CLA’s WA Convenor, Peter Dowding – a former Premier – called on the State to look to its legal obligations to Aboriginal people whose land was resumed without payment. His comments followed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation.
Experts push for special compensation tribunal
16 February 2008 by Yasmine Phillips, The Western Australian
WA legal experts have backed the development of a special, tribunal which would set aside legal barriers to indigenous people arguing their case for compensation for being removed from their families.
The concept is modelled on the Canadian approach which recognised that the adversarial court system was not suited to the personal and longstanding nature of such claims.
John Hammond, who represented indigenous families at an inquest into Aboriginal deaths in the Kimberley, said he would support a tribunal where individual cases could be assessed for compensation based on defined criteria. "Canada, has shown that the payment of compensation has worked in turning around the indigenous Canadians," Mr Hammond said. “Canadian indigenous people do not have the same rates of youth suicide, iii-health and poor housing."
Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation this week prompted WA’s Aboriginal Legal Service to reveal it WA’s preparing to sue the Commonwealth for compensation.
Mr Hammond said he would not recommend indigenous people pursue legal action against the federal Government without a special tribunal in place. He denied the Prime Minister’s apology would open the flood gates for compensation because it did not identify individual cases.
University of WA law school Professor Richard Bartlett said the apology did not have legal significance and a Government tribunal would avoid long and costly court battles.
Former premier and WA convener of Civil Liberties Australia Peter Dowding said the apology did not, advance the issue of compensation but he urged the State Government to consider its "legal obligation". “The State Government has a huge compensation obligation to Aboriginal people whose lands were resumed without compensation," he said.