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Address at the Inaugural Conference of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

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I have spoken to Mr. Justice Woodward today. He is in

Darwin completing his work on the Bench and he will start his

work of reading and discussing and hearing from people ih the next

week or so. If you want to put a view before him about land

rights you should prepare this and we will either convene meetings

of people at various places so that he can meet a number of

people at once or you could see him wherever he is.

^-n the job we have given him we have set ou*· basically

about the Northern Territory but we say this * "Hd-shall look

at such other matters relating to rights in relation to Land

as may be referred to him by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs".

If we gather some further ideas I will put it to him in my capacity

as Minister. His task is to say how land rights are to be

developed by legislation or other means. The motions from the

Conference for the Commonwealth to take over State authorities:

Every State has a Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs. It

has been suggested that you could appoint from this committee

six sub-committees of say, three people to go and see the

Minister in each State and put the case to them. You have also

raised questions such as schools, buses and so on. The State

Governments of course ought to supply them. If they don't we

will. We have got to now set up the machinery to see that all

these people do their job. Your help will be to keep us supplied

with information. You will become your own lobbyists. The

question has been raised of hostelsi We now have throughout

Australia lots of applications for hostels and suggestions

about them. We are looking at some way where we can make this an

Australiar-wide dperzation. We have got to remember that our duties are

also to those who are voiceless - those who cannot be heard or

don't even know about these changes. It must be an Australian

exercise. We are all part of a single unit and while we don't

have to always agree, we can try to start to get our policies

into some reasonable form.


The question has been raised of Torres Strait. I thought that

the people I sat opposite to for 17 years in the Parliament were

often mischievous but I think as a Minister that the behaviour

of the Premier of Queensland over the last few weeks has been

the most mischievous of any political figure &&-etny I have seen

in the last twenty years. I think he has become a national

menace. We have no real quarrel with the people of Papua/

New Guinea. We are part of the same world. There is a difference

of opinion between some people about the dotted line on the map.

The Prime Minister has said that we should take action now to avoid

any future conflicts. I sat at a conference with the Prime

Minister of Australia and the Chief Minister of Papua/New Guinea

three or four weeks ago in which we set out the principles.

This is going to take some time to sort out but in the world

there are lots of these problems. There are many solutions

to this without taking away people's lands - I want that to be

clear. I became aware of this issue years ago, of course.

Last year I wrote to eVery person on the electoral role on

these three islands. For some reason some of the people's

writing seemed to be in the same hand and on some sort of official

stationery. So we are doubly concerned about the rights.of the

6,000 people who live there. We believe that the State

Government of Queensland has isolated them from Australia.

Instead of him talking about them as Australians he has tried to .

keep them from being Australians.

Land rights will take months„ Housing will take years

to solve. It is part of our policy to see that the Aboriginal

communities get a good health service. I don* t know whether- this

answers all the questions you raised today. Government loans

for Aboriginal enterprises have been mentioned. You must remember

I don't want to encourage people to go too deeply into debt.

There are very few of us who could face a debt of $50,000.

But I shall always support loans to Aborigines to commence or

continue reasonable enterprises. _

I welcome all you have said and will do whatever I can to

involve you in working out the answers particularly where they

are hardy. Therefore I say to you I will act immediately.

I hope that in the next two years we have done the job well

enough that we will still be applauded then.

Canberra, 22/2/73