Queensland Stolen Wages Decision Concern

Media Release

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has expressed its disappointment at the Queensland Government’s recent decision on the distribution of funds from the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations Scheme and the now defunct Aborigine Welfare Fund.

The Scheme was established in 2002 to provide reparations payments to Indigenous workers who had wages placed in trust by the Queensland Government over a significant part of the twentieth century and never returned.

Much of the money set aside for the Scheme was not distributed and the Government undertook a process of consultation with Indigenous people over the course of 2007 to determine what would be done with unclaimed funds.

The Premier, Anna Bligh, and the Minister for Indigenous Partnerships, Lindy Nelson-Carr, recently announced that about $15 million from the Scheme would provide top-up payments of either $1500 or $3000 to claimants who have already received payments of $2000 or $4000. $21.2 million from the scheme and $10.8 million from the Aborigines Welfare Fund would be used to establish the Indigenous Queenslanders Foundation, which will provide education and sporting scholarships of up to $20000 to young Indigenous people.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that, after consulting with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisors, the Commission urged the Government to re-imburse claimants fully for all wages placed in trust and never returned.

It also urged the Government to pay the descendants of deceased workers all wages owed in full.

“We are talking about money earned by Indigenous women and men by the sweat of their brow and taken away from them and used for other purposes,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Queensland Government’s attempts to get away with a token payment which is a small fraction of the actual amount earned by Indigenous workers is unfair,” he said.

“The only just decision would be to pay Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in full as the New South Wales Government is doing,” he said.

“The Commission is astonished that the State Government has decided to put some of the funds in the Scheme into education scholarships scheme despite the majority of Indigenous people consulted by the Government rejecting such a proposal,” he said.

“This decision continues the same shabby treatment of Aboriginal people which saw their wages taken away from them in the first place,” he said.

“The Government must pay Indigenous workers what is owed to them in full and must pay the families of deceased workers what is owing to them too,” he said.

“It has a responsibility to provide the same standard of education to all Queensland children and should provide educational opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from the Education Department’s funds and not from money which is owed to Indigenous workers,” he said.

Mr Arndt said that the Commission would talk to its Indigenous advisors about any further action it might take on the issue.

He said it would also keep in touch with Indigenous groups working on the issue and provide support where it could.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

3 thoughts on “Queensland Stolen Wages Decision Concern

  1. liz

    Once again I see that the Government is using that paternalistic attitudes about whether they should give all this money that is owed to the Aboriginal people here in Queensland. Money that is owed to them and the government again telling us what they want us to do with it and just that the amount of money is absurd the government owes more than that to the Indigenous peoples of this state. The government are master minding and underestimating the intelligence of the Aboriginal race. There should be a delegation to challenge the sytems beleifs on this matter. Anna Bligh is making the same mistake that Beatty made and Beatty made a mess of the Aboriginal issues in Queensland and she has a chance to fix up the mess by its seems like this is too hard for her to do and she would rather just leave things the way Beatty left it. How about we take Anna Bligh’s wages for the next 20 years and after 20 years time we give her $20 dollars that should see her through for the next 20 years. Anna Bligh take a look at what you and your government is doing! are you that blind that you can’t see?, or are you a puppet being pulled on a string?

  2. Student Logic

    It is highly disappointing that the Queensland government is continuing to hold back stolen wages of Indigenous Queenslanders.

    How can reconciliation occur when their money is going from one fund into another?

  3. Pingback: Brisbane CJPC Statements 2008 « Worth Reading

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