Dr. Rosalind Kidd
Rosalind Kidd graduated in 1994 as a Doctor of Philosophy from Griffith University, Brisbane. Her PhD thesis, based on an unprecedented investigation into the files of Queensland’s Aboriginal department, provided the groundwork for her 1997 book The Way We Civilise. At Griffith University, Ros served as student representative on the Humanities Course Review Committee, and as a member of the steering committee of the University’s Queensland Studies Centre. Dr Kidd works as a freelance researcher, unaffiliated with academic or political bodies, investigating official records and providing reports for various claimants in Native Title applications.
Since 1995 Ros Kidd has worked with key Indigenous lobby groups to win justice and full reparations for Stolen Wages and Trust monies lost during decades of government maladministration. In 1996 she served as expert witness for the Indigenous complainants at the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into underpaid wages on Palm Island which ultimately resulted in compensation from the Queensland government of $40 million to underpaid workers.
Her investigative writings were critical to the Queensland government’s offer in 2002 of $55.6 million for people throughout the State whose wages and savings had been lost under decades of official controls. In 2007 she assisted in the assessment of compensation payments for workers underpaid by the state on the former missions of Wujal Wujal and Hopevale.
Dr Kidd has worked as a senior researcher for an international study on criminology. She submitted reports to the Stolen Children’s Inquiry (1996), the Indigenous Crime Taskforce (1999), the Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in State Institutions in Queensland (1999), the Cape York Justice Study (2001), and the Bringing Them Home Oral History Project (2002).
In 2006 Dr Kidd published Trustees on Trial. This detailed critique of Queensland administrations’ seventy-year financial controls of private Indigenous accounts and Trust funds argued that the government should be held accountable in law for breaches of fiduciary duty. Ros Kidd was a key instigator and participant in the 2006 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Inquiry into Stolen Wages Nationally. Her submission, Hard Labour, Stolen Wages, revealed how governments around Australia intercepted and controlled the private wages, savings, child endowment, pensions, and inheritances of thousands of Indigenous people for most of the twentieth century.
‘The largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history’ –
Federal Court Justice Brendan Murphy
From 2015 Dr Kidd worked as a consultant to Cairns based BELAW to develop a class action to recover Indigenous Stolen Wages in Queensland. Launched by Aboriginal elder Hans Pearson, this case charged the Queensland government with breaching its duties as trustee of personal wages and savings intercepted and held in trust between 1939 and 1972.
There were over 10,000 claimants by July 2019 when an in-principle settlement was reached with the Queensland government for $190 million in compensation including legal costs. In January 2020 the Federal Court approved the settlement and also a proposed Settlement Distribution Scheme for distribution of the funds. It is anticipated that payments to claimants will commence late in 2020.
In his Reasons for Judgment in May 2020, Justice Bernard Murphy of the Federal Court said he would not describe the effect of the legislation and policies applied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during this period as protective, but rather ‘discriminatory, unjust, and, it should be said, disgraceful’. He concluded that, as a properly conducted class action, the Pearson case demonstrated that ‘many affected persons can recover compensation for civil wrongs which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain’ given substantial economic, education, cultural and geographic disadvantages which might otherwise significantly bar their access to justice.
Shine Lawyers are pursuing similar legal redress for missing wages and savings for Indigenous people in other Australian states and Territories.
My professional journey of the last twenty-five years is mapped on this website. In providing access to around 200 books, reviews, writings, speeches, native title research and media samples, my aim is to put before a world audience the disturbing facts of the controls and mismanagement of Aboriginal lives and private finances by Queensland state governments during most of the twentieth century.
The result of decades of research in government and official files, church records, parliamentary debates, newspapers, books and private correspondence, many of these writings and speeches reveal the historical course of government interventions as they impacted and inhibited the lives of thousands of Aboriginal individuals and families. Others focus on the financial realities of intercepted wages, bank accounts, pensions and inheritances, revealing not only the destructive legacy but also the cold-blooded manipulation and misuse of these monies by agents of – and often to the direct benefit of – state government.
More recent work and media items chart my developing conviction that no government should be allowed to walk away from such a disastrous legacy of past actions, but should be held accountable at law in exactly the same way as would be the case for all non-Aboriginal people subjected to a financial scandal of such pervasive proportions. This argument is built on analysis of national and international case law relating to the legal obligations of those who hold monies in trust.
In putting this material in the public forum my hope is that you think about, talk about, and write about, this still largely unknown chapter in Australia’s history. And please do me the courtesy of acknowledging this website as your reference source.
Dr Ros Kidd, May 2020
The Way We Civilise
This groundbreaking study details how successive Queensland governments controlled the Aboriginal population in this State. Based on years of research into government and church files and correspondence, Dr Ros Kidd offers new perspectives and understandings in this complex history covering over 150 years. The prioritising of the voices of missionaries, bureaucrats and politicians, and the people whose lives they manipulated, brings an arresting immediacy to this disturbing saga, and its impact on Aboriginal lives to the present day. [REVIEWS]
Trustees on Trial
In this startling book, Dr Ros Kidd uses official correspondence to reveal the extraordinary extent of government controls over Aboriginal wages, savings, endowments and pensions in twentieth century Queensland. In a disturbing indictment of the government’s $4000 reparations offer of May 2002, Dr Kidd unpicks official dealings on the huge trust funds compiled from private income and community endeavours to show how governments used these finances to their advantage, while families and communities struggled in poverty. Casting the evidence in terms of national and international litigation, particularly cases relating to government accountability for Indigenous interests, Ros Kidd makes a powerful case that the Queensland government should be held to the same standards of accountability and redress as any major financial institution. Trustees on Trial is a timely warning for all other Australian jurisdictions to consider their liability for Aboriginal money taken in trust. [REVIEWS]
Black Lives, Government Lies
This brief work is a devastating rejoinder to cavalier claims made by senior federal politicians in 2000, that past removals of Aboriginal children and families was ‘essentially lawful and benign in intent’. By bringing to light historical evidence on official files, Dr Kidd demolishes the mantle of ‘good intentions’ to uncover government complicity in the entrapment of men, women and children in pernicious conditions and crushingly truncated opportunities. [REVIEWS]
Hard Labour, Stolen Wages
Compiled as a scene-setter for the 2006 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Inquiry into Stolen Wages Nationally, this timely investigation by Dr Ros Kidd demonstrates the same forensic thoroughness that characterises her ongoing revelations of Queensland government mismanagement of Aboriginal lives, work, wages, savings and Trust funds. Working from research by historians in all Australian states and territories, Dr Kidd reveals a national pattern of exploitation of Aboriginal lives, labour and finances across Australia during the twentieth century. [REVIEWS]