• Gregory Dunn was looking forward to sharing his story at the stolen wages, but passed away days before the court date. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Gregory Dunn, 88, passed away just days before he was due to give evidence in a landmark class action to recover the stolen wages of Indigenous workers from the Queensland Government.
Ella Archibald-Binge

31 Aug 2017 - 1:50 PM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2017 - 1:50 PM

The hearings were set up to give the most elderly and infirm claimants a chance to tell their story before it was too late. 

"I'm devastated," says Anna Jackson, Mr Dunn's daughter. 

"It's hard to believe – he was so close, he was so happy.

"He told us he was going to come into a bit of money, and I thought for the last couple of years if he lived long enough he could enjoy it. But he didn’t even have the chance to spend anything."

A former stockman, Mr Dunn was one of 3500 claimants in a landmark class action, seeking to sue the government for wages withheld from Indigenous people under the Aborigines Protection Act until the 1970s. 

Four other claimants gave evidence this week, including Mr Dunn’s cousin, 78-year-old Roy Savo.

Mr Savo broke down in the Cairns courtroom, speaking about working as a stockman with his cousin on various cattle stations, and running away together when conditions became unbearable.

"He was somebody special in my life in those days," Mr Savo told NITV News.

"He was somebody that you could look up to. And any boss would be so proud to have him working for them." 

Mr Savo was on his way to visit his cousin when he received a phone call with the devastating news.

"Everything just dropped for me," he recalls.

"I dropped on the chair and sat down. The tears just rolled out of my eyes, and I said well brother... I’m going to get up to that court, and I’m going to represent you too." 

Four witnesses gave evidence this week. A fifth witness, 99-year-old Ivy Booth, had been scheduled for a bedside hearing at her Rockhampton home, but was too unwell to proceed. 

All witnesses who gave evidence this week have all received reparations payments from previous government schemes. 

"Give something to their families, they suffered over this too."

The State will argue this means they've effectively signed away their right to sue the government for their wages, but that argument is yet to be tested in court. 

"What we would like the state to do is to mediate, so we can get this thing settled and get this great injustice finally sorted out," solicitor John Bottoms told NITV News. 

Lead claimant Hans Pearson appealed to the State Government to provide some form of justice for those who've died.

"Do something and help these poor people for what they've done," he says.

"Give something to their families, they suffered over this too."

Gregory Dunn's family have given permission for NITV to use his name and image.

If you, or a family member, had their wages controlled or withheld by the Queensland Government, you can contact Bottoms English Lawyers here or call 07 4041 1641.  

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For 10 years, stockman Roy Savo worked 17-hour days for no pay, in what is now known as the 'Stolen Wages'. But what happened at Normanton, is what he'll never forget.