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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2499


Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - We have just listened to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) giving his once a year, or is it once a session, expression of concern for the Aborigines. Having visited the Aboriginal settlements and missions in central Australia in the last 10 days, the only point 1 would like to make is that the Aborigines are not impressed by either him or the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder).


Mr Calder - They could not be impressed by you.


Dr KLUGMAN - When I was working last week in an area where the Aborigines live, the votes from only one ballot box in the Legislative Council election had been counted, and the colleague of the honourable member for the Northern Territory, representing the Country Party had received 39 votes and the Australian Labor Party candidate had received 152 votes. That is approximately the correct proportion so far as the Aboriginal voters there are concerned. Referring to the Country Party, one well known Aboriginal said to me: 'They have done bugger all'. I assure the chamber that I do not want to be critical of the Government for the rest of my speech.

When I visited central Australia I was impressed by the many people who worked for the Aborigines and by the shocking conditions under which the Aborigines live. I do not say that the Government is at fault because it has not put enough money in there. But I would like to raise certain issues, and I think at the end of my speech it may well turn out that the honourable member for the Northern Territory basically agrees with me. The reason I went up there was that I was impressed by the figures showing a sudden increase in the Aboriginal infant mortality rate, that is, the mortality rate of Aboriginal children up to 1 year old. We have an infant mortality rate in Australia of approximately 18 per 1,000 head of population. In 1969 for Aborigines in central Australia it was 89 per 1,000. In 1970 it increased to 182 per 1,000, and this year the rate is over 200 per 1,000. It means that more than one in every 5 Aboriginal children dies before it reaches the age of one year. This is a shocking position. I went to Alice Springs and from Alice Springs out into a number of settlements and mission stations when the Parliament adjourned some 11 or 12 days ago. No!hing I say now is intended to reflect on either the sincerity or the integrity of the people who are working there with the Aborigines.


Mr Calder - How about Mr Shepherd?


Dr KLUGMAN -I did not meet Mr Shepherd. The Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts certainly has to think about these matters. The settlements I visited were Papunya, Haasts Bluff, Areyonga, Hermannsburg, Jay Creek, Santa Teresa and a- couple of others. Let me deal with specific points relating to each place. At Papunya we have some 800 Aborigines from different tribes. It is the first of the settlements I visited. It is a shocking place. The conditions there are quite shocking. I am sure that people in Australian in 1971 would not believe the conditions under which the Aborigines are living there. They are living there like animals. The only shelter they have are small wind breaks they have built themselves. The whole family plus a number of dogs per person plus hundreds of thousands of flies live there. There is no vegetation. The people lie in the sand and dust. That is the sort of settlement to which we have invited them to come. The average income per person on that settlement is $5.50 a week. That includes all pensions, child endowment, etc. The people have to be fed on that. The average income of the newest tribe is only $3.50 per week per person. The only modern buildings on that settlement are the police station and lock-up - a concrete, extremely impressive building bigger than anything in the suburbs I represent and dealing with 5,000 or 10,000 people- 2 new houses for 2 white policemen and 3 flats which our group used and which are intended for visiting civil servants, for example, auditors. I think more must be done there and I think the Government is at fault as far as Papunya is concerned.

Dealing with the position at Hermannsburg, I may say in passing that as one who is an agnostic I probably went there with a prejudice against the people who are running the mission. It is a Lutheran mission. As far as I am concerned, the Lutheran Church is a very conservative church. But I probably could not find a group of more concerned people or more with-it people than I found at Hermannsburg running that mission and trying to help the Aborigines there, whether they were there as teachers, nurses or in some other capacity.

At Santa Teresa we have 600 Aborigines. The hospital is an old cottage consisting of a main room which is used as a ward and which is partly divided for a kitchen. A verandah has been enclosed to become a labour ward. I was called to the labour ward because a child born some hour and a half before I arrived had had breathing difficulties at birth. When I had a look al the child there were other child patients crawling around the floor where the baby was lying. An oxygen cylinder was lying on the floor and one of the children was playing with the tap and adjusting or maladjusting the oxygen supply to the baby. After I had looked at the baby the sister asked me to have a look at another child. A 6 months old child had been brought in by the mother because the mother was worried. The child had gastroenteritis plus something else, possibly suspected meningitis. As honourable members know there had been some 50 cases of meningitis in the general area and there had been some at Santa Teresa in the previous week. The only place where one could examine that child was in the labour ward on the 1 bed on which the other child had been delivered some H hour? previously and within one foot of that extremely sick baby. It was the only bed over which there was a fairly adequate light. It is a shocking hospital. Obviously a new hospital has to be built there. I ordered that 6 months old child-


Mr Calder - Did they not tell you that a new hospital was to be commenced this year?


Dr KLUGMAN - No. I have not time to go into that. If the honourable member represented the Northern Territory he might find out that that project has been suspended. The Government has withdrawn the money. The baby died and the other child was admitted to the Alice Springs hospital. The position is extremely bad generally. We have these huge mortality figures and these Aboriginal children have a tremendously decreased potential. Dr Kirk in his thesis, which I would recommend to anybody, points out that some 50 per cent of Aboriginal children never reach the health parameters - the height and weight, etc.- which are normal or average for less than only 2 per cent of the Australian population. In other words, they are below the worst 2 per cent of the Australian population. What chance have they in later life? They receive an education without having any future. There is no future even if the children are doing reasonably well at school, and I understood from the teachers there that a significant number were able to do well. But there was no worth while employment. The children finished up as labourers or cleaners. It reminded me of the proposition which was put to me by a psychologist friend of mine who was working at a psychiatric hospital in New South Wales. He had to classify new arrivals at this long term psychiatric hospital. Within the classification alternatives available to him he had to decide whether they were to work in the laundry or in the kitchen. What possible hope is there for those Aboriginal children to get keen on education or to see anything worth while in education? The whole education system is aimed at the children. If it is intended to bring about social change - I would hope there is some intention to bring about social change - it must be aimed at the adults. The children spend only very few hours at school and then they go back into the surroundings of the adult people in their own tribes.

I would like to make many other points but my time has nearly finished. Earlier this year I visited Papua New Guinea. The only similarity between Papua New Guinea and central Australia is the relationship between white Australians and black indigenous people. But there the similarity ends completely. I was impressed by the significant number of people in Papua New Guinea who were involved and who felt that there was some future for the Papuans and the New Guineans. Nothing of this nature will be found in central Australia. There is no political education and no attempt is made to encourage Aborigines to look after themselves. People such as the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) talk big about leaving them in their own culture and so on, but all he is concerned about is that they should not get so worked up that they might take action to remove him from this House.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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