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Billions of dollars withheld from Australian Aborigines
Australian government bodies withheld billions of dollars from Aboriginal workers, stockpiling the money while children were dying of malnutrition, a study released Wednesday said. (AFP/File/Anoek De Groot)

Billions of dollars withheld from Australian Aborigines

September 19, 2007
AFP

BRISBANE - Australian government bodies withheld billions of dollars from Aboriginal workers, stockpiling the money while children were dying of malnutrition, a study released Wednesday said.

The wages, pensions and child endowments were supposed to be paid to Aboriginals over the last century but never reached them, instead ending up in government coffers, said historian Ros Kidd, the study's author.

"Overall, we are looking at billions of (Australian) dollars nationally, which has never been accounted for," she said as she launched the report, named "Hard Labour, Stolen Wages."

While the state governments retained the money "kids were dying of malnutrition," she said.

"The federal government knew that missions, pastoral stations and indeed state governments were making a fortune out of endowments and pensions," she said.

"It happened right across Australia, except perhaps in Tasmania.

"In the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia, most of the workers were not even paid."

The money was often transferred into public revenue accounts or disappeared in other ways, she said.

In Queensland state, one of those most affected, a 55 million dollar (45 million US) fund was established in 2002 to pay reparations to those affected by the practice between 1897 and the 1970s.

But she said only 19.6 million dollars were paid and many Aboriginals had preferred not to enter a claim at all, feeling the money paid out was insufficient.

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