The protection regime: rhetoric and reality 


The starting point of my 15-year project was this: since governments in Queensland controlled every aspect of Aboriginal lives, then the mess we’re in today can only be understood by analysing what those governments did.  History doesn’t just unfold: history is a narrative of the dynamics of power – in this case, how the government used the power it took for itself to run the lives Aboriginal Queenslanders in the name of their ‘protection’.  What I’d like you to keep in mind is the difference between rhetoric and reality.

In talking about how Queensland exercised those controls I’m particularly interested in how successive laws and regulations defined the subjectivity of men and women: what they could become in terms of their private and their working lives.  Today I’ll speak of the management of women’s sexuality, and the management of economic potential.

The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was enacted in Queensland in 1897 and enabled governments to take control of all aspects of Aboriginal lives.  People could be deported to missions or settlements and detained there for life, or they could be contracted out to work for 12 month periods.  The state had the power to deny marriages to non-Aboriginal men and had the power, since the Industrial School and Reformatories Act of 1865, to send any Aboriginal child to an institution for training and employment.

The protection regime was implemented to bring under control relations between Aborigines and Europeans.  Interaction between the races was characterised by blatant abuses of contemporary laws encouraged by a shameful disinclination of authorities and the courts to extend available civil protections to Aboriginal people.  It has been estimated there were over 2000 people working on stations and in the sea trades around Cape York by the end of the nineteenth century.  They were rarely paid apart from scant food and shelter, and were commonly subjected to physical and sexual abuse.  To retain ‘trained’ workers – or easy access to their wives and daughters – many employers punished men who quit employment, or at times had ex-workers arrested and returned under the Masters and Servants Acts, or fostered an induced addiction to opium, a legal drug until 1905.

The rhetoric of protection, indeed the rationale for intervention, was to save Aboriginal people from their own inadequacies: to save them from opium addiction, to save females from their ‘overripe’ sexuality (identified as the trigger for inter-racial intercourse), and save adults from a wasted life of indolence by teaching them the value of an industrious life.  I won’t spend time on the opium aspect today, except to say that import duties on the drug were a key component of the state’s economy, that multiple licences for its sale continued in the first years of last century despite intensive lobbying by the chief protector, Dr Roth, for its prohibition.  In 1904, for instance, Queensland imported over $2 million (today) of opium and Cooktown had 20 licensed outlets.  Queensland ceased importation only after Roth persuaded the fledgling federal government to ban the drug except for medicinal use.

In 1897 the politicians argued strongly that part-Aborigines living with, or as, Europeans should not be subjected to intervention by the state, and girls living with ‘trustworthy’ white families were initially excluded.  This escape clause brought a rush of people seeking to exempt children allegedly ‘brought up as one of the family’, many of whom Roth said were worked like slaves, mostly unpaid, frequently assaulted and then evicted, pregnant and destitute.  Although outside the 1897 Act, the girls could be arrested under the Reformatories Act and sent to the missions.  Roth argued exemptions should not be issued unless the girl herself understood she would be denied this protection.

Non-Aboriginal girls, of course, had protection under the Criminal Code which put the legal age of consent at fourteen years; but this depended on proof of age, and few Aboriginal children possessed birth certificates.  Assaults on children were ‘continually going on’, according to Roth, even on those as young as six.  He was frequently called as medical witness to assaults of children under fourteen where charges could not be laid.  Attempts in 1899 to change the law so that the onus of proof of age lay with the offender were defeated by parliamentarians claiming a man could ‘easily mistake’ the maturity of Aboriginal girls because they ‘ripened’ much earlier in the tropics.  One MP pointed out that the age of consent in some southern states of America was seven years.  An amendment Act in 1901 stated that if a girl had reached puberty then she had reached the age of consent and charges could be laid for assault.  This Act extended state control over every Aboriginal female, to include children and wives of workers in the notorious Cape York sea trades.

The trade in domestic servants was a major component of Aboriginal employment policy for much of the twentieth century.  John Bleakley, chief protector from 1914 until 1941, wrote his version of Aboriginal  administration, and gives some idea of the rhetoric.  Domestic service, he wrote in 1961, ‘was a heaven-sent opportunity for native girls to secure a good home with food and clothing, and receive motherly care and domestic training.’  He goes on to say that ‘large numbers’ of girls, some as young as ten, were sent to work in Brisbane under control of a female protectress, a policy which also saved the state the cost of their upkeep on a reserve.  Bleakley was not convinced this was the right policy – not because girls were overworked, underpaid, and vulnerable to sexual assault – but because they fell for the glamour of the city, or became discontented or lonely or homesick.  And they went out in the evenings without proper supervision, and we know where that leads to!  Pregnancies!  Just on ten per cent of girls sent to domestic employment in 1914 fell pregnant.  Bleakley’s solution?  Concentrate employment in the country away from the city lights.

There was a disproportionately skewed uptake of women and children from rural environments into state controlled reserves where girl children were separated into dormitories. On some missions this was a life sentence from which marriage alone provided escape.  The government streamed far greater funding to its three settlements, knowing missions had insufficient resources to bridge the gap.  So conditions at the government’s showpiece institution, Cherbourg, reveal the ‘best’ of official care and protection.  Here in the 1930s they crammed 100 girls into a locked, barred, and unlit room for ten hours a night, sleeping seven or eight together on the mattresses on the floor with only a blanket for warmth.  In 1941 dormitory life was described by officials as dreary beyond imagination, a deadening routine which ruined any benefits of schooling.  School finished at grade four.  At Doomadgee mission, even in the 1950s, a health specialist wrote that girls were kept in virtual slavery; locked up at night behind barbed wire after working on the farm all day.  ‘It is completely futile and artificial and unnatural to enclose, or rather encage, women, and expect any sort of normal psychological balance on their release’, she said, describing the effects of such institutionalisation as pernicious.

Girls and unattached women were incarcerated because of their sexuality.  Once they reached puberty – otherwise categorised as ‘marriageable age’ – it was government policy, although not followed by the missions, to remove the problem by contracting them out to work.  Yet the department was always aware of what Bleakley described as ‘grave dangers’: the girls ‘fell prey to unscrupulous men’, or they aspired to improve their lives, thus making themselves ‘unfit for their only legitimate future — marriage with men of their own race.’

Girls of fourteen, who had never left the community and never spoken to a white person except in trembling deference to the officials, were given a spare set of clothes, some shoes and a small suitcase, and sent hundreds of miles to remote properties where there might be no other Aboriginal faces to comfort them.  If they fell pregnant they were returned to the settlements and then re-employed, leaving their babies in the dormitories or on occasions taking the infant with them, their wages reduced accordingly.

In the 1930s the governor of Queensland visited Cherbourg and was wrongly informed that 95 per cent of 353 girls sent to work fell pregnant.  And he knew who was at fault: ‘the blame must rest, to a very large extent, on the native girls, who, by temperament, and a desire to have a child by a white father, encourage white men in every way.’   Bleakley conceded that the ‘moral welfare’ of domestics was important but he admitted that ‘an equal if not greater danger exists from the temptations to immorality on the Settlements themselves’.   So the government, which had arrested and confined the girls on the grounds of securing their safety, decided it was better economics to risk assaults than forgo ₤1460 ($85,650) a year in wages and carry the extra support costs of ₤478 ($28,000) to keep them on the settlements.  The policy stayed in place into the 1970s.


I’d like to turn now to the broader economic imperative which underwrote the systematic impoverishment of those trapped in state ‘protection’.  This had two dynamics – the deliberate under funding of the institutions, and the confiscation of Aboriginal financial entitlements.

The ‘care and protection’ of people deported to missions and settlements was the responsibility of government.  It is distressing to read the evidence from the government’s files of the conditions people were trapped in, and more horrifying to realise it knew the circumstances but decided not to act.  In the 1930s at Palm Island the visiting doctor reported the death rate was over six per cent and most of the ill and elderly were slowly starving to death.  Rations for hospital patients were so deficient the matron took money from their savings accounts, without their knowledge, to buy provisions.  Most of the babies who were not breast fed died of malnutrition.  In the 1940s at Yarrabah mission malnutrition was so bad elders were dying and adults were too weak to work, the drinking water was unsafe for human consumption, and a health inspector from Cairns said sanitation was so shoddy it would trigger prosecution if it were not a government institution. Yet the government refused to increase funding to upgrade it.

In the 1950s at Cherbourg dozens of families still lived in leaking tin shacks with coconut-frond walls, the ‘better’ timber and tin huts were unlined and housed up to 19 people, and were blamed for deaths of babies from heat exposure.  There was no water to the houses, or for food preparation or washing of hands.  Disease was rife.  In the 1960s a medical survey showed malnutrition across the institutions was the key factor in 50 per cent of deaths of babies and toddlers, and 85 per cent of children under four years.  On Palm Island in the 1970s doctors blamed massive infection loads on the overcrowded and substandard living conditions; surveys showed few homes had fridges, cupboards, chairs, tables or beds.  The government was paying its workers less than 60 per cent of the basic wage, and it knew 75 per cent of child outpatients were found to be severely underweight.   In the 1980s, families on the government-run communities of Pormpurraw and Palm Island were living in houses which were officially condemned, because no other shelter was available.  Many families at Woorabinda still depended on wood stoves and had no hot water.

So the officers charged with securing the welfare of people it had deported to these institutions were well aware people sickened and died, but the government refused to provide the funds necessary to maintain basic conditions.  Meanwhile the rhetoric – then and now – is to blame inmates for community dysfunction.  Regulations in the mid-1940s introduced a raft of disciplinary measures.  Complaint was deemed an offence against ‘good order’ on the reserve and people who spoke out were simply transferred to other reserves, without due process or right of appeal.  By-laws demanded residents ‘observe habits of orderliness and cleanliness’, everyone was ordered to keep huts neat and tidy to the superintendent’s satisfaction, community police and councillors were ordered to monitor and prosecute anyone who failed to observe these by-laws.  Hygiene inspectors were appointed to police homes and surroundings, report ‘dirty and untidy’ families who were then brought under closer surveillance and subjected to surprise inspections.  Nurses from the new Baby Welfare centre could enter any house, checking bedding, cupboards, food storage etc and demand women attend weekly classes.

These measures clearly show the intensification of personal surveillance.  Taken out of context you might say they were a reasonable response to communities characterised by disease and malnutrition.  And this remains the government line.  But what this personal attack conceals, of course, is the deadly environments created and maintained by government refusal to provide standard living conditions.  In the 1950s, at the height of this personal surveillance, a doctor reported from Cherbourg that conditions were so bad it was a miracle babies survived infancy and childhood; a miracle they didn’t suffocate as people slept four and more to a bed; a miracle they survived their diet of damper and syrup three meals a day; a miracle they survived the unwashed filthy bedding, leaking and overflowing toilets, dirt encrusted kitchens.  The Director General of the Health department wrote scathingly that no-one could learn hygienic habits if no basic facilities were available to them.  In the 1960s an inspector made the same point: he said it was fruitless teaching girls domestic science at school when most homes lacked running water, safe sanitation and basic household goods.


I want now to look at the other side of this entrenched poverty: employment and finances.  I’ll look first at rural employment and then at workers on government reserves.  From 1901 the government set a minimum monthly wage of about $46 today for workers in the sea trades and half that for those on the mainland.  The government took the right, through its network of police protectors, to retain or sell Aboriginal property.  Regulations in 1904 listed wage rates for children under 12 years, amounting to $5.80 a week.

When Bleakley took over as chief protector in 1914 he expanded the compulsorily contracted workforce, increased minimum wages, and demanded every worker’s wage be paid direct to local protectors, thus increasing government holdings of Aboriginal earnings from around $875,000 to almost $4 million in that year alone.  But workers could only access their money by asking the protector, and people, even with large savings, were routinely refused.  The government knew police fraud was rife from as early as 1904 when it introduced thumb printing to reduce it; and it knew frauds continued.   Yet it refused to allow people to see any record of their accounts – until 1969!

In 1919 the government lobbied to exclude Aboriginal workers from the Station Hands Award, striking a deal with the pastoral industry to freeze Aboriginal wages at 66% the white rate.  This was despite a raft of testimonials over several years confirming many employers thought Aboriginal workers were equally or better skilled than their white colleagues.  Workers were responsible for maintaining their families on this fractional wage; failure to do so triggered removal to a reserve.  A public service inquiry in 1922 revealed that head office did not supervise the 8000 rural savings accounts and police practices were so unreliable the commissioners insisted workers be allowed to appeal dealings on their accounts.  The government rejected this recommendation.

Also in 1919, the government imposed a tax on Aboriginal earnings, taking 5% from single worker’s wages and 2.5% from married worker’s, although of course it didn’t inform workers of this confiscation.  This levy went into a new trust fund, the Aboriginal Provident Fund which was supposed to provide for sick or unemployed workers.  But the inquiry showed that the government had stripped large amounts from the Provident Fund, and from a second trust fund of unclaimed wages and deceased estates held for workers’ dependents, diverting the money to construction on the settlements, funding for missions and costs of compulsory deportations.

An inquiry in 1932 found that ‘the opportunity for fraud existed to a greater degree than with any other Governmental accounts’.  The chief protector again admitted there were no real controls over official dealings on private accounts, and again rejected the recommendation that workers be allowed to see what was done with their money.  The government was again exposed for raiding Aboriginal money: during and after the 1929-32 depression years, it simply transferred around $3.5 million out of the two Trust funds ‘for departmental purposes’, rendering the deceased estates’ fund technically insolvent.

In 1933 the government centralised the bulk of workers’ savings in Brisbane, ostensibly to ‘minimise fraud by members of the Police Force who are Protectors.’  But it immediately sidelined over 80% of these private monies – almost $15 million – into investments to raise revenue for Treasury.  This earned interest of $320,500 in 1933 alone, money which legally belonged to account holders.  The government continued this manipulation of bulk savings until 1970.

The government ran its contract-labour system for 70 years.  It gave employers the right to pay into workers’ hands between 30-80% of wages.  Decade after decade the government was warned workers were not getting this ‘pocket money’, yet it never fixed the system.  The 1932 inquiry stated it could be ‘reasonably assumed’ that workers were cheated.  In 1943 protectors described the system as a farce and a direct profit to employers, in 1956 they said it was useless, futile and out of control, with workers ‘entirely at the mercy’ of employers who simply doctored the books.  In contempt of this knowledge, the government rejected auditors’ calls for external inspectors as ‘too costly’.  In the mid-1960s it admitted pocket money was probably not paid ‘in many instances’.  And the financial loss to workers?  The pastoral workforce numbered between 3000 and 5000 people in the 50 years to 1968.  Potentially an average of 50% of their wages may never have been paid; that’s many millions every yearthat the government knew was not paid ‘in many instances’.

In 1956 a department survey confirmed the pastoral industry was entirely dependent on Aboriginal workers, particularly in remote areas where white stockmen were rare.  The inspector said the entrenched mentality was to pay ‘as little as possible for Aboriginal workers’, while ‘white men of markedly less ability and industry receive higher wages and better living conditions than Aboriginals who are better workmen’.  Records show the government frequently failed to demand even the 66% wage parity.  Rates for the 4500 workers fell to only 31 per cent in 1949 and 59 per cent in 1956 – millions more dollars ‘stolen’ through government negligence.  Only after 1972 did Aboriginal pastoral workers get equal wages and control over their own labour.  For the first time elderly family members and wives who had been compelled to work for free on the stations could refuse to be exploited.


I want to turn attention now to the missions and settlements, keeping in mind that ‘care and control’ of reserve inmates was a government responsibility.  There were over 8500 people confined on reserves struggling to survive on rations when the government introduced cash economies in 1968.  But it set the wage for its 2500 employees at only $116 per week, less than half the minimum wage, and most of this was withheld for ‘amenities’.  Living costs were dramatically higher on these remote communities.  The government knew school absenteeism soared because many lacked food for children’s lunches, it knew people could not afford even the grossly discounted rent for new commonwealth houses, it knew houses were therefore dangerously overcrowded.

In 1972, when it was paying its employees 58% the basic wage, the government knew poverty was so dire many families survived on bread and syrup, most homes lacked cupboards or beds, few could afford refrigerators, and the electricity supply was so inadequate families were routinely refused permission to buy them.  A medical survey at that time showed deaths of children under five from gastroenteritis and pneumonia were 34 times that of white children, due to ‘massive infection loads resulting from substandard living conditions’.  Sickness and death were quite clearly grounded in deliberate financial deprivation by the authority charged with their ‘care and protection’.

After passage of the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975 it was illegal to under pay workers on the basis of race, a fact the government simply ignored.   In 1978 premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen demanded the federal government cover the costs of bringing community wages to award levels, threatening to retrench 850 workers at the risk of‘massive social problems’ from unemployment and ‘other factors’.  When this demand was refused the Queensland government resolved to freeze wages funding.  As pay rates rose massive sackings drove workforce numbers from around 2500 in 1976 to under 800 a decade later, frequently jeopardising essential services.  And the government sat by and watched the ‘massive social problems’ unfold.

From at least 1979 the Queensland government had legal advice that its policy to under pay Aboriginal employees breached State industrial law and the federal RDA.  By illegally short changing the very people it was mandated to ‘protect’ the government effectively stole almost $187 million from these workers between 1975 and 1986, in full knowledge that this underpayment was illegal, and in full knowledge of consequential dire poverty.  Rightful payment of this money to community workers would have dramatically altered living circumstances and prospects, then and now.  After losing a case in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1996, the government in 1999 made available $7000 for each worker underpaid in the 1975-1986 period.  This deal terminated in January 2003 after payments totalling almost $40 million, a massive profit for the State.

Wages missing through police fraud over the decades, savings lost through incorrect calculations of levies, government misappropriation from trust funds, bank and investment interest seized by the government – these are all part of what is now broadly termed the Stolen Wages.  In addition, although I haven’t had time to speak of it today, is workers compensation not properly claimed or fully distributed, deceased estates not paid to descendants, and child endowment improperly seized and illegally spent.  A separate matter, although equally blighted by negligence and misappropriation, is the Aboriginal Welfare Fund, which currently holds around $9 million and which the Beattie government is desperate to distribute before too many questions are asked.

In May 2002 premier Peter Beattie announced an offer of $55.6 million to bring closure to the fight for Stolen Wages.  People older than 56 years would get $4000 and those between 50 – 56 would get half that, as full and final payment.  Beattie admitted there were 4000 potential litigants waiting in the wings and that the government had already spent over $1.5 million preparing its defence against legal challenges.  He admitted it was impossible to know how much people were owed and he quoted my estimate of at least $500 million in question.  Yet he said the $2000/$4000 would right past wrongs in a fair and balanced way, and was made ‘in the spirit of reconciliation’.  Families of deceased workers are prevented from claiming for their elders and people have to sign away their legal rights if they take the payment, but Beattie promised there would be a parliamentary apology.  He said it was a win for the taxpayers and for indigenous people.  He was half right.  (To keep this ‘generous gesture of reconciliation’ in perspective, you’ll be interested to know the government had just offered over $6500 in addition to two weeks’ pay for every year’s service to persuade up to 3000 public servants to take voluntary retirement.  This followed payments of $50,000 each to retrain 200 under-performing teachers.)

A coalition of indigenous organisations formed to fight the rushed process, the lack of proper consultation and the paltry amount.  There was a street march in Brisbane and a petition to parliament urging the government rethink the amount and the process.  We circulated two stolen wages fact sheets to potential claimants and the general public, setting out the historical and financial background of government mismanagement during the twentieth century.  In January 2003 the government put out a tender for legal practitioners to act as independent legal advisers to oversee the signing of indemnities.  But it limited applications to those lawyers who had  ‘demonstrated willingness to work cooperatively with departmental staff’.  And it still refused to supply all potential claimants with their personal documentation.  The promised parliamentary apology was further downgraded: the Deed of Agreement itself now constituted the written apology by the state.

Marcus Einfeld QC, former federal court judge and foundation president of HREOC in Australia, said the process effectively blackmailed people to accept the offer, and he confirmed our objection that lawyers could not provide competent legal advice to clients who lacked financial records.  Terry O’Gorman, president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, also attacked the ‘independence’ of advice provided only by government-approved lawyers, and he warned that lawyers providing only the government line could themselves be sued if they didn’t advise claimants to seek independent legal advice.

In mid-2003 we launched a postcard campaign which personalised the fight for justice through references to two underpaid workers.  Funded through a range of unions and ANTaR, tens of thousands of the postcards have been distributed nationally and internationally, a campaign Beattie later admitted had been politically damaging.  Subsequently the government claimed all the savings accounts had been paid out in the early 1970s, and this could be clearly traced because accounts were audited every year.  Yet it knows full well the Stolen Wages fight has never been about the residue remaining in accounts in the 1970s.  It is about the dimensions of loss preceding that date.  Not surprisingly the government does not reveal the decades of constant and trenchant criticisms by auditors which I spoke of earlier.  Currently we are running a state-wide survey to publicly pressure the government to drop the indemnity, include descendants of deceased workers and negotiate on any residue remaining in the initial commitment.

My focus over recent years has moved into the legal sphere where governments don’t control – and will be held to – terms of debate from a higher realm, namely the courts of law.   But can we get the government into court?  Can we make it accountable under legal definitions of equity, liability, responsibility, duty of care?  This has never been done in Australia.  The under award case was brought in the HREOC as a breach of the Racial Discrimination ActMabo of course tested native title, and cases in the Northern Territory and NSW tested, and failed to prove legal grounds, for breaches of government’s duty of care to the stolen generation.

A key aspect of both these Australian cases, and one which interests me greatly, is the notion of fiduciary duty.  This is a duty which arises because a person or entity holds power over another sufficient to affect the interests of the second party.  It is because of that power differential that the fiduciary, and in this instance I’m thinking the government, has a legal duty of trust.  If this is found to be a ‘true’ trust then there are several requirements: always to act in the interests of the beneficiary, never to profit from the trust relationship, never to hold a conflict of interest, to keep full and accurate records, and to provide on request a full account for all trust property.  Many relationships import a fiduciary duty, but it seems that true trusts mainly arise relating to finances and property.

In the first part of this lecture I sketched how the government had taken control of Aboriginal lives from the turn of last century, whittling away people’s rights over their own labour, wages, savings, family and circumstances of living.  So I don’t think there’s any doubt that the government stood as a fiduciary to those people it took into control ‘under the Acts’.   While I think governments should be held to account for failing their duty of care on the reserves – substandard schooling, rations, health care, shelter etc – I am leaving this to one side for the moment to concentrate on finances and property, because these are areas which legal opinion suggests will present much higher chances of conviction.

There is certainly evidence that the government failed to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries: it knowingly maintained a system under which people’s wages were defrauded not only be their employers but by the government’s own agents, the police protectors.  It took levies from wages and

arguably did not use that money entirely for the beneficiaries interests.  It contracted people out at much less than their skilled entitlement.  It intercepted and misused child endowment and pensions.  It failed to properly distribute deceased estates.  In fact, at almost every point where the government exercised its financial prerogatives, it failed to secure the best interests of the Aboriginal people it had forced into dependency upon it.  The government has also failed to keep proper records of its transactions on Aboriginal monies: it is this primary breach of a trustee’s duties which prevents many people from claiming the reparations.  And perversely, it is this very fragmentation of records which governments – in both Queensland and NSW – invoke to suggest we can never really establish what went on.  This is grossly misleading.  Three major collections of financial data could be presented without delay for an investigative assessment of loss and liability.


So what are our chances in the courts?  As I said, no case such as this has ever been brought in Australia.  But of course that needn’t stop us.  Indeed this is precisely the focus of a book I’m working on, courtesy of a research fellowship from the Center for Public Culture and Ideas, here at Griffith.  And we do have international precedents.  Very briefly, I have been watching with fascination a case in the US brought by 500,000 native American plaintiffs against the federal government for misappropriation and negligent dealing on their private earnings.  This class action includes past and present account holders.  It commenced in 1996 and has been through several stages in the court process and the plaintiffs have won every stage against an amazing background of government obstruction and contempt of court process.  In September 2003 the judge demanded the government account for every cent it had controlled back to 1887 when the trust commenced.  And where proper distribution cannot be documented, that amount will not be deemed to have been paid; the fragmentation of records does not diminish accountability but confirms liability.  The US government’s own assessment of its liability is an astounding $AU50 billion.

So I am working towards several goals.  I want to see a comprehensive court dissection of just how governments handled the powers they assumed and the finances they seized from the very beginning.  I’d like to see that played out, over several weeks, in the TV and print media.  I’d hope these revelations will re-educate the average member of the public to understand just how Aboriginal poverty and despair was inflicted through deliberate practices of governments which even today refuse to admit their callous abuses of powers and responsibilities.  I’d like see court orders for an independent assessment of all trust fund management back to the turn of last century to chronicle all the sins of omission and commission.  I’d like an actuary to determine – just as would happen for any other institution – the levels of loss and the amounts of restitution.

I hope this talk has given you a better understanding of the rhetoric of protection, whether in ‘rescuing’ families from unsafe surroundings and confining them under government care on the reserves, or in controlling work contracts and private savings so that people were not cheated of payment commensurate with their ability and enjoyed full use of their savings.  I think I have shown that the reality was very different, both in the past, when the systems were operational, but also in the present, when the government will not acknowledge the vast amount of Aboriginal monies lost and stolen under its stewardship, nor the government role in crafting the substandard communities of today.

And these historical realities of past and present also leave a legacy of distorted prejudices relating to the capacity of Aboriginal men and women to effectively manage their family, work and financial responsibilities.   In fighting for justice on the Stolen Wages we are fighting against this ongoing distortion of reality.



ANTaR:  (3844 9800) – to download the postcard, survey, or volunteer

Ros Kidd:        – for background information on history and Stolen Wages

US case:       – for the historical and legal background to the class action

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