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Finally, compensation for SA's Stolen Generations

Politics

An $11 million compensation fund for members of South Australia’s Aboriginal Stolen Generations will be established, more than five years after a bill for a reparations scheme was first introduced to parliament.

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It’s a major policy shift for Labor, which opposed a recent push by the State Liberals to establish a fund for the stolen generations to settle out of court.

The scheme will involve a fund of up to $6 million for ex gratia payments for SA-based members of indigenous communities removed from their families, and a $5 million fund for whole-of-community reparations, to be finalised in consultation with Aboriginal leaders and communities.

It was outlined today by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher, who was appointed to the role in a reshuffle earlier this year.

He said the scheme would allow for individual payments of up to $50,000, to be recommended by an independent assessor.

“The assessor’s primary role will be to determine whether an applicant is eligible for an ex gratia payment, and if so, assess what level of harm has been caused,” he said in a statement.

“As part of the process, the assessor will be able to hear the personal stories of applicants, and speak with family members and people connected with the removal.

“Based on the assessor’s recommendations, the Minister will decide the amount of the payment.”

Maher said whole-of-community reparations “might include places of memorial, education scholarships and programs, counselling and support services, and exhibitions telling the stories of the Stolen Generations”.

The scheme will begin from March 2016.

It was welcomed by Greens MLC Tammy Franks, who first introduced a bill in 2010.

“We welcome what is a big step forward in reconciliation (that) takes the words of ‘sorry’ and makes them meaningful,” she told InDaily.

“It’s a marked policy shift from Labor and shows the new minister is actually taking his portfolio seriously.”

It follows a long-fought political campaign, with Premier Jay Weatherill recently ruling out Opposition calls for a conscience vote on the matter.

InDaily reported in September that the Labor caucus was divided on the issue, with senior figures on the party’s Right taking the view that a compensation scheme would open the floodgates for further claims and “there are no votes in it”.

At the time, Attorney-General John Rau said his favoured model was “one broadly similar to children in state care arrangements”.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, who has personally pushed the establishment of a reparations scheme, welcomed today’s announcement.

“It has taken the Weatherill Labor Government far too long to come to this position … the State Liberals introduced legislation in parliament over 12 months ago (and ) the Government refused to support this Bill,” he said.

“It would have been better if the Government worked in a bipartisan manner on this issue from the beginning, but action on this important issue is better late than never.”

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