Mrs Valerie Linow, an Aboriginal woman from NSW and a member of the stolen generations, has been awarded $35,000 by the NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal (VCT). The compensation was awarded for sexual assaults that occurred while Mrs Linow was a domestic worker on a rural property in NSW where she had been placed by the Aborigines Welfare Board when she was 14 years old.
Alexis Goodstone, Solicitor from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, who represented Mrs Linow, said:
“We brought the claim as a test case to establish an alternative process for members of the stolen generations seeking compensation for harm that occurred to them while in state care.”
The initial decision accepted that Mrs Linow had been sexually assaulted, but denied her claim because he was not satisfied ‘that the injury was caused as a result of the sexual assaults’. It noted that if Mrs Linow had been reared in a loving family, she would not have suffered from the psychiatric disorders. The decision was overturned in an appeal handed down on 16 October 2002.
Ms Goodstone said:
“The success of Mrs Linow’s case will give hope to other members of the stolen generations who suffered a similar fate. However, they will need the type of evidence that was available to Mrs Linow and the schemes in other states may take a different approach.”
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission estimated that 1 in 6 witnesses who appeared before its National Inquiry into the stolen generations had been subjected to sexual or physical abuse.
PIAC has called for Australian governments to establish a reparations tribunal for the stolen generations. A model for the tribunal is detailed in its recent report, restoring identity, which has received widespread support. One of the functions of the tribunal would be to consider claims for compensation such Mrs Linow’s. Unlike the Victims Compensation Tribunal it would also be able to provide measures to restore people’s lives, such as counselling, funding for support groups and cultural healing.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169