Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia Limited

STOLEN WAGES: MANY WILL MISS OUT SAYS ALSWA

23 November2012

Dennis_Eggington_ALSWA_CEO_v2MEDIA STATEMENT

STOLEN WAGES: MANY WILL MISS OUT SAYS ALSWA

23November 2012

 

STOLEN WAGES: MANY WILL MISS OUT SAYS ALSWA

With only one week to go until the Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme closes, the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) is disappointed that the WA Government has refused to extend the deadline beyond 30th November 2012.

Last month ALSWA wrote to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Peter Collier MLC, seeking an extension, but the Minister has refused. “I am so sad for all of the people who will miss out on making an application, it is really disheartening that after all they have already gone through, they will be further disadvantaged through this exclusionary time limit and limited criteria for eligibility” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.

Since the scheme was announced in March this year, ALSWA has become aware of approximately 1600 people who have either expressed an interest in applying, or who ALSWA believes may be eligible to apply for the ex gratia payment of up to $2000. “Whilst the amount offered is comparable with tea and flour, or the crumbs off of the table, it is at least some reparation for those who so greatly contributed to the economic power afforded to this state today” said Mr. Eggington.

ALSWA says that not enough consideration has been given to the enormous task of assisting people with their applications. “Sadly for some, this offer has come too late, however for those still eligible, there needs to be more understanding of the logistics involved in assisting people with their applications, including the vast travelling distances and the diverse language groups of eligible applicants throughout remote and regional WA”.

To date, ALSWA has lodged applications for approximately 640 people, which means that around 1000 people known to ALSWA will miss out. To cope with the increased workload, ALSWA’s Civil/Human Rights Unit has been supported by Legal Aid WA, Community Legal Centres and an alliance of national law firms acting on a pro bono basis.

“Our State benefits hugely from the resource sector and it’s unacceptable that the hard working Aboriginal men and women who contributed so much to this state, not only had their wages or pensions withheld, but will also miss out on reparation all these years later”.

ALSWA had formally requested that the WA deadline to be extended to March 2017, making the scheme operational for five years, and bringing it into line with similar schemes in QLD and NSW, which operated for approximately four years and five years respectively.

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