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Wednesday, 1 December 1976
Page: 3046

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I wish to discuss the amendment moved by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). As indicated by his speech, there seems to be some misunderstanding throughout the country and certainly within the Australian Labor Party about the role of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in the past and in the future. The honourable member expressed concern that the Legislative Assembly might legislate in some way to deprive Aborigines of the right of access to their own land. He claimed that Aborigines had said that they did not want a remote land council deciding who went onto their land. That is dead right. The Aboriginal people do not want a remote land council- either a central or northern land council- deciding who goes on to their land. As they have stated continually, they would prefer such a decision to be made by their own clan councils.

The honourable member for Hughes went on to say that, by the same token, Aborigines would not welcome decisions being made on this matter by remote Darwin-based bureaucrats. In this regard, he cited the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. He would know that in the course of the last 3 elections for the Legislative Assembly and its predecessor, the Northern Territory Legislative Council, one of the platforms on which the Country-Liberal Party stood related to the Aboriginal control of entry on to their land, that is, reserves. The policy of the Australian Labor Party at that time in the Northern Territory was to do away with the entry permit system. He and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), as former Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, would know that that was the case. In elections for the former Legislative Council, that proposition from the Labor Party was defeated. The Labor members of the Council were not successful. In the election following the creation of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory, no Labor candidates were returned to that body. It was the Country-Liberal Party in the Northern Territory which defended the right of Aborigines to decide who went on to their land. It was not the Legislative Assembly or the bureaucrats who decided that matter.

The system was that a person seeking entry on to Aboriginal land would send a telegram to the council concerned. The telegram did not go to the northern land council, but to the local Aboriginal council, which would be, for example, the Goulburn Island Council, the Oenpelli Council or the Milingimbi Council. A telegram or note was sent to the appropriate council saying that the sender wished to go on to that council 's land. The council communicated its response through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I want this matter to be put straight. Again and again I have heard in this Parliament and have read in newspapers that it is the Northern Territory

Legislative Assembly which decides who goes on to Aboriginal land. Members of that Assembly fought for the entry permit system to remain in the hands of the traditional owners through the local councils. I take this opportunity to put the record straight.

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