Reparations an important major step in healing journey of Stolen Generations survivors in Commonwealth territories

The Healing Foundation

The Healing Foundation welcomes today’s Federal Government announcement of reparations and wellbeing support for Stolen Generations survivors in Commonwealth territories – the Northern Territory (NT), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and Jervis Bay.

In a speech to Parliament this morning on the Commonwealth’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will release details of a commitment of “$378.6 million over five years for a financial and wellbeing reparations scheme for living Stolen Generations survivors who were removed as children from their families in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory prior to their respective self-government and the Jervis Bay Territory”.

The Government states the Scheme will provide practical support for Stolen Generations survivors to address their often-complex health needs.

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said that reparations are an important step towards addressing the harm caused by past government policies of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

“The Healing Foundation has called for redress for Stolen Generations survivors consistently throughout its 11-year history,” Ms Cornforth said.

“Redress is fundamentally about acknowledging the past wrongs inflicted upon Stolen Generations, and the lifelong experience of trauma and grief that is still carried as a burden today.

“Reparations for Stolen Generations survivors is the first recommendation of The Healing Foundation’s Make Healing Happen: it’s time to act report, which was launched at the National Press Club in June.

“It was also a priority recommendation in our Pre-Budget Submission this year.”

The Bringing Them Home report (1997) concluded that the history and effects of forced removals requires reparations that recognise the effects of forced removal on Indigenous communities as a whole, the families (including descendants) of children forcibly removed, and the children themselves (page 14, page 246/recommendation 4).

Ms Cornforth said that reparations for children who were forcibly removed from their families in Commonwealth-controlled territories – the ACT, Norther Territory, and Jervis Bay – are long overdue.

“Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, and most recently Victoria have accepted responsibility for the harm caused to Stolen Generations by establishing redress schemes that include ex-gratia payments as well as community reparations.

“Universal, equitable, and safe redress processes will support Stolen Generations survivors and their families.”

The Healing Foundation recognises and advises that national and international experience demonstrates that there is a high risk of redress schemes re-triggering trauma.

“To do no further harm, all reparations processes must be embedded in a trauma-aware, healing informed (TAHI) framework,” Ms Cornforth said.

“This must include enabling survivors and their representatives to inform the scheme design.

“Scheme design must recognise that the policies of forced removal have resulted in Stolen Generations survivors and descendants experiencing a significantly greater and more complex burden of disadvantage than other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“As well as ex-gratia payments and counselling for individuals, it is essential that redress schemes include investments in collective healing such as healing programs, reunions, and return to country.

“Additional and more flexible support for Stolen Generations organisations to support healing is also critical.

“The Healing Foundation is a proud member of the Coalition of Peaks and signatory to the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

“We know the significant change that can result once the agreed priority reforms are achieved.

“Addressing trauma and centring healing is required of all of us in implementing the Agreement.

“We are grateful to be at the table to elevate the voices of survivors and their families, supported by evidence.

“The Healing Foundation warmly welcomes today’s announcement and looks forward to continuing to work with the Government on the implementation of the Scheme.

“We also look forward to working with all governments to ensure consistent and accessible urgent support for Stolen Generations survivors across all jurisdictions.”

In 2018-19, the AIHW estimated that there were 3200 Stolen Generations survivors and 9800 descendants residing in the NT; and another 400 survivors and 2500 descendants residing in the ACT (NB descendants are likely to include people whose family members were removed in other jurisdictions). Estimates of the numbers of people removed in other Commonwealth territories e.g., Jervis Bay are still being established.

The Healing Foundation’s Make Healing Happen Report (with reparations recommendations on pages 68-70) is available here: https://healingfoundation.org.au/make-healing-happen/

The AIHW report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations aged 50 and over: updated analyses for 2018-19, is available here: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/indigenous-stolen-generations-50-and-over/contents/summary

The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address trauma caused by the widespread and deliberate disruption of populations, cultures, and languages over 230 years. This includes specific actions like the forced removal of children from their families.

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