A Senate Committee, whose Inquiry report was tabled on Monday, acknowledged that ‘monetary compensation is only one component of reparations’ and concluded that ‘the issue of reparations for the stolen generation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.’
The report said that a Reparations Tribunal model, proposed by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Australian Human Rights Centre (AHRC), might provide a valuable framework for consideration in the development of a reparations scheme.
These comments are not reflected in the report’s recommendations. Despite acknowledging that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the evidence it received supported compensation for the Stolen Generations, the Senate Inquiry’s recommendations avoided compensation and broader reparation in favour of establishing a National Indigenous Healing Fund.
Although the report provided little detail about how the Healing Fund would work, it appears to be modelled on the Canadian Aboriginal Healing Foundation, established in 1998. ‘The Canadian Foundation has done some great work’, said Laura Thomas, PIAC’s Indigenous Justice Program Solicitor, ‘but it failed to fully address the issues and last year the Canadian Government agreed to a much broader package including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and individual compensation payments. It is disappointing that the Committee’s strong statements about reparations are not reflected in its recommendations and instead they have recommended a model that has been superseded in Canada.’
‘After the recent Australian Government apology, the provision of compensation would be an additional and important contribution to the lives of many members of the Stolen Generations,’ said Andrea Durbach, Director of the AHRC. ‘The Senate Committee has acknowledged that the Government is under an obligation to devise a national reparations strategy as a matter of priority and compensation is a component of reparations.’
Senators from the Australian Democrats and the Greens endorsed PIAC’s Reparations Tribunal proposal, calling for immediate legislation to provide full reparations to the Stolen Generations, including financial compensation.
To view PIAC’s submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry go to https://piac.asn.au/publication/2008/04/080410-piac-stolengens
PIAC’s proposal for a Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal is contained in its report Restoring Identity: https://piac.asn.au/publication/2009/07/rireportfinal
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169