Indigenous Australians who survived the Stolen Generations have launched a massive class action lawsuit against the Australian government.
Shine Lawyers has taken on the case on behalf of the survivors and yesterday (April 28) filed the legal challenge in the NSW Supreme Court.
The lawsuit argues the Commonwealth violated their duty of care while embarking on the 'unlawful' social policy and survivors are now seeking damages.
The Stolen Generations was a government policy passed down through several administrations on both state and federal levels that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families and placed into church missions and caucasian households.
Experts reckon between one in ten and one in three Indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families from 1910 and 1970
In some cases, babies were taken from their parents at the hospital shortly after birth.
In Western Australia, the Aborigines Act 1905 meant Indigenous parents were no longer considered legal guardians of their own children and the kids were instead legal wards of the state. The same happened in South Australia, partly thanks to Protector of Aborigines, William Garnet South, who argued 'all children of mixed descent should be treated as neglected'.
A separate law in New South Wales allowed authorities to take children from their households 'without having to establish in court that they were neglected'.
Eileen Cummings is the lead complainant in the class action and she claims she was taken from her 'happy home' when she was just five.
She explained to Shine Lawyers that she didn't speak a word of English when she was taken and was convinced to get in a car driven by a 'Native Affairs' patrol officer in late 1948.
Ms Cummings, a daughter of a Ngalakan woman and Rembarrnga man, was eventually taken to the Methodist Overseas Mission on Croker Island. The class action claims her experience demonstrates how she was 'unlawfully and falsely imprisoned by the Commonwealth'.
Shine Lawyers Special Counsel Tristan Gaven told the Sydney Morning Herald: "The Commonwealth was responsible for tearing apart Indigenous families in the Territory and it's up to the Commonwealth to make amends.
"Nearly every state and territory has acted on recommendations to compensate Indigenous Australians who were victims of the Stolen Generation, but nothing has been offered to those affected in the Northern Territory. That's why we've filed this class action."
He added between 4,000 to 6,000 people could be a part of the class action.
Several states in Australia, including New South Wales, Victoria Tasmania and South Australia have already set up multi-million dollar schemes to pay reparations to stolen generations survivors.
The class action will have a preliminary hearing in June.
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Featured Image Credit: PA
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