Landmark stolen generations bill passed

Issue 

The Tasmanian government's Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Bill 2006, which set up a $5 million compensation fund, was passed by the upper house of the state parliament on November 28, having been unanimously approved in the lower house seven days earlier.

Tasmania thus became the first state in Australia to financially compensate Aboriginal people who were forcibly removed from their parents or their descendants.

One-off cash compensation will be available to children who were taken from their families between 1935 and 1975 as a result of the racist policies of the state government. About 124 Aboriginal people are expected to qualify.

The package includes compensation payments of up to $5000 for descendants of deceased members of the stolen generations (capped at $20,000 per family). The remainder of the funding will be divided between living members of the stolen generations. Applications for payment, which will be reviewed by an independent assessor, opened on January 15 and remain open for six months.

Australian Associated Press reported on November 23 that Aboriginal leader Michael Mansell said the compensation would "close the chapter" on a "sad part of Tasmania's history".

"It is not the money that is important but compensation offers greater recognition of the tragedy the assimilation policy caused to individuals removed and kept away from their race", he said.

In an October 19 media release, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) national director Gary Highland said Tasmania's funding package should be seen as a model for the rest of the country.

"Clearly, while the other states have made apologies, Tasmania is the only one that's backed those words with action", he said.

Mansell was quoted the same day by Channel Nine as saying the Tasmanian compensation package should be a catalyst for a national policy to compensate an estimated 10,000 Aborigines who were snatched from their families between the 1930s and 1975.

In a November 29 media statement, Mansell estimated that it would require a fund of $1 billion to compensate all the victims of the stolen generations policy. "The Tasmanian experience shows that there is broad community support for compensating the stolen generations", he said.

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