Demand that Anna Bligh acts on Aboriginal rights — now!

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Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has a shameful record when it comes to Aboriginal rights.

Stolen wages

Her government is refusing to honour a 2002 promise to pay $55.4 million in reparations to the stolen wages claimants.

Between 1904 and 1972, successive governments withheld wages and savings of Aboriginal workers in Queensland. Researchers estimate that this amounts to about $500 million. In 2002, the aggrieved workers took action against the State of Queensland, resulting in an offer from then Premier Beattie of $55.4 million in reparations. The Freedom Socialist Party described these reparations as “a contemptible offer in the form of an ultimatum.” We criticised the lack of compensation for dependents and the failure to contribute to the estates of deceased workers.

As things turned out, the process was so bureaucratic and so many workers were excluded that only $20 million has been paid.

To make things worse, instead of distributing the remaining $35.8 million to the claimants in accordance with the original promise, the government decided to make a series of smaller second-round payments, totalling $14.6 million. The remaining $21.1 million will be quarantined into the newly created Indigenous Queenslanders Fund. Claimants say that their wages have been stolen again!

On 19 August 2009, proceedings commenced in the District Court on behalf of Uncle Conrad Yeatman from Yarrabah. Uncle Conrad, a former carpenter and labourer, had his wages withheld since he began work at 14. The Queensland Council of Unions is pursuing this case. It has also launched a new petition that calls on the Bligh government to pay up.

Leader muzzled

Anna Bligh’s record is just as rotten when it comes to the campaign to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody. The Queensland Premier continues to defend a political gag on Palm Island Indigenous leader, Lex Wotton, who was released on parole in July.

The Premier claims that “the conditions for this prisoner are very similar to conditions imposed on many prisoners who are being paroled.” What she does not acknowledge is that Lex Wotton is no ordinary parolee. The decision to jail him was highly contentious, resulting in Lex being internationally championed as a political prisoner.

The 2004 death in custody that sparked the community protest Lex was jailed for continues to generate community anger and movement support. The white police officer responsible for the killing walks free, while Lex Wotton’s democratic rights are severely curtailed.

At the end of August, supporters sent 117 signatures to Anna Bligh on a protest petition. New signatures will be sent every month until Lex Wotton can speak freely to the media and at community meetings.

What You Can Do

Sign and circulate both the Lift the Gag on Lex Wotton — Now and the It’s Time to Settle petitions to Anna Bligh.

They are available from Solidarity Salon or go to and

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