Reparations

The 1997 Bringing them home Report contains the following recommendations in relation to reparations:

Components of reparations

3. That, for the purposes of responding to the effects of forcible removals, `compensation' be widely defined to mean `reparation'; that reparation be made in recognition of the history of gross violations of human rights; and that the Van Boven principles guide the reparation measures.

Reparation should consist of:

1. acknowledgment and apology;
2. guarantees against repetition;
3. measures of restitution;
4. measures of rehabilitation; and
5. monetary compensation.

Claimants

4. That reparation be made to all who suffered because of forcible removal policies including: 

1. individuals who were forcibly removed as children;
2. family members who suffered as a result of their removal;
3. communities which, as a result of the forcible removal of children, suffered cultural and community disintegration; and
4. descendants of those forcibly removed who, as a result, have been deprived of community ties, culture and language, and links with and entitlements to their traditional land.


Following the release of the Bringing them home Report in 1997, the Howard Government allocated $63m (including $54 million of which was 'new spending') to what it called, "practical reconciliation", including funding for recording oral histories, preservation of records, and new counsellor positions, but steadfastly refused to apologise. The initial implementation of the Inquiry's recommendations is traced in this Follow Up Project Report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. 

In February 2008, Federal Government led by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a formal apology to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. The Federal Government, however, was the last of the Australian  governments to implement the first of the reparation steps - acknowledgement and apology. 

The NSDC is committed to educating the community on the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the Anniversary of the Apology on 13 February each year.

At the outset of negotiations with stakeholders about the wording of the apology and its implications, the Commonwealth Government made it clear that it would not be providing compensation to the Stolen Generations.

This position was based on the fact that the Commonwealth did not forcibly remove children, instead it was State and Territory Governments that had sanctioned the removals under their various "protection" policies.

However, there is an ongoing debate about the Commonwealth's responsibility to the Stolen Generations in the Northern Territory and ACT prior to self-government.

NSDC contends that the Commonwealth has not undertaken sufficient policy and program development to satisfy its responsibilities regarding: 

2. guarantees against repetition;
3. measures of restitution; and
4. measures of rehabilitation.

Guarantees against repetition:

Governments have not implemented measures to guarantee against repetition of the attitudes that fostered the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.

An examination of statistics regarding children in care and juvenile detention, along with incarceration rates, demonstrates that there is a direct correlation between children being taken into State care and then later entering incarceration.

Although the policies examined in the Bringing them home report officially ceased in the 1970s, the institutional racism that enabled such policies to thrive continues to underpin current policies that see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children placed in care at disproportionate rates.

Systemic racism, a lack of cultural awareness about differing approaches to parenting and "western" values of "neglect" play a significant role in the continued removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

Measures of restitution:

The dearth of policies and programs for the Stolen Generations is testament to the lack of effort governments have invested in measures of restitution. In relation to measures of rehabilitation, the limited resources devoted to "healing" is testament to a lack of commitment to rehabilitation for the Stolen Generations, their families and communities.

Measures of rehabilitation:                                                                                                                       

An examination of statistics regarding the representation of the Stolen Generations in prisons provides a clear picture of their over-representation. The lack of funding devoted to programs to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples out of prison is testament to a lack of commitment to measures of rehabilitation. 

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