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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Dr MACKAY (Evans) .- As has been pointed out by the honorable member labourers to the island. Indeed, one of the ments appertaining to Nauru are as a result of the agreements between three Governments - the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia - acting as trustees for the United Nations. Generally speaking, these three Governments are charged with the concern for the peace, order, good government and defence of the island. The First Schedule to the Bill sets out the Trusteeship Agreement. Article 5, paragraph 2, subparagraph (b) indicates the duty of these countries to promote the economic, social, educational and cultural advancement of the inhabitants.

Recently I visited Nauru and was able to see at first hand some of the things that were going on there and to talk with .people about others. I gained, I think, quite reliable impressions of the situation with regard to the way in which we have been discharging this particular aspect of the trusteeship. There were some aspects which gave me concern, not in the sense that we were in toto, or even to a large degree, remiss in our discharge of our trusteeship obligations in this sector, but because of the tremendous difficulties which apply. Many of the things I want to say at this stage refer to these particular aspects of life on the island and the difficulties that the island will face increasingly as it moves further into autonomy.

First, I refer to educational responsibility. I personally visited every school on the island and most of the classes in those schools. I spoke with the teachers and others in responsible positions. The first thing that impressed me was, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle in a different context, the segregation of the racial groups on the island. There are schools provided for Nauruans and there are other schools provided at the expense of the Phosphate Commission for the children of the indentured labourers. This, of course, casts some light on the fact of the bringing of the children of indentured labourers to the island. Indeed, one of the problems arises apparently from the elaborateness of the two storey building that caters for the children of Chinese and Gilbert and Ellice Islands indentured labourers. It is a first class school in all its equipment and in terms of the quality of teaching. I have nothing but praise to offer for the teachers in every aspect of the educational system in the island. Especially in the kindergarten section was I impressed by the devotion to duty of the teachers, particularly the Australian teachers who are giving leadership. A very young lady, Miss Adamson, was looking after the whole of the kindergarten departments while I was there, being in charge of the Nauruan teachers as well as the other Australians. Seeing the way they were teaching basic English to the children was a most delightful interlude in my stay.

As the ages of the children increase so problems multiply. For instance, truancy is the greatest crime, if I may use that word, in the Nauruan calendar and the reason for it is not to be found just in the children. It is to be found in the homes and in. Nauruan society. If the things that I have to say from now on appear to have elements of criticism in them I hope that anyone reading the report of my speech, particularly the Nauruans, will regard it as constructive and friendly criticism which is aimed towards helping the island along the path it so earnestly desires to travel. There is lack of ambition among the older children. This is most apparent as one speaks to them in class and out of class about their future intentions. It is in stark contrast to most, indeed all, other educational groups to whom I personally have spoken. Discipline becomes increasingly difficult in the schools. I say this not just on the say-so of Australian teachers or from my own observation. I know that the Nauru Local Government Council is gravely concerned about this aspect. Lack of discipline reaches serious proportions particularly among the older children. It has at times even resulted in violence to male teachers and undesirable incidents involving female teachers. There is a lack of parental care and supervision. Young children are at times left to fend for themselves. The children cannot stray very far. They cannot easily come to much harm. There are no wild beasts and not even noxious reptiles or insects that can cause harm. So children are allowed to wander to a great degree on their own initiative.

There is a lack of regard for property and a Jack of effort among the children. Perhaps I can illustrate this by an incident. The headmaster at one high school invited me to watch the effect of the ringing of the school bell after the recess period. When the bell was rung it was largely disregarded. The vice-principal himself went out among the children, blowing a whistle, but little regard was paid to him. It requires almost physical force to get the children back into the class room after recess. This is very different from what I have seen in educational institutions elsewhere. Then there is the attitude of students who go to Australian schools and colleges. Let me give one illustration. A group of Nauruan students in an Australian college asked for a larger laundry allowance. This was queried and they were told that they should wash their own drip dry shirts as the Australian students did. They replied that they would not do that as it was women's work. When it was said to them that that was what the Australian male students did they replied: " But we are not Australian students, we are Nauruans. We come from the richest island in the Pacific." This attitude is one of the greatest dangers that is attendant upon the current circumstances of the Nauruan people. Again, there is, unhappily, no apparent development of special abilities among the children. I spoke, for instance, to the teachers of arts and crafts and found that while this was perhaps an area where the Nauruans responded most, they responded in no way greater than, if as great as, children in other school communities in which the teachers had taught. We have here an island people with grave problems besetting their educational system. This is not entirely the fault of the people themselves. The major reason is, as I have said, among other things, the factor of tremendous isolation.

Debate interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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