Historic $190 Million Class Action Over Stolen Wages: 'Justice Has Been Done'

About 60 per cent of those involved in a historic "stolen wages" class action case, settled after a 12-year legal process, are dead.

The Queensland government has settled the claim on behalf of an estimated 10,000 Indigenous workers who had their wages stolen while working between 1939 to 1972.

"The claim is about 60 per cent for dead people," Cairns-based lawyer John Bottoms, for lead applicant Hans Pearson, told AAP on Wednesday.

He urged other potential claimants to come forward.

Bottoms says the deal creates a "climate" for settlements of similar claims in other Australian states.

"We now know what happened and we should acknowledge it," he said.

An estimated 10,000 Indigenous workers had their wages stolen. Photo: AAP.

What happened was that Indigenous workers were not paid their full wages. Wages were instead paid to the state under the Protection Act.

Before 1972 the lives of Indigenous people in Queensland were heavily regulated under the laws.

The settlement announced on Tuesday is said to be the fifth largest of its kind Australian history.

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Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt welcomed the deal.

"I think it's a good outcome when governments and community come together and agree to a settlement that is mutually acceptable," he told 10 News First.

"Outcomes are far better than going through a protracted court case."

The deal avoided the difficulties of calling up to 30 elderly witnesses to give evidence in court and the expense of a six week trial, Bottoms said.

"It saved a huge brouhaha," he said.

Bottoms thanked Aboriginal affairs specialist Dr Ros Kidd for her work in the process.

Pearson, who is aged in his 80s, thanked his late wife Anna.

He said she "started this all off" by taking him to see a lawyer before filing his claim in September 2016.

"Without her starting the ball rolling nothing would have happened," Pearson said.

Pearson, uncle of Noel Pearson, argued the state government breached its duties as a trustee and fiduciary by withholding the wages.

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The government made unauthorised withdrawals and welfare fund deductions.

In making the announcement, State Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad said the government will work with ageing applicants to "progress the settlement in an expedient manner".

Former premier Peter Beattie estimated about $500 million was stolen from indigenous people in Queensland.