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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1828

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it true that the National Aboriginal Conference has been flooded with complaints-more than 4,000 complaints, it is reported-about the action of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Holding, in arranging for the National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee to postpone National Aborigines Week from July to September to avoid a clash with the Australian Labor Party National Conference? It should be noted that I am not making any criticism of John Moriarty, the NADOC Chairman. Does this action by the Minister break a tradition of sticking to the July date which was established in the mid-1950s by, among others, Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls? Has the Minister suggested any significance for the date of 14 September that he has chosen or did he pick it out of a hat? Finally, did the Minister consult any Aboriginal communities before urging the change and, if so, which communities? Is it not true that the Government's profession to consult is hollow and that this is reflected in the present flood of complaints from all the Aboriginal communities concerned?

Senator RYAN —The answer to the last part of Senator Teague's question is no. I believe that this Government has engaged in more consultation and more genuine consultation with Aboriginal communities than any previous government. Certainly in areas for which I have some responsibility-the development and implementation of education policies as they affect Aboriginal people-there has been extensive and ongoing consultation via the National Aboriginal Education Committee with Aboriginal communities.

To return to the main thrust of Senator Teague's question, some information has been provided to me by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Clyde Holding. He informed me that the National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee announced on 18 April that National Aborigines Week would be celebrated in September. A possible change of date had been under consideration for some time. As the NADOC Press release indicated, there has been growing pressure from the Aboriginal community to change the date from the depths of winter to a time when the weather in the southern parts of Australia would be milder, thus ensuring wider participation.

In his Press statement the Chairman of NADOC, Mr Moriarty, said there had been a lot of discussion on this point and many Aboriginals felt September was an appropriate time to hold National Aborigines Week. The coincidence of the holding of the ALP National Conference in July may have been a factor in the Committee making the decision this year instead of next year. National Aborigines Week provides an opportunity for Australians to recognise Aboriginal culture and the contribution it makes to our nation. The Government, for its part, has agreed to provide additional funds and support to assist Aboriginals in organising the celebrations.

Senator TEAGUE —I ask a supplementary question. Have the 4,000 people who have reportedly complained been consulted by the Minister?

Senator RYAN —I have no information about the number of complaints-if, indeed, there were any-or consultations with specific individuals. I will refer the matter to the Minister to deal with as he sees fit.