"Eventually they get it all?" : Government Management of Aboriginal Trust Money in New South Wales


This research report forms part of a submission from the Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales to the Federal Government in relation to its ‘Inquiry into Stolen Wages’. It is primarily a technical piece focussing on the statutory law relevant to government control of the money of Aboriginal people in NSW. It also contains some discussion of policy and its implementation, as well as reference to other historical material. The report is based primarily on documents – the ‘official’ version of how things were done. Controls over the wages and entitlements of many Aboriginal people in NSW were largely exercised through a government-appointed authority, the Aborigines Protection Board (renamed in 1940 the Aborigines Welfare Board). Until it was abolished in 1969, the Board diverted a wide range of moneys owing to Aboriginal people into trust accounts. This report begins with the Board’s control over the wages of children forced to work as apprentices, mainly in domestic or agricultural labour. It then looks at a variety of social security entitlements that were introduced and then amended over the course of the twentieth century. In a number of instances, the evidence discussed shows these entitlements actually being diverted into Boardaccounts. For the sake of completeness, the authors have described all the major social security benefits available in the period 1900-1969 and noted, where relevant, the legal potential for diversion of these moneys to the Board. Three other issues relating to Aboriginal labour and monetary entitlements are then briefly dealt with, before the report turns to the Board’s accounting and accountability obligations and the question of record-keeping.

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