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On the right side of history: The Northern Territory Stolen Generation Class Action

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Class Actions

Imagine having your child abducted, ripped from your family home, never to be seen again. Imagine the kidnappers holding such power over you that they could imprison you if you tried to fight back. This was the traumatic reality for thousands of Indigenous Australians predominantly between the 1950s and 1980s. The terms ‘forced adoption’ and ‘forced family separation’ describe the practices where many pregnant, unwed women and their partners were subjected to unauthorised or illegal separation from their children. These inconceivable actions took place due to Australian legislation at the time, designed to answer to several emerging social problems – illegitimate children and single motherhood. Shine’s unwavering, foundational core value is to stand up for the little guy and right wrong. We seek justice for those who’ve been mistreated and are suffering through no fault of their own - no matter how long ago that wrong took place. Armed with expertise in class actions, our legal experts set out across the Northern Territory (NT) to meet and listen to the heartbreaking stories of First Nations families so they could build a case against the Commonwealth, whose policies were responsible.

“Nothing will ever give us back the connections which were broken as a result of Stolen Generations, but this is an important step forward in the healing process.”

Eileen Cummings, lead plaintiff 

The Northern Territory Stolen Generation Class Action alleged that ‘the Commonwealth owed a duty of care not only to the Removed Children but also to their siblings and carers’.  

And that‘ the Commonwealth, by causing the children to be removed, breached that duty, and caused trauma, distress and other harms not only to the Removed Children but also to the siblings and carers.’ 

More than 1700 family members and deceased estates joined the class action which was filed in the New South Wales Supreme Court in April 2021. The lead plaintiff in the case, Eileen Cummings, was four years old when she was taken from her mother at an NT cattle station. 

After more than a year of fighting, the first major milestone was reached; the families of the NT Stolen Generations reached a historic $50.45 million settlement with the Commonwealth Government. 

While there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve reconciliation in Australia, Shine is committed to being on the right side of this country’s history.

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As one of Australia’s largest litigation law firms, we’ve been successfully standing up for the rights of everyday Australians for over 45 years. We believe everyone should have the right to access justice.

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