$190m settlement reached in stolen wages case

INDIGENOUS Australians who allegedly had their wages stolen by the State in the mid-20th Century are set for a payout, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad announced.

The State Government today announced it had reached a settlement in the long running case of Pearson V State of Queensland, in one of the biggest class action settlements in Australian history.

Townsville man Hans Pearson, 80, who worked as cattleman and drover for much of his life, launched the legal bid in September 2016 on behalf of about 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers and their descendants.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the settlement had been struck in the spirit of reconciliation. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the settlement had been struck in the spirit of reconciliation. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

They alleged that successive State Governments had withheld the wages of indigenous workers that had been paid to the State as trustee between 1939 and 1972.

The Government today confirmed a $190 million settlement scheme had been agreed to in principle, including legal and administrative costs, which will now have to be approved by the Federal Court.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the settlement had been struck in the spirit of reconciliation and recognition of the legacy and impact of the "control" policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

"On reaching settlement the Queensland Government is also mindful of those who have since passed and those who are ageing, and will work with the Applicant's legal representatives to progress the settlement in an expedient manner," she said.

"The Queensland Government is committed to righting historic wrongs and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the community as we move forward together."

Mr Pearson today paid tribute to his late wife Anna May, who he said had "started this all off" in 2007 when she took him see lawyer John Bottoms.

"Without her starting the ball rolling nothing would have happened," he said.

"On behalf of the thousands of people who are now part of this settlement, I want to thank everyone who supported our claim."

Solicitor John Bottoms said the Government deserved credit for recognising the issue. Picture: Anna Rogers
Solicitor John Bottoms said the Government deserved credit for recognising the issue. Picture: Anna Rogers

Mr Bottoms, who is special counsel at Bottoms English Lawyers, said addressing the stolen wages issue was an "important piece in Australia's reconciliation puzzle".

"The Queensland Government deserves credit for recognising this issue and electing to settle and the announcement is timely, coinciding as it does with NAIDOC Week," he said.

A date is yet to be set for Federal Court approval.



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