in its implications. That the Australian government is finally admitting the depth of its wrongdoing is impressive:
"The best thing is knowing they never forgot me, my mum and dad. They didn't want to let me go. There's proof of that."
Clutching a mug of tea, Bruce Trevorrow is sitting on a picnic bench in the beautiful national park of The Coorong, a place of wetlands, saltpans and vast skies. He is talking about his parents, Joe and Thora, both dead, and his childhood. It is not a happy tale but one of prejudice, cruelty and loss. He was born near here, a member of the Ngarrindjeri people, but did not grow up here. His childhood and his identity as an Aborigine were snatched from him as one of Australia's so-called Stolen Generation.
This week Mr Trevorrow, 50, won a landmark compensation claim in the South Australian supreme court, the first payment of its kind. A judge awarded him A$525,000 (£220,000), acknowledging that he had been "falsely imprisoned by the state", that the authorities had failed in their duty of care towards him and that such conduct had ruptured the bond between him and his natural family, leading to lifelong depression.
The judgment, delivered in a courtroom where you could have heard a pin drop, was significant, according to one of Mr Trevorrow's legal team, Joanna Richardson, because it acknowledged in legal terms the suffering Mr Trevorrow went through after his removal from his family. It could also establish a precedent for future cases. "It's been fairly emotional," said Mr Trevorrow. He added that it had given him "peace of mind and a feeling of closure".
In 1957, he was 13 months old when he became ill with gastroenteritis. His father was looking after him and his three elder siblings while their mother was visiting relatives and, concerned about his son, asked a neighbour who had a car to take him to Adelaide children's hospital.
The family, who knew about the policy of forced removal in which Aboriginal children were perceived to be better off being raised in white society, wanted to ensure he came back to them. With no telephone or car, they relied on the local police to give them news and repeatedly asked about the boy. A letter, dated five months after he was taken away, was one of several written by his mother to the Aboriginal Protection Board and was produced in court. "I am writing to ask if you will let me know how baby Bruce is and how long before I can have him home as I have not forgot I have a baby in there and I would like something defanat [sic] about him this time trust you will let me know as soon as possible," she wrote.
The board wrote back saying her son was "making good progress" and falsely claimed that the doctors needed to keep him in for further treatment. In fact, Bruce had already been fostered to a white family. Although they cared for him at first, he grew up confused about the difference between him and the other children. He was taunted at school and became emotionally disturbed.
When he was 10, his foster mother handed him back to the state and he was returned to his real family. His father had long died and his mother remarried.
Mr Trevorrow's half-sister Rita, then 16, was the last member of the family to see her brother as he was driven to hospital. "He was poorly but not seriously sick," she said. "He was wrapped in one of those grey government blankets. He was half asleep but he looked at me and gave me a smile. When I saw him next he was 10 years old and such a big boy. He was so shy."
The emotional damage had been done and Bruce failed to settle with his family. He was made a ward of state and eventually taken into care. His adulthood was troubled and he kept in sporadic contact with his siblings. He has been an alcoholic, has spent time in jail and cannot hold down a steady job. In 1998, he walked into a lawyer's office and set in motion his claim for compensation, saying he had suffered depression as a result of being taken from his family.