The WA Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC) has demanded that the state government allocate adequate resources to the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) to deal with the thousands of compensation claims from members of the Stolen Generations.
In December 2007, Redress WA was set up by the state government to investigate cases of Aboriginal people taken from their parents and award compensation to \"successful\" applicants. Applicants have from May 2008 until April 2009 to lodge their claim with the ALS, but already the service has been inundated. Two workers are each seeing 20 people per day.
A Redress information session on March 27 at the Perth ALS office attracted over 100 people. Potential claimants were told they would need to fulfil three criteria to qualify for a share of the $114 million the government has put aside: they must have been in state care, been abused while in care and still be living. Compensation payouts would vary from $10,000 to $80,000, depending on the scale of the abuse.
ARC spokesperson Wayne Riley-Collard, himself taken at the age of nine and put into Sister Kate's Children's Home (an Anglican institution established in 1935 for \"coloured\" children and not closed until 2002), told Green Left Weekly that the ALS had approached the state government three times for assistance and had been knocked back each time.
\"The government has proposed compensation and now it's got to see it through\", he said. \"For a start, it needs to provide the ALS with enough staff to take people's stories. Secondly, there needs to be a psychiatrist and counsellors to help claimants deal with the trauma of reliving their ordeal. And thirdly, there has to be adequate compensation paid out to all of us who suffered. $10,000 won't buy anything these days.\"
Riley-Collard said the Redress session raised a number of questions. \"How do you define 'abuse'? Is it physical, sexual, emotional? What about the kids whose parents were stolen as children but have since died? They should be entitled to compensation. There was an 89-year-old woman here yesterday. Will her claim be processed in time?\"
\"One of the worst cases I ever knew of in the homes was of a boy who used to wet the bed. They applied electric shocks to him and put him in with the pigs to sleep. How do you compensate someone for that?\"
One of the ALS workers dealing with the cases told GLW she and the other worker were struggling to keep on top of the workload. \"We haven't even told the regional areas about the Redress yet because we wouldn't be able to deal with the claims\", she said.