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Lawsuit launched over stolen Qld wages

AAP logoAAP 13/09/2016 Evan Schwarten

A class action has been launched on behalf of potentially hundreds of indigenous Queenslanders over an estimated $500 million stolen wage bill dating back to the 1930s.

The lawsuit is being led by Hans Pearson, 77, who says his wages were held in a trust for 10 years during the 1950s and 1960s and never returned to him.

"Because of this policy, Mr Pearson essentially worked a decade of his life for next to no remuneration," said his lawyer John Bottoms.

Mr Pearson's nephew, indigenous leader Noel Pearson, has said the case is "as important as Mabo".

Historians estimate the Queensland government may owe up to $500 million in stolen wages to indigenous workers due to wage control legislation that was in place between 1939 and 1972.

The Queensland government set up a $55 million repatriations fund in 2002 which allowed those who had their wages stolen to claim a maximum of $4000.

The class action was lodged on Monday and law firm Shine Lawyers is investigating the possibility of launching similar actions in other states and territories.

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