These settlement proceedings in the Federal Court pertained to The Stolen Wages Class Action. The class action claimed that the Queensland “Protection Acts” in force between 1939 and 1972, required that the wages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers be paid to the protector or superintendent of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander district, reserve, settlement or mission. The Applicant claimed the monies were paid to the protector or superintendent on “trust”, or subject to a fiduciary duty to act with care and control of the money received. It was claimed the Queensland Government breached its duties as trustee, or its duties as a fiduciary, by failing to repay that money to the workers.
In these settlement proceedings Murphy J provided the scheme by which the distribution of money, AUD 190 million, was to be paid by the State of Queensland. The scheme also provided for 1) deduction from the Settlement Sum of Court approved costs, litigation funding commission, Court approved Approval Costs, administration Costs, administration costs and other costs; and 2) distribution to Participating Claimants of the net amount remaining following such deductions.
Murphy J is cited saying: “It shows, yet again, that when class actions are properly conducted and appropriately managed by the courts, many affected persons can recover compensation for civil wrongs which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain, including people suffering from substantial disadvantages in terms of economic capacity, education, geographic location and cultural issues, which otherwise present significant barriers to their access to justice.”
At the time of its announcement in 2019, this ‘landmark’ settlement was the largest financial settlement outside a native title ruling and the fifth largest class action settlement in Australian history. It has the potential to open up claims in other parts of the country.
Antony Newman (with D J Campbell QC, J Creamer, and A Edwards) appeared for the Applicant, instructed by Bottoms English Lawyers.
The judgment is available here.