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Issue #1753      October 19, 2016

Stolen Wages workers launch class action

A class action has been launched on behalf of hundreds of Indigenous Queenslanders over an estimated $500 million Stolen Wages bill dating back to the 1930s. The lawsuit has been lodged on behalf of Hans Pearson – the uncle of prominent Aboriginal man Noel Pearson – who says he received next to no remuneration for 10 years of work in the 1950s and 1960s because his wages were held in a trust and never paid to him.

Historians estimate the Queensland government may owe up to $500 million in stolen wages to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers due to wage control legislation that was in place between 1939 and 1972.

Bottoms English Lawyers (BELAW) principal John Bottoms said Pearson and other Indigenous Australians had suffered significantly from “protection” legislation.

“As part of this action, we allege that the State held Mr Pearson’s wages for work completed between 1953 and 1963 in trust pursuant to a fiduciary duty and yet has not returned the vast bulk of it,” Bottoms said.

“Because of this policy, Mr Pearson essentially worked a decade of his life for next to no remuneration.”

Historians have said it is likely that many millions may be owed to Indigenous workers in other Australian states and territories.

Cairns-based law firm BELAW and Shine Lawyers are working together on these claims, with BELAW running the Queensland action and Shine Lawyers handling investigations in other Australian states and territories.

Shine Lawyers partner Jan Saddler is leading the national investigations into similar actions.

“We’re talking about stockmen, farm hands, laundry assistants and other domestic workers who worked tirelessly in harsh, isolated conditions for next to nothing,” she said. “These policies were supposed to protect people but instead left thousands of Indigenous people effectively working as slaves because they never received their wages.

“We will be working on behalf of thousands of these deserving workers and their families to recover the wages that remain unpaid because of unfair and unjust government policies.”

People can register their interest in joining the action at www.shine.com.au/service/classactions/stolen-wages-class-action

Further information is also available at www.stolenwages.com.au

Koori Mail

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