The ABC’s Radio National brought out a story this week which shows how colonial exploitation was continued until modern times. It is very much part of the dastardly record of Britain’s settlement of ‘empty lands.’ I wonder at the chances of the Australian indigene being recognised in the Australian Constitution as First Peoples.
The report is titled ‘W.A’s stolen wages shame’ and dated 8 Sept. 2015. The extract below represents the opening paragraphs.
“In Western Australia the government is facing a potential class action over its controversial stolen wages reparations scheme, which paid Aboriginal people a maximum of $2,000 each after decades of wages withheld by government, child labour, and in some cases slavery.
Now a Background Briefing investigation has uncovered secret financial modelling, commissioned by government, on just how much the state of Western Australia owes its Aboriginal workers.
At one workplace alone the documents put the amount of Aboriginal wages kept by government at $63 million.
And a whistleblower says in initial discussions, state treasury agreed that individual payouts would be as high as $78,000.
He believes the Barnett government kept the work of a stolen wages taskforce quiet for four years, waiting for potential claimants to die.
In her 80s, Mabel Juli is now a famous artist. But for decades under a WA government system she laboured on an East Kimberley pastoral station without ever being paid.
‘We don’t know the money,’ she says. ‘We [were] just working for bread and tea and meat. We don’t know the money; we never get the money.’
Through a permit system, the government rented Aboriginal people to pastoral stations as free labourers who didn’t have to be paid, only fed. Others had their wages stolen.
Until 1972, if an Aboriginal person earned a wage the state could legally withhold up to 75 per cent in government trust accounts—but that money has simply vanished.”