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Stolen Generation Payout

Stolen Generation Payout

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THE first member of the Stolen Generation to successfully sue for compensation has been awarded another $250,000 lump sum on top of his damages payout.

Unique case

So will this open the floodgates?

Not necessarily. Bruce succeeded where others have failed partly because there was a clear paper trail: the letters exchanged between his mother and the Aboriginal Control Board, which documented the deceit.

Archive picture of Aboriginal children "It was unusual to have that amount of evidence," says Claire O'Connor, who was part of his legal team. "We could prove that the Aboriginal Control Board had been negligent."

In other cases, much of the paperwork has been destroyed.

In claiming his life had been destroyed, Bruce could also compare his experience with that of his three Aboriginal siblings, all of whom have enjoyed very successful lives.

"We could make such a stark contrast because his Aboriginal brothers were such high achievers," says Claire O'Connor, "and they had stayed with the parents."

In the legal pantheon, she claims the ruling can be placed alongside the famed Mabo decision in 1992, when the Australian High Court delivered an enormous boost to Aboriginal land rights by overturning the doctrine of terra nullius - the notion that Australia belonged to no one before being colonised by the British.

Flushed with victory, Bruce hopes that others will tread the same legal path.

"We've won a case, and there are lots of people out there who lived the same life as me. Hopefully, they'll get some compensation.

"But you can't put a value on what happened. You can't put a dollar sign on that. Most of my life has been lost to me."

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Bruce Trevorrow, 51, sued the State of South Australia after he was placed with a foster family in 1958.

In August last year the Supreme Court awarded Mr Trevorrow, who now lives in Victoria, $525,000 damages for false imprisonment, pain and suffering.

Today, Justice Thomas Gray, awarded Mr Trevorrow another $250,000 in lieu of interest.

Mr Trevorrow's lawyers had argued he should receive $800,000 in interest, calculated from the time he was removed from his family.

But Justice Gray decided Mr Trevorrow should receive a lump sum of $250,000.

Mr Trevorrow has fought a 10-year legal battle for compensation, launching his case in 1998.

His family were from the Coorong region. On Christmas Day, 1957, aged 13, he was sent by his father to the Adelaide Children's Hospital to be treated for stomach trouble.

He responded well to treatment and in January, 1958, he was removed from the hospital and placed into the care of a foster family, with the authorisation of the Aborigines Protection Board.

Mr Trevorrow never again saw his father, who died eight years later.

He remained in foster care for 10 years, until he was returned to his mother and siblings.

Mr Trevorrow sued the state of South Australia, claiming his removal from his family led to alcoholism, depression and a troubled life.

The court heard he lost his family, community and cultural identity.

Justice Gray found the state had acted without legal authority when it placed Mr Trevorrow with a foster family.

"The Crown solicitors of the time gave advice that the powers to remove Aboriginal children from their parents were limited," he said.

The state had denied it unlawfully removed Mr Trevorrow from his family, arguing that the Protection Board was his legal guardian.

Mr Trevorrow was not in court to hear the decision on interest.

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