Seeking justice for the Stolen Generation

The first stolen generation trials

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Allens is committed to supporting Australia's First Nations peoples and in 1996 it helped pave the way towards the National Apology through its involvement in the first Stolen Generation legal trials.


Alec Kruger, the son of Yrambul Nungarai, a Mudpurra woman, and Frank Kruger, a man of German and Irish descent, was just three years of age when, in 1928, he was taken from his mother and institutionalised at the Kahlin Compound, under the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (NT); the now discredited assimilation policy that permitted the separation of mixed descent Indigenous children from their families. George Bray was to suffer the same fate at age nine. They were part of the Stolen Generation.

In 1994, Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks (one of the Allens founding firms) agreed to support the North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in the preparation and conduct of legal proceedings in the High Court of Australia for Alec Kruger, George Bray and seven other plaintiffs.

In the proceedings, filed in 1995, it was asserted that the Ordinance authorising the removal of these children was constitutionally invalid as it impermissibly infringed various constitutional rights/guarantees and fetters on legislative power. Declarations of invalidity were sought as well as damages for infringement of those asserted rights/guarantees and for wrongful imprisonment at common law. It was the first case of its kind. 

The Ordinance was asserted to be invalid in that it was not a law for the government of the territories; infringed the separation of powers doctrine; infringed implied constitutional rights/guarantees as to freedom of movement and association, equality and from legislative or executive acts constituting ‘genocide’; and infringed the express constitutional right to freedom of religion. The constitutional questions raised were determined by the High Court, with the Court’s judgment delivered in 1997.

While the High Court did not accept the Ordinance was invalid, the proceedings exposed the devastating impact of forced child removal on the children, their families and the wider community. Neither Kruger nor Bray received compensation for their mistreatment, yet these pioneering trials paved the way towards the national apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples given by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008, particularly in its message to the Stolen Generation.


The firm continues to undertake pro-bono work to fight for recompense and, in 2011, achieved the first Victorian compensation payment for Neville Austin, one of the Stolen Generation. Austin was 15 months old when he was taken into the care of the State. For the next 16 years his mother fought to have her son returned. Allens Arthur Robinson secured an undisclosed compensation settlement for Austin, as well as a personal letter of apology from the Victorian Government for his treatment as a ward of the state and as a member of the Stolen Generation.

This was a history-making moment on both fronts, though for Austin the apology was more significant than the money. He said his battle through the courts was undertaken 'to vindicate my mum's actions in seeking my return to her care. The settlement represents that vindication.'

Image (top): Alec Kruger
Kim Smyth/ Newspix

Image (bottom): Maryjane Crabtree, Neville Austin and Peter Haig
Aaron Francis/Newspix

A glimpse into our history

The launch of World Series Cricket

The summer holidays mean one thing for many Australians: cricket. Heading to a day-night match and watching the brightly coloured teams smacking the ball into the crowd is what we've come to expect. But, it wasn't always like this and Allens played a big part in transforming the game of cricket into what it is today.

The book that changed Australia

Today we take for granted our ability to read any book we choose, but it wasn't long ago that Australia had some of the most severe censorship regulations in the Western world. Allens played a pivotal role in changing this and bringing an end to literary censorship in Australia.

Upholding the right to vote

In 2006, the Howard Government introduced significant changes to Australia's voting laws through the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth). Among the changes contained in the legislation was the denial of voting rights to all people in prison.

Hard to find – but worth the hunt

One of the frustrations of historical research is knowing something exists but being unable to locate it. That was the case with letters from Allen Allen & Hemsley to client Angus & Robertson. The letters related to the copyright of several works by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson, including The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses.

Lawyers draft wills better than authors

When legal practices were first established in Australia, a significant portion of their work involved the management of complex wills and estates. However, over time, the founding firms of Allens shifted their focus from managing family estates and trusts to become predominantly commercial practices. This is the story of the firm's involvement in celebrated author Nevil Shute's will.

Hidden treasures

Research for the Allens history book has turned up a variety of interesting items, among them a hand-drawn map of Brisbane from 1849 and a mallet used by founder George Allen in 1859 to lay the foundation stone for a new chapel in Newtown, Sydney.

First true civil libel case in Australia

In 1817, 16-year-old George Allen was just a few months into his legal training when he found himself amidst one of the most interesting legal cases in the colony of New South Wales. George had just entered his articles of clerkship with Frederick Garling when Garling was appointed to represent defendant John Thomas Campbell in the first true civil libel case in Australia.

Helping Bush Heritage preserve precious land

Since 1995, Allens has committed thousands of hours of expertise to helping Bush Heritage with its vision of healthy Country, protected forever. This includes 14ha of land in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania, which former Australian Senator Bob Brown gifted to the organisation in 2011 with support from Allens.

Seeking justice for the Stolen Generation

Right from the start, almost 200 years ago, Allens has shown support for Australia's Indigenous communities and, in 1996, we helped pave the way towards the National Apology through our involvement in the first Stolen Generation legal trials.

Supporting critical Australian infrastructure

17 October 1949 marked the official start of what is still considered one of the largest and most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in Australia – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

It all started in 1822

Allens was founded on 22 July 1822, the day 21-year-old George Allen was admitted as an attorney and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and became the first person to complete their full legal training in Australia. When he began his small legal practice in a cottage on Elizabeth Street in Sydney, he could not have foreseen the story that would follow.