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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must express himself in terms that are parliamentary.

Mr BLAIN - I and my brothers and sisters were nursed by aborigines. I did not see a train or the sea until I was fourteen years of age. And if any one should show kindness towards the aborigines, it is I. I have had aborigines with me on my expeditions, not as servants, but as horse boys, and if honorable gentlemen care to do so, they can speak to them and learn that I have not ill-treated one of them. I was charged with the task of surveying in the Northern Territory and the Chief Protector of Aboriginals asked me, through the Lands Department, because of my experience of similar country in Queensland, to report on the general problem of native welfare and recommend suitable lands for their occupation. Has the Minister for the Interior read my report on the expedition to Arnhem Land and the East Alligator River?

Mr McEwen - No.

Mr BLAIN - There is a confession. The Minister has not even seen my report on my sincere endeavour to soften the pillow of the natives' passing. I submit that the work of the Department of the Interior at Canberra always will be unsatisfactory until it is sectionalized. "When I was about 25 years of age, and shortly, after I had returned from the war, I was sent out to Arnhem Land charged with the responsibility of subdividing and designing that country for the especial benefit of the aborigines. I took as my model the trustee estate of Scartwater, near Clermont, in western Queensland, where Mr. Cunningham, the manager and owner of the Strathmore Station on the Bowen River has done such splendid work on behalf of the returned soldiers. 1 may add that the Lands Department charged 30s. a square mile for that property, a price which I considered too high. The pastoralists presented, the property with 500 head of breeders' cattle for the benefit of returned soldiers and so successful has the management been that last year Mr. Cunningham was able to present the Returned Soldiers Association at Townsville with a profit of £1,000. A scheme on similar lines to that which I modelled in my report should be adopted in that part of the Northern Territory north of the East Alligator River together with an area containing 800 square miles called Stuart Station and capable of carrying 10,000 buffaloes. Recently the owner offered that property, through my representations on behalf of the aborigines, to the department for £3,000, and, strange to relate, the offer was refused by the aborigines department. If it had been accepted it would have provided an avenue of employment for half-castes and aborigines who, on the rationing system, would have been able to shoot about 400 buffaloes per annum. Later, the property was bought by a solicitor in Sydney, so now, I presume, it is lost to the department for ever. Adjoining that property is another holding which was offered for sale by Mr. Fred Hardy, of the Adelaide River, after I entered this Parliament. I pleaded with the department to purchase it and also Good-parla Station, but no action was taken. Another station, Mataranka, is owned by the Government, but the land is not so good, and the rainfall is unsatisfactory. All this vast area is full of game, and capable of providing abundant food for the aborigines. In my reports to the department, I have endeavoured to indicate clearly how best to provide employment for the half-castes, and, in fairness to me, it is only right that honorable members should have an opportunity to examine those reports. . A few years ago, Dr. Donald Thompson, the well-known anthropologist, spent a considerable time among the natives in Arnhem Land. His report is in the hands of the Government, lt is well known that some persons associated with various religious organizations have been and are doing good work among the natives in that part of the territory. I have discussed the native problem with the Bishop of Darwin and the Bishop of Carpentaria, who have given me their considered views as to the wisest policy to adopt. From my personal knowledge of the aborigines, I am convinced that women living in the Northern Territory, the wives of station-owners, are in a better position than any other section' of the community to advise in this matter, because they are in daily contact with aboriginal and half-caste women employed on their properties. The Minister should take the people of the Northern Territory into his confidence, particularly the women of the out-back, when framing his policy. If white settlers be definitely charged with the duty of looking after the natives, this problem will be solved. Our duty to the natives is to see that they receive proper treatment in the evening of their tribal existence. The Minister should heed the views expressed by the Bishop of Darwin and the Bishop of Carpentaria. Dr. Thompson has had a good deal to say about the culture of the natives. I should hesitate to shock honorable members by relating some of the barbaric practices of the old aborigines in relation to the young girls of the tribes. To leave them - the female babes - segregated and at the mercy of these old men of the tribe is not culture, but barbarism on our part. I admire the Bishop of Darwin for the splendid work which he has done on behalf of aborigines in the Northern Territory, and I earnestly hope that all honorable members will peruse the reports that have been made to the Government, and make contact with His Grace, the Bishop, himself. Only in this way can they learn something of the real conditions of the aborigines in the Northern Territory, and of their standard of culture, which in plain terms, means barbarism. As one who has given much time to the study of the native problem, who has done more than any honorable member to improve the lot of the aborigines of the Northern Territory, I ask the Minister for the Interior to make available to honorable members the reports and plans which I have submitted in order that the pillow of their passing may be softened.

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