Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Address at the first meeting of the Aboriginal Development Commission

Download PDFDownload PDF

'· >





It gives me great pleasure to be with you today at this

the first meeting of the Aboriginal Development Commission.

. I'm sure everyone here recognises the historical .

significance of this occasion - that through hew legislation and the means of meetings of this sort, Aboriginal people for the

first time will have control of major programs. .

As appointed representatives of Aboriginal people throughout

Australia, you will be taking responsibility for the. buying of land, the granting of loans for houses and the financing of Aboriginal

enterprises. You will also be advising me on social and economic development. , .

It is possible as the ADC develops that other responsibilities

will come your way. .


As my Senate colleague.Neville Bonner said when he introduced the Draft ADC Bill to Federal Parliament last November,

the initiative to establish this Commission sprang from the

Government's desire to fulfil its policy commitment to the Aboriginal

people of Australia. .

Its aim is to further economic and social development,

through self-management.

The establishment of the Aboriginal Entitlement Capital

Account is designed to promote both development and self-sufficiency.

. . ./2


It is a recognition of the darker side of Australia's

history, the dispossession and dispersal of Aboriginal people.


For those of us in the field the problems still seem

immense. But, we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

As I said in Perth at the weekend, Aboriginals are still

the most seriously deprived group of people in Australia.

But while there are dismal statistics there are also real

and measurable improvements.

We are currently witnessing the inevitable time lag

between the introduction of positive policies and the point at which

the accruing benefits affect the statistics.

The Commonwealth recognises that Aboriginal people have .

the right to opportunities and the access to services equal to those

of other Australians. . · ·

Our big job now is to lessen that time lag.


We can take heart from looking at the enormous changes

that have occurred in the last decade and we know the momentum

created in this period will carry us through at a faster rate in

the next 10 years. /.-■·


As you are all aware, the 1967 referendum - v/hich gave

the Commonwealth Government joint responsibility with the States to

legislate for the benefit of Aboriginal people - was a turning point.

.. ./3 ■Sr ·/


It brought home to the Commonwealth Government the need

for. a national approach, recognising the needs and rights of the

country's original inhabitants.

All policies introduced since then have been based on the '

fundamental right of Aboriginal Australians to determine their own ,

futures. .

They have been devised in consultation with Aboriginal .

people and where possible, to'be carried out by Aboriginal people.

Great attention has been given to making them not only

relevant, but also a s .close as possible to what Aboriginal people

have expressed as their aspirations, their goals for the future.

Prime consideration has been given to the Aboriginal peoples

wish to preserve their cultural heritage. .

This approach has seen the.introduction «of a whole range . ·

of economic and social benefits which in turn has brought about the

strong sense of identity, and self-awareness that Aboriginal people

exhibit today. This group - the Aboriginal Development Commission -

is a good example of what is being. achieved by individual Aboriginals.

Since 1971 we have seen : .

.. the purchase of land for Aboriginals. Aboriginals now .

operate nearly 60 pastoral properties throughout the

country bought for them by the Commonwealth Government .

through Aboriginal Land Commission. . . .

. Legislation granting land rights to Aboriginals in the "

Northern Territory has so far resulted in 345,833 sq km. -

approximately 26% of the Northern Territory - being

transferred to them.

. Aboriginal owners have been able to negotiate with

Governments and multi-national companies regarding mining

. on their land. They are now receiving royalty-type .

payments from the mining. ' ' .

Under Department of Aboriginal Affairs programs , more

than 7,000 houses have been purchased or constructed.

Through the Aboriginal Loans Commission, more than

1,200 low-interest loans have been made available to Aboriginal families.

Eleven independent Aboriginal Legal Services have been

established throughout Australia, funded by the Federal

Government. . . ' ' : . . . .

12 Aboriginal Medical Services have been established in

urban areas and another three community-based health

services are operating as pilot projects in remote .

Central Australia. „

Special education programs have been introduced. In ittid-

1978 there were 15,000 Aboriginal children studying at secondary schools (compared with 3,600 in 1967) and a

further 4,500 at technical and tertiary “institutions. '

Bilingual education programs have been developed

particularly in remote areas.

A National Employment Strategy aimed at creating better

training and job opportunities for Aboriginals has been

introduced. .

Support - both financial and moral - has been given to

the outstation movement. . .

Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Pty. Ltd. has been established

to promote and sell the work of Aboriginal artists and

craftsmen and the Aboriginal Artists Agency protects their

interests and copyright.

Many other Aboriginal organisations, like sporting groups,

have been supported.

Aboriginal participation in the formulation of policies

at all levels has been encouraged through groups like the

National Aboriginal Conference, the Council for Aboriginal·

Development, the National Aboriginal Education Committee,

the National Aboriginal Education. Committee, the National

Aboriginal Employment Development Committee.

In terms of money, since the creation of the Federal

Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1972, more than

$l,000m has been spent by the Commonwealth Government on

Aboriginal development programs. .


I think that by bearing these achievements in mind, you

will see more clearly where your future task lies.

The ADC is to continue and accelerate Aboriginal

advancement, in keeping with the aspirations of the

people, promoting social, development on a firm economic,

basis. As I have mentioned there are substantial

capital assets, particularly land, in the·-.hands of many

Aboriginal communities. It is the task of the Commission

to ensure that those assets are used to the social and;. .

economic advantage of these communities. ·

Along the way it will. also be necessary to inform non­

Aboriginal Australians and the other Australian . .

Governments in the States about the Commission's activities

and about how Aboriginals are to benefit. . ·

You will need the widest possible support and encouragement.

The future well-being of many Aboriginals now depends on the

strength of your dedication and conviction in making this

organisation work.

Each of you carries a .great personal responsibility which I

know you will fulfil to the best of your ability. ,

8 July, 1980.