Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 17 November 1976
Page: 2782


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -There is no substance in the point of order. I think that that has been already covered.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) does not seem to appreciate the fact that the Opposition is just as entitled to respond to this new package of propositions in the second reading debate as it is at the Committee stage of the debate. The tradition of this Parliament in respect of anything of significance is to give oppositions and the community at large at least a week's notice. That has not occurred in respect of these matters which are to be the subject of 42 amendments. Clearly it ought to be conceded that the Aboriginal people who are hearing this for the first time today, as the Opposition has heard it for the first time today, are entitled to gather together and to organise some response. I am not going to labour this point endlessly but obviously this is a very unsatisfactory way of handling very important legislation. With 42 amendments sprung on the Parliament this day there is not one page of explanatory notes provided. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would acknowledge that integrating this legislation is a most complex process. One would need a battery of Queen 's Counsel to set about it in an effective way during the course of this day.

At least I am pleased to have the assurance that there will be adequate time to formulate amendments. I certainly hope that the time provided to debate the amendments will also prove to be adequate because many honourable members on this side of the Committee will want to speak about them. The Minister today has drawn attention to very dramatic changes in the legislation, the abrogation by this Parliament in many respects of very important issues and the transfer of responsibility for those issues to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory; matters to which the Aboriginal people, in their organisations around Australia, have already expressed very strong opposition. We have had vague assurances about what the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) will do to put the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs into the picture about these things. We have been told about how the Legislative Assembly will cooperate and all the rest, but this sounds very vague and unless it is incorporated in this legislation it does not seem very meaningful to me.

I doubt whether I will have time today to talk about the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill although I would like to do so because I was the Minister who first introduced such legislation into this Parliament. I doubt whether I will have time to talk about the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill and I would like to do so since I was the first Minister to introduce a Bill into the House which contains the concept now contained in that legislation. I will have to content myself with making some remarks about the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. On 16 October last year on behalf of the Whitlam Government, I introduced into this House a Bill with the same title as that before the House today. On that occasion I said:

In the field of Aboriginal Affairs, this is undoubtedly the most important legislation ever to be introduced into the Australian Parliament.

For most urgent and vastly different reasons this Bill is equally important to the Aboriginal people. In form the Bill introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 4 June this year loosely follows the Bill I introduced 12 months ago. In substance, however, this Bill radically alters the aims of the 1975 Bill and substantially modifies the recommendations and intentions of Mr Justice Woodward whose reports formed the basis of the Labor Government's Bill.

The establishment of the Woodward Royal Commission and the consequent introduction in 1975 of the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill was a direct result of the 1972 commitment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that a Labor Government would legislate to give Aboriginals land rights, 'not just because their case is beyond argument, but because all of us as Australians are demeaned while the

Aboriginal people are denied their rightful place in this nation'. Those were the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in 1972. That pledge came after 23 years of neglect of the Aboriginal people by the Liberal-Country Party coalition and in particular their outspoken claims for land rights. A further indication of the morale and standing of the Aboriginal people in Australia was given by the Senate on 20 February last year when it carried a motion moved by Australia's first Aboriginal parliamentary representative, Senator Bonner. That motion was:

That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay . . .

That motion was accepted by all parties in the Parliament, including the National Country Party, despite the misgivings and disquiet it aroused from the National Country Party's colleagues in the Northern Territory.

The legislation we are debating today represents a cynical sellout to the National Country Party and other vested interests in the Northern Territory. It represents yet another nail in the coffin of Aboriginal self-determination, yet another inspired step back in Aboriginal affairs by the Liberal and National Country parties. This legislation, if passed without substantial amendment, will be a tangible indictment of this Parliament and, in particular, this Government for its failure to respond to the needs and aspirations of the indigenous people of Australia living in the Northern Territory. The Bill before the House has so vastly changed the intentions of the Bill I introduced last year that many Aboriginal organisations have contemplated opposing the Bill in its entirety. The Opposition, however, with the support of large numbers of interested parties, including the Australian Council of Churches, the Northern and Central Land Councils of the Northern Territory and vast numbers of Aboriginal groups and communities will not oppose it. Despite the Government's proposed intention to patch up this legislation at the Committee stage, and that was what the statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs today was all about, the Opposition intends to move a substantial number of amendments. It is hoped that the Government will see fit to accept these amendments in the spirit in which they will be movedthat of representing to the people and, in particular, the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory a bipartisan policy on land rights.

The history of Aboriginal, claims for land in this Parliament goes back over a number of years. However, let me take as my starting point the claim made in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in the case of Millirrpum v. Nabalco and the Commonwealth in 1968, which is known as the Gove land rights case. In that case, Mr Justice Blackburn, speaking on the question of land and in relation to the Aboriginal people, said:

The fundamental truth about the Aboriginals' relationship to the land ... is that whatever else it is . . . it is a religious relationship. There is an unquestioned scheme of things in which the Spirit Ancestors, the people of the clan, particular land, and everything that exists on and in it are organic parts of one indissoluble whole . . .

Mr JusticeBlackburn went on to discuss the doctrine of 'communal native title', the central question in the Gove land case. The basis of the Aboriginal claim was that their predecessors laid claim in 1 788 when the subject land became part of New South Wales to those parts of the subject land then before the court and claimed by Nabalco and the Commonwealth. The court rejected the Aboriginal claim that the Aboriginal social and economic system was such that the territory acquired by the Crown in 1788 was a conquered rather than a settled or occupied territory. From this central point Mr Justice Blackburn held that the Aboriginal parliament, through the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain, could exercise power over the whole of the Commonwealth and in particular that land claimed before the court. In the interim report of the commission established to investigate how land rights could be granted statutorily, Mr Justice Woodward, who was a counsel in the Gove land rights case, pointed out that the Aboriginal concepts related to land owning have no parallel in European law. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an extract from the first report of Mr Justice Woodward on Aboriginal land rights, entitled Aborigines and Their Land.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - (Mr Giles) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

APPENDIX A

ABORIGINES AND THEIR LAND

(Taken from first report, paras 20-65 )

In the first place, it is accepted that, wherever else man may have evolved, it was not on this continent. The Aborigines came here from the north and came to an uninhabited land.

The origins of these people who found their way here are obscure. But they must have come, over a period of time, by way of what are now Indonesia and New Guinea. In doing so, they must have covered at least forty miles of water in what can only have been bark canoes.

What is clear is that the Aborigines are genetically a uniquepeople and that they have been here for a very long time. The small parties which landed initially must have taken many hundreds of years to spread, as they did, over the mainland. In spite of some dissimilarities between the Tasmanian Aborigines and those of the mainland, there seems to be no cogent evidence to suggest that the Aborigines of Australiadid not have a common origin. As to the length of time over which Aborigines occupied Australia before 1 788, it can only be said that recent archaeological work has established a period of upwards of 30 000 years.

The Aborigines lived entirely by food gathering and hunting. They tended no herds and planted no crops. In good seasons they lived well; in bad years they suffered.

Anthropologists are agreed that different groups of Aborigines claimed identifiable areas of land as their own. There was no part of the continent left unclaimed, although higher mountainous regions may have been seldom visited.

It has been estimated that, in 1788, the Aboriginal population of Australia may have been in the order of 300 000. So far as the Northern Territory is concerned, it has been suggested that a typical population density for semi-desert country would have been one person to thirty or forty square miles. In the more productive areas closer to the coast, six or eight square miles per person would have been more likely.

This then is the background against which the social organization of the Aborigines must be considered, and, in particular, meaning given to the 'traditional rights and interests of the Aborigines, in and in relation to land '. On enquiry, it soon becomes clear that the social organization of the Aboriginal people is highly complex. The problem of understanding it is made worse by a number of factors. These include, firstly, the difficulty of expressing many Aboriginal ideas and arrangements in English terms. Even simple words such as 'owner and 'tribe' can be misleading. Some words used by anthropologists such as 'horde', 'clan', and band' have been given more precise meanings in their writings on the subject, but they have not always been used in the same way and so require definition each time they are used.

Further, some Aboriginal concepts related to land-owning have no parallel in European law. The most important and widespread of the rightsin land that lie outside European arrangements is the managerial interests of a nephew in the country of his maternal uncle. Everywhere the religious rites owned by a clan were the 'title deeds' to the land and could only be celebrated by clan members. Such rites, however, could not be held without the assistance of the managers whose essential task it was to prepare the ritual paraphernalia, decorate the celebrants and conduct the rite. The agreement of managers had to be secured for the exploitation of specialized local resources such as ochre and flint deposits and for visits by the clan owners to their own sacred sites.

Yet another difficulty arises from disagreement among anthropologists as to the exact nature of the relationship between Aboriginal organization for land holding and for land usage. These disagreements may be mainly matters of emphasis, but they are still quite important.

It may be that much of this professional disagreement stems from the lack of reliable information as to the situation which existed before white contact. In almost every case, detailed study by trained anthropologists has occurred a number of years after Aboriginal ways of life have been influenced, if not radically changed, by contact with Europeans. Much recorded information comes from older men and women talking of the past -often at some distance from the scene of the events being discussed.

A further difficulty arises from the fact that Aboriginal social organization differs from one area to another. What is true of north-east Arnhem Land may not even be true of the Daly River area south of Darwin, let alone the Macdonnell Ranges, Western Australia or Queensland.

In spite of the difficulties referred to, the following statements can be made with some confidence that they are generally true of the Northern Territory and likely to be true of many other parts of Australia.

It is common to speak of Aboriginal 'tribes' and this is a useful description of people such as the Aranda and Pitjantjatjara. The distinguishing marks of such a group are a common language, a commonly used name for that language and thus for the people speaking it, and an identifiable tract of country where those people live or used to live.

The term has also been used for a group of related people, speaking different languages but living in adjacent areas. However, to avoid confusion, I shall refer to such a grouping as an ethnic bloc.

In neither of these cases- the tribe or the ethnic bloc- is there any attempt to achieve political or social unity. The relationship between the different segments of a tribe are often no closer than those between such segments and groups from other tribes. In no sense can the tribe be regarded as the basis of Aboriginal social organization. Smaller groupings have to be identified for this purpose.

The sub-divisions of a tribe can usually be identified by dialectic variations. Although sharing a common language, some words will be different, sentence construction may not be the same and differences in pronunciation will usually be noticeable also.

In some cases this dialect group within the tribe does represent the key social unit. In other cases this is to be found one step lower down the scale- at the level of the clan. I use this expression to mean a local descent group- a sub-division of a dialect group larger than a family but based on family links through a common male ancestry, although those links may be back beyond living memory.

Since the clan appears to be more commonly the key unit, I now turn to consider it in more detail.

Membership of such a clan is determined at birth, since, for land-owning purposes, the child automatically becomes a member of the father's clan. (The word 'father' is used throughout although it would be more correct to speak of the mother's husband. This presented no problems to the Aborigine because conception was believed to be the work of spirits.)

Mother and father will come from different dans, for a child cannot marry within the clan, but must marry a member of another clan. The rules or preferences which decide that clan vary from place to place, but can be quite strict. They have had to be relaxed in some areas as clans have dwindled in size or disappeared.

The members of a clan retain that membership throughout their lives and, indeed, thereafter. The link between an Aborigine 's spirit and his land is regarded as being timeless. The land-owning clan is merely a group of people who share the same links with the same land.

Thus these clans have close spiritual associations with particular tracts of land. Their religion or mythology teaches them that particular areas were given to them, or claimed on their behalf, by their spirit ancestors in the Dreamtime. For this reason there are specific stories, songs and ceremonies linking these spirit ancestors with particular places. The more important the place is to the legend, the more sacred it is.

These spirit ancestors were in some cases part animal, bird, insect or plant. They could also, for example, be related to rain, wind or stars. But in all cases they had human characteristics, whatever their outward form may have been.

Some country, because of these legends or of its natural resources (which are frequently linked together) is more important than other country. But, although boundaries may be blurred, all country is of some importance and is identified with some clan or other grouping.

The spiritual connection between a clan and its land involves both rights and duties. The rights are to the unrestricted use of its natural products; the duties are of a ceremonial kind- to tend the land by the performance of ritual dances, songs and ceremonies at the proper times and places.

One further point remains to be made. It is apparent that a clan, being of only moderate size, can die out This must have happened on occasions even in the days before white contact. With the coming of the white man, such instances must have occurred more frequently even in the Northern Territory. Since the produce of all land is important and, in Aboriginal belief good seasons depend on ritual observances, it was normal for the sacred objects and ceremonies of that clan to be taken over or cared for by another closely related clan. Since, as I have said, the connection of Aborigines with their land is timeless, commencing before birth and continuing after death, this taking over should be seen as a form of trusteeship rather than a transfer of rights.

All that has been said above about the clan is equally true of the dialect group referred to earlier except that, being larger, marriage within the group is likely to be quite common. It will still be governed by strict rules as to kinship which will determine which members are acceptable as spouses.

It may help to clarify the complicated position I have been describing if the situation is considered from the point of view of a typical Aborigine of Arnhem Land in the years before white contact.

Let us assume the case of a mature man. His immediate family consists of one or more wives and their respective children together, in all probability, with some older peopleperhaps one of his or his wife 's parents or an elder brother or brother-in-law. Even when food is scarce, this family unit is likely to be added to by relatives or friends. The father and his children, of course, belong to one clan along with his father, brothers and sisters (who may not be in the group).

The wife or wives come from, and still belong to, a different clan. If there are several wives, they may not belong to the one clan, although it is quite likely that they will. The mother, if she is present, will almost certainly belong to a third clan. Because of the intricate kinship systems observed, it is unusual for a man to take a wife from his mother's clan. Friends and other relatives could come from any one of a group of neighbouring clans with which there are friendly relations. In the group the dialect of the central clan will predominate, but other clans will use their own dialects and will be understood.

The other members of the central clan in this example will be scattered among a number of similar family groups. They will all be related by patrilineal descent but the exact relationship may have been forgotten with the passage of time. In several other cases, as in this one, the clan will provide the nucleus of the group. In other instances, some other clan will provide the nucleus and members of this clan will be present as wives, relatives or guests. The total membership of the dan-men, women and children, may be about 30 to SO.

The family group which has been described mav move about by itself, or, particularly when food is relatively plentiful, may join with other groups to constitute quite a large band-perhaps 30 to 40 people. Whether large or small, this band constitutes the hunting and food gathering social unit. It moves over the country in a predictable but not rigid pattern which depends on the availability of food resources at particular places and particular times. It varies in numbers as groups or individuals join and leave. In doing so, it will probably spend a good deal of time on the country which is held by the clan, but the head of the family will certainly expect to be welcome in the country of bis mother's clan. He will also visit freely his wife 's country or that of any other member of bis group. Indeed he may decide to go to any of the neighbouring areas except, perhaps, those where some ill-feeling has arisen or is traditional between his clan and the local landholding group.

The trouble he takes to obtain express or tacit permission will depend upon the strength of his claim to hospitality, arising from personal ties of relationship, traditional clan affiliations or totemic relationships (which are explained below).

Where the band is a large one, it may be difficult to say that it has any one clan as a nucleus. This is particularly true when large groups gather at a special time and place for major ceremonies of ritual songs and dances. On these occasions several related clans will have special responsibilities to perform or to manage the ceremonies, but many other clans will also be represented.

The head of the family will know exactly where his clan's land begins and ends. If circumstances take him away from it for any length of time, he will make a point of returning for major ceremonies if and when he can and, in particular, for the initiation of his sons.

This is his country in the clearest sense of that term. He may however speak of some other place or places as being his country, either because he was born there, or because his mother first became aware of her pregnancy there and so believed that the spirits conceived him there, or because the place is associated in mythology with a totemic or spirit figure which is either his personal totem also or the totem of his clan. The clan, for example, may have the bandicoot as a totemic figure, but the head of this family may have been born at a 'honey-bee Dreaming' place, which is imbued with the spirit essence of a mythical honey-bee man. He will then have a special relationship with other Aborigines sharing the same totemic figures. Each of his relationships with these spirit ancestors will be substantiated by stones and songs which include their doings in the Dreamtime on the clan's land and at the place of his birth.

The picture so far painted is, I believe, accurate for North Eastern Arnhem Land. Even here there is some doubt as to just how much time, before white contact, a typical clan member spent on his own land. In other parts of the Northern Territory, some different considerations apply. Thus on Melville and Bathurst Islands the Tiwi people, largely cut off from outside contact, developed some rules of their own. In some parts of the Territory, clan social membership was inherited from the mother, although landholding seems always to be inherited from the father. In others, where the landholding clans or dialect groups were larger and their country more extensive, they seem to have lived almost entirely on their own land except in times of severe drought Even so, their wives had to come from other groups and this led to a good deal of visiting, sometimes for protracted periods.

Up to this point I have concentrated on the situation which existed before white contact. In those days of intimate association between men and their land there would, I believe, have been no difficulty experienced in recording the allocation of country between landholding clans or dialect groups. Today the degree of difficulty will vary from place to place.

Because of the spiritual beliefs of the Aborigine about his land, his connexion with it is not broken by the fact that he may have lived away from it for many years. Certainly traditional ways of life have, to varying extents in different places, been departed from. Missions and settlements, with their assured food supplies, medical attention and other material advantages, have attracted Aborigines to settle, more or less permanently, in one place. Very often this is miles from their own country and, as older men die, accurate information becomes harder to obtain. Rituals are observed less often and not at the traditional sites. For the present- day enquirer, the problem is made much worse by the fact that Aborigines had no need, in the past, to be specific in their use of names for clans or other groups. Perhaps the most commonly used description was the name of the lan.guage or dialect spoken by a particular people. However, as I ave said, it seems clear that the larger language group was never a social or political unit and so never a land-holding group. In some cases the dailect group would constitute the land-holding unit and in other cases land would be held by a sub-division of that dialect group- a clan. In either case its membership was determined by common patrilineal descent

But even if the land-holding group was identical with the dialect group, it was not in its capacity as a dialect group that it held the land. It did so as a descent group and, usually, by another name. This name might well be the same as, or derived from, the particular totem of the group. In fact there could be serveral different names, some of them sacred and used only in ceremonies, for the same people.

Common usage complicated the position further because the people themselves would have little use for a group name, speaking only of 'us'; and neighbouring groups might refer to them by reference to totemic relationships or to the name of a leading figure in the group or to a particular place frequented by the group. Indeed in some cases it is hard to discover whether a sub-group of a particular dialect group holds a piece of country to the exclusion of the other subgroup, or whether they are merely specially associated with that area, which is nevertheless held by the whole group. Aborigines further afield might well group a number or clans together and refer to them as ' the people of the north ' or 'the people of the desert'. Such a description could easily be mistaken for a tribal name.

I have no doubt that, even today, the necessary information is available to divide much, if not all, of the Northern Territory into dialect group or clan regions. If the right people could be taken out to the right places, to demonstrate the position on the ground, I believe that there would be little disagreement. I have so far come across no case in which ownership of land has been disputed among full-blooded Aborigines. But the task of obtaining the necessary information from different informants, having different degrees of knowledge, and then converting it into clear terms for record purposes, could undoubtedly be a very long and difficult one. Since detailed surveying would be necessary, the job would certainly take a number of years and the expense would be very great.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I thank the Minister and the House. The recommendations of the second and final report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission which was presented by Mr Justice Woodward formed the basis of the Land Rights Bill that was introduced into the Parliament 13 months ago. Speaking during the second reading debate on the 1975 Bill the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), who was then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs for the then Opposition, sought to refer that Bill to a standing committee of the Parliament for a further report. That Bill, which was the result of IS months of investigation by Mr Justice Woodward and 18 months of consultation with Aboriginal groups, lapsed on the dissolution of the Parliament. It had been widely debated and generally accepted by Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory. I just recall the fact that, despite the good intentions of the then Opposition to refer this whole matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, when it came into Government it did not seem to think that that was a good idea. Of course, that proposed Bill has never seen the light of day from the standpoint of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. So it is clear that honourable gentlemen opposite say different things when they are in Opposition and when they are in Government.

In June last year, reacting to pressures from vested interests and in particular from the National Country Party dominated Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and the Australian Mining Industry Council, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) introduced a new, redrafted Bill with the same title.


Mr Haslem - Have you asked the Mining Industry Council whether it likes it now?


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The differences are vast and, as honourable members will note from the number of amendments to be moved by the Opposition, they are substantial. In the 5 months since the introduction of this legislation the Government has failed to initiate debate on the changes; rather, it undertook another bureaucratic study. I can understand the honourable member for Canberra liking that kind of process. We are told that the result of that examination of submissions is reflected in the amendments which are to be moved by the Government. That report, however, has not been tabled in the House; nor has it been made available to those persons who made submissions to the inquiry. We are expected- I am speaking for the whole Parliament now, not just the Opposition- to accept without question that this Government, which so shamelessly capitulated to the mining industry only last week, has stood firm on behalf of the Aboriginal people in relation to this Bill. If that is so, why not let the Australian people read the submissions and the report which was based on them? Let the Australian people decide whether the changes made to the Bill introduced last year by the Whitlam Government are acceptable.

The most wide ranging and far reaching alterations to Labor's Bill relate to the transfer of legislative power from this Parliament to the

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. These powers include the control and declaration of protection of sacred sites, the control of entry to pastoral properties, the control of entry to Aboriginal lands and access to the sea adjoining Aboriginal lands. The Opposition opposes this transfer of power and, in particular, opposes the deletion of that clause of the 1975 Land Rights Bill which provided that this Parliament, through regulation, could override any Northern Territory legislation. This final provision followed directly on the recommendation made in paragraph 740 by Mr Justice Woodward, where he stated:

It is important that the basic legislation of the Australian Parliament be protected in such a way that its provisions cannot be eroded by the effect of any Northern Territory Ordinance.

The Opposition proposes to move in the Committee stage a number of amendments to reinstate the Australian Government's jurisdiction over these matters, as Mr Justice Woodward recommended and as the Australian people decided in the 1967 referendum. A further point of concern both to the Labor Opposition and to Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory is the restriction on the functions of the land councils in the Northern Territory imposed by the 1 976 Bill. The 1975 Bill gave legal recognition to the already existing Northern and Central Land Councils established on the recommendation of Mr Justice Woodward. The new Bill gives wide discretionary powers to the Minister to set the boundaries and to limit the operation of land councils. Mr Justice Woodward, in paragraph 359 of his second report, recommended that land councils have power to:

1.   Co-ordinate and make claim to vacant Crown lands.

2.   Make representations to the Land Commission about priorities and expenditures of moneys for land purchase and land development.

3.   Issue entry permits to non-Aborigines visiting Aboriginal lands and arrange for Rangers and others to check the permit system is observed.

The 1976 Bill eliminates these 3 specific functions. The important power to make representations about priorities and expenditure is deleted from the functions of the councils. The issue of entry permits is to be handled not by Aboriginal land councils but by the white, Darwin based, Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. This is, of course, despite the attitude to the contrary expressed during the debate on the 1975 Bill by the present Attorney-General and then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs.

On perhaps the most important function of all- that of co-ordinating land claims- the Government has reverted to the provisions of the Labor Bill which followed Mr Justice

Woodward's recommendations. This function, which the land councils have been actively and successfully pursuing since their formation, will now be retained by them. I hope that the Minister will ensure that the additional funds which would have been made available to the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service for this function will now be made available to the councils. Obviously they will have very great difficulty in functioning and fulfilling these functions unless they are able to employ and deploy the expert personnel necessary to gain an active appreciation of these important matters. However, despite reverting to Mr Justice Woodward's original intention with regard to the land councils' co-ordinating role in land claims, this Bill has severely limited the range of claims which are to be heard by the Land Commissioner. Mr Justice Woodward proposed that an Aboriginal Land Commissioner be appointed to determine claims from Aboriginal people which were based not on traditional grounds but rather on need. In his second report he stated:

The difficulties in which many of these people find themselves do arise from the loss of their traditional lands or the loss of their sense of Aboriginal identity caused by their mixed ancestry. Whatever their reasons for living in a town, it can certainly be said that most of the fringe dwellers of the cities have suffered more from the coming of white settlement than have those still living on reserves or cattle stations.


Mr Ruddock - Where was that quoted from?


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is in the Woodward report. I am surprised that the honourable gentleman has not read it. These claims, which have been heard by the Interim Commissioner, Mr Justice Ward, whose reports have been widely accepted, are now to be heard by the Northern Territory Lands Board and not by the Commissioner. This is a complete abrogation of the recommendation of the Woodward Commission and of the spirit and intention of the 1975 Bill introduced by the Labor Government. An example of what will result can be seen in the claim of the Gurindjis. Their claim for land at Wave Hill began a decade ago. In August last year the then Prime Minister finally handed over leasehold title to part of their claim. The freehold title was to pass with the royal assent to the Bill introduced last year. Under this Bill it seems that the Gurindjis could be denied their land. Ten years after their claim was first lodged it is to go to yet another tribunal, from what I gather from the Minister's remarks this afternoon.

Then there is the question of Tanami. The Walpiri people of Yuendumu and Hooker Creek are to suffer a similar indignity. The Minister has stated that despite a recommendation by Mr Justice Woodward in paragraph 150 of his report that the Tanami Desert people be included in any transfer of land to Aboriginal ownership because of the close traditional ties to the Walpiri people- the largest tribe in the Northern Territoryand despite the inclusion of the Tanami Desert in schedules of both the 1975 and 1976 Bills, it is now to be excluded. The land in question has been subject to continued attempts to transfer it to a reserve for the Walpiris since 1935, and its inclusion would be seen as a major measure of good faith by an administration which has ignored its claims for 41 years. The amendment to exclude this land should and will be seen as a gross insult to a people who suffered the most recent massacre in Australia's history when 3 1 of their tribe were murdered in revenge killings in 1928. Honourable members opposite, if they accept nothing else, should fight to retain this land in the schedule. I commend it to them and to the House.


Mr Ruddock - That seems to conflict with your earlier quotation.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -It is in regard to mining that perhaps the most intensive lobbying campaign has been conducted and the most extensive changes made to the 1975 Bill. Honourable members and the public will have noticed the huge advertising campaign undertaken by the Australian Mining Industry Council, allegedly costing over $ lm, to put across its point of view that Aborigines should not retain the right to veto mining on their land. These claims have been rejected not only by the Aboriginal groups but also by members of the Government Parties -Senator Chaney, Senator Bonner and Senator Baume -


Mr Ruddock - And the Government.


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - . . . who wrote letters to the newspapers and made their position clear in respect of this matter. One of the most obnoxious clauses of the Government's original Bill- that permitting a secret inquiry into whether mining on Aboriginal land is 'in the national interest'- is to be removed. The new clause, recognising the overwhelming vote of the 1967 referendum to give the Parliament legislative power in Aboriginal affairs, wil reinstate that provision in the 1975 Bill which makes any such declaration subject to disallowance by either House of this Parliament.


Mr Ruddock - Whose decision was that?


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The new Bill, however, provides that Aborigines -







Suggest corrections