KCLS tackles systemic problems in legal policy that affect our clients.
Click on the links below to find out more. 

Our work for change includes:

Redress WA

Stolen Wages

Contaminated Land

Human Rights

 

Redress WA

What was Redress WA?

The WA Government's Redress WA Scheme enabled people who were abused or neglected in State care before March 2006 to apply for redress. The Scheme was open for 12 months from 1 May 2008. Successful applicants were offered an ex gratia payment of up to $45,000, counselling and an apology.

What was wrong with Redress WA?

Aboriginal people in the Kimberley and across WA had no voice in the development of the Scheme. We obtained material under freedom of information laws which confirmed that there was no process for community input into the effectiveness of the Scheme.

Many of our clients did not receive any redress, because the Scheme closed before they heard about it. Based on our research, the Scheme appears to have been least effective for the most vulnerable: Aboriginal people with low literacy and limited access to information and assistance.

What did KCLS do?

We made submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about how institutions and governments should address past abuse, incorporating our clients' experiences of the failures of Redress WA.

Mr Allen, representing Kimberley Community Legal Services, told the public hearing: ‘We say collective redress is an important focus to meet the needs of clients, especially in the Kimberley, as many continue to live in communities or in situations where they have ongoing contact with perpetrating agencies’
— Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Redress and Civil Litigation Report

In January 2015, we made submissions to the Royal Commission's Consultation Paper on Redress and Civil Litigation. We argued that:

  • There should be a legislated national Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse;
  • Any Redress Scheme should be substantively fair, impartial and transparent, with decisions capable of being reviewed on the merits;
  • Redress should have at least three elements: a direct personal response by the institution, access to psychological care and monetary payments;
  • Collective redress is a necessary element of any future scheme;
  • Unless survivors are provided with culturally appropriate and sustained legal assistance, vulnerable claimants in the Kimberley will be effectively prevented from participating, and
  • There should be no limitation or closing date for survivors who wish to make a claim.

Our full submissions are available here:

In June 2014, we made submissions in response to the Royal Commission's Issues Paper on Redress Schemes.

We reported on the experience for people and communities in our region of Redress WA and the WA Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme, two Redress Schemes set up by the WA Government in response to historical injustice.

Our full submissions are available here:

 

Stolen Wages

What was the Stolen Wages Scheme?

Under the WA Government's Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme, Aboriginal people who met certain criteria and while living at a 'Government Native Welfare Settlement', had their income withheld and not repaid, were entitled to an ex-gratia payment of $2,000. The Scheme was open for less than nine months: from 6 March to 30 November 2012.

What was wrong with the Scheme?

We talked to hundreds of Aboriginal people, many of whom believed strongly that the Scheme was unfair, because it:

  • failed to respond to the effects of Stolen Wages on Aboriginal people as a group, as families and as communities;
  • failed to allow Aboriginal families, communities and organisations to apply for funds for programs or projects, and
  • failed to assist non-Aboriginal people to understand and respond properly to the experience of those people whose wages were stolen.
I know that Kimberley Community Legal Services has written to the Minister to try to establish how
we came up with this amount of $2,000, but there has been no justification for where it came from. It seems to be just a figure that was plucked out of the sky
— Hon Robin Chapple MLC, 26 March 2015, Hansard

What did KCLS do?

Working with our clients, we advocated for a new process to address the injustices of Stolen Wages in WA. Our work included:

  • preparing a petition signed by over 400 people from our region, protesting the WA Government's response to Stolen Wages. The petition was given to Robin Chapple, Greens MLC for the Mining and Pastoral Region, and tabled in the WA Legislative Council on 17 June 2014;
  • using Freedom of Information laws to obtain over 800 pages of material produced by the 2007-08 WA Stolen Wages Taskforce. This material indicated that the Taskforce recommended an overall payout of around $60 million under the Scheme. In fact, the Scheme paid out only $2,526,00, or less than 5% of this figure;
  • helping to publish an article in the Griffith Review, 'Finger Money: The black and white of Stolen Wages in Western Australia'. The article was a finalist in the United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Awards 2015, and
  • assisting reporter Ginny Stein to prepare a story on Stolen Wages for ABC television's Lateline program.
[The Stolen Wages Scheme] is another shameful stain on the state’s history of dealing with Aboriginal people
— Hon Stephen Dawson MLC, 26 March 2015, Hansard
 

Contaminated Land

From 2012 to 2015, the WA Government reviewed the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 (the Act). The Act regulates contaminated land in WA: land that has been polluted by landfills, service stations, power stations, asbestos and other sources.

What did KCLS do?

KCLS made submissions based on its experience helping public housing tenants with asbestos contamination at their properties. We argued that:

  • the duty to report contamination should be extended to any person with the professional knowledge to identify contamination at a site;
  • penalties for non-reporting should be more actively enforced, to increase compliance with the Act;
  • sites must be thoroughly investigated, and the necessary remedial work done, before they are re-classified as 'de-contaminated' or 'not contaminated';
  • tenants should be informed about and included in this process;
  • the government must clearly communicate what is required of tenants to meet their reporting responsibilities and ensure their safety, and
  • landlords should be required to disclose contamination to new or potential tenants, to promote transparency and enable better risk management.

Our full submissions to the Contaminated Sites Act Review are available here:

 

Human Rights

From 2008 to 2009, the Australian Government conducted the National Human Rights Consultation. People across Australia were asked how they wanted their human rights protected.

What did KCLS do?

KCLS made submissions on the extent to which human rights are protected and promoted in the Kimberley. We submitted that:

  • currently, the rights of Indigenous people in the Kimberley are not adequately protected;
  • a federal Human Rights Act could make a difference in protecting and promoting the rights of Indigenous Australians in the Kimberley by requiring government and service providers to carefully consider how decisions affect human rights, and
  • human rights legislation should be coupled with a community awareness program that uses local organisations which have established relationships with community members.

Our full submissions to the National Human Rights Consultation are available here: