‘Forced removal’ prompts Russell Milera’s compensation fight with South Australian Government
Updated Thu 12 Dec 2013, 8:23am AEDT
A man is fighting for compensation from the South Australian Government for what he claims was his forced removal from his father more than four decades ago.
The Adelaide District Court was told that Russell Milera was nine in 1957 when he, his younger sister Rosalind and baby brother Derek were taken by the Aboriginal Protection Board from a house at Kilburn in the northern suburbs.
It will be some time before the case goes to trial but one witness already has testified to preserve her evidence.
Monica Wittmann, 74, the plaintiff’s step-cousin, told the court police surrounded the property and three people from the board banged on the front door.
She said there was a heated argument as Russell Milera’s widower father, Douglas, “said he wasn’t going take any of those children and hand them over to those white government bastards”.
Ms Wittmann said Douglas Milera finally gave in and “picked up his kids and hugged them”.
She said there were “tears streaming from their eyes”, as Russell and Rosalind were put into a car, but she decided it was wrong to hand over baby Derek and “just ran” with him in her arms.
Ms Wittmann, then 18, said a police officer tripped her and she fell on grass.
“Three of them got hold of my arm and bent it up my back, of course I had to let go,” she said.
Father committed suicide after children removed
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Andrew Collett, said Russell Milera’s father made three requests to see his children and later committed suicide.
He said his client, now 65, was put in a foster home and released from state care when he was 18.
“Things did not go well for him. He was addicted to alcohol from the age of about 20 until about 40,” the court was told.
“He had many convictions during that period consistent with heavy alcohol consumption.”
But Ms Wittmann said Russell Milera stopped drinking about 25 years ago, turned to God and now worked as an Aboriginal education officer at an Adelaide southern suburbs school.
It is the state’s case that the plaintiff’s father gave written consent for the Aboriginal Protection Board to have control of the plaintiff and his other siblings until the age of 18Todd Golding, for the state
Mr Collett said the legal issues of the case were the same as those outlined when a landmark ruling was made in favour of Coorong man Bruce Trevorrow in 2007.
The South Australian Supreme Court awarded Mr Trevorrow about $750,000 in compensation because he was taken from his family and put in foster care.
Mr Collett said the Trevorrow case found “the state had no legal power to remove him”.
He said only neglect charges being laid could be grounds for any removal of children from their homes and that had not happened in Mr Milera’s case.
But lawyer Todd Golding, for the state, said consent had been given for the removal of the Milera children.
“It is the state’s case that the plaintiff’s father gave written consent for the Aboriginal Protection Board to have control of the plaintiff and his other siblings until the age of 18,” he said.
The case has been adjourned until next year.
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