Pre-1975 'Stolen Generation' of Aborigines wins apology and payout in Tasmania (Australia)

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Eddie Thomas was just a few months old when the white people came and took him away. They took his brother and sister, too. The children's grandmother had been looking after them, following the death of their mother after Eddie's birth.

The three young Aborigines were taken from Cape Barren Island, off the north-east coast of Tasmania, and placed in state care in Launceston, on the Tasmanian mainland. Mr Thomas, now 70, was separated from his siblings and brought up in foster families, where he was beaten and "treated like a slave", he said yesterday.

His grandmother was prevented from visiting them. "There used to be this old lady come to the gate and our foster mother would say 'that's just a silly old black woman' and take us inside," he told The Australian newspaper. "It wasn't until I was old enough to go to work that I met up with an uncle who told me that was my grandmother. She wanted to talk to us, to cuddle us, but she wasn't allowed. She died of a broken heart."

Mr Thomas is a member of the "Stolen Generation" - one of thousands of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families and assimilated into white society, under an official policy introduced early last century and not abandoned until 1975.

Australia's treatment of its indigenous people remains a running sore, and the plight of the Stolen Generation is a principal reason. Nine years ago, a national inquiry concluded that the policy amounted to genocide.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, who had just come to power then, has yet to apologise on behalf of his predecessors. Survivors have not received a cent in damages.

That is about to change, in Tasmania at least, following the unveiling yesterday by the state premier, Paul Lennon, of a $5m (£2m) compensation package.

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