The Guardian 9 February, 2005

Stolen wages cut

The NSW government is asking Aboriginals, dudded for decades on wages, to cop as little as one per cent of their missing money as compensation. An Aboriginal leader has labelled "absolutely disgusting" the government's announcement that it will set aside $15 million to compensate Aborigines who had wages stolen by the state early last century.

Cabinet minutes show accounting firm Ernst & Young estimated the 11,000 Aborigines could be eligible for a total payout of up to $70 million.

A government committee recommended a three member panel be set up to take evidence and determine payments which were likely to average about $3,000.

From 1900 to 1968 many Aborigines were forced to put wages, pensions, family endowments, inheritances and lump-sum compensation payments into trust funds administered by successive NSW state governments.

Many were farm servants and members of the Stolen Generations.

Marjorie Woodrow, who was stolen from her family, worked on a rural property for five years from the age of 16, washing clothes, mustering sheep and cleaning the house.

She undertook the work in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The Aboriginal leader lived in a tent for seven years with her husband and family while waiting for wages that were meant to be returned to her when she turned 21.

Now in her 80s Marjorie Woodrow estimates she is owed $250,000 for her 18-hour days worked seven days a week. She has vowed not to accept anything less than the true value of her stolen wages.

"I promised six of my best friends, as a last dying wish, to see their wages were paid to their children as a legacy. Now they [authorities] want to meet up with me and my lawyer and make me an offer to shut me up.

"I want to see them pay all the money up."

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