SYDNEY – The Queensland government reached on Tuesday a historic payment agreement with an estimated 10,000 indigenous Australian workers who were denied their wages for decades in the last century.
The government, according to the settlement with lawyers representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, has agreed to pay AU$190 million Australia ($132 million) to these indigenous workers.
Hans Pearson, who led the claimants, had sought to recover wages that indigenous workers earned but never received between 1939-1972 when they had to give their earning to the state under the Protection Act.
According to the 1939 act, each district had a “protector,” who had the power to administer the properties of all the aboriginals under his charge as well as taking their salaries.
Pearson alleged that he and his spouse had worked for more than 10 years and they got nothing in return. He claimed part of the wage that he should have earned as a cattle farmer in the years between 1950s and 1960s.
The payment settlement now needs to be approved by the Federal Court, a representative of Be Law firm, which is presenting the case in Pearson’s name, told EFE.
In the lawsuit filed in 2016, it was alleged that the Queensland government committed a breach of trust of the aboriginal people in terms of management of their wages.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad said on Tuesday that the agreement “marks an important day in rebuilding the relationship with” indigenous people of Queensland.”
“This settlement has been reached in the spirit of reconciliation and in recognition of the legacy and impact of the ‘control’ policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, including elders past and present,” Trad said.
He said the Queensland Government was mindful of those who have since passed and those who are aging.
The deputy premier pledged to work with the applicant’s legal representatives to progress the settlement in an expedient manner.
The Australian aboriginals representing a three percent of the 25 million habitants of the country have been victims of regular abuse since the colonization, apart from being systematically discriminated and robbed of their lands.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Australian states and the Northern Territory implemented “Protection Acts” to manage the lives of the indigenous population, which in some cases were in force until the 1980s and that allowed its habitants to be separated, assimilated and controlled.
One of the deepest wounds of the time were from the 20th century practice of taking away their children who would be put under the care of white institutions and families, termed as the “stolen generation” which had affected some 100,000 aboriginal minors in the years between 1910-1970.