Protest over Aboriginal Welfare Fund
By Nikki Ulasowski
BRISBANE — "Everything has been taken away from us — our rights, our lives. Aboriginal people must take a stand and continue the fight", said Alex Gapter, Aboriginal community spokesperson, at a rally here on September 14.
More than 50 people gathered in protest against the Queensland government's lack of action on the Aboriginal Welfare Fund. The rally, titled "Justice for Aboriginal People", demanded an inquiry into the loss of $30 million from the fund.
The Aboriginal Welfare Fund began in the 1930s. Its purpose was to hold Aboriginal wages earned on cattle and sheep stations. Aboriginal people who did not stay on reserves were sent under contract to work as cheap labour on stations. They received no money aside from the occasional 50 cents in pocket money. The rest of their earnings was placed in the fund.
It has been estimated that the fund should contain $35-50 million. However, bank records have been destroyed, and a total of only $5 million is currently in the fund.
Claims from Aboriginal people have been made on some of the funds, and they are demanding an inquiry into the whereabouts of the remaining $30 million. The state Labor government has complained that it would cost millions of dollars to conduct such an inquiry.
Sam Watson, representative of the Australian Indigenous People's Party, stated, "Aboriginal people have a right to know where the money has gone. It is not acceptable that the government cannot account for the lost money."