'A good start, but just the beginning': Aboriginal Christian leaders on new Stolen Generation redress scheme
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a historic $378.6 million redress scheme for survivors of the Stolen Generation last week to acknowledge the harm caused to them by past governments’ forced removal policies. The announcement was made as part of the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap address, in which further funding for Indigenous peoples was announced.
Under the scheme, Indigenous people in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and the Jervis Bay territory in NSW can apply for a reparation package that includes a one-off payment of $75 000, along with the opportunity to tell their story and receive an individual apology from a senior government official.
“$75,000 is a very small sum for those whose lives were turned up-side-down and the intergenerational trauma caused through the forced removal” – Rev Chris McLeod, National Aboriginal Bishop, Anglican Church of Australia
In response to the announcement, Aboriginal Christian leader Rev Chris McLeod, the National Aboriginal Bishop of the Anglican Church of Australia, told Eternity that the new scheme was a “good start, but more work needs to be done.”
“While most Stolen Generations’ survivors would welcome any acknowledgement and reparations concerning the ongoing trauma experienced by their forced removal from their families, there is still a great deal of ongoing compensation and healing that still needs to take place,” the bishop said.
“It is a good start, but it should be regarded as just the beginning,” he said.
“$75,000 (+ $7000 for healing services) is a very small sum for those whose lives were turned upside-down and the intergenerational trauma caused through the forced removal from land, family, and culture.”
Bishop McLeod said that many of the original Stolen Generations have now died without any reparations, and their descendants are still feeling the effects of their removal.
Aboriginal Christian leader and Chief Executive Officer of the social justice movement Common Grace Brooke Prentis was similarly restrained in her response.
“Whilst I welcome the announcement and I pray the payment to the Stolen Generations of the NT and ACT does bring healing, it is hard to reconcile that this announcement comes on the same day that 12 months after new closing the gap targets were released, Australia is still not on track to meet the targets on out of home care for children as well as not on track for suicides, life expectancy, and adult imprisonment,” she said.
“Look beyond the headlines, and understand the detail” – Brooke Prentis, Aboriginal Christian leader and CEO, Common Grace
Prentis encouraged people to “look beyond the headlines, and understand the detail”.
“This payment is only to the NT and ACT Stolen Generations and has many restrictions like that you must be still living, the timeframes for this announcement do not appear, and States such as Queensland still have never had any compensation for the Stolen Generations,” she said.
“I ask people to ponder beyond the headline, as former Prime Minister Paul Keating said to non-Indigenous Australians in his 1992 Redfern speech, imagine these things being done to you, and I add, ‘What would you want the compensation to be, what would bring healing for you, what would justice look like?’. If you ponder hard enough, I believe you could not only imagine but expect so much more.”
While the government’s redress scheme was a recommendation made by the Human Rights Commission’s landmark 1997 Bringing them Home report, Prentis called for Australians to engage with the report more closely.
“I implore the Australian Church to re-read and re-engage with 1997 Bringing Them Home Report and implement the recommendations which were specifically written to and addressed to churches in Australia – many of these have gone unimplemented,” she said.
Prentis said she hoped that people would listen to Aboriginal peoples, “to share our lament at the lack of action on implementing the 30-year-old recommendations of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, to share our grief as we continue to die too young and too often, to share our prayers for justice and healing in these lands now called Australia.”
“I pray people will walk alongside us and take action to see true justice and true Reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” she said.