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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1733


Mr CAMPBELL —Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of reports of race riots in Roebourne in Western Australia following the death of Aboriginal youth, John Pat, who was allegedly assaulted by the police? Can the Minister inform the House what steps have been taken in respect of these reports?


Mr HOLDING —I thank the honourable member for his concern about this matter. I am aware of the reports of race riots in Roebourne following the death of an Aboriginal youth, John Pat, who was allegedly assaulted by the police. I am aware of the reports of his death on 28 September. I would like to correct the terminology that has been used. I think the term 'race riot' is inappropriate. Clearly, what has taken place has been a series of confrontations between the Aboriginal community in Roebourne and the police who are stationed there. But certainly the evidence is clear that, in respect of these matters--


Mr Tuckey —They are State police matters.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will cease interjecting.


Mr HOLDING —Mr Speaker, we all know about the honourable member's consistent concern about Aboriginals.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I ask the Minister not to provoke the honourable member.


Mr HOLDING —In this case it is also perfectly clear on the evidence that the Aboriginal community in Roebourne has significant support from sections of the white community who feel that over a period, largely because of the socio- economic situation that prevails at Roebourne, the Aboriginal people there have been, on many occasions, the subject of social disadvantage and, on not a few occasions, possibly the subject of police harassment. This is a matter of concern that has been the subject of continuous discussion between me and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Western Australia. I am perfectly satisfied, as I believe the Aboriginal people of Western Australia are satisfied, with the actions that have been taken by the Western Australian Government. They are as follows: The State's Senior Coroner has been asked to conduct an inquiry. Mr Henry Wallwork, QC, has been appointed to assist him, which is an unusual step which illustrates the importance the State attaches to the inquiry. Aboriginals are also to be appointed to assist the Coroner. The Deputy Commissioner of Police visited the town last week and held meetings with Aboriginals. The Hon. P . Dowding, Minister for Mines, Fuel and Energy, who is also the local member, played an active part on 7 October last in settling what could have been a very ugly incident. I know that, from time to time, harsh things are said about political people in Australia, but I think all members of the House would applaud the very commendable and courageous action taken by Mr Dowding. He walked into what could have been a very ugly situation and with calmness and, I think, a great deal of physical courage prevented what could have been an unfortunate situation. I have spoken with the representative of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Perth. I have indicated that if it needs any additional facilities or resources they will be supplied immmediately. It has indicated that to date it is fully satisfied with the actions thus far taken by the Western Australian Government.