20 years ago on 1/3/1999 saw the start of the Federal Court sittings in Darwin of the Cubillo&Gunner v The Commonwealth case, a test case litigation which I had the privilege to coordinate.
I worked along side some remarkable individuals including Jack Rush QC, Mark Dreyfus QC and Melinda Richards, not to mention, an outstanding team of personal injury lawyers from Melbourne’s Holding Redlich.
The litigation spearheaded the legal claims of 700 claimants and their descendants. Whilst the claims were unsuccessful, the litigation expanded the community’s understanding of the consequences of child removal policies, and established legal parameters around which other interstate claims were made possible.
Our effort in a 25 week Federal Court trial, would not have been possible without the leadership, courage and dedication of the leading claimants Lorna Cubillo and Mr Gunner(dec) and other outstanding Territorians including Barbara Cummings, Eileen Cummings, Vikki Hoult, Irene McLennan, Alec Kruger(dec) Hilda Muir(dec), Harold Furber, Harold Thomas, Maurie Ryan, May Katona, Cathy Mills and many many others.
The preparation of the case opened my eyes to the secret history of our country and the terrible wounds indiscriminate removal from family, culture and country caused to many.
Whilst a national apology was secured in 2008, many reparations are still outstanding. Furthermore, while the consequences were the focus of much debate, it is to be noted that rates of indigenous incarceration and child removal have not declined and continue to remain a scourge on our national conscience.
Pics from NT News article 1/3/1999 source: NT Library
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