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Notice given 27 March 2006

Senator Bartlett: To move—That—

(a) the Senate notes that:

(i) for much of the 20th century, respective Australian state and territory legislation established government control over the lives of many Indigenous Australians,

(ii) in relation to financial affairs, state and territory governments:

( a ) controlled the employment, earnings and entitlements of many Indigenous people,

( b ) did not always provide written evidence of dealings on their monies,

( c ) were legally responsible for the trust accounts into which private monies were placed, and

( d ) did not always pay Indigenous people the full amount of earnings to which they were legally entitled,

(iii) research to date shows that in some cases significant sums have yet to be repaid, and

(iv) publicly available evidence also shows that some Indigenous Australians suffered physical, sexual and financial abuse at the hands of employers and officials designated to protect their interests; and

(b) the following matters be referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by the last sitting day of 2006:

(i) the approximate number of Indigenous workers in each state and territory whose paid labour was controlled by government,

(ii) the financial arrangements regarding their wages, such as the cash component of the wage; what procedures were implemented to ensure the wage was paid; what proportion of the wage was withheld under government control; what were the constraints on workers accessing their savings; how could workers verify dealings on their monies; and when were they given free control of their accounts,

(iii) what effective security did governments initiate to safeguard Indigenous wards from physical, sexual and employment abuses; how did governments respond to reported abuses; and were the best interests of wards prioritised in government employment policies,

(iv) how were intercepted wages and savings safeguarded from fraud by employers, government agents and mission personnel; were governments warned that workers’ wages or savings were at risk of fraud or loss; and how did governments respond to recommendations for tighter security of workers’ funds,

(v) did governments impose levies and taxes on Indigenous monies under their control in addition to federal income tax; what was the quantum, purpose and duration of such levies; were Indigenous people informed of these levies; and were the levies properly applied,

 

 (vi) to what extent did governments control the distribution to Indigenous beneficiaries of maternity allowances, child endowment, pensions, workers compensation, inheritances and estates; were these entitlements distributed in full to all beneficiaries; did governments delegate distribution of maternity allowances, child endowment and pensions to other parties such as protectors, pastoralists or missions; what procedures did governments put in place to ensure these delegates passed on the full entitlement to beneficiaries; and what is the incidence of any misappropriation of these entitlements,

(vii) what trust funds did governments establish from Indigenous earnings, savings and entitlements; how were these funds secured against losses by fraud, negligence or misappropriation; what was the extent of investment of trust funds and to whose profit; to what extent did investment programs disadvantage trust beneficiaries; did governments receive warnings or advice regarding misuse of trust funds; and how did they respond,

(viii) what investigations have states and territories undertaken into official management of Indigenous monies during the 20th century; what commitment have the states and territories made to disclose this evidence to the individuals or descendants who were denied written record of dealings on their own monies; what is the extent of current databases and what resources are applied to make full discovery of financial management of private monies available to individuals and descendants; what funding has been applied to compile databases as a resource to contest legal action by aggrieved parties; and whether all financial records should be controlled by a qualified neutral body to ensure security of the data and equity of access,

(ix) what commitments are state and territory governments making to quantify wages, savings and entitlements missing or misappropriated under official management, and to compensate the persons or descendants of all those who endured financial loss and/or physical or sexual abuses; and what is the responsibility of governments to repay or compensate those who suffered physically or financially under ‘protection’ regimes,

(x) what mechanisms have been implemented in other jurisdictions with similar histories of Indigenous protection strategies to redress injustices suffered by wards, and

(xi) whether there is a need to ‘set the record straight’ through a national forum to publicly air the complexity and the consequences of mandatory controls over Indigenous labour and finances during most of the 20th century.

Orders of the Day

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 2  Community Affairs References Committee

Response to petition on the management and prevention of gynaecological cancers and sexually transmitted infections.

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee

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Economics Legislation Committee

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Economics Legislation Committee

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