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The BBC's Shelaye Boothey
"The pair were left shaken by the verdict"
 real 56k

Gordon Renouf, lawyer for the plaintiffs
"The facts were more or less found as the claimants wanted"
 real 28k

Justice Maurice O'Loughlin
There is no evidence that the man had been taken against the will of his family
 real 28k

Friday, 11 August, 2000, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Court rejects 'stolen children' claim
Aboriginal man
The policy aimed to "civilise" Aborigines
An Australian court has rejected a landmark claim for compensation by two Aborigines who claimed they were taken from their families as young children by the government.

The ruling will be a major setback to hundreds of other claimants from the so-called "stolen generation", as well as to the Aboriginal community, which is fighting for the government to acknowledge past injustices.

"It's very disturbing...Aboriginal people will throw up our hands and say, 'Where do we go from here?'

Aboriginal leader
The Northern Territory Federal Court said the government was not liable to pay Peter Gunner and Lorna Cubillo compensation and punitive damages.

Mr Gunner and Ms Cubillo sued for psychological trauma, emotional distress and isolation from the cultural lives of their Aboriginal mothers.

Thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and raised by whites in a government policy to "civilise" them.

The policy lasted for nearly a century until the 1960s.

Judge's verdict

Federal Court Judge Maurice O'Loughlin said his decision should not reflect on the broader issue of the stolen generation.

Aborigines in chains
Injustice spanned generations
In a verdict broadcasted live, he accepted the claimants were removed from their families to be raised as whites.

But he said there was a lack of evidence to indicate the government had acted against their best interests.

Judge O'Loughlin accepted evidence that Ms Cubillo had been viciously assaulted by a missionary while in a children's home.

He also accepted that Ms Cubillo - who has said she was regularly flooged in the home - had been very unhappy and starved of affection.

But he said evidence was lacking as to why Ms Cubillo was taken from her family.

The judge also accepted that Mr Gunner had been sexually assualted by a missionary as a six-year-old while in state care.

But he said a thumb print of Mr Gunner's mother had been found on a document approving that her son be taken into care.

Disappointed community

Aboriginal leaders expressed anger and disappointment over the verdict.

Many older aborigines worked in indentured apprenticeships
Michael Anderson, Convenor of the Sovereign Union of Aboriginal People's of Australia, said the ruling would "send shockwaves" through the community.

"It's very disturbing... Aboriginal people will throw up our hands and say, 'Where do we go from here?'"

He said he felt the courts were following the government position on the issue.

"I don't think they are looking at the personal history. We know what we went through," he said.

The contentious issue has sparked a number of protests. In May, about 150,000 Australians took part in a walk of reconciliation in Sydney supporting Aborigines.

Prime Minister John Howard has refused to apologise on behalf of the government.

The Australian government also recently dismissed a United Nations report on racial discrimination against Aborigines.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vivid memories of a 'stolen generation'
01 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
'Stolen Generation' seek justice
28 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Symbolic march unites Australia
02 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aborigines target Olympics
25 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australia rejects UN racism report
28 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Reconciliation deadline dropped
10 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Lost childhood of the 'stolen generation'
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