The Bligh Government's failure to honour its promise to pay $55.4 million in reparations to the stolen wages claimants is incomprehensible.
The QCU is coordinating a campaign calling on the State Government to honour its 2002 promise. Up until 2008, only $20 million had been distributed to workers.
It's time for the government to honour the promises made on stolen wages.
TOWNSVILLE WEEK OF ACTION
STOLEN WAGES MEETING DURING TOWNSVILLE WEEK OF ACTION - 17 TO 21 OCTOBER 2011
The QCU met with the Indigenous community as part of its recent Townsville week of events and activity. Click here to check out the report which aired on Win's late news on 20 October
A history of stolen wages in Queensland
From 1904 to 1972, the wages and savings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers were controlled by the state. These workers, some as young as 10 when they started, were denied the basic entitlements all workers take for granted. Workers were not paid their wages, paid more tax than other Queenslanders and were denied the right to use their savings as they saw fit. For some, this system was imposed for over a decade of employment.
Worse still, government allowed, through neglect and indifference, for wages not diverted by legislative control to be stolen. Researchers estimate that the total amount withheld was nearly half a billion dollars.
In 2002, after aggrieved workers commenced litigation against the state, the then Labor Government made an offer of $55.4 million. This was to be paid as reparations for the stolen wages and included initial payment of $4000 or $2000 to eligible claimants. Included in the offer was the issuing of a written apology and a parliamentary acknowledgement to recognise the injustices perpetrated.
When announcing the reparations, the government acknowledged that the $55.4 million offered was significantly less than what was stolen. However, the Indigenous community was asked to accept the offer and move on in the spirit of reconciliation. The offer was subsequently accepted.
QCU supports government commitment to Indigenous education
By 2008, only $20 million of the $55.4 million had been distributed so the government made some smaller, second-round payments and also established the Indigenous Queenslanders Fund - an education fund for Indigenous children. This was a welcome announcement however the Fund was set up using money originally set aside for the stolen wages claimants.
Charter for Working Queenslanders - treating workers with fairness and equity
The QCU is currently rolling out its Charter for Working Queenslanders campaign - a set of policies and principles seeking real political action to improve the lives of working Queenslanders. Stolen wages is a key plank of the Charter as the QCU believes that fair recognition of the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders needs to be addressed - which includes payment of the full $55.4 million. More info in the Charter can be found at www.charterforqld.com.au
STOLEN WAGES UPDATES
The QCU produces the "Stolen Wages Update" to provide news on the campaign for wage justice. You can download these updates below:
Creative Spirits article - Repaying Stolen Wages - http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/economy/repaying-stolen-wages.html
European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights: news - http://eniar.org/news/stolenwages73.html
QUT Stolen Wages fact sheet - http://www.reconciliation.qut.edu.au/issues/recweek/StolenWagesFactSheet.pdf
Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs: Unfinished business - Indigenous stolen wages - http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/stolen_wages/report/report.pdf
ANTaR statement re second round offer (25 March 2008)
Courier Mail - Stolen wages stolen again (25 March 2008)
ABC News - Qld stolen wages scheme labelled shameful (26 March 2008)
QCU MEDIA RELEASES
Contact the QCU
Email Gwen Taylor or telephone on 07 3846 2468.