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Colonial Australia’s foundation is stained with the profits of British slavery

A dive into the hidden histories of Australia’s early settlers shows the country wasn’t just built on the sheep’s back

West Indies slaves harvesting sugar cane

 The slave-owning pasts of many of Australia’s early colonisers have been air-brushed from history. Photograph: duncan1890/Getty Images

As the decades shed ever more light on colonialism’s brutal treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Australia has sought reassurance that at least, unlike Britain and America, our history is not marred with the heinous stain of the Caribbean and African slave trade.

But groundbreaking historical research must now give pause for reconsideration. It transpires that some of the scions of colonial society established themselves in Australia with wealth earned through slavery and official compensation for the loss of income from it when the British government eventually abolished the trade in dark-skinned humans.

A New South Wales governor and a Melbourne mayor, a prominent churchman who established this country’s oldest university, establishment bankers and the owners of vast rural estates, including the legendary Barcaldine in Queensland – birthplace of the Australian Labor Party – came to Australia after they or their families acquired slavery wealth.


The revelations, in a new book from political scientist and historian Clinton Fernandes of UNSW, Canberra, are drawn from the Legacies of British Slave-ownership database at the University College London (UCL) – a remarkable resource that aims to publicly record those Britons who profited from slavery.

While researching the book – Island off the Coast of Asia, Instruments of Statecraft in Australian Foreign Policy – Fernandes sought to test his belief that while humanitarianism was a factor in slavery’s abolition, economic rationalism was at least equally responsible.

Fernandes writes, “By the early 19th century, sugar cane on slave plantations in the British West Indies was so intensively cultivated that there was a crisis of overproduction. The unprofitability of the slave colonies was a major factor in Britain’s decision to abolish the slave trade. Popular understandings in recent years have emphasised philanthropic rather than economic reasons for abolition. But the truth is that economic factors were highly influential.”

While the Australian colonial frontier was devastating in its brutality for Indigenous people (at least 60,000 of whom died during conflict with “settlers”, soldiers and police), the early Australian economy grew, literally, allegorically and mythologically “on the sheep’s back” with an agricultural export industry established on land stolen from original Aboriginal inhabitants.

Fernandes writes, “There was no industrial revolution in this period, but rather a burgeoning agricultural export industry that helped create a group of wool-rich rural elites. An industrial business class appeared after the discovery of gold in the 1850s. In the 60 years before this, however, there is a largely unknown source of wealth: slavery.”

Clinton Fernandes


 Political scientist and historian Clinton Fernandes has documented the slave-owning histories of Australia’s early settlers. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Abolition of British involvement in slavery happened incrementally over almost three decades. Arrangements differed according to geography. The British Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1807) did not actually ban slavery but rather the trading (that is, buying, selling and transporting) of slaves between Africa, the West Indies and America.

In 1833 parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act for the British Caribbean, Canada and the Cape of Good Hope. Even then, slavery remained in the East India Company’s territories of Sri Lanka and St Helena in the South Atlantic. The 1833 law came into force in 1834. In 1835 the British parliament granted £20m in compensation (40% of the total British income, equivalent to some £300bn today) to former slave owners for loss of income.

The money, Fernandes writes, “provided the starting point for several investments in Australia … slave owners and former owners settled in Australia using the proceeds of slave ownership and compensation”.

The revelations may come as a particular shock to South Australians who’ve long prided themselves that their colony – and its capital, Adelaide – was effectively established with a neat transferal of British civility, leaving it thankfully devoid of the convict heritage of other colonial states.

Indeed Fernandes, a former Australian Army intelligence officer, began his research into the slavery component of his book by focusing on the South Australian establishment.

He says, “I wanted to test my hypothesis about the role of state intervention – in economics and war – in the development of Australia’s prosperity. It’s important to try to falsify your hypothesis, not to look for material to confirm it. The Australian colonies were slave-free, but they were part of an empire that wasn’t. So I suspected there might be something to uncover. I started in South Australia because I hoped to refute the hypothesis there, since it prides itself as a planned British society based on free settlement rather than convict labour.”

George Fife Angas

 George Fife Angas, a pillar of the South Australia establishment, was compensated for 121 slaves in Honduras.

And so, he came across English-born George Fife Angas (1789-1879), a pillar of the South Australian establishment. A merchant banker, landowner, colonial parliamentarian and philanthropist, he helped establish the Union Bank of Australia in 1836 and the South Australian Banking Co. He was sufficiently wealthy to buy 4,000 acres of fertile land on the Rhine and Gawler rivers in the Barossa range and, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography (self-declared as “Australia’s pre-eminent dictionary of national biography”) he was: “A Christian first, despite his varied business ventures Angas had a lifelong passion for forming societies and joining charitable committees”.


The ADB says “he joined influential reformers in fighting for the emancipation of slaves and the restoration of nonconformist missionaries in British Honduras”. It omits to mention he’d also been a slave owner.

“According to this [UCL] database George Fife Angas … was compensated for four claims in Honduras in 1835. The claims involved more than £6.942 for 121 slaves,” Fernandes writes.

Isaac Currie (1760-1843), a banker with Curries & Co and the East Riding Bank, was, Fernandes writes, another prominent South Australian “associated with four compensation claims in Jamaica, worth more than £15,379 for 841 slaves”.

In 1835, meanwhile, English trader John Samuel August received £2362 for 40 Honduran slaves. He died in 1839 leaving his fortune to his wife and four children, including a daughter, Sarah. According to the UCL database “all the beneficiaries of John Samuel August’s will emigrated, to the newly established colony of Adelaide in South Australia”.

Sarah later married Alfred Langhorne, an overseer and squatter, and a successful farmer who purchased the property, Laverton, west of Melbourne – today’s Altona Homestead.

Godfrey Downes Carter (1830-1902), a celebrated lord mayor of Melbourne, from 1884 to 1885, was, according to the UCL database, a beneficiary of the £472 paid to his father, John Adams Carter, described simply by the ADB - with a somewhat characteristic omission – as a “merchant and planter”.

Fernandes writes, “The ADB says he was born in Jamaica and arrived in Victoria in 1853. ‘By frugal living he slowly prospered,’ we are told, and became ‘one of the most esteemed and trusted businessmen in Melbourne’. Not a word is mentioned of his slave-owning family background.”

John Belisario, who pioneered the use of anaesthetics in dentistry, was, Fernandes writes, “the son of active slave owners in Jamaica in the 1830s”, while John Buhôt, the first person to successfully grow sugar cane in Australia, “was the son of a slave owner in Barbados”.

Again, the ADB evades the truth, saying Buhôt was “born in Barbados” to a “merchant” father.

The ADB says Charles Edward Bright (founder of Bright Brothers & Co steamship company; president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce; chairman of the Melbourne Harbour Commission; trustee of the public library, Victorian museum and national gallery, and Union Bank of Australia director who lived from 1829 to 1915) was the son of a “prominent landowner”.

But his family was beneficiary to the £8384 compensation for 404 slaves on a Barbados estate.

The prominent Sydneysider Alexander Kenneth Mackenzie (1769-1838), who migrated from London to Sydney in 1822, is perhaps best known for establishing the Bathurst Bank and as secretary and cashier of the Bank of New South Wales. He was an ardent campaigner for colonial tariff reduction on timber, prominent in the turf racing community and Scots Church.

Mackenzie was also, for more than a decade, a slave dealer in St Vincent. Once again, the ADB omits this.

A statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie


 NSW governor Lachlan Macquarie is often described as a benefactor of Aboriginal people even though he was responsible for their slaughter. Photograph: Toby Mann/AAP

So much Australian history has, like the continent, been subject to colonisation – a glossing over of salient and unpalatable fact that tells the true story of British invasion, Indigenous dispossession, frontier murder and war, and pastoral expansion. Several times in recent years I’ve written about how generations of Australian historians (add to the list politicians of all persuasions, dramaturges and novelists) have wilfully overlooked the actions of the fifth governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, who has been afforded a reputation of benevolence to Aboriginal people even though he was responsible for their mass murder, the use of “terror” tactics against them and the theft of their children.

The ADB is prominent among defenders, by omission, of Macquarie and others, including John Batman (the syphilitic killer of Tasmanian Aboriginal people) responsible for murdering this continent’s Indigenous.

The dictionary of biography mentions that Macquarie’s first wife Jane Jarvis was “a West Indian heiress”, but doesn’t note her inheritance: Antiguan slave plantations.

Fernandes reveals that a founder of the University of Sydney and its former vice chancellor, Reverend Robert Allwood was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a slave owner, also Robert Allwood. According to the slavery compensation database, the reverend “lodged a compensation claim of more than £10,000 for 202 slaves in British Guiana under a mortgage in 1836”. Allwood migrated to Sydney in 1839, after which he was elected a fellow of St Paul’s College when the university was founded. Allwood remains a revered figure in Australian divinity and education, his connection to slavery hitherto unacknowledged.

Archibald Paull Burt (1810-1879), was a giant in the colonial affairs of Western Australia where he served as chief justice of the Supreme Court. The dictionary of biography says he was the son of a “planter” in the West Indies. His father, George Henry Burt was, in fact, besides the speaker of the house of assembly in St Kitts, also a slave owner. Fernandes reveals that the West Australian, Archibald Paull Burt, was compensated for three slave estates.

Barcaldine, Queensland, is known as the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, the revered place where striking workers met under the “tree of knowledge”.

British Guiana-born (later Sir) Donald Charles Cameron (1814-1872) established the property of Barcaldine Downs, from which the town takes its name, in 1863. In 1835 his uncle, also Donald Charles Cameron, and his father, John Cameron, were compensated some £46,000 for five slave plantations in British Guiana. The son and nephew, Donald Charles Cameron, was a direct beneficiary of those compensation payments. Fernandes argues the son/nephew, Donald Charles, owed his immense wealth (and capacity to buy vast swathes of property in Victoria and Queensland) to decades’ of slave profits stretching to when he was in British Guiana, as well as to the lump sum paid to his father and uncle on abolition.

the Labor party's tree of knowledge


 Barcaldine in Queensland, the birthplace of the Labor party, was named for slave owner Donald Charles Cameron’s Barcaldine Downs property. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


Australia, most notably, Queensland, is yet to reconcile its own history of “blackbirding” – the theft of Indigenous peoples from the Solomon Islands and the islands of Vanuatu – for so-called “indentured labour” on cane plantations. Restitution has not been made for what the families of those stolen and forced to work in Australia rightly term “sugar slavery”.

In WA, until well into the 20th century, Aboriginal “prisoners”, many of whom had neither committed nor been convicted of criminal offence, worked on public building and private agricultural projects while chained to one another at the neck. One prominent Aboriginal rights campaigner named it for what it was – “brutal slavery in full swing”. Aboriginal children were stolen and forced to work as unpaid domestics and rural labourers across the colonies.

Those who write our history must now incorporate the reality that colonial Australia’s foundation economy is stained with the profits of British slavery. More research will follow and, perhaps, expose the names of more European pioneering/establishment families who got out of the slave trade before the British compensation provisions of 1835.

Meanwhile Fernandes says it defies credulity that the ADB, which is produced by the Australian National University in Canberra, was ignorant of the slavery connections of some of the people whose lives it purports to authoritatively chart.

“The ANU’s Chancellor, Gareth Evans, called the ADB ‘the indispensable record of who we are, and of the characters who have made us what we are’. I agree it’s an excellent project, a national treasure, in fact. But the systematic sidestepping of the slavery angle cries out for an explanation. Nationalism often relies on getting your history wrong,” Fernandes says.

Many other prominent Australians – among them, Barry Jones, Geoffrey Bolton and Malcolm Turnbull also praise, on the dictionary’s website, the attributes and importance of the ADB.

It is astonishing that it took until 2015 for the British Government to repay the £20m (£300 billion today) 4% consolidated loan it undertook in order to compensate slave owners from 1835.

“The taxpayers as a whole paid out the slavery compensation, but only the rich slave owners benefited from the £20m. To me this succinctly demonstrates how costs and risks are socialised but profits are privatised. That’s the theme running right through the book and indeed through Australian foreign policy history,” Fernandes says.

“The book’s 230-year survey of Australia’s external relations shows that ‘national interests’ is code for the objectives of those who dominate the private sector. The public bears the costs and risks while small dominant groups benefit disproportionately. This is usually dismissed as a ‘radical critique’, but it comes right out of Adam Smith, who said that ‘the principal architects’ of policy were in the private sector, and their interest ‘has been most peculiarly attended to,’ while others’ ‘has been sacrificed to it’.”

Reconciling the dark history of slavery and murder in Australian pearling, points to a brighter future

Posted 9 Sep 2018, 12:10pm

Diving for pearl shellPHOTO: In the early days of pearling, Aboriginal men, women and children were used, often brutally, to dive for shell. (Supplied: National Museum of Australia, courtesy Herbert Basedow Collection)

RELATED STORY: Kimberley pearl farm completes lustrous harvest

Descended from a murderous slaver as well as those he enslaved, Terry Hunter's efforts to reconcile his family history confront the dark past of Australia's pearling industry.

Terry Hunter is a descendent of Harry Hunter, one of the many notorious pearlers from the early years of the pearl shell industry.

But he's also the descendent of the Bardi and Jawi, the Aboriginal people who live at the tip of the Dampier Peninsula where crystal clear oceans swirl over rugged rock and coral reef of Australia's north-west.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of people who have died and content which may cause distress.

Not long after arriving from England in the 1870s, police records and eyewitness accounts describe how Harry Hunter settled into a brutal existence trading in pearl shell and human lives.

"From what I hear from my grandfather and my uncles, he was a pretty violent man at that time," Terry Hunter says.

"He would go out on horseback and steal the young Indigenous men and women and force them to dive for the mother of pearl shell."

In the late 1800s slavery had long been abolished in the British Empire and the United States, but in north-west Australia it was a mainstay of the burgeoning pearl shell industry.

Numerous police and government reports record how Aboriginal people from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions were forced to work as divers, swimming without any equipment from pearl lugger boats.

Chained Aboriginal prisoners wearing carved pearlshell.PHOTO: Chained Aboriginal prisoners wearing riji (carved pearlshell) as they stand in the mangroves of Broome, c. 1910. (Supplied: Broome Historical Society, courtesy Freney Collection.)

Slave traders were known as blackbirders and would round up Aboriginal men at gunpoint and sell them to pearling captains.

At its peak, blackbirding was a flagrant practice, as described in an excerpt from a report by Government Resident Colonel E.F. Angelo in 1886, when he named three white men who,

"...publicly advertised themselves to procure and put niggers aboard at five pounds a head for anybody, or shoot them for the Government at half a crown a piece."

Numerous police reports describe Harry Hunter caught on land with Aboriginal men in chains, or accused of beating and drowning Aboriginal men and children on pearling boats.

"It was a very brutal time, because if the younger ones didn't come up with mother-of-pearl shell, he would knock them on the head and send them back down again," Mr Hunter said.

"He was definitely a slaver, and also a murderer."

Terry HunterPHOTO: Terry Hunter is a Bardi Aboriginal tour guide and the great, great grandson of notorious pearler and blackbirder, Harry Hunter. 

(ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins)Slaver, murderer, and a family man

Terry Hunter speaks of his murderous, slave driving great, great grandfather with extraordinary matter-of-factness.

He does not shy away from the horrific crimes Harry Hunter committed, but perhaps more extraordinarily, he can see a positive side to the man.

"Coming from that dark side of the pearling industry, I can't push that aside because it's a part of me, and a part of my history," Mr Hunter said.

The pearling industry changed rapidly in the late 1880s with the introduction of hardhat divers wearing copper helmets and canvas dive suits.

The focus for labour began shifting from Aboriginal people to Asian divers, though Harry Hunter continued pearl shelling with large Aboriginal crews.

He also started to settle down in the traditional country of the Bardi people on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome.

It was near what became known as Hunter's Creek near Cape Leveque, or Bulgin to local people, that Harry Hunter established himself as a kind of lord over a community of his own making.

Through a mix of violent intimidation and the provision of food, work and protection from other colonists, Harry Hunter acquired what has been described as a harem of more than half-a-dozen mostly Bardi wives through which he had countless children.

As well as being a brutally violent person, Harry Hunter is recorded as being fond of his many children who were all put to work as boat builders, sailors, cooks, and farmers.

It is an almost incomprehensible contradiction that Terry Hunter ascribes some of the successes of the large Hunter family to their murderous patriarch.

"There is a positive side, with Harry marrying into Indigenous families and teaching all of his kids his life skills," Mr Hunter said.

"He took care of all of his children … he taught the Hunter men and women how to get out there and be in the workplace and to move forward.

"I've still got a great work ethic that's trickled down from that old fella."

Cygnet Bay Pearl FarmPHOTO: Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm was established in 1948 near Cape Leveque on the Dampier Peninsula. (ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins)

Reconciling pearling past and future

The old pearl shell industry finally ground to an end through a combination of the interruption of WWII in Australia's north, followed by the popularisation of plastics replacing mother-of-pearl in manufacturing.

But the new cultured pearl industry, developed in Japan where pearl oysters were seeded to produce a pearl gem for the jewellery industry, was about to arrive on Australian shores.

With the new industry came some with new attitudes to Aboriginal people.

"The Brown family had this positive input into Indigenous families in the area," Mr Hunter said.

Dean Brown arrived at Cygnet Bay in 1946, taking up a pearling lease while also treating local Bardi people as his equals.

"Living with the Indigenous people, the Browns were shunned, 'What are you doing out there with these Indigenous people? Whites and blacks shouldn't mix together'," Mr Hunter said.

"He was way before his time, but he had a vision."

Terry Hunter's family lived and worked on their traditional country at what became one of Australia's first cultured pearl farms.

As a child in the 1980s he grew up alongside Dean Brown's grandson, the current general manager of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, James Brown.

"We had the most beautiful upbringing out here at Cygnet Bay because we were a very multicultural little community out here," Mr Hunter said.

"James spent most of his childhood at my place, so he was just like a brother to me."

James Brown and Terry HunterPHOTO: James Brown and Terry Hunter reminisce about growing up together on the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. (ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins)

It was only in adulthood that Mr Brown and Mr Hunter began to learn of the early history of the pearl shell industry and the atrocities committed by people like Harry Hunter.

"It's quite confronting to really try and take on all of these atrocities that happened," Mr Brown said.

"We are literally now just really coming to terms with the extent of it."

Mr Brown believes that reconciling the dark history of Australian pearling will help heal relationships and allow the industry to realise its true value.

"The use of pearl shell in ceremonies, the use of pearl shell in carving and trading, I think there is real opportunity in that space, not just for traditional owners," he said.

"If Broome and the Kimberley region can come to terms with its history, and then work together, it's actually got a depth that is unbelievable."

Terry Hunter now works as a guide on the pearl farm he grew up on.

Tourism has become an important part of Cygnet Bay's business model, and Mr Hunter is passionate about telling the story of pearling in Australia and how it has impacted Indigenous people for better and for worse.

"I think it's probably the right time now to bring that story out there; there is a dark time in the pearling industry," he said.

"But I see the future as being quite good for the next Bardi and Jawi Indigenous people on the Peninsula."

Listen at 
Dann speaks about being removed from his mother at the age of 4 and being placed at Beagle Bay Mission, W.A. He describes the harsh conditions at the Mission, and speaks about reuniting with his family as an adult. Dann and Winawarl speak about the long-term effects of removal on their family and their people. Dann now uses his traditional knowledge of the Broome area to find bush tucker and teach his children about their country. He hopes to open an art cultural centre to teach others about the land.
Bruno Dann and Cynthia Maree Winawarl interviewed by Marnie Richardson in the Bringing them home oral history project [sound recording]. recorded 12 June 2001
Introduction: interview conducted in Cynthia's house in Broome; also present are Bruno, her brother, and Bruno's partner Ahli Levi*. Bruno talks of his early life, being taken from his mother and sent to the Beagle Bay Mission; news of his mother's death.
Details of their siblings, also in the Beagle Bay Mission; Bruno has no memories of his mother; physical punishment for infractions of rules; serving as altar boys.
Bruno recently sought help from the Mission for plane fare to Alice Springs to see his daughter; request refused; he speaks of severe physical punishment of the boys by the priests.
Cynthia has few memories of the Mission; discussion of their siblings and cousins at the Mission, and when and how they left.
Bruno speaks again of serious beatings of boys by the priests/brothers.
Bruno talks of stealing from the gardens to supplement Mission meals; talking to the "old people" at the Mission discouraged by the authorities, with view to preventing transmission of language and culture; denials by church authorities.
They both speak of sense of helplessness at the time, of having nowhere else to go; Bruno reiterates the all-pervading feeling of being crushed; thoughts of suicide.
Cynthia was discouraged from going to the Mission's Centenary; instead of truth-telling healing process, it became a celebration of "achievement".
Absence of records as to where the removed children came from and from what family or group; distinctions created between the "traditionals" and the "fair ones", and those who remained faithful to the Mission/church community and those who did not; loss of land rights.
Bruno talks of old men having their rations threatened or their dogs shot for passing on the old stories or language to the boys; more discussion of the helplessness of small children in the face of adult abuse.
Impossible to speak up or talk back to the authority figures; Cynthia believes the boys were subject to more physical and sexual abuse than the girls; suggestion of girls being sent to "the bishop's house".
Cynthia observes that there is no counselling to address present suffering of those abused in the past; she blames that abuse primarily on the church rather than the government.
Brief mention of schooling at the Mission.
Bruno speaks of his six children, and his determination to keep them away from the Catholic church.
Several stories of the priests stopping the old men from passing on language and culture to the boys.
Story about a priest throwing hot cockle shells from the fire onto a man's back as punishment.
Bruno speaks of digging in the gardens and fetching firewood; little nourishing food provided, despite the Mission supplying much of the NW of WA with vegetables.
Reference to photo of Mission children working; mention of Bruno's desolation over non-return of his mother; he couldn't associate freely with his sisters at the Mission, and rarely saw them; discussion of the dormitories.
Distance between Bruno and his sister Rena; grandmother's funeral in 1968; his links with two uncles; decorating his mother's grave; he disclaims knowledge of girls being sent to the Bishop's house.
Cynthia recalls that in the 1960's, 14 year-old girls went topless, wearing only pants; she speaks of their sexual innocence; being made to look "poor" for a photograph, possibly seeking government subsidies.
Girls made their own clothing, and quilts for sale at fetes in Broome; Cynthia talks of a girls' orphanage in Broome closing and a lot of new children coming to the Mission; the new girls were more sexually aware, influencing the Mission girls.
Cynthia remembers living with the "old people" before being sent to the dormitory; boys and girls were sent to different outstations for the school holidays; children came to the Mission from all over the NW; personal possessions of new girls were taken by the nuns and sold.
Mission rules: Aboriginal families had to stay at Beagle Bay, little children lived with parents until 8 years of age, then had to go to the dormitories; Cynthia's and Bruno's father wrongfully accused of having leprosy and sent to leprosarium; Catholic church's responsibility for splitting families.
The Church taught students trade skills, but never issued them with certificates, nor paid them for work before 1966; Bruno speaks of boys being allowed to learn craft skills from the old men, but only in large groups
Donkeys were used for transport in the 1950's and 60's; few former students from the Mission now attend church; Bruno speaks of serving as altar boy; Cynthia of her education ignoring the matter of aboriginality.
Cynthia and Bruno talk about the students' daily routine: serving Mass in the early morning, breakfast, cleaning dormitories, prayers; always a round of work to be done around school hours; praying between classes.
Physical punishment at the mission and praying. Meals, and the organisation of the dining rooms; Cynthia's and Bruno's wish to confront the abusers with a record of their actions and seek an acknowledgement of the consequences.
Are individuals ready for reconciliation? No, not before the stories are listened to, believed and accepted by those responsible for the abuses of the past.
Bruno insists that the government was implicated in abuses by the Catholic Church. He says ringers/stockmen used to take children from their families before the 1960's; they were sent to Moolabulla for classification. Some children at Beagle Bay were sent by their parents for schooling, others were brought in by the police from NW towns, especially Broome.
Boys used to cry at night in the dormitory; Mission children were told that their parents didn't want them; some relatives would have taken Bruno and Cynthia if permitted, but others never visited them.
Bruno left the Mission in 1967; went to high school in Broome; stayed at St Joseph's Hostel; was sent off on his own after finishing high school; began life of rootlessness; he met his father for the first time.
Young Bruno met a girl; she got pregnant, and Bruno's father raised the boy; Bruno went to Alice Springs, met someone else, and fathered four children there; began his own business. Cynthia tells of social sanctions against those telling about the abuses they suffered, and asks for compensation.
Both agree on the extent of the damage they suffered as children. Bruno worked as a stockman with his father in the Kimberleys; his father was also one of the stolen generation.
His father died in 1997. Bruno talks about the old men at the Mission imparting kowledge of country to the boys, and of the boys going bush to learn more during school holidays. They both speak of the period "before the mid-1960's" as being happy and free of disasters at Beagle Bay, before the "law people" died out.
Transmission of aboriginal lore stamped out at Beagle Bay from about 1900; Bruno tells of recently confronting one of the priests about the loss of cultural identity.
Priests and brothers noted for their cruelty. Bruno repeats a common belief that German U-boats would enter Beagle Bay at night during the War.
Racially-based abusive language used by clerics against the boys; those same clerics now deny the charges; absence of any apologies or acknowledgements from church authorities; constant changes ofpersonnel at the Mission.
Good times at the Mission: Christmas and Holy Communion brought better food; Christmas presents were second-hand donations to the Mission. Cynthia speaks of camping with the old people before she turned eight years and entered the dormitory.
From her early childhood bush camps, Cynthia learnt a lot about finding, preparing and preserving food from the old people; very different camping trips with all the girls from the dormitory when older.
Problems with aboriginal families from elsewhere being given land belonging to traditional owners; the Mission gave "special treatment for special families"; in 1960, the church evicted some traditional owners from the Mission; current denials by the church.
Both are angry over their experiences at the Mission, and lack trust in authority figures; they want an opportunity to have their stories heard and validated. Bruno tells of the different lives of the colony children (living with their parents at the Mission) and those in the dormitories.
Mission boys had nowhere to run to, and would have been brought back for punishment; reconciliation is necessary, but the past must be recognised and dealt with before healing can begin. Cynthia speaks of ongoing discrimination against her in Broome from church adherents, black leaders and local authorities for telling her story.
Depressing memories of their childhood experiences haunting the present; issue of compensation; Bruno speaks graphically of the beatings he endured, and suggests giving the clerics a taste of their own medicine.
Bruno talks of his brother at the Mission.
Cynthia graphically describes a severe, ritualised beating of an adolescent girl by a priest, while a nun stood passively by. The girl who was beaten ran away when recovered and never returned.
The church offenders are still living; Cynthia links some of the aboriginal church adherents to ongoing problems in their families; number of children at the Mission at any given time; Cynthia tells complicated story of her tangled, only-partly-known parentage and family composition.
They talk about their suspicions that a number of children were born to the clergy at Beagle Bay, some of whom were secretly buried.
Further discussion of suspicions that a number of children were born to the clergy at Beagle Bay, some of whom were secretly buried.
They describe the big garden at the Mission, that all the children had to work on; the contrast between children's food and that of the clergy; Cynthia tells how her sister became a nun - temporarily! - for the sake of the jelly and custard.
The Mission made money selling produce throughout the NW; there were cows, goats and chickens, cared for by the children, who were denied milk and eggs; Bruno tells of his uncle bringing in bullock carcases to the Mission, and secretly removing a tongue or tail for his family's use.
Bruno tells story of a bush bull with a fifth leg; their mother was fined by the Mission for giving birth to Bruno at Beagle Bay; Bruno was removed from his family by the police, and taken to the Mission by truck.
Bruno unable to understand why he had been separated from his mother; he speaks of his brother at the Mission, and of being hit on the head by a brick by one of the clergy; the cruelty of their treatment there.
Neither Bruno nor Cynthia have memories of their mother; not long ago, a nun gave Cynthia photos of a woman she said was their mother; Bruno speaks of turning to alcohol to numb his despair.
Bruno leases a block of Crown Land; they discuss the confusions over title between the land bought for the Mission by the church, and its current status; Bruno speaks of all of the land being stolen.
Stolen land, stolen innocence; Bruno wants to obtain title to his land and teach his children about it; Cynthia talks of intra-family divisions based on degrees of adherence to the church.
The pearling industry did not impact on the Mission children; Cynthia speaks of the church's grip on politics, even today; aboriginal rights still denied, as is the truth about their treatment as children.
Mission education did more harm than good; children punished for speaking their own language; Nyul Nyul language is now lost - remembered fragments corrupted by other languages imported by groups from elsewhere in the Kimberleys.
Cynthia talks of shortcomings in the Language Centre in Halls Creek - she would not return there; formerly, Mass was sung in Nyul Nyul; clerical translations of texts into aboriginal languages.
They speak affectionately of Fr Nicholas, a much-loved priest; Fr Wurm, the anthropologist; language borders; mutual respect between different language groups.

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Whopper Yumbi?, Nippy Dann, Danny Donation, Kevin Dann, Bruno Dann & Cassy Donation, taken at Beagle Bay Mission about very early 60staken at

Research on the exploitation of black labourers in colonial Australia for Black Slaves in White Australia art installation.
Missionaries, pearlers, pastoralists and sugar planters were just some of the exploiters of indigenous and pacific island labour. Without this slave labour force many of the enterprises of colonial Australia would not have been possible.

State Protectors of Aboriginals controlled the wages of paid aboriginal workers. In many cases only part of the money was given to the black workers. In effect they were slaves as well.e.g. George Patrick Sibley. State-founded welfare homes exploited their wards who worked long hours for their keep. e.g. Moore River Native Settlement

Annie Ah Sam ended up living with George Sibley. They had five children.George worked for a local saw mill and as a half-caste was paid directly by the mill. The law at the time dictated that Aborigines could only collect wages via the Chief Protector. He and his family were then sent to Palm Island. The official reason for this exile, as stated in the Removal Register in the records of the Queensland Government’s Community & Personal Histories Branch, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Department of Communities, was that George "will not sign on to employment; addicted to drink and supplies other Aborigines."  Was it  the drink, or more the case that George was an independently-minded man who, in refusing to sign on to ‘employment’ – which in reality meant his wages would be controlled by the authorities – was labelled a trouble-maker, likely to influence other Aboriginal men to do the same?


In the 20th century, governments in Australia commonly withheld Indigenous people’s wages or authorised private employers of Indigenous people to withhold them. There are ongoing claims for the repayment of these wages as they were withheld in breach of statutory and common law duties. These claims bring into sharp focus the harsh exploitation of Indigenous Australians, and the need for a reparations scheme that compensates Indigenous stolen wages. This article explores the legal and administrative avenues available to Indigenous claimants.

Historical exploitation and contemporary injustice In the 20th century, governments in Australia commonly withheld Indigenous people’s wages or authorised private employers of Indigenous people to withhold them. There are on-going claims for the repayment of these wages as they were withheld in breach of statutory and common law duties. These claims bring into sharp focus the harsh exploitation of Indigenous Australians, and the need for a reparations scheme that compensates Indigenous stolen wages. This article explores the legal and administrative avenues available to Indigenous claimants.


After colonisation, Indigenous Australians took on a vast range of jobs, including farming, mining, stock work, road building, irrigation, domestic duties, gardening, pearling and fishing. Employers included governments, churches, mining companies, town enterprises and pastoralists. Some industries, such as the profitable cattle industry in northern Australia – across the Kimberley, Northern Territory and northern Queensland – could not have survived without the thousands of highly skilled Indigenous workers employed every year between the 1880s and the 1960s.1 In 1913, the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, Baldwin Spencer, stressed that ‘under present conditions, the majority of stations are largely dependent on the work done by black “boys”’.2 Despite Indigenous people’s crucial contribution and their entitlement to under-award payments, tens of thousands of Indigenous workers – employed both by governments and corporations – were unpaid.3 These unpaid wages have become known as ‘stolen wages’. In some instances, Indigenous wages were put in trust funds, which Indigenous people were unable to access; in other cases, they were paid in the form of rations (food and clothing) rather than wages. State government schemes to repay stolen wages, most recently in Western Australia, have been described as an ‘insult’ and ‘mean-spirited’ due to the small ex-gratia amounts offered, the narrow class of Indigenous workers who could make claims and the limited time period for applications.4

In light of these inadequacies, and the failure of other states and territories to repay Indigenous workers, legal challenges have been launched. In Queensland there have been two successful actions.5 Litigation is currently being prepared on behalf of Conrad Yeatman who worked as a carpenter and labourer in Yarrabah in north Queensland from the age of 14 (as a test case),6 and Gurindji and Warlpiri peoples who worked in the Northern Territory cattle industry (as a class action).7 Some of the arguments that will form the basis of such litigation will be discussed in this article. However, the most consistent and just means of providing redress for unpaid Indigenous wages would be through a federal scheme that comprehensively covers unpaid Indigenous workers and redresses the shortcomings of the state schemes in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. Such measures were recommended by the 2006 Senate Inquiry into Indigenous Stolen Wages.8 This inquiry also recommended providing payment on broad grounds of eligibility: for example, to former government workers and private employees; making payments available to descendants; and providing sufficient payment for reparation.9

LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK The regulation of employment and wages of Indigenous people for most of the 20th century was governed by Aboriginal Protection Acts (‘Protection Acts’), which had various iterations until the 1970s.10 The Protection Acts and accompanying regulations set down the conditions for recruiting and remunerating Indigenous workers. They generally allowed the government to employ Aboriginal people or issue permits or licences to businesses to employ Indigenous workers or Indigenous child apprentices. While they prescribed who was responsible for Indigenous workers and imposed legal duties on governments and employers to provide payment and care of Indigenous workers, at the same time they legalised payment of non-award wages and the means by which payment could be avoided.11 A business’s failure to comply with regulations pursuant to the Protection Acts would lead to the cancellation of a permit. Regulations included the payment of minimum wages (which were lower than non-Indigenous award wages) or sometimes the maintenance of workers and their families instead of payment. Provisions also covered the fair treatment of workers and often the provision of accommodation. It was the role of Protectors (later ‘native affairs officers’ or ‘welfare officers’) to police these provisions. In some states, regulations under the Protection Acts provided for the wages of Indigenous workers to be paid directly to the Protector. The Protector was required to deposit the wages in the worker’s name in the government bank account and spend the money only on the worker’s behalf.12 The government was required to keep records of these accounts and pay them out when the Aboriginal person ceased to be under the control of governments. In many cases, these payments were not made in full or at all. The money was sometimes placed in generic welfare funds for the government to spend on Indigenous policy. Some of these funds have been frozen, preventing Indigenous people from being able to access their money. In the Northern Territory and Western Australia, cattle station workers were given food and clothing for themselves and their families in lieu of wages. This alternative to payment was sanctioned by the Protection Acts in cases where the families of stock workers were maintained. However, the provisions were poorly policed and wages were often sacrificed, even though the families of stock workers were themselves working in jobs on the stations. Furthermore, housing was not provided, contrary to regulations, and food and clothing rations were inadequate. Indeed, when workers went on holidays in the off-season they would have to hand back their clothing and boots. Despite breaches by cattle station employers, permits were not cancelled and Protectors did not ensure that wages were paid.13

RECLAIMING STOLEN WAGES: LEGAL BASIS Legal commentators and historians have proposed a number of legal avenues for the recovery of stolen wages. These >> Inadequate schemes to repay stolen wages in WA, QLD and NSW have triggered legal challenges. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2013 ISSUE 118 PRECEDENT 43 FOCUS ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES include claims of breach of fiduciary duties and breach of trust, as well as for breach of statutory duties, breach of duty of care and breach of anti-discrimination legislation.14 They have also suggested that stolen wages represent a breach of international law by the Commonwealth government.15 Their research has mainly centred on stolen wages in Queensland and the Northern Territory, although there has been emerging research analysing the situation in all Australian states and territories.16 While the legal claims that can be brought will depend on the nature of the legislation, the type of breach and the available evidence, this section will broadly discuss some of the legal avenues. The relevant state government, or the Commonwealth Government in the case of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, has been identified as the key defendant in potential legal claims. This is because of the governments’ responsibilities to Indigenous people in their care (which included conditions of employment) and their capacity to pay. Where the employer is a corporate entity, this entity may be identified as a concurrent tortfeasor, depending on its continuing survival in the jurisdiction. Stolen Generations compensation cases, such as Trevorrow17 and Cubillo,18 show that statute of limitations legislation may be interpreted to allow Indigenous plaintiffs to make historical claims. Potential causes of action against governments and employers include: (a) Breach of the duty of care in negligence to prevent pure economic loss to Indigenous workers. (b) Breach of the statutory duty on the part of the government; for example, breach of the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 and 1933 (Cth) and Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) which stipulate that managers fulfil their licence requirement to (i) reasonably maintain Indigenous people on stations; and (ii) reasonably record the number of workers and dependants on stations. (c) Breach of fiduciary duties owed by governments to Indigenous workers, including duties to pay welfare entitlements and apprentice awards, and to properly administer trust accounts set up for Indigenous workers. (d) Breach of trust and fraudulent expropriation of money held on trust for Queensland workers. (e) Breach of anti-discrimination legislation. Of these causes of action, stolen wages claimants have been successful only in relation to the breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). In Bligh & Ors v State of Queensland19 and Baird v State of Queensland,20 the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the full Federal Court, respectively, awarded damages and costs, and in the Bligh case the Queensland Government issued an apology. The finding of a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act was based on the Queensland Government’s payment of under-award wages to the claimants who had worked on the Palm Island, Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal missions. The payment of damages varied, with the complainants in Bligh awarded a flat sum of $7,000 (which did not take into account their type or length of employment). The complainants in Baird were awarded agreed sums between $17,000 and $85,000. ADMINISTRATIVE SCHEMES FOR REDRESS In Queensland, NSW and Western Australia the state governments set up various schemes to repay some or all of the wages and monies owed to government workers and some social security recipients. These schemes were aimed at Indigenous people whose money was placed in trust funds and not paid out.21 They did not apply to those who were under-paid or simply not paid at all. These schemes have now expired, but that does not signal that justice has been done for all claimants in these states. Rather, there are ongoing calls for redress, and attempts are underway to launch legal challenges.22 Although they have expired, an examination of the schemes will give insights into procedural and substantive issues which will be useful for future schemes. Below is a summary of the schemes. Queensland Queensland was the first state, in 2002, to set up a scheme for stolen wages. Rather than compensate Indigenous workers, it provided an ex gratia payment of between $2,000 and $4,000 to individual claimants alive at the date of its inception. The overall money set aside was $55.6 million, to be dispersed until 2006. In 2008, top-up payments of either $1,500 or $3,000 were made available to claimants who had already received payments. The scheme closed in 2009. The onus was on claimants to collect documentary evidence that their wages or savings were taken by the Queensland Government under the Protection Acts. Without legal support, and given the limited time frame, $21.1 million from the fund was not claimed. The Queensland scheme has been described as manifestly inadequate due to the caps placed on claims.23 It is estimated that individual Queensland workers lost wages of up to $400,000, while the aggregate loss is said to be in excess of $500 million.24 The ex gratia payment fails to consider the individual working experience and contribution of the claimant, including the nature of the job, the degree of skill required by the job, the seniority of the worker and the number of years worked. The repayment of lump sums has been viewed as ‘compensation discrimination’ against workers on the basis of their membership of an Indigenous community.25 It defies the ordinary principles of compensation which require that the circumstances of the individual loss be taken into account. Furthermore, claimants were made to sign an We need a comprehensive federal scheme that covers unpaid Indigenous workers and redresses the shortcomings of the state schemes. 44 PRECEDENT ISSUE 118 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2013 FOCUS ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES indemnity agreement waiving the right to recovery of full entitlements. This precluded some, such as Conrad Yeatman, from making claims under the scheme. NSW In NSW, the Aboriginal Trust Funds Repayment Scheme commenced in 2005 and lasted until 2010. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee commended the scheme in 2006 and recommended that the other states use it as a model – although at the time the NSW scheme did not have an expiry date.26 The NSW scheme involved full reimbursement of stolen wages at prevailing rates.27 Payments were made to direct claimants whose wages or entitlements were placed into trust funds between 1900 and 1969, as well as to direct descendants who were blood relatives of a deceased trust fund account holder. Governments assisted claimants to search for their records, and oral testimony could be submitted to the panel which determined the claim. Moreover, claimants retained their right to litigate to recover additional money owed. However, there was no government-funded independent legal representation provided to Indigenous claimants, and the weight that the panel placed on the documentary and/ or oral evidence to determine the payment was unclear.28 Also, a requirement for compensation was that a trust fund be found. Yet trust funds were mainly made up of child endowments and apprentice wages. No payments were provided under the scheme for Indigenous workers whose wages did not fit these categories, despite evidence of underpayment or evidence of entitlement to a government endowment which had not been received. Nonetheless, there were some successful claims where money had been taken from wages of indentured children or indentured wards and spent on their food, clothing, lodging, dental and medical care. Western Australia The short-lived Western Australian scheme began in March 2012 and ceased in November of that same year. A flat ex gratia payment of $2,000 was made to successful claimants, which did not account for claimants’ individual circumstances or length of employment. The eligibility requirements for the scheme included that the claimant was born before 1958, had wages and entitlements withheld in a government trust account while they resided on native welfare settlements, and was alive at the time of the scheme. The onus was on the claimant to compile documentation and prepare their application. No monies were given to the thousands of unpaid Indigenous people who worked in Western Australia’s pastoral industry for decades. The report of the taskforce that investigated stolen wages in the lead-up to the scheme recommended that the government provide payment for all Indigenous people who had their monies controlled by the government, and that it provide an administrative process that minimised the trauma for claimants.29 Given the ongoing legal actions by Indigenous people for their stolen wages, it appears that these objectives were not met.

CONCLUSION: NEED FOR A FEDERAL STATUTORY REPARATIONS SCHEME In international law, reparations are required for ‘restoring the balance where wrong has been done’.30 The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Rights to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 2005.31 They set down international standards for remedying human rights violations and include restitution, compensation and rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. The need for compensation is particularly compelling where the government has taken money from Indigenous people. Because of the many inadequacies and inconsistencies of the former state-based compensation schemes, especially in Queensland and Western Australia, there is a need for a federal statutory framework to provide reparations in a more holistic way. A just federal scheme would ensure that unpaid or underpaid Indigenous workers and their descendants would not be compensated on the basis of jurisdiction but on the basis of the nature of their claim. The 2006 Senate report, Unfinished Business, accordingly recommended establishing a federal compensation scheme.32 Such a scheme might include healing strategies, but should primarily be directed at comprehensive payment for lost wages. A federal compensation scheme should also require that contributions >> SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2013 ISSUE 118 PRECEDENT 45 be made by corporations who employed and benefited from unpaid or underpaid Indigenous workers. Certainly, it is foreseeable that such a compensation scheme, where appropriately established in consultation with claimants, could contribute to reparations more effectively than litigation, and in any case remains mostly untested on the issue of stolen wages. In the absence of an appropriate compensation scheme, Indigenous people have had little choice but to take the path of litigation. Notably, the Commonwealth Government is yet to provide a formal response to the abovementioned 2006 Senate inquiry and its recommendations on a compensation scheme. Nevertheless, its inaction has not dampened Indigenous calls around the country for their wages to be repaid. This article has been peer reviewed in line with standard academic practice. Notes: 1 Deborah Bird Rose, Hidden Histories: Black Stories from Victoria River Downs, Humbert River and Wave Hill Stations, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1991, Canberra, p81. 2 Baldwin Spencer, Preliminary Report on the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory, Department of External Affairs, 1913, Melbourne, p43. 3 Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Senate, Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages, 2006, Canberra, [2.29], [2.30], [2.45], [2.46]. 4 Amy McQuire, ‘WA govt’s “mean-spirited” refusal to extend Stolen Wages deadline’, Tracker, 29 November 2012, p3; Tim Lee, ‘WA under fire over stolen wages compensation’, Landline, ABC News, 31 August 2012, . 5 Bligh & Ors v State of Queensland [1996] HREOC 28; Baird v State of Queensland (No. 1) (2005) 224 ALR 541; Baird v State of Queensland (2006) 156 FCR 451. 6 Daniel Bateman, ‘A lifetime of wages claimed as test case’, Townsville Bulletin, 21 October, 2011, . 7 Paul Bibby, ‘Unfinished business of wages at Wave Hill’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 2007, p1. 8 Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Senate, Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages, 2006, Canberra. 9 Ibid. 10 For example, Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 (Vic); Aborigines Protection Act 1886 (WA); Aboriginal Protection Act and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld); Aborigines Protection Act 1909 (NSW); Aborigines Act 1911 (SA); Aboriginals Ordinance 1911 (Cth); Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth). 11 For example,Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) s24(1); Wards’ Employment Ordinance 1960 (Cth). 12 Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Senate, Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages, 2006, Canberra, [2.20]. 13 Thalia Anthony, ‘Unmapped Territory: Wage Compensation for Indigenous Cattle Station Workers’ (2007) 11(1) Australian Indigenous Law Review 4, p5. 14 For legal arguments in relation to Queensland and the Northern Territory, see: Margaret Thornton and Trish Luker, ‘The Wages of Sin: Compensation for Indigenous Workers’ (2009) 32(3) The University of New South Wales Law Journal 647. Re Queensland see: Rosalind Kidd, Trustees on Trial: Recovering the Stolen Wages (2006); Robert James Walker, ‘Resolving the Stolen Wages Claim in Queensland: The Trustee’s Non-Fiduciary Duties’ (2008) 2 Journal of Equity 77; Sanushka Mudaliar, ‘Stolen Wages and Fiduciary Duties: A Legal Analysis of Government Accountability to Indigenous Workers in Queensland’ (2003) 8(3) Australian Indigenous Law Reporter l; Loretta de Plevitz, ‘Working for the Man: Wages Lost to Queensland Workers “Under the Act”’ (1996) 3(81) Aboriginal Law Bulletin 4. Re Northern Territory see: Stephen Gray, ‘Holding the Government to Account: The “Stolen Wages” Issue, Fiduciary Duty and Trust Law’ (2008) 32 Melbourne University Law Review 115; Thalia Anthony, ‘Unmapped Territory: Wage Compensation for Indigenous Cattle Station Workers’ (2007) 11(1) Australian Indigenous Law Review 4. Re NSW see: Sean Brennan and Zoe Craven, ‘Eventually they get it all…’ Government Management of Aboriginal Trust Money in New South Wales, Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales, 2006. 15 For example, Slavery Convention, opened for signature 25 September 1926 LNTS 60 (entered into force 9 March 1927) (ratified by Australia in 1953); Convention Concerning the Creation of Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery, ILC No. 26 (entered into force 14 June 1930) (ratified by Australia in 1931); Convention (No 29) Concerning Forced Labour, opened for signature 28 June 1930, 39 UNTS 55 (entered into force 1 May 1932) (ratified by Australia in 1933). 16 Rosalind Kidd, Hard Labour, Stolen Wages: National Report on Stolen Wages, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, 2007. 17 Trevorrow v State Of South Australia [2007] SASC 285; State of South Australia v Lampard-Trevorrow [2010] SASC 56. 18 Cubillo v Commonwealth of Australia (2000) 174 ALR 97. 19 Bligh & Ors v State of Queensland [1996] HREOC 28. 20 Baird v State of Queensland (No 1) (2005) 224 ALR 541; Baird v State of Queensland (2006) 156 FCR 451. 21 Robin Banks ‘Stolen Wages: Settling the Debt’ (2008) 12 Indigenous Law Review 55. 22 In relation to potential legal action in NSW, see: Amy McQuire, ‘NSW govt could face legal action over stolen wages response’, Tracker, 3 April 2012; and in Queensland and Western Australia, see: Amy McQuire, ‘Stolen Wages Scandal: WA govt offers pennies for a lifetime of lost wages’, Tracker, 3 April 2012; Amy McQuire, ‘Unions want stolen wages scandal on election radar’, Tracker, 25 October 2011. 23 Kidd, above n14, p 166; Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 2006, Recommendation 6 24 Andrew West, ‘$500m in Wages Stolen: Aborigines say compo offers are not enough’, Sun Herald, 11 January 2004, Sydney, p25. 25 Scott McDougall, ‘A Certain Commonality: Discriminating against the discriminated in the compensation of Queensland’s underpaid workers’ (2002) 5(14) Indigenous Law Bulletin 11, p14. 26 Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Senate, above n12, Recommendations 4 [8.26(a)(ii)] and 5 [8.27(c)]. 27 Aileen Teo, ‘Stolen Wages Update: Establishment of the NSW Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme’ (2005) 6(9) Indigenous Law Bulletin 12, p13. 28 Zoe Craven, Fact Sheet: ‘Stolen Wages’ and Entitlements: Aboriginal Trust Funds in New South Wales, Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales, August 2004, p4. 29 Stolen Wages Taskforce (Western Australia), Reconciling The Past: Government control of Aboriginal monies in Western Australia, 1905-1972, Report, 2008 pp6, 8. 30 Gregory Phillips, ‘Healing and Public Policy’ in Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson (eds) Coercive Reconciliation: Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia, Arena Publications, 2007, Melbourne, p149. 31 General Assembly Resolution 60/147 (2005). Also known as the van Boven Principles 32 Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Senate, above n12, Recommendation 5. Dr Thalia Anthony is a Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Technology Sydney and specialises in Indigenous legal issues especially in the fields of compensation and criminal justice. PHONE (02)9514 9665 EMAIL FOCUS ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES A just federal scheme would compensate unpaid or underpaid Indigenous workers and their descendants on the basis of the nature of their claim, not jurisdiction. 46 PRECEDENT ISSUE 118 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2013

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