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Wednesday, 5 November 1975


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The question is that the honourable member for Tangney be not further heard. Those of that opinion say aye, against no. I think the noes have it.


Mr DAWKINS -As long as the Liberal Party remains the stooge of the National Country

Party in this regard it will never make any progress in this field.


Dr Forbes - I raise a point of order. Why was there not a division?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -There was no division called for.


Dr Forbes - Mr Deputy Speaker,you did not ask whether we wanted a division.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I ruled that the question was lost and no division was called for. I call the honourable member for Tangney.


Mr DAWKINS -The point is that the tactics of the Liberal Party are entirely determined by the National Country Party which is not interested in seeing the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill become an Act. It realises that the Bill would be a threat to the interests of the people whom it represents. So the only argument it can put forward is that there has not been adequate consultation. I think it is worth enunciating the extent of the consultation that has taken place. As soon as this Government was elected the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission was established. The first report of the Commission was brought down in My 1973 and the second report was brought down in April 1974, which is well over 12 months ago. In the second report there was a draft Bill which is substantially repeated in the legislation now before the House. Therefore, the draft Bill has been available for people to peruse and to discuss for well over 12 months. Not only that; during its inquiry the Commission spoke to over 100 witnesses and had discussions with 33 Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The Commission was very thorough and conducted with sufficient informality to allow for the maximum of consultation with and participation by the Aboriginal people. That would be adequate only if it were true that the suggestions of the Woodward Commission had been accurately and faithfully followed, and that is true. There are very few departures from the suggestions of the Woodward Commission, and they are well known and well enunciated.

We do not have Opposition members debating the detail of the Bill. All they can say is that it has to be deferred and that there has to be yet more consultation. Of course there could be more consultation. We could consult till we were blue in the face. But what is the point of more consultation? The cry has been to get legislation for land rights, to formalise land rights and to give effect to our commitment to provide land rights for the Aboriginal people. This is not a simple matter. As the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) rightly pointed out, it is not possible for legislation to mirror the traditional ownership patterns of the Aboriginal people. What we are trying to do is simply to provide legislation to formalise the land ownership for Aboriginals in an acceptable way. The legislation is a replacement for the traditional patterns of ownership; not a reflection of them and not a mirroring of them. What is important for us, because we cannot accurately reflect the traditional patterns of ownership, is to get some legislation going to formalise the process as far as we can and then if difficulties seem to emerge' it may be necessary to introduce amendments as time goes on.

Surely the important thing in the light of this very extensive consultation that has already taken -place with the Aboriginal people and others concerned with this matter is to get something on the statute book and see how it works out -in practice. As well as that one must say that this legislation will be a blueprint for Aboriginal land rights throughout the whole of Australia. It is hot possible for this Parliament to legislate in respect of land rights in the States. This legislation goes very much further than any legislation which exists or which has been contemplated by any of the State governments. What is important is that a blueprint for that development is established so that hopefully there can be some development towards land rights for Aboriginal people throughout Australia.

The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) says that legislation for land rights in the Northern Territory is the prerogative of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. Quite clearly-this statement cannot be supported. We are trying to establish in a permanent way the rights of the Northern Territory Aborigines to the land which they have been deprived of for so long. We are trying to establish their traditional ownership rights. It is not a question of simply being fair to everybody in the Northern Territory. We are trying to establish the rights, we are trying to establish the interests in a permanent way, of a section of that community. It may be that in doing so we are unfair to the current land holders in the Northern Territory. But that unfairness could be criticised only if it were true that the claims of the current land holders were justified. What we are trying to do is set against the interests of the current land holders the interests of those whom we see as the traditional and permanent landholdersthe Aboriginal people who have been deprived of the ownership and the use of what has always been their land. It is a question of redressing the balance to some extent.

We cannot expect that everybody in the Northern Territory will be happy with this process or that the current landholders in particular will be happy with it. Of course there will be some discontent but for heaven's sake there has been discontent among the Aboriginal people for over one hundred years. This legislation is trying to redress the balance to some extent. Of course some people will be upset, but I think that is just one of the consequences of trying to re-establish the rights of these people. I said earlier that these 3 pieces of legislation were designed to give effect to the Government's long-standing commitments in the field of Aboriginal affairs. I quote from a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 6 April 1973. He said:

The basic object of my Government 's policy is to restore to the Aboriginal people of Australia their lost power of selfdetermination in economic, social and political affairs.

He went on to say:

An opportunity for self-determination and independent action would serve little purpose if Aboriginals continued to be economically and socially deprived. The Government therefore plans to help them as individuals, groups or communities, in crafts, trades and professions and as business entrepreneurs.

More generally, my Government is anxious that 200 years of despoliation, injustice and discrimination have seriously damaged and demoralised the once proud Aboriginal people. The Government, on behalf of the Australian people, accepts responsibility for their active and progressive rehabilitation.

I refer also to Henry Schapper's book Aboriginal Advancement to Integration in which he says:

Until the white man came to Western Australia Aborigines enjoyed relative freedom from want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness in terms of their needs then. They were self-determining; they reared their children to become selfsustaining and independent persons within family and tribal groups; they had well-defined and esteemed roles in their family and tribe; they had an appropriate identity, selfrespect and dignity; and they were motivated to participate as full members of their society.

One hundred and fifty years later the Aborigines are but one-half of their earlier number, they have been transformed from semi-nomadic hunters to sedentary unskilled labourers, and from freely self-determining persons to degraded dependants. About half have become genetically different, and in terms of ways of life now acceptable to both them and us, the needs of most of them are utterly unfulfilled. The transformation of Aboriginal attributes- {Quorum formed) I will not continue with the quotation although I commend this book to honourable members. I think it is clear that one of the prime objectives of the Government and most observers on the question of Aboriginal advancement has been to try to establish a way of life in which these Aborigines, both as individuals and communities, can be selfdetermining.

There are some very grave pitfalls, as we move towards self-determination amongst Aborigines and that matter has to be approached with very great care. I quote from the foreword of the most recent report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs:

The matters which gave the Committee cause for grave concern were the extent of malnutrition in children and of alcoholism in adults, and the lamentably ineffective programs for treatment.

In respect of the silent ravages of child malnutrition the Committee considers that all services in the fields of community health, welfare and education should be given and should accept prime responsibility to ensure that all children under their notice are receiving suitable and sufficient food. It considers that parents, communities and governments have a shared responsibility at present not accepted wholeheartedly.

Very importantly it then says:

The slogans for 'self-determination' and against 'paternalism ' can be and, in the Committee 's opinion, are unwittingly used to the disadvantage of children.

The Committee was impressed by the strength of the requests made by Aboriginal people for more effective means of dealing with the complex personal and family problems connected with alcohol. Many connected aspects of what is now an unconcealed tragedy for both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals are considered in the Report.

It is not sufficient for us to be saying that we are primarily concerned with self-determination amongst Aboriginal people. That, of course, is a fundamental and long term objective but we cannot allow the aim of self-determination to legitimise the neglect of these people and their problems. Our first intention and our first objective must be to see that the Aboriginal people and particularly their children at least have a chance of survival. The children must be allowed at least to grow to maturity with adequate help and with adequate mental and physical development. That surely is the prime objective. A child cannot be self-determining, almost by definition. If it is true that there are inadequacies in the community in which the child finds itself, then of course we cannot allow that child to be neglected simply because we are concerned to see that the community is self-determining. We allow for the intervention of governments or government agencies in the affairs of other people in the community. (Quorum formed)

In my observations around this country, it has been quite clear that some people are putting an undue emphasis on the question of selfdetermination or at least they are putting this emphasis at an inappropriate time. What some people are doing is using the goal of selfdetermination to wash their hands of many of the problems that confront Aboriginal people. We have a responsibility to sustain and assist Aboriginal communities. We must not ever allow ourselves to wash our hands and say that because it is the Aborigines' wish, we should not intervene in any way.







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