Stolen wages

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Stolen wages

Stolen Wages - a resource guide



Australian state legislation from the late 1800s established government control of the lives of many Indigenous Australians, including control of financial earnings and entitlements. Often, Indigenous Australians only received a portion of their wages or entitlements with the remainder being paid into various trust funds. This practice is referred to as ‘stolen wages’. The Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australian state governments are now taking various actions in this area, while Indigenous Australians in other states are considering their position. 


In mid 2006 a Senate Enquiry into stolen wages was established by their Legal and Constitutional Committee. On this web page are links to over a hundred submissions containing valuable background information. Public hearings will be held in late October 2006.


On August 27 2007, ANTaR launched Hard Labour, Stolen Wages (PDF 660k), their national report on stolen wages, written by leading historian, Dr Ros Kidd. This national report gives a state by state account of the history of Stolen Wages and Aboriginal and Torres Strai Islander peoples.


As well as the full report, below are the state reports that make up the full report. They have been separated  so they're easier to print.



This Fact Sheet outlines some of the main resources in the AIATSIS Library and on the Internet.


Current Situation

For information on who is eligible and how to claim unpaid wages and entitlements from the New South Wales and Queensland Governments, go to the following websites: 


New South Wales


Historical Background - New South Wales (PDF 100k)


In March 2004, the New South Wales Government apologised for the ‘stolen wages’ and entitlements which occurred under the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act and subsequent laws until 1969. The NSW Government set up an independent panel to develop an Aboriginal Trust Fund Reparation Scheme. The panel were directed by the NSW Premier to consult the Aboriginal community and provide a report on how the payment scheme will work. For more information on the scheme, click here

This website has links to fact sheets, forms and background information. The ATFRS was transferred to the Premier's Department in early 2005.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is a non-profit legal and policy centre that is willing to act on behalf of NSW clients.



Historical Background - Queensland (PDF 176k)


From the introduction of the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act of 1897 and subsequent laws until the 1970s, the Queensland Government controlled the wages and savings of Queenslanders working under these Protection Acts. The Queensland Government offered $55.4 m in reparations and has set up a claims process. For more information on the scheme, click here

At the end of this process, $35.87 million was unclaimed as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were unhappy with the scheme. There is now a consultation process to decide on the allocation of these unspent funds. For ANTAR background on this matter, see the ANTAR website.


The following book has just been published ( September 2006) by the Institute's Aboriginal Studies Press detailing the issues of stolen wages in Queensland:


Kidd, Rosalind
Trustees on trial: recovering the stolen wages
Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2006
(To purchase, click here )


Dr Rosalind Kidd has also written many articles on stolen wages. They are available in full text and are listed below.


Western Australia


Historical Background - Western Australia (PDF 92k)



In May 2007 the Western Australia Government announced an investigation into the nature and extent of the 'Stolen Wages' issue in WA.  A Taskforce has been established and is required to report to Cabinet with its findings by 30 June 2008.  Consultation on the issue has begun and will run through to 30 November 2007


During this time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other interested stakeholders will have the opportunity to 'Have Your Say' via a series of meetings to be held across Western Australia or by providing written information to the Project Team - templates for providing information and further details about the Project are available on the Department of Indigenous Affairs website at or by calling (08) 9235 8127.


What the Library Holds

AIATSIS Library does not hold state government primary source documents (i.e. wages records) on the stolen wages - they are held at State Records NSW and at the Queensland State Archives. The Library does hold copies of the state government annual protection reports (these will be available from our website by early 2007).
NSW Reports from 1883 to1988 are held at SF 25.2. Queensland Reports from 1910 to 1973/74 are held (in closed access) at RS 25.4/3.

The following is a bibliography for clients who would like to do some background reading on the ‘stolen wages’.


Select List of books and journals held in the AIATSIS Library


Residents from the ACT and surrounding areas can visit the Library to access available items. These items are also held in many other libraries. Your local library should be able to assist in finding these items or accessing them by interlibrary loan.

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Local call number: New Book (No call number yet)
Kidd, Rosalind
Trustees on trial: recovering the stolen wages
Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2006
(To purchase, click here )


Local call number: S 34.2/3
Title: Stolen Aboriginal wages / Alexis Goodstone
Source: PIAC Bulletin, (June) 2004, n. 19, p. 3.
Annotation: Discusses the investigation of claims in relation to wages, allowances and pensions held in trust for Aboriginal people by the Aborigines Welfare Board (AWB); includes information about the ‘Aboriginal trust funds payback scheme proposal’ of 2001 and New South Wales Premier Bob Carr’s announcements; compares the stolen wages offer of New South Wales and Queensland; notes that the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) will continue to act for clients and to maintain dialogue with Government.


Local call  number: SF 21/5
Title: Stolen wages storm grows / Chris Graham
Source: National Indigenous times, (21 January) 2004, v. 3, n. 47, p. [1], 4.
Annotation: Groups in New South Wales have started approaching the government over child endowment monies; advocacy groups in South Australia and Victoria are talking; and the Queensland government offer has been criticised.


Local call number: SF 26.4/3
Title: Wages case writ goes to Qld Govt / Christine Howes
Source: Land Rights Queensland, (March) 1998, p. 11.
Annotation: Mrs Williams has served a writ on Queensland Department claiming wages lost during the 1960s and 70s
Electronic access: Click here


Local call number: P OBR
Title: Opportunity for all Indigenous Australians / Kerry O’Brien
Variant title: Australian Labor Party: campaign 2004: opportunity for all Indigenous Australians / Kerry O’Brien
Publication info: [2004]
Annotation: Sets out the Labor Party's policies for Indigenous Australians prior to the 2004 federal election; includes the fact that a Labor Government would have commissioned an independent review of responses by state governments to stolen wages claims.
Electronic access: Click here


New South Wales:

Local call number: SF 21/52
Title: Govt destruction of records could foil stolen claims / Joe Hildebrand
Source: National Indigenous times, (23 June) 2004, v. 3, n. 58, p. 5.

Local call number: SF 21/5
Title: Bob Carr mugged on stolen wages / Chris Graham
Source: National Indigenous times, (17 March) 2004, v. 3, n. 51, p. 4.
Annotation: Discusses the politics surrounding the New South Wales stolen wages claim; prints an edited version of the New South Wales Premier’s apology to Aboriginal people affected by the government’s policy on wages, pensions, family endowments, inheritances and lump sum compensation payments; government is developing a process for payment.

Local call number: SF 21/5
Title: Stolen wages scandal
Source: National Indigenous times, (3 March) 2004, v. 3, n. 50, p. 4.
Annotation: Articles discuss the New South Wales governments’ response to the stolen wages issue; commentary; Aboriginal workers on Wujal Wujal and Hopevale were not paid award wages until 1987.

Local call number: SF 21/05
Title: Exclusive: stolen wages payback shame
Source: National Indigenous times, (4 February) 2004, v. 3, n. 47, p. [1], 6-9, 20.
Annotation: Special feature on the stolen wages; focus on New South Wales, but also articles on Queensland and the practices and responses of governments in each state.

Local call number: P IND
Title: "Stolen wages" and entitlements : Aboriginal trust funds in New South Wales
Publication info: Sydney : Indigenous Law Centre, 2004
Annotation: Fact sheet on the law, policy and administration of trust funds in New South Wales; sets out the categories of people who may have a claim under any proposed payback scheme; case study of child apprentices; discusses adult workers; working for rations; child endowment; old age and invalid pensions; maternity allowance, widows' pension and other benefits; lump sums. Will be available in PDF format from their website.


Northern Territory:

Local call number: B A 925.96/N1
Title: [Policy Hiatus in the 1920s] Never trust a government man: Northern Territory Aboriginal policy 1911-1939 / Tony Austin
Publication info: Darwin: NTU Press, 1997, p. 93-120.

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Articles by Dr Rosalind Kidd  - All available in full-text - click here.


Local call number: B K465.80/B1
Title: [In the land of the ‘fair go’] Black lives, government lies / Rosalind Kidd
Publication info: Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000, p. 34-47
Annotation: Material extracted from a doctoral thesis; examines historical records of living conditions for Aborigines in Queensland; includes resettlement; removal of children, living conditions; employment; rations; and reconciliation and unfinished business.

Local call number: B K465.80/W1
Title: [Competing interests] The way we civilise: Aboriginal affairs – the untold story / Rosalind Kidd
Publication info: St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997, p. 36-79.
Annotation: Analyses government policy and practice in Queensland for 150 years to 1988; discusses relationship of public administrators with missionaries, and with health specialists and anthropologists in the 1930s; Federal government involvement in Queensland in the 1940s; supposed liberalisation of restrictive legislation in the 1960s; politicisation of Aboriginal affairs in the 1970s and 1980s; Aboriginal labour; wages; policing; World War II; reserves; missions.

Local call number: S 37.7/10
Title: Queensland stolen wages fact sheet / Ros Kidd
Source: Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, (June) 2002, v. 5, n. 2, p. 26-30.
Annotation: Provides information on missing, unpaid and underpaid wages, misused trust funds and unpaid worker’s compensation to Indigenous Queensland workers by the Queensland Government over more than 80 years; discusses offer of compensation from current Labor government.

Local call numbe: SF 21/5
Title: Exclusive: stolen wages payback shame
Source: National Indigenous times, (4 February) 2004, v. 3, n. 47, p. [1], 6-9, 20.
Annotation: Special feature on the stolen wages; focus on New South Wales, but also articles on Queensland and the practices and responses of governments in each state.


Local call number: SF 21/5
Title: Queensland may be open to stolen wages renegotiation
Source: National Indigenous times, (23 June) 2004; v. 3, no. 58, p. 5.
Annotation: The new Indigenous Affairs Minister in Queensland is meeting with members of the stolen wages working group, discussing the Queensland process of paying back stolen wages.


Local call number: P KID
Title: Stolen wages, stolen lives; government payback? / Ros Kidd and Christine Howes
Publication info: 2003
Annotation: Describes how Aboriginal protection in Queensland meant that wages for Indigenous contract workers were paid directly to the Government by the employer; levies on workers' earnings were put into trust accounts and social security payments were also paid into trust accounts; The Queensland Government has offered $55.6 million in reparations and has set up a three-year process to pay; Alfred Lacey's story; support from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU); the matter of stolen wages has now also been raised with the New South Wales government.
Electronic access: click here




Local call number: SF 21/5
Title: Victorians join the stolen wages push
Source: National Indigenous times, (31 March) 2004, v. 3, n. 52, p. 8
Annotation: Victorian groups have met and called for an inquiry into how widespread the practice of holding monies in trust was in Victoria.


Western Australia:

Local call number: B H133.24/ F1
Title: [Implementing the 1905 Aborigines Act: 1905-1911] For their own good: Aborigines and government in the southwest of Western Australia, 1900-1940 / Anna Haebich
Publication info: Nedlands, W.A.: University of Western Australia Press for the Charles and Joy Staples South West Region Publications Fund Committee, 1988, p. 90-127.
Annotation: Deterioration of economic conditions from independence to poverty; government policy, protection, assimilation; Aborigines Act 1905; employment, training, permits; education, exclusion; A.O. Neville; native settlements; childrens homes; institutional life; identity; reserves, town camps; missionaries; Depression, poverty; protest, resistance; Moseley Royal Commission; Native Administration Act 1936; discrimination; racism; Carrolup, Moore River, Gnowangerup, Beverley, Narrogin, Kellerberrin, Katanning, Brookton.

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How to Search the Catalogue

Below is a listing of phrases most likely to result in a successful search on the subject of stolen wages. Click on any of the phrases below and an 'automatic' search will run and a catalogue result of items held will appear.

Important: before you click on any catalogue links below, please read our sensitivity message

See below for details on accessing any of the items in these searches.

To search for further resources held in the AIATSIS Library, go to the catalogue, Mura® and after reading the important information, enter the catalogue.

Residents from the ACT and surrounding areas can visit the Library to access available items.

These items are also held in many other libraries. Your local library should be able to assist in finding these items or accessing them by interlibrary loan.


Useful Websites

Senate Report - Unfinished business : Indigenous Stolen Wages - 7th December 2006


Australia: Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee - Inquiry into Stolen Wages


Report of the Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme Panel (NSW)
In May 2004, the Premier announced the creation of a three person Panel to talk to the Aboriginal community and report back to Government on the design of a scheme to repay money to Aboriginal people who had wages or other payments placed into Trust Funds. The Panel members were Brian Gilligan (Chair), Terri Janke and Sam Jeffries.


PIAC Submission to the Panel on the Aboriginal Trust Fund Reparation Scheme – September 2004:
Submission of the Scheme submitted to the NSW Government in response to Premier Carr’s support in identifying and reimbursing those owed monies from trust funds. The submission provides background to the various issues and key principles of the Scheme, outlines the difficulties and establishes central principles to the proposed model for the Scheme.


ANTaR – Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation:
Outlines the ‘stolen wages’ in general, as well as in New South Wales and Queensland, also informs people how they can participate in the postcard campaign.


ABC – Rewind:
Presents the transcript of an episode that looked at the story of two Indigenous women looking for answers.


Senator Andrew Bartlett - Working on the issues: (Indigenous) Stolen Wages

Articles by Dr Rosalind Kidd  - All available in full-text


Dr Ros Kidd and Christine Howes (September 2003). Stolen wages, stolen lives; government payback?:
Outlines government policies and the reactions of Aboriginal peoples to ‘stolen wages’ in Queensland.


Dr Rosalind Kidd (February 2004). An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work: fighting for stolen wages, National Stolen Generations Conference (Sydney):


Dr Ros Kidd (August 2004). Stolen wages – a national issue, Garma Festival:
Offers a historical overview of Queensland and the other states, and outlines the present issues and the plans for future action.


Dr Rosalind Kidd, Speeches and articles – Specialist in Aboriginal affairs Queensland:
A list of full-text versions of speeches and articles by Dr Rosalind Kidd relating to ‘stolen wages’ as well as other issues affecting Indigenous peoples.


Australian Catholic Social Justice Council. Stolen wages - an opportunity for justice. ACSJC. 23 January 2006


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About the AIATSIS Library

Please note that the items listed in this bibliography are only a selection of the material held in the AIATSIS Library related to the issues explored in ‘stolen wages’. To search the Library catalogue, Click here


The AIATSIS Library is open to the public Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9am-5pm and items may be viewed in the Stanner Reading Room. However, as it is a research library, no material may be borrowed by individuals. If you need to borrow material, or if you are unable to visit the Library, you will need to search for the items in your local, school or State libraries. Alternatively, some items can be borrowed through the inter-library loan system (see your local library about this).


We also provide limited photocopying of articles or a reasonable portion of books to individuals. The standard fee for each item (up to 50 pages) is $9.90 (inc GST). Manuscripts and rare materials are charged at 50c per page. Prepayment by Bankcard, Mastercard, Visa, money order or cheque is required when you place your order.


We must comply with the Copyright Act 1968 which means a copyright declaration form must accompany all requests. In most cases it is not possible to photocopy a whole work, unless it is a single journal article. Photocopies may take up to 20 working days to supply. To get a copy of the Photocopying Request Form, click here.


There are also guides to help with searching the catalogue and accessing items:


Updated: September 2007


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