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Moderator calls for justice on stolen wages

Queensland Uniting Church Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman

The Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland Rev Dr David Pitman, has called on the government to provide just and fair compensation to those whose stolen wages were controlled by a succession of Governments

In a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Indigenous Stolen Wages Dr Pitman has asked the government to provide a public forum in which Indigenous people can tell their story and adequate resources to systematically and comprehensively investigate and report on the available records.

"The control of the wages of Indigenous people was one of a number of injustices which they have suffered," Dr Pitman said.

"We believe that in order to create true and lasting reconciliation in Australia the truth about these past injustices must be told and, as far as possible, redressed."

Dr Pitman said that the Australian community needs to continue to hear the story of the Indigenous people and seek to understand the effect of government policies upon their lives.

“The effects of injustices which the Indigenous people of Australia have experienced continue to be felt throughout the community.

"The Uniting Church believes that Indigenous people have a unique contribution to make to Australia as the first peoples of this land."

For most of the twentieth century many Indigenous people had their wages controlled by the Government.

Up to 75% of their wage was held for them in trust, only receiving a small amount of pocket money.

This occurred to varying degrees across Australia but Dr Pitman has a particular interest on its impact in Queensland.

The Queensland Government made an offer of $2000 and $4000 depending on the date of the worker’s birth.

"The independent evidence suggests that neither of those figures is close to adequate," Dr Pitman said.

He also said many people were reluctant to sign away their legal rights in order to receive this payment.

Dr Pitman called on the Federal Government to, “move immediately to facilitate a commission [of inquiry], providing it with broad terms of reference and resources to travel to every state and territory to hear the story of those whose wages were controlled by the government.

"There are many examples of truth and reconciliation commissions which have brought about significant healing.

"Many Indigenous people have indicated that they would be satisfied to know that their story had been heard and their pain acknowledged."

Dr Pitman asked the State Government to engage specialist research teams with the expertise and resources to produce a comprehensive report into Stolen Wages

“It is important that the truth about this issue is brought into the light of day.”

Dr Pitman said a fair and generous compensation system was needed.

“An independent, inquiry based tribunal with dedicated, specialist staff could deal with individuals on a case by case basis.”

Read the full text of the Moderator’s submission HERE.

Photo : Queensland Uniting Church Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman