to submit an application on their behalf.

Read more: Stolen Generation survivors file class action against commonwealth

Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt said the scheme signified ‘a major step forward towards healing’.

While the Healing Foundation has ‘warmly’ welcomed the redress scheme, it noted that reparations for children who were removed from their families in commonwealth-controlled territories were long overdue.

“The Healing Foundation has called for redress for Stolen Generations survivors consistently throughout its 11-year history,” CEO Fiona Cornforth said.

“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.

“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. Universal, equitable, and safe redress processes will support Stolen Generations survivors and their families.”

Read more: New Closing the Gap targets aim to up number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages spoken, reduce incarceration and suicide rates

National and international experience has shown there is a high risk of redress schemes re-triggering trauma, Cornforth noted. This means all reparations processes must be embedded in a trauma-aware, healing informed framework, and survivors and their representatives must be able to inform the scheme design.

“Scheme design must recognise that the policies of forced removal have resulted in Stolen Generations survivors and descendants experiencing a significantly greater and more complex burden of disadvantage than other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Cornforth said.

“As well as ex-gratia payments and counselling for individuals, it is essential that redress schemes include investments in collective healing such as healing programs, reunions, and return to country. Additional and more flexible support for Stolen Generations organisations to support healing is also critical.”

Other new initiatives in the implementation plan include $254.4 million for infrastructure to support Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, $160 million for early childhood programs, and $75 million for secondary education in remote communities.

Starting next year, federal, state and territory governments will produce an annual report to outline progress being made to deliver the actions outlined in the plan. Wyatt said this would keep governments accountable.

“Progress and change are not a commonwealth responsibility alone and all parties are responsible for delivering on the commitments in the National Agreement. States and territories are delivering their own implementation plans, and together with the commonwealth’s plan detail a full picture of the national effort being delivered under the partnership,” he said.

“All parties to the National Agreement are deeply committed to working together with a determination to forge a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”

Read more: Key Closing the Gap targets not on track, Productivity Commission finds


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