Stolen Generation trial ends in disappointment

A landmark Stolen Generation compensation trial has ended in bitter disappointment for an Indigenous family.

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

A landmark Stolen Generation compensation trial has ended in bitter disappointment for an Indigenous family.

The Collards from Western Australia lost their case in Perth's Supreme Court setting an unfavourable precedent for other Stolen Generation trials.

Apart from the compensation, the Collards also wanted answers and an apology for nine children being taken away from their parents.

Ryan Emery reports.

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Husband and wife Donald and Sylvia Collard lean on a wall on Perth's busy St George's Terrace in the heart of the city.

Office workers hurrying by throw curious glances at the cameras filming the pair.

If the 81 and 82 year olds appear defeated with their heads slumped, it's because they are.

The Collards have been told by West Australian Supreme Court Judge Janine Pritchard their case for compensation for the removal of nine of their children has been dismissed.

Donald Collard.

"Honestly, I'm bitter. And those who made this judgement, I'll tell them. When they read this, or see this news, they won't sleep. The black fella, the Aborigine, won't allow them. Don't you worry about that. It's a shame and a disgrace to put us through this again in this modern day and time."

The Collards' trial began earlier this year, but the seeds were planted shortly after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008.

They wanted compensation for themselves and their surviving seven children who were taken from them between 1958 and 1961 while they lived in the country town of Brookton south-east of Perth.

Government documents tendered to the court allege the Collards were often drunk, there was domestic violence and the children lived in squallor, in a one-room dwelling with dirt floors and tin walls.

The Collards say Mr Collard, who is of mixed heritage, could not apply for a government house because he was not white and he could not live with his wife Sylvia on her people's reservation because he was not Aboriginal.

He was deemed a so-called quadroon because one quarter of his heritage was Aboriginal.

Instead the Collards lived next to the reservation on Donald Collard's mother's land while he worked as a shearer.

The Collards' barrister, Greg McIntyre, who was part of the momentous Mabo legal team, agreed the state government could legally take the children away, but the state had a duty to protect them under the Native Welfare Act.

Donald and Sylvia Collard say the state failed them, and their children suffered emotional and spiritual harm, and two of their girls were sexually abused at the Sister Kate's Children's Home.

"We never heard one answer for what we wanted to know the answers. Why did I pay maintenance to have my kids neglected, abused and all that by the state? There was never anything there. It never came out. They could not give us the answers."

One of their girls, Glenys Collard, says she was abused by some of the sons of the carers at the children's home where she was taken, and by strangers who took them on camping trips.

The 55 year old says she still suffers from the trauma.

But Judge Pritchard ruled that Glenys Collard's evidence, and that of her family, were not reliable given the passage of time and the inconsistencies in their recollections.

The judge acknowledged the pain and suffering breaking up the family would have caused, but disagreed the state government had the highest duty of care to the children when they became wards of the state.

Dennis Eggington heads the state's Aboriginal Legal Service, which helped with the legal challenge: the first of its kind in Western Australia.

"I also would like to take the opportunity to thank the Collard family who have shown a strength of character second to none with almost insurmountable odds against them have come here to tell their story. The story's right. The story's true. There's nothing wrong with the story. We'll be looking at the technicalities of law and looking through that very large transcript to see what we can find."

Jim Morrison is from Bringing Them Home, a reconciliation organisation.

He says the decision will have wider repercussions for others who may have been considering similar action.

"Other Stolen Gen people, and other organisations from other states would have been thinking: 'This is a real test case for us. Let's see where it goes and we'll follow it very closely.' So there'd be a lot of disappointed organisations and individuals around the country now thinking: 'Well, where does all this just leave us?' So we fully don't appreciate the full judgement, yet, but I think there's a real struggle for us now when you think about reconciliation and where it's at with this country and around the whole Close the Gap issues for Stolen Generation peoples we've got a real battle on our hands."

The Collards say they may consider an appeal.




Source World News Australia

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