Australia will create a reparations fund of 380 million Australian dollars ($280 million) for members of its Indigenous population who were forcibly removed from their families, Australian media reported on Thursday, months after 800 survivors filed a class action lawsuit.
The program will be announced on Thursday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt as part of a 1 billion Australian dollar ($738.5 million) boost to measures to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
The program will cover Australia’s three internal territories: the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Jervis Bay Territory. Those who were under 18 and removed from their families while living in these territories before the granting of self-government will be eligible for the fund.
Under the compensation scheme, survivors will receive a one-off 75,000 Australian dollar ($55,387) payment for the harm caused by their forced removal, plus a further 7,000 Australian dollars ($5,169) to support their healing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Since Australia’s colonization began in 1788, thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families by governments, churches and welfare bodies. They were instead raised in institutions or adopted by non-Indigenous families, and stripped of their culture and language. More than 100,000 children were affected, and are known as the Stolen Generations.
The removal of children devastated the community, with lasting intergenerational trauma that is still felt today through broken family ties, fragmented identity and a large number of Indigenous children in state care.
It wasn’t until 2008 that then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led a landmark parliamentary apology to members of the Stolen Generations – and survivors say much more still needs to be done.
In April, 800 survivors in the Northern Territory launched a class action against the federal government in the New South Wales Supreme Court seeking compensation, covering a period ranging from 1910 to the 1970s.
The offices of the prime minister and Indigenous Australians minister did not immediately respond to request seeking comment.
Australia’s 700,000 Indigenous people track near the bottom of its near 26 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator.
The life expectancy of Indigenous Australians is eight years shorter than for non-Indigenous people, government statistics show. They also report higher infant mortality rates, higher obesity rates, lower educational attainment, higher unemployment rates and higher suicide rates than the general population.
Indigenous people are also incarcerated in disproportionate rates – they only make up 2.4% of the population aged 20 and over, but over the past 10 years have made up more than a quarter of all adult prisoners. Many are swept into the justice system at an early age, depriving them of an education and jobs, perpetuating social problems passed from one generation to the next.
CNN’s Ben Westcott and Hilary Whiteman contributed reporting.