Ros Kidd uses official correspondence to reveal the extraordinary extent of government controls over Aboriginal wages, savings, endowments and pensions in twentieth century Queensland. In a disturbing indictment of the government’s $4000 reparations offer, Kidd unpicks official dealings on the huge trust funds compiled from private income and community endeavours, showing how governments used these finances to their advantage, while families and communities struggled in poverty.
Casting the evidence in terms of national and international litigation, particularly cases relating to government accountability for Indigenous interests, Kidd makes a powerful case that the Queensland government should be held to the same standards of accountability and redress as any major financial institution. Trustees on trial is a timely warning for all other Australian jurisdictions to consider their liability for Aboriginal money taken in trust.
Ros Kidd has been working on the subject of the stolen wages since 1994. Her evidence to the 1996 HREOC Inquiry into under-paid wages resulted in a massive compensation offer. An Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University, she is a Member-at-Large for National ANTaR and a passionate advocate for justice for Aboriginal people.
Reviews and endorsements
'And where were the lawyers? In the 1960s, when trust money was disappearing, there was still no one prepared to take the government to court to force it to obey its own laws, or at least to ensure that the wages were returned to those who had earned them…
A signal virtue of this book is its explanation of how Australian jurisprudence lags behind that of Canada and the US…plainly, governments have moral obligations to protect vulnerable citizens and legal obligations to compensate them for loss caused by mismanagement or malfeasance.'
— Geoffrey Robertson, QC
'It is a scandal of breathtaking proportions. Kidd is to be congratulated for demanding that our governments must be held to the same depth of accountability as they would demand of any financial institution taking and dealing with public funds.'
— Alan Gold, Good Reading, February 2007
'Dr Kidd’s assertions are cogent and compelling. With the support documentary evidence she references, lawyers would be able to put forward a persuasive case against governments…Trustees on trial: Recovering the stolen wages is a harrowing account of Australia’s enduring past, painstakingly and courageously researched and engagingly written by one of Australia’s most informed authorities.'
— Helen Burrows, Indigenous Law Bulletin, February 2007
'All those who don’t want to believe that Aborigines were and are denied the same human and legal rights as white people and who don’t understand why many Aboriginal families continue to live in poverty, should read Trustees on trial. First among them should be Australia’s No.1 public official — a man very fond of dismissing what he calls the black armband view of Australian history, Prime Minister John Howard.'
— Margaret Wenham, Courier Mail, February 2007
'Currently, we are told of the importance of Australian values, one of which is said to be the ‘fair go’. Trustees on trial is one example of how that purported value might be more a matter of political spin than fact.'
— June McGowan, Law Society Journal, February 2007
'This book seeks to fill the gaps of public education that the Queensland government failed to undertake when, as a result of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry at Palm Island in 1996, it offered compensation to workers illegally underpaid by government…Kidd has now become an activist for Aboriginal rights and continues to draw on her black and white evidence to demolish the claims occasionally made by the Queensland government about its benevolent intentions or beneficent effect in Aboriginal Administration.'
— Regina Ganter, Australian Historical Studies, 39, 2008