Hundreds of Aborigines in Australia who were forcibly removed from their families as children are suing the government in a class action launched yesterday that seeks compensation for the injustice.
Thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths were taken from their homes and put in foster care with white families, under official assimilation policies that persisted into the 1970s.
Now known as the “Stolen Generations,” they were routinely punished for speaking their own languages or practicing their culture, and many never saw their parents or siblings again.
Tristan Gaven, counsel at Shine Lawyers, said that the legal firm filed a class action yesterday on behalf of nearly 800 affected people in the Northern Territory, with thousands more believed eligible to join the lawsuit.
While other Australian states have set up redress schemes for Aborigines of the “Stolen Generations,” the federal government, which had legal responsibility for the Northern Territory when the removals took place, has not followed their example.
“The commonwealth was responsible for tearing apart indigenous families in the territory and it’s up to the commonwealth to make amends,” Gaven said. “It’s impossible to improve the future, without acknowledging the past.”
It is the first class action of its kind in the Northern Territory, which is home to about 250,000 people — almost one-third of whom are Aborigines.
Heather Alley, 84, who was forcibly removed from her mother in the Northern Territory at the age of nine, said that the experience left her “broken for many years.”
“They’ve wiped away entire generations, like they never existed,” she said. “I joined this class action because I believe our stories have to be told.”
The lawsuit is being funded by Litigation Lending Services, which also backed an action by Aborigines over unpaid wages in Queensland state.
It was resolved in 2019.
Shine Lawyers said that the amount of compensation sought was yet to be determined but, if successful, the lender was expected to receive a 20 percent commission.
Australian Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is scheduled for an initial court hearing in June.
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