More than $1 billion has been committed to the new Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, including $379 million allocated for Stolen Generations reparations.
Pat Turner AO, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, has praised the initiative.
“The investment includes some very significant initiatives important to our peoples and to our wellbeing like the breakthrough in providing reparations to survivors of the Stolen Generations in Territories which the Commonwealth was historically responsible for — long called for but long denied until now,” she said.
The groundbreaking Territories Stolen Generation Redress Scheme makes $378.6 million available over five years for a financial and wellbeing redress scheme for survivors of the Stolen Generations who were removed from their families as children in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory prior to their respective self-government.
According to Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, the scheme includes a one-off payment in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal and gives each survivor the opportunity to tell their story and receive an individual apology.
At the announcement of the measure, Healing Foundation chief executive Fiona Cornforth said though the scheme was an important step, it would not heal the trauma of the past.
“The scheme is a practical support for Stolen Generation survivors to address the often-complex health and economic needs that are evidenced to be a result of forced removal and forced removal alone,” she said.
“The truth of this is important, reparations to acknowledge that truth is important. It’s something but it’s not everything. It won’t provide that end state of a healed nation, but there is hope in the Priority Reforms under the National Agreement.”
Also announced in the implementation plan was $7.6 million to help establish a Justice Policy Partnership which will identify, prioritise and implement measures to reduce Indigenous incarceration.
Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Priscilla Atkins said she remains hopeful the funding will lead to lasting change.
An additional $254.4 million of new funding has also been allocated to improve infrastructure in the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector. The move has been praised by the Central Land Council (CLC).
“Aboriginal health services have demonstrated their critical role throughout this pandemic. Further investment is the best way to ensure improved health outcomes for our people,” said CLC chief executive Lesley Turner.
Around the nation, States are releasing their own implementation plans and it remains to be seen whether the Commonwealth’s Redress Scheme will be widely emulated.
Both Queensland and Western Australian Governments have said they will reflect carefully on today’s announcement.
NIT understands WA’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan is also being tabled to the Joint Council in the coming days, and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson says the McGowan Government has committed to bringing a special focus to Stolen Generations members.
“While I understand the redress scheme is limited to three Territories and does not apply directly to Western Australia, I will be examining the Commonwealth Government’s initiative in detail, to understand how it might impact conversations happening in WA,” he said.
“The WA Government is committed to working with our Aboriginal partners in order to deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal people in WA, and I will be taking advice from the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA on this latest development.”
Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, said the Palaszczuk Government would “closely consider” the Commonwealth’s announcement.
“We are committed to reframing the relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and righting the wrongs of the past,” he said.
“Closing the Gap is also an area that needs constant attention, and we will continue to focus on better outcomes in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
Victoria as the first State to complete their implementation plan, which was tabled in Victorian Parliament on June 24, and plans are underway for a reparations scheme.
“We will implement a reparations scheme in Victoria, we’ve set up a steering committee to ensure the design of the scheme is community-led and will have more to say soon about the scheme and the funding that will deliver it,” said a Victorian Government spokesperson.
The Coalition of Peaks also announced their Closing the Gap Implementation Plan on Thursday, while Tasmania’s plan is due to be considered at Friday’s meeting of the Joint Council and the South Australian implementation plan will be released on Monday.
The Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Aboriginal Affairs Ministers Rachel Stephen-Smith and Selena Uibo, respectively, have been contacted for comment.
By Sarah Smit