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Wednesday, 1 December 1976

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) -I want to deal very briefly with points raised by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and the Minister. First, the honourable member for Wills, when he said that the item could be circular because non-traditional Aboriginals get on to the register, omitted one very fundamental point. Aboriginals can be persuaded of many things and they will on occasions falsify many things but they will never, to my way of thinking, falsify lines of descent. These are sacred to Aborigines and they consider them in quite a different category from any other category. So the register would be, to all intents and purposes, watertight.

Second, the honourable member for Moore mentioned that there were other protections in the Bill. Clause 7 of the Bill states that the Land Trust shall be appointed by the Minister from nominations received. However, nominations are confined to people who live within the area of the relevant land council. This also applies in regard to the qualifications for membership of land councils. So the same watertight provisions do not apply in practice. Anybody who really knows how Aborigines think and behave and what they believe to be really sacrosanct will, I think, agree with my contention. The Minister said that my amendment was too restrictive in that it would- I think this was what he impliedconfine the definition of Aborigines to owners. If the Minister reads what I have suggested, he will see that they are people who are registered as owners or have been nominated by a person so registered as a member of his land-owning clan or group. This is something which Aborigines will follow absolutely meticulously, absolutely honestly and without question. It enables anybody who is recognised by the Aborigines, in accordance with their own strict laws which they preserve quite meticulously, in a clan relationship or group relationship, to be registered. As somebody who has had some experience in the field, I can say that he will be registered as such.

These are objections which have been raised to the proposition which I have put forward. They seem to me to be objections which have no substance in them. So far as I know there have been no substantial and correct arguments introduced in this chamber today against the proposition that I am putting forward. In view of its importance for maintaining for traditional Aborigines the traditional land and traditional rights which this Bill describes in its title, I ask that the amendment be seriously considered, if not here at least in another place.

Amendment negatived.

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