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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 935

Dr PRICE (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (3:58 AM) .I desire to make a suggestion for the improvement of the conditions of the 75,000 natives and half-castes in Australia. I am gratified to find that the vote for natives in the Northern Territory remains at £14,000, with an additional £4,000 for missions. There is a fundamental difference between the manner in which we control natives and the methods adopted in the United States of America. All Indians in the United States of America from Alaska to the Mexican border are governed by the Department of Indian Affairs, in Washington. This is a tremendous advantage, because the .Government can provide better medical facilities, plant, schools, hospitals, sociologists, and educationalists. It is a strong argument for centralization.

Mr Curtin - Would the honorable member apply that argument generally?

Dr PRICE (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. The disadvantage in this country is that the management of the States has been so much better than the management of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory. If I were discussing this matter in peace-time, I would say that it is disgraceful that the amount to be devoted to natives in the Northern Territory is very little more than the amount which is voted to the electricity supply for a few white people in Darwin and Alice Springs. I shall say no more about this aspect of control at this juncture; but I suggest the possibility of doing" something by another American method. The Government of the United States of America subsidizes, through the States, certain social services. I hope that this method will be adopted by the Commonwealth Government should the requests for constitutional reform which it proposes to submit by way of referendum to the people be granted. An authority on aboriginal affairs has suggested to me that something might be done in respect of two other pressing problems, if the Commonwealth made available to the States small subsidies on a £.1 for £1 basis. The first, is the educational development of the aborigines; and the second is the prevention and cure of social diseases among them. The first subject, is well worth exploring at present because of "the importance of aborigines in our pastoral and farming industries. Many thousands of them, I understand, are engaged in war work. I believe that a considerable number have been brought from Palm Island to work in the sugargrowing areas in Queensland. With respect to social diseases, I have received a report from an authoritative source in Western Australia that venereal disease among the. aborigines is causing considerable worry. It is also a secondary source of disease among the whites. A grant of even £1,000 would help considerably in dealing with that problem. I do not know what the position is in that respect m other States, but some years ago, when I was investigating problems of white settlement in tropical Queensland, I was told that it, was much the same, and that in every case, venereal disease among the aborigines was a source of general infection. I emphasize the economic as well as the human value of the aborigines, and particularly of our half-castes whose number has increased in the past 40 years from 7,000 to over 25,000, whilst their number in Northern and Central Australia is increasing at a greater rate than tho white population. ' In the past we have not treated these people altogether satisfactorily. We have expended, only an insignificant sum on them. I hope that the Government which has already done excellent work in extending social services to these unfortunate people will examine the matters I have raised, and that action will he taken along the lines I have suggested.

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