Rod McGuirk, AP, February 15, 2008
Representatives for Australian Aborigines confirmed plans Friday to launch the first compensation lawsuits since a landmark government apology earlier this week for past abuses.
The cases, details of which were not released because they had not yet been filed, would be the first since Parliament formally apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of Aborigines who were taken from their families as children under now discredited assimilation policies.
An activist and a lawyer representing some members of the so-called “Stolen Generations” of Aborigines said Friday as many as 40 compensation claims were being prepared in Victoria state.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard reiterated Friday that the government would not offer compensation to head off court action.
“We have said no to compensation,” Gillard told Fairfax Radio Network.
State governments have taken a similar stance, fighting compensation claims that have been lodged in the courts.
An estimated 100,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents in an effort to make them grow up like white Australians.
The state government announced last month it had paid 84 forcibly removed children and 22 of their descendants.
There are now about 450,000 Aborigines in Australia’s population of 21 million. They are the country’s poorest group, with the highest rates of unemployment and illiteracy. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than that of other Australians.