BRISBANE: The cost of mistreatment of indigenous Australians is rising as Queensland taxpayers have forked out $220 million in the past 14 months for injustices perpetrated by the state government and authorities.
This week, the government agreed in principle to a $190 million class action settlement with about 10,000 indigenous workers who were denied their wages last century.
The settlement is the fifth largest class action settlement in Australian history, pending approval by the Federal Court.
It came after the Queensland government in May last year agreed to pay out $30 million to 447 Palm Island residents subjected to a racist police response to riots that followed Cameron Doomadgee’s 2004 death in custody.
Stuart Price, chief executive of Litigation Lending which funded the Queensland stolen wages action, expects more such cases.
“There comes a point in the history of Australia that bold steps need to be taken.”
Examples of indigenous class actions against Australian governments are rare, but recent.
The Northern Territory government in 2017 compensated 71 former residents who suffered years of abuse at an Aboriginal children’s home between 1946 and 1980 for an undisclosed amount.
Two years later, the NT government paid an estimated $350,000 to residents from remote Santa Teresa over the neglect of their homes.
Deaths in custody, cultural and land dispossession, and the forced removal of children are among other areas in which people could take action.
“I think every single family affected by a death in custody could go into court tomorrow,” said Sam Watson, chair of indigenous organisation Link-Up Queensland.
Mr Watson said class actions could see the legal system “place a real dollar value on Aboriginal lives and suffering”.