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Reaffirmation of Aboriginal affairs policy



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MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS The Hon. Ian Viner EMBARGO

EMBARGO - Until Minister·Speaks

REAFFIRMATION OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS POLICY

' A review of the Coalition Parties’ 1975 election policy in Aboriginal Affairs had shown that the Government was on the right course in i£s determination to implement self-management and self-sufficiency as the basis for

communitjy and individual independence and self-respect, “the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, said today. I

! In an address to the House of Representatives

following the tabling of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Annual Report (1977-78), Mr Viner said that this policy committed the Government to the principle that all Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders "should be Xas free as other - Australians to determine their own varied\futures". It

recognised "the fundamental right of Aboriginals to retain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle or, where desired, to adopt partially or wholly a European lifestyle."

Commitments

In the three years the Government had been in office, Mr Viner said it had fulfilled five major commitments of which it could be proud. These were:-1) through its policy of self-management giving Aboriginals

a new hope of controlling their own future in the same way as other Australians; .

2) the restoration of a national forum for the expression of Aboriginals’ views (the National Aboriginal Conference) and the creation of a formal Aboriginal advisory body to the Government (the Council for Aboriginal Development) ; . ' '

3) the passage of legislation to grant land rights in respect of traditional Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory; . .

4) the decision to establish an Aboriginal Entitlement Capital Account in recognition of "the problems * 1 2 3 4 5 flowing from the past dispossession and dispersal ' of the Aboriginal people and the community’s resulting responsibility". Funds would be channelled through the account for, . '

5) the Aboriginal Development Agency which would carry on the extend the work of the Land Fund Commission and the Loans Commission and incorporate the .

Department’s Enterprise vote.

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2.

Disadvantage

Mr Viner said these important achievements must not, however, blind the Government to the tragedy and deprivation which haunted the everyday lives of far too many Aboriginals.

The granting of land rights in the Northern Territory had opened up for Aboriginals there important new opportunities for self-management for s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y H e added:- '

"The significance of„such momentous occasions as the handing over of title to traditional land owners in' the Northern Territory in September has to be set against the facts that Aboriginals as a group have the highest death rate

(particularly among the very young), the worst health and housing, the lowest educational, occupantional, economic, ; social and legal status of any identifiable section of bur population. '

"Australian Governments, both Commonwealth and State, in consultation with our Aboriginal citizens, have a, national duty and a moral and. political obligation to remedy this extreme state of disadvantage." . -

Co-ordination

Mr Viner said that while the review reaffirmed the . correctness of the Government's basic policies of self-management and self-sufficiency, it also .revealed the need for better co-ordination of assistance programs so that Aboriginals were assured of equal access to Government services enjoyed by other citizens as well as the benefit of additional services appropriate to their state of extreme disadvantage. .

Co-ordination procedures are to include a. yearly meeting of a Commonwealth Standing Committee of Officials representing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and other functional departments and agencies with aid responsibilities

in order to avoid duplication. He said he saw the NAC as playing a leading role in co-ordination and consultation of this kind. ■ '

■ Mr Viner said the Commonwealth Government expected the States to provide at least·a pro-rata share to Aboriginals . in their own welfare programs. The Minister said he %

Training and Employment

Training is being given special emphasis by its separate identification as a national program in the Department's annual budget.

A recent review of the National Employment Strategy for Aboriginals since its introduction last year had shown unemployment figures still extremely high — probably five to six times the national average -- but decisions had been made recently to implement new initiatives to ease the situation.

A broadly based National Aboriginal Employment Develop­ ment Committee under the chairmanship of the General Manager and

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Director of Hastings Deering (Queensland) Ltd. Mr R.K. Miller, would oversee a national campaign to stimulate job opportunities and persuade employers to ensure job Opportunities for Aboriginals.

Mr Viner appealed for the co-operation of the whole Australian community. The Prime Minister, he said, had already written to the State Premiers asking for their support. _

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Self-Management *

! Stressing training and employment as basic to Aboriginal self-sufficiency, Mr Viner referred also to his Ministerial Directive, reproduced in the Annual Report, as the policy basis for all assistance programs. He said an

essential part of the self-management process was acceptance by Aboriginals of responsibility for the outcome of projects which they had initiated. Accountability through observance of financial rules was being insisted upon and had been widely

accepted.

Outstations -

Mr Viner said that one notable result of Aboriginals being able to choose their own lifestyles was in the outstation movement. This involved small groups of Aboriginals moving away from larger established.centres to live a more

tradition-oriented life. The 148 outstations now existing represent self-management in operation even though there was still a requirement for essential health and education services the provision of which needed a flexible approach by authorities.

Future

Mr Viner said the Government had created conditions in which significant changes in Aboriginal outlook and expectations were taking place, and with support from the Australian community he believed that Aboriginals could look

forward with confidence to years of progress ahead firmly based on foundations which the Government had built.

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Canberra, ACT 23 November, 1978