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Wednesday, 17 March 1976


Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - Naturally I support the re-appointment of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs although I hasten to add that I have never served on it. The reason for that is that there was another committee which virtually duplicated the movements of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, and that was the Committee on the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory. I was a member of the Committee on the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory and I used to find that both bodies were operating in the same area, covering a sixth of Australia, at the same time. I could not be on both Committees. It is possible that I will be elected to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in this occasion. Before saying anything more I would like to pay a tribute to the members of the former Committee for their conscientious approach to Aboriginal problems not only in the Northern Territory but all over Australia. Its chairman and deputy chairman were men of outstanding ability and sincerity and they were backed completely by the members of the Committee.

I would like to refer to some of the things said by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. We are not having a general debate on Aboriginal affairs, although one seems to have been developing. We are endeavouring to keep heat out of this issue. The honourable member for Wills, one of the former Ministers who now sits on the Opposition benches, may remember that when he assumed the mantle of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I said to him that I hoped there would be no politics in Aboriginal affairs. I said that as a result of experience gained from living with these people for 35 years. I am somewhat shattered by what has been happening through the years and I only hope that this new Committee, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), and honourable members on both sides see their way clear to keeping politics out of Aboriginal affairs because politics certainly do not do anything for the Aborigines. In fact politics virtually are killing them. We can see what has happened under the self-determination policy which was brought in by the Labor Party. A former Minister declared that self determination was a disaster. It is a disaster and it will continue to be so while such a policy is espoused. That is as might be and I hope that this Committee will enter the field with enthusiasm and interest and not try to play politics.

The honourable member for Hughes brought up the subject of finance and mentioned $30m as against $192m. I think the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) said that money is not everything and it certainly is not everything in the field of Aboriginal affairs. While I am on my feet I would question some of the purchases being made with this money. I do not know whether the money is being spent in a sincere endeavour to help Aborigines but in a most misguided way the Government is spending $500,000 to buy a cattle station. The Aborigines do not know what they are going to do with it. The Government is to buy several places although the owners do not wish to sell them or the people on them do not wish them to be sold. However for some reason or other financial interests are pressing the sales. This sort of thing and the spending of that son of money are not doing the Aborigines the slightest good. They have not yet learned how to run these vast areas on their own without assistance from Europeans. I can quote what Vincent Lingiari and Mick Rangiari said at Wave Hill when the Gurindji cattle company was created and 1250 square miles of land were handed to them. The general idea was that it would be an Aboriginal cattle station with no white man on it. I went to one of them- I cannot remember whether it was Vincent or Mick- and was told: 'If we get into trouble we will ask Ralph'. Who was Ralph? Ralph was the white manager of Wave Hill.


Mr O'Keefe -Not Ralph Hunt?


Mr CALDER -Not Ralph Hunt, no, Ralph Hayes, a very able stockman who speaks the language, who has lived with those people for years, who has their trust. These are the sort of people we should be looking at, not spending millions of dollars to show what we have done. We want to find people who are prepared to spend their time and their experience helping Aborigines. This Committee should be looking towards that sort of thing and I hope it will be. The honourable member for Hughes said that he had never heard of a Mr Hay. A Mr Hay happens to be a soldier who fought and was decorated, I think, in New Guinea. He was an administrator of that area and Secretary of the former Department of External Territories. The former Minister should investigate the situation if he thinks Mr Hay does not know anything about native affairs. He has lived with these people for years.


Mr James - Tell us something about the drinking problem.


Mr CALDER - As I said, I support the establishment of the Committee. I should like to emphasise that this is a non-political Committee. I have served on various committees that have travelled in the Northern Territory, one of which was chaired by the honourable member who interjected. Many of his party members played politics on it, virtually all the time.


Mr James - Not me.


Mr CALDER -We hope that that will not happen on this occasion but that the Committee will find a real opinion about Aborigines; that it will speak to these people themselves. We hear of telegrams coming from the northern land council and the central land council and people purporting to be spokesmen for Aborigines. But if one speaks to the Aborigines themselves, underneath this very thin veneer of representation, some of which might be here tomorrow, one will find that they do not think that way. One will find that, for instance, they reject the Aboriginal lands Bill because it in no way has anything whatsoever to do with their historic ownership of the land which has nothing to do with politics. If you read Strehlow, Albrecht and Stolle and these people who have lived and spent their lives with the Aborigines and speak their language, you will find that that is what they will say. That is why we in the Northern Territory and we who have some knowledge and experience of Aborigines say: Do not force that Bill through the House without referring it to the people concerned. I mean especially the Aborigines. Professor Strehlow can name the owner of every piece of land in central Australia. Did the former Minister do that? Did the Committee do that? Did they speak to Pastor Albrecht who was born and bred in the area and who lived at Hermannsburg, who speaks the language, whose father was there before him? No they did not.

This is the sort of thing that I think this Committee should be doing. If one is to talk about land rights or Aborigines, go and speak to the people who know something about them. Do not listen to some set-up as there was in Alice Springs last Saturday virtually by people who are funded by this Government, the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, the northern Australian Aboriginal congress representatives and the central Australian Aboriginal congress leaders. They had four or five hundred people in the centre of Alice Springs who had been carted in from areas 150 or 160 miles away. At whose expense? We do not know. The Aborigines were standing bewildered in the streets. They did not know what it was all about. Yet if I went to El Papa, which is just alongside the Macdonnell Range in Alice Springs, and talked to those people they would tell me something about it. Yet there was a mass demonstration in the streets producing a pseudoopinion on Aboriginal affairs.

I hope that this Committee will be able to see through that sort of thing and will be able to listen to Aborigines whether they be in the Northern Territory, where we say an Aborigine is a different person to one covered by the definition of 'Aboriginal '-quite wrongly- in the Bill produced by the Australian Labor Party. We say that the Committee has to go and listen to them. But it should also listen to those other Aborigines in other parts of Australia. We should certainly do that. But we should remember that those in the Northern Territory, where we have the greatest percentage of real Aborigines, do not accept the domination of these people from the south, whether they claim to be Aborigines or not. This

Committee has to find out those things. If it does not, if it cannot apply that knowledge, it will be worthless.

This Committee should co-operate fully- I am speaking about the Northern Territory againwith the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. There is tremendous pressure from outside the Territory and from some of the advisers and would-be experts on Aboriginal affairs, to see that the Bills for Aboriginal land rights or whatever are not referred to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We in the Territory say that the Bills should pass through the Assembly. But the Assembly has not yet been granted any constitutional responsibility. Let us face it: The Assembly had been elected for 13 months during the term of the Labor Government and it did not give the Assembly constitutional responsibility either.

There are men in the Territory who have lived in this area who are experts on Aboriginal affairs. There is a former director of the Northern Territory branch who would know more than almost the whole Department put together as it stands now. That man is there and so are various other people all the way down. He has been sitting there not being used and the experience that he has was ignored by the Labor Government. We have that sort of man in the Territory. We have men who have lived there for 20 or 30 years. I hope that we will use their sort of experience. The people who must be consulted by any committee dealing with Aborigines are the people who live in the area, whether they are black or white or part coloured. That is what was not happening during the last 3 years. No one was consulted to any degree.

I hope that we can turn the tables on that situation in this Committee. As I said when I started my speech if I can help in a non-political way to help the Aborigines and the people who live in those areas to live together, I feel that I will be doing some sort of a job for Australia and for the Aborigines. I hope that this Committee will work towards giving the Aborigines a greater say and greater responsibility. But I do not think that we should be trying to force it on them, to thrust it on them. That is one of the problems which have occurred as a result of the self-determination policy. If we are to serve Aborigines to any extent we have to reverse that policy and we have to be rid of the people who espouse it.







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