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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr MAKIN (Bonython) .- I join with other honorable members in expressing concern for the welfare of the Australian aborigines. In the past, we seem to have regarded the condition of these people as being somewhat remote from our own lives, because they are a people whose customs and traditions are separate and apart from our way of life. However, the continued development of this country has inevitably meant that we have tended more and more to intrude the white man's way of life into the reserves that have been set aside so that the aborigines may continue to live in their tribal condition and preserve for themselves their traditional way of life which is so important to them. Places that were formerly available to native races are now being used for commercial activities and mining operations. Members of our aboriginal race are being denied areas which are possibly among the very best for their way of life. We owe something to these people, and we should provide facilities for them so that they will not be placed at a disadvantage as a result of our development and the usurpation of areas that were formerly available to them.

Recently, I saw the screening of a film which depicted conditions under which our aborigines were required to exist. It was a terrible indictment. Our aborigines are not being provided with much of that humane care that it is our responsibility to afford to them. They should be given a greater degree of hospital care. To see much of the affliction and deformity caused by medical neglect makes one realize that we can do something more than we are doing at present. The Commonwealth has a definite responsibility to do much more than it has done. Divided authority under the Constitution denies to the Commonwealth the opportunity to govern effectively many of these situations. Nevertheless, we should be providing, and constantly urging State authorities to provide, those things necessary for a better standard of living for these people who have the first claim upon us because of the unique position they occupy as citizens of this country.

There should be no discrimination against these people in social services. They should be given all the advantages and benefits that we can make available to them. The Minister should urgently consider granting additional aid to missions that care for these people. I know the difficulties, but I earnestly appeal for greater Commonwealth assistance for those who are engaged in this class of work. Education is another means by which we can materially help to develop members of this race so that they can qualify for many of the higher standards that we claim to have and take advantage of the opportunities that should be available to them. Many aborigines who have had the advantage of education have proved themselves capable of performing duties that we thought were beyond them. In the interests of our reputation as an enlightened people, we should show to the world that we are capable of undertaking the trusteeship of our native race. These matters are subject to review from time to time by the

United Nations. We know that a constant check is made of the work done for this class of people to see whether the basic claims and rights of primitive races are being observed by those who are responsible for their general well-being. If we are to prove that we are a nation with advanced ideas and that we are capable of setting an example to other nations, we should provide that care for native people which will ensure their well-being and progress. We should develop the conditions that will help to raise their standards and make them truly a part of the nation to which they belong. They should be enabled to enjoy the benefits of Australian citizenship. The circumstances that prevent these advantages being given to aborigines should be removed. If we are beset with constitutional difficulties, surely we should get busy and ensure some co-ordination to provide a policy and plan for the general well-being of our aboriginal race. I am afraid that to-day many of these people are not enjoying the care and consideration that is their right.

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