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Issue #1734      June 8, 2016

Stolen wages payments begin in Qld

Payment of outstanding stolen wages has started to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander claimants around Queensland. Thousands of Indigenous people are owed wages which were systematically stolen by government and employers up until the 1970s, as many worked as virtual slaves.

Many have died without receiving their full payments, while others are frail and ill.

While the Beattie government introduced a compensation scheme in 2002, many Indigenous workers didn’t qualify, often due to lack of paperwork, and descendents could not claim. Payments were also capped at $4,000, which many considered grossly inadequate for years of lost payments.

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) has been at the forefront of the stolen wages campaign since the Queensland Labor government was elected early last year.

QCU Brisbane-based field officer Lara Watson told the Koori Mail it was her understanding that all living past eligible claimants have received their top-up payments, but they should call 1800 619 505 if they haven’t.

“There is an independent panel setup to review past ineligible claims and new claims, and they will continue priority payments for those approved, paying claimants over the age of 70, who have a disability or have a terminal illness first,” she said.

“Priority”

“They are taking applications from people claiming for a person that has passed, but priority is to living claimants first.” Watson said the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships was assisting people with Claims, and staff will visit claimants and Indigenous organisations.

Gail Barry, a member of the Stolen Wages Reparations Taskforce set up by the state government, told the Koori Mail that about 200 Palm Island claimants had been paid.

Community meetings for stolen wages claimants were held around Queensland last year. After that, the Reparations Taskforce was formed, which made recommendations to the state government about distribution of outstanding money to eligible claimants.

Applications were invited from claimants from mid-December.

Treasurer and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Curtis Pitt said it “was important to right this historical wrong”.

“Our reparations scheme is about acknowledging the historical injustices of the past for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders whose wages and savings were controlled under former government policies.”

Pitt thanked Reparations Taskforce chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, and the taskforce members for their consultation with all interested parties from every corner of the state to bring a greater sense of closure to the issue of reparations.

Koori Mail

Next article – Put the Liberals last – WA CFMEU Federal Election Campaign Launch

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