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Wednesday, 1 December 1976


Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I must say something about what the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), has just said. He used very strong words concerning the Legislative Assembly and the powers that are given to it in this Bill He has insinuated that the Assembly will control these rnining interests and the land on which Aborigines will have mineral rights. Just looking briefly at clause 73, the ordinance which is complementary to this legislation concerns sacred sites and the entry of persons onto Aboriginal land. As I have already said, the Legislative Assembly has voted 3 times against the Labor Party when it wanted to throw open Aboriginal land to everyone- Collins and all the rest.

The people who defended the Aboriginal cause were the members of the Legislative Council as it was called in those days. The Labor Party members in the Northern Territory were the ones who consistently voted to do away with the Aboriginal permit system, and honourable members opposite know it. The matter comes up again and again. The complementary legislation refers also to protection, conservation, prohibiting the entry of persons into controlled fishing areas and. so on. It is completely wrong to say to this Government that the Legislative Assembly members will hold the Aboriginal land rights with regard to minerals in the hollow of their hands. That is absolute nonsense.

While we have been discussing this matter Mr Justice Woodward has been quoted at length as being the ultimate authority. I remind the Committee that he was advised by the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council. I do not know whether the people involved took into account the real beliefs and traditions of the traditional Aborigines to whom this Bill after all refers. It seems to me that there has been heavy criticism of people who have advised the Government and who have lived in the Territory for many years, which is something that no one in this chamber apart from myself has done. There is a connection between the central Australian traditional land ownership which is connected with the Tjuringa and the Arnhem Land or northern land ownership and clan gathering which is known as the Rangga. There has been much criticism that the Central Australian argument has been triggered by members of the Lutheran Church including Paul Albrecht, but many others have supported these moves. It has been said by the advisers of Mr Justice Woodward that the area in Central Australia was an isolated case of church dominance. Let me refer to a work put out by Dr Berndt which states:

The mala -

That is a clan- points to that religious aspect and to territorial possession. In the recent Gove Land Rights case, Yirrkala Aborigines made the point that members of the particular mada - which is the same as mala- own their land because their linked mala had association which were . . . (secret-sacred) emblems.

This is similar to the Tjuringa in Central Australia. This seems to have been completely ignored by the advisers to Mr Justice Woodward. The whole concept of the original Labor Party land Bill was to some extent based on a false premise. The land councils were set up by Europeans and they tended not to take into consideration the feelings, beliefs and land laws of the traditional Aborigines. We are now seeing this come into effect. I am associating what is happening in Central Australia- it is moving strongly from the traditional owners against this sort of white fellow set-up of large land councils and land ownership by people other than the traditional owners- with the Arnhem Land situation. This has been explained in the publication edited by Dr Peterson, which contains articles by learned men on Aboriginal affairs.

Yesterday at a public meeting Dr Gavranic, who has spent some years at Gove amongst Aborigines, described to us with diagrams why the whole concept of these councils and this land ownership as it is now envisaged is incorrect. Unfortunately, one cannot produce the diagrams in this chamber. He was quite right in what he said. He was backing up such men as Strehlow, Albrecht, De Graf and so on. He said that land ownership was based on the family or clan groups. Aboriginals in those family groups relate many of their customs and actions, such as the marriage ceremony, to beliefs tied up with their history on the law of the land. Our original concept with respect to the needs of these people was that there was a whole mob of blacks out in the bush- we did not determine whether they were clans or tribes- and we 'white fellows' or 'balandas', as they are known at the Top End had the task of providing something there for these Aborigines. What did we do? We put a settlement in the middle. We did not understand that we were mixing together Aborigines from such tribes as the Pintubi, the Walbri, Aranda, the Iluawa and the like. This fact has only recently become obvious. I am afraid that this Bill, and the legislation introduced by the Labor Party before it, missed that point. The Labor legislation missed the point utterly. This Bill still does. We should realise that this is the situation. We have heard former Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs speaking about the ownership of land and tying it to the large land councils. This is what is happening. -It is not correct. It is time that this Government learned that it is not correct.







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