Australia cheated Aborigines out of $500 million





ACCORDING to historians, Queensland Aborigines had up to $500 million in wages "stolen" by the State Government and its agents during the 20th century.

The ramifications of that claim remain unresolved, as does the fate of money left in a four-year-old government reparation fund which closes at the end of the month.

ome suggest the real amount now owed could run to $3 billion with financial interest, plus proper compensation, and they argue this paternal system enforced a "consequential poverty" in Aboriginal settlements.

Thus the Beattie Government's $55.4 million "buy-off"' was an insult, says historian and advocate Dr Ros Kidd. "Given the Government's stance and limitations on the amounts, and who was paid," she says, "the community thinks it was a pathetic gesture and the deadline almost irrelevant. The offer was so flawed, it never met what was needed."

From 1904 to 1970, the Aborigines' Protection Board confiscated wages, the money placed in trust funds for the "betterment" of indigenous people and some pocket money handed over.

A one-off, all-inclusive state offer -- $2000 for those born before 1956 and $4000 for those pre-1951 -- closes on December 31 but many Aborigines will not get a cent from this $55.4 million fund.

There could, say the critics, be as much as $35 million left unclaimed.

Tiga Bayles, a member of a black community's working party on the issue, says the group has always encouraged people to lodge claims. "Get in there and get the bloody money, time's running out," he says.

Kidd spent 15 years researching the issue and says much of the enforced savings went missing.


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