Court makes landmark stolen generations payout

August 4, 2007

In a landmark case, a South Australian court has ordered the state government to pay $525,000 compensation to 50-year-old Aboriginal man Bruce Trevorrow for damages related to being taken from his mother and given to white foster parents.

Trevorrow was taken from his family home in the Coorong, south-east of Adelaide, to the Children's Hospital on Christmas Day, 1957, with stomach pains. The hospital recorded him as having no parents, being neglected and malnourished. It was only a matter of weeks until the Aborigines Protection Board had fostered him out, and 10 years passed before he saw his mother, Thora Lampard, again.

The South Australian Supreme Court ruling is the first time a member of the stolen generations has been compensated, and there are now calls for a national compensation scheme.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said on August 2: "Individual members of the stolen generation should not have to each go through the courts to be awarded compensation."

Lance James, the manager of the Victorian Link-Up Program for Stolen Generations members, said: "There is now clear evidence that stolen generations experienced significant trauma for which they should be compensated."

A major government report in 1997 detailed the suffering of the stolen generations, who were taken from their families to be brought up in white homes under the racist "assimilation" policies that operated until the late 1960s.

The report, titled Bringing Them Home, recommended compensation and an official government apology for the past injustices. But PM John Howard has steadfastly refused to apologise officially for the policies of previous governments. Only Tasmania has set up a fund to compensate stolen generation members.

In the wake of the court decision, federal Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough ruled out a national compensation scheme, saying the issue was one for state governments and church groups that operated the policies that produced the stolen generations.

Trevorrow has had a life filled with insecurity and depression due to the early childhood trauma. He has been on anti-depressants since he was 10. Feeling finally vindicated, he left the court saying: "The day has come when I've got the peace of mind to start my life."

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