Governments should commemorate National Sorry Day this Saturday by committing to a stolen generations tribunal, according to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
The Centre’s chairperson, Elizabeth Evatt, says the Federal Government should move forward from denying the stolen generations and establish a tribunal to make amends for the harm done.
‘The proposed reparations tribunal is a practical alternative to governments defending legal claims by members of the stolen generations. Savings from legal bills, estimated to be tens of millions of dollars so far, could be directed to positive programs and support for families and people affected, says Ms Elizabeth Evatt, chairperson of the PIAC.
‘The tribunal would be a forum for people to put on the public record what happened to them, and to seek funding for activities such as family reunions, counselling, memorials, community education and compensation’, says Ms Evatt.
The proposal is a joint project of Sydney based community legal centre, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the National Sorry Day Committee, ATSIC and stolen generations groups.
‘A tribunal would be a great boost for reconciliation. All Australians would be seeing some practical reconciliation in action not just being talked about,’ says ATSIC Social Justice Commissioner Brian Butler.
‘This is positive and practical. Something most people can support,’ he says.
Commissioner Butler says a tribunal would require Federal and State Governments to agree that the forcible removals policies were wrong. Churches would also be involved.
A Senate inquiry last year, Healing a legacy of generations, recommended a tribunal with support from the Democrats and Labor but not the Coalition.
The idea for the tribunal is detailed in a paper called ‘Moving forward achieving reparations’ released in March. The paper has been the basis of discussions with Indigenous people about the tribunal proposal. Meetings with indigenous communities have been held around Australia since March.
A report of the responses to the paper will be available in July in the lead up to a national Moving Forward conference in Sydney in August.
For further information and copies of the Moving forward paper:
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169