Compensation and the Stolen Children: Political Judgments and Community Values

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/39

University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 253-258, 1998

7 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2007  

Reg Graycar

The University of Sydney Law School

Abstract

This discussion considers the response of the Australian Federal Government, and some of the conservative media, to the 1997 report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, "Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families" (1997). The government did not agree that an apology was warranted, and argued that no compensation should be payable. First, it was claimed that there was 'no comparable area of awards of compensation and no basis for arguing a quantum of damages from first principles'. Secondly, they also argued that 'no amount of damages can make up for the pain of the past', and therefore, there was no point in trying to do so. In this article, I draw analogies between the wrongs perpetrated on Australia's 'Stolen Generations', and those that come before the courts on a daily basis for assessment. Even the most minimal familiarity with the legal frameworks used for compensating various sorts of injuries would make it clear that these arguments are little more than a rhetorical device. What is, or is not, compensable at law is more a matter of political judgment and government policy than it is a matter of any inherent legal understanding of compensation principles.

Keywords: "Stolen Generations", compensation, historical wrongs, historical harms, systemic injuries, tort, damages

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Graycar, Reg, Compensation and the Stolen Children: Political Judgments and Community Values. Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/39; University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 253-258, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=994079

Reg Graycar (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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