Stolen Generations (Compensation) Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (21:54): I rise, too, on behalf of the Greens to support the second reading of this Bill. I will not deliver a long speech today because I recognise that this Parliament will be prorogued and that, even if this Bill passes tonight, it does not have the support of a government machinery behind it in the way that this debate should be being had. Rather than in the dying hours of a prorogued parliament, this Bill should be debated and heralded in a place where the gallery is full of those who are affected by this decision and where we celebrate that we have moved beyond sorry into actually making reparations.

I commend the Hon. Terry Stephens for bringing this Bill to this Parliament in this form, however, and note that it does reflect the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recommendations that arose from their inquiry into my Bill, which was referred to it in 2011. Over two years, that inquiry proceeded with a multi-party group on the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee. Many members of that committee heard from witnesses and took submissions and investigated ways that we could approach this issue based on the model of the Tasmanian Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 and my bill as that framework.

It is estimated through that process that there are approximately 300 Aboriginal people who could receive an ex gratia payment in accordance with the proposed eligibility criteria. Of course, that committee also identified, as is replicated here, that the Victims of Crime Fund could be used for this compensation—or, as I refer to it, reparation.

Two particular witnesses struck me and I would like to observe some of their words for the benefit not only of members here tonight, but for debates into the future. A witness statement was given by Katrina Power, who is a narrative therapist and senior cultural educator and works at Relationships Australia. She was delighted to be given the opportunity to present to our committee. She noted she had a white father whom she had never seen, who had attacked her mother. In 1966, she says:

…my black mother took my white father to court to pay maintenance. Not a cent was paid. I was born under the native flora and fauna act. There are many of us who are still in that position. We were not afforded citizenship like newcomers to Australia today are offered citizenship.

She was not a member of the stolen generations but she brought with her a photo of her late husband, Simon Lampard (who had been born David Lampard), who was, indeed, a member of the stolen generations. She told us that he had been raised in a white family of privilege:

….where four Aboriginal babies were also raised. There were four of them altogether, all from different areas from the Wirangu on the West Coast to the Riverland mob, Ngarrindjeri.

Of those four siblings, Simon committed suicide in 2003, aged 41. Of those four siblings each of these babies were stolen and raised in this family. They went to private schools, raised by doctors, had all the white privileges that one would hope to afford their children, if you had aspirations to be white — she told us. She also informed us that:

He, along with two other of his siblings, have committed suicide. They were all stolen babies.

She noted that two weeks after her husband suicided—

There being a disturbance in the President’s gallery:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Ridgway, if you would please have a bit of respect for the Hon. Ms Franks while she is on her feet.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Two weeks after her husband suicided (Simon gassed himself to death), her eight-year-old son Kiraki tried to hang himself. She had her daughter run into the kitchen and tell her, screaming, that she had to untie her son from a noose. He was eight years old at the time. She was very disturbed and she told us, ‘It wasn’t a copycat suicide.’ His father had actually killed himself in the Blue Mountains, and his son had not been witness to that. She was incredibly traumatised by the idea that he had chosen an alternative method.

This is why she has gone into a healing profession. She has a background, and many people would be familiar with the name Katrina Power. Those of us who have been privileged to be at events where she has offered a welcome or acknowledgment; she is an impressive woman. She has also had a career at The Advertiser and been well recognised for her media background, but she has chosen to move into narrative therapy and to provide support and working with Relationships Australia to do that healing work, and I certainly commend her for that.

This is where she told us her own story of after these events: she in her own terms says that she really lost the plot. She ended up in drug rehab for five months. She was forced into a white rehab, where she was one of only two females and certainly the only Nunga Aboriginal there. The psychological support that she said that she got, along with her son, did not fit with them and their culture. It did not help them, so that has been her motivation to get into counselling and healing.

That was an important part of what people brought to the process, the counselling and the healing, not just the recognition but the entire holistic approach. She went on to note some things that we all know in statistics, but these impact on people’s lives in this state. These are the things that individuals and families who have been affected or been part of the stolen generations have to deal with.

During the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 99 deaths were investigated, 43 of those deaths being stolen babies. Good intentions, Katrina Power told us, are not necessarily best practices. She noted that we see more and more Aboriginal children in state and guardianship care than ever before. We have an incredibly high suicide rate, with Aboriginal women four to six times more likely to die as a result of domestic violence, with children not getting past year 10 in school let alone getting into universities, and she noted the high incarceration and unemployment rates. These are legacies of the stolen generations.

We also heard from Rosemary Wanganeen, who is the Director of the Australian Institute for Loss and Grief. Ms Wanganeen told us that she, as a child of about 10 years old, had her mother die. There were eight children and six out of those eight were taken into care. She was brought to Adelaide from Clare, and originally her mum and dad had left Point Pearce on Yorke Peninsula, the old mission, as she told us, and they were expected to an assimilate and move to Clare. As a result of her mother’s sudden death she was then brought to Adelaide, where she told us that she experienced mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse.

She told us of a very vivid memory that she had in her classroom. One day sitting in her classroom her teacher told her whole class that Aboriginal people were savages, and that, she told us, so seriously impacted on her sense of identity and who she was. She had her sense of Nunga identity and pride completely disintegrate, and she told us of the shame that came from this. She said to us that she grew right into her 30s ashamed of her Aboriginality, and the impact of that teacher’s statement had some effect of 20-odd years.

She also told us of the sexual abuse that occurred in the second foster home that she was taken to. In the first foster home there had been physical abuse and beatings. She was removed from that home because of that abuse, but then where the sexual abuse happened in the second home they were elderly people, they were grandparents, and she told us that the father would come in at night. She believes the wife knew about this violence and certainly knew about the alcoholism of the father, but she said that this was not something you talked about, and certainly it was a time when nobody talked about these issues.

She told us that the day she left their home, after a year and a half or so, was the day that she was sitting with ‘the man’, as she called him, watching television in the lounge room and she said to him, ‘I can smell gas.’ With that, the two of them jumped up and rushed to the kitchen. In the very next room, the lady was gassing herself while they were all in the kitchen. She was 12 years old at the time.

She knows that she attempted to air out the house and helped him pull her out of the gas oven. Somebody called the ambulance, but she cannot recall who. There was a fire brigade and police, but before anybody came the man told her to go back into her room and not come out until somebody else came in. Whether it was the social worker or welfare officer, she was not sure, but she waited for that person to come and get her. These people in this case did not treat her as their child, although they were given the privilege of her as their child by our society.

She then ended up in a hostel and spent many years full of rage, experienced domestic and family violence and certainly believes that a big chunk of her life was lost to that. She then told us a much more inspirational story of beginning her healing. She is also an incredibly impressive woman, who is well accomplished in her career and has certainly made very much of herself and is an inspiration to all of us.

That these stories in this place are not being reflected with the respect of a government which has had three years, which has heard from many witnesses, which has received submissions, which has heard from various groups in support of these measures, which has been informed that this is in fact a cheaper way to address issues of compensation for the stolen generations, I think is a shame that will hang over this government unless it steps up and makes good talk of reconciliation with real action.

I look forward to delivering a more positive speech. Of course these stories of stolen generations members are not pleasant. They should be consigned to our past, but the only way they will be is if we make a difference in the way we act in the future. We have had apologies in this place. We have had recognition in the constitution in this place. These were positive moves. We should be proud we were one of the first states to make an apology to the stolen generations. We should be being proud right now to be working across all parties and Independents in this place to make this right.

We need to move on; we can move on. This bill that the Hon. Terry Stephens has brought before us shows us a way forward. We can all work together in these coming months to make this right. The opportunity is here. The opportunity will soon be lost because members of the stolen generations are actually spending their dying days either fighting in courts against a government that should be a model litigant, but apparently is not, or spending time, as we heard from other witnesses, in the disjointed cultures.

One of the things that really touched me in the witness statements that we heard was those members of the stolen generation who were raised in what we would call white Caucasian families, in nice families of our past, the nuclear families that were held up to be ideal. Those people were often, when they turned 18, put back into their original communities, and there they suffered yet another impact, another level of dysfunctionality. They were often rejected. They could not speak the language of their people. They were ostracised. They were seen as having rejected their communities, and there was a whole new level of adult damage being done to those members.

I will not labour the point. I think there is an opportunity here for the government to show true leadership. Other members of this place will be willing to work with the Weatherill government, to come back with this parliament after it has been prorogued and what we are told is reset or restarted next year. We are told there are going to be big visions. We are told there is going to be great leadership. Here is just one thing you can do to exemplify that great leadership. With that I commend the Bill.

I will not be seeking to make amendments. I believe there are possibly areas that could be improved or finetuned, but that will take a government that also comes to the table and talks the talk, as I said. They are happy to talk the talk. To walk the walk is what we need them to do, not just talk the talk. Time for more than sorry has come. Sorry is not good enough anymore; we need reparation.

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