Ros Kidd, author of a new report detailing the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from Queensland Aboriginal workers through unpaid wages over many decades, has called for part of the federal budget surplus to be used as compensation. The Hard Labour, Stolen Wages report was launched at the Irish Club on September 5.
Kidd noted that up to $500 million was lost or stolen from Indigenous families in Queensland last century. "It is a dark page in our history. We have at the moment, nationally, a surplus of $17.3 billion. It's time that some of that money was paid back to the people who were cheated of it through most of the 20th Century."
"Stolen wages are not some accident of history. Governments decided not to act", Kidd told the audience. "It was endemic fraud. Governments used private Aboriginal funds for public purposes.
We are a wealthy nation today, partly because of the theft of Aboriginal wages."
Aboriginal elder Ruth Hegarty said, "We're not happy, and won't be until this whole thing is laid to rest. The unspent money [in the Queensland government's stolen wages fund] should be paid out now. We want to clear the path for our children and grandchildren."
Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett said, "This injustice is continuing. Of the original state government offer of $55 million, $36 million remains unspent. We urge the trade union movement to keep pressuring the ALP on this issue.
"The Senate report on stolen wages was unanimous in support of the Aboriginal case. Yet, there has been no response from the federal and most state governments."
[The writer is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the south Brisbane seat of Griffith in the coming federal elections.]