Successful outcome in ancestral connections employment matter

Three Aboriginal cultural heritage officers who lost their jobs after failing to prove ancestral connection to the Barada Barna people because their ancestor, Kitchener Brown, was a member of the Stolen Generation, have been awarded compensation in a decision by the Fair Work Commission.

The employer argued that the adverse action it took in dismissing the field officers was protected because they did not meet the inherent requirements of the position.

Fair Work Commissioner Chris Simpson found that being Barada Barna was an inherent requirement of the job but found that at the time the decision to dismiss the employees was made the employer did not hold a genuine or honest belief that Kitchener Brown was not a Barada Barna person. As the employer was unsure whether the employees were Barada Bana or not their dismissal was unlawful.

In his concluding comments in the decision Commissioner Simpson stated “It is impossible not be moved by the great sense of sadness accompanying the facts of this case that are a by-product of the Stolen Generation of which Kitchener Brown was a victim. It is difficult to even begin to imagine the extent of misery the public policy of that time has inflicted on past and now present generations.”

The full decision is available here.