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Speech for the opening of the 117th National Conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders



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SPEECH BY TH E .P R )M E M IN IS TE R

THE HON, E , 6 . WHITL'AM, Q . C . , M . P . ,

FOR THE OPENING OF THE 1 7 T II ΝΑΊ ZONAL CONFERENCE

OF THE FEDERAL COUNCIL FUR THE ADVANCEMENT OF

ABORIGINES S TORRES S TR A IT ISLANDERS

CANBERRAv FRIDAY 2 8 MARCH .1975

It i s t a k in g a long t im e to r ed r e s s the long h is t o r y

of i n j u s t i c e to our Ab o r i g i n a l p e o p l e . I n no f i e l d of

GOVERNMENT ARE GOOD INTENTIONS MORE EASILY SUBVERTED BY

PRACTICAL D IF F IC U LT IE S AND HUMAN FAILING S, My GOVERNMENT

HAS DONE A GREAT DEAL FOR YOUR PEOPLE, BUT I AM NOT GOING

TO PRETEND THAT THE PLIGHT OF ABORIGINES HAS BEEN REMOVED

OR EVEN GREATLY ALLEVIATED, h HAS NOT, I f INCREASED .

GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURES, THE PASSAGE OF ENLIGHTENED

LEGISLATION AND THE CREATION OF NEW AGENCIES WERE ALL THAT

WERE NEEDED, ABORIGINES AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS WOULD

NOW BE ENJOYING MUCH HAPPIER PROSPECTS FOR A FULL AND BETTER

L IF E , The TRUTH IS THAT WE ARE DEALING WITH PERVERSE AND

INTRACTABLE THINGS LIKE HUMAN NATURE, DEEPLY INGRAINED ■

CULTURAL AND SOCIAL HABITS, THE LEGACY OF DECADES OF NEGLECT

AND GENERATIONS OF' REPRESSION, I.N RECENT WEEKS IN PARTS OF. .

t h e No rthern T e r r it o r y we have seen a d e p r e s s in g and l a m e n t a b l e

RESURGENCE OF THE WORST STRAINS. OF PREJUDICE AND RACISM, TOUR

STRUGGLE, OUR STRUGGLE, W ILL BE LONG AND D IFF IC U LT, I CAN

ONLY SAY T H IS ! THROUGHOUT THAT STRUGGLE THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR

Governm ent w i l l be on your s i d e ,

z ·

~ .9 -

,2,

And for a l l the d i f f i c u l t i e s we face th e im p o r t a n t

! . ' ·

THING I S NOT TO LOSE F A I T H IN THE POWER OF GOVERNMENTS TO ,

BRING ABOUT CHANGE AND IMPROVEMENT, TRUE ENOUGH; THE ROAD

IS HARD AND FUL L OF OBSTACLES BUT WHEN A NA TIONAL GOVERNMENT

I S BEHIND YOU THERE I S HOPE; AMD THERE ARE REAL G A I N S ,

WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET THE RESOUNDING VICTORY A B O R IG IN A L

PEOPLE SECURED I N THE REFERENDUM OF 1 9 6 7 , Ϊ Η Α Τ RESULT

g a v e t h e Au s t r a l i a n Go v e r n m e n t c o n c u r r e n t p o w er s w i t h t h e

STATES; AND WHERE NECESSARY OVERRIDING POWERS; IN RESPECT

op Ab o r i g i n e s a n d To r r e s St r a i t Is l a n d e r s, It was an

UNMISTAKABLE AFFIRMATION OF THE PEOPLE1S W ILL. AND IT

WAS - IF YOU WILL FORGIVE THE PHRASE - VERY MUCH A VICTORY

FOR CENTRALISM, We MIGHT WELL PONDER WHAT THE RESULT

OF SUCH A REFERENDUM WOULD BE TODAY, WOULD THE OPPOSITION

SENATORS AND THE STATES RESIST SUCH A REFERENDUM IN THEIR

CURRENT OBSESSION WITH STATE RIGHTS? WOULD THE REFERENDUM

BE CARRIED $0 DECISIVELY? Th'E LESSON TO KEEP IN MIND IS

THAT REFORMS OF THIS KIND - REFORMS SO CRUCIAL TO YOUR

WELFARE AND CRUCIAL TO AUSTRALIA'S REPUTATION " CAN EASILY

BE FRUSTRATED OR SET ASIDE EVEN WHEN THE PEOPLE APPROVE THEM,

Of c o u r se none of us can be c o n t e n t w it h the

PROGRESS OF ABORIGINAL WELFARE SINCE THE REFERENDUM WAS CARRIED,

At l e a s t one St a t e i s s t i l l r e s i s t i n g t h e c l e a r i n s t r u c t i o n

GIVEN BY THAT RESULT, JUST AS THEY RESISTED THE EFFORTS OF OUR

' PREDECESSORS TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE PEOPLE'S VERDICT, IT IS "

EASILY FORGOTTEN THAT QUEENSLANDERS THEMSELVES VOTED OVERWHELMINGLY

FOR THE REFERENDUM, .YET DISCRIMINATORY LAWS REMAIN ON THE * _ . . . . . . «·. .

; s t a t u t e bo ok i n Qu e e n s l a n d , Mr Gorton d i d h i s b e s t to remove

ΤΗΕΜί t h e : $t a t e ; Go v e r n m e n t d e f i e d h i m , And of course t h e y *

have d e f i e d my ois’N Go v e r n m e n t ' s a t t e m p t s , I n November 1973

WE FIRST BROUGHT IN A B I L L TO OUTLAW ALL'FORMS OF RACIAL ■

' DISC RIM IN ATIO N; IT IS S T IL L BEFORE THE PARLIAMENT, OUR HUMAN

Rig h t s Bi l l had a s i m i l a r o b j e c t i v e and has m e t w it h s i m i l a r

OBSTRUCTION, LAST YEAR WE INTRODUCED A FURTHER B IL L TO

OVERRIDE SPECIFIC DISCRIMINATORY. QUEENSLAND LAWS BY LEGISLATION

IN THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT, 1 FIND IT INTOLERABLE THAT

Qu e e n s l a n d ' d i s c r i m i n a t o r y laws r e m a in i n for ce e i g h t y e a r s

AFTER THE REFERENDUM WAS PASSED, IN THE FACE OF THE PEOPLE'S

WISHES/ IN THE FACE OF THE EXPRESSED POLICY OF THE TWO MAJOR

PO LITIC AL PARTIES IN AUSTRALIA, . I

I WOULD NOT WANT YOU TO THINK THAT WE SEE ABORIGINAL .

AFFAIRS AS SOLELY A NATIONAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY, YOUR

OWN COUNCIL IS ORGANISED ON FEDERAL LINES AND OUR.APPROACH

REQUIRES A GOOD MEASURE OF CO-OPERATION WITH THE STATES, INHERE

the St a t e s have c o n s t i t u t i o n a l a u t h o r i t y i n such m a t t e r s as

HEALTH AND EDUCATION, WE HAVE.SOUGHT THE CO-OPERATION OF STATE ■

Mi n i s t e r s and t h e i r d e p a r t m e n t s , .

The b a s i c o b j e c t i v e . o f ' t h e Go v e r n m e n t ' s p o l i c y i s t o r e s t o r e

t o: t h e Ab o r i g i n a l p e o p l e t h e i r l o s t power of s e l f - d e t e r m i n a t i o n

i n ; ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND P O LIT IC A L AFFAIRS, WE WANT YOU- TO

ASSUME MUCH:GREATER R E S P O N S IB IL IT Y FOR YOUR OWN WELFARE, YOUR

OWN FU TU R E /TO IN IT IA T E IDEAS AND PROGRAMS OF YOUR OWN..' No ■ ■ · ' · * · . . " . 1 .

GOVERNMENT,’ HOWEVER BENEVOLENT, CAN DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU OR : ; , ■ : : ■ . ' ■

KNOW EXACTLY WUAT YOU WANT FOR YOURSELVES, ΪΗ Ε REAL FOLLY

O F;PATER N ALISM ;LIE S NOT SO.MUCH-IN ITS.CONDESCENSION A S . I N ITS

IGNORANCE OF TUE TRUE NEEDS OF THOSE I T PROFESSES TO SERVE. '

V ; .· , ; . So ;what we a r e .d o i n g i s e n a b l i n g "Ab o r i g i n a l c o m m u n i t i e s

: : - : : . ,

AND GROUPS TO 'MEET T H E I R OWN NEEDS AND LOOK AFTER T H E M S E L V E S . :

Th i s y e a r we a r e s p e n d i n g $ 1 3 m i l l i o n t o f u n d Ab o r i g i n a l Ho u s i n g

: : ■ i : ;· ( 1 ' ■ . . . . . . ; . ; '

ASSOCIATIONS SO THEY.CAN B U I L D AND BUY HOUSES, WE' ARE FU N DI NG ; := . : ' v .... ; - ...... = . . ·

Ab o r i g i n a l m e d i c a l s e r v i c e s i n New South Ha l e s , Qu e e n s l a n d ,

' : ; ' = ■ : · ' . . . : ■ . ■ ■ ·

V i c t o r i a ;.' a n d W e s t e r n " A u s t r a l i a . A b o r i g i n a l l e g a l · s e r v i c e s

HAVE BEEN E S T A B L I S H E D I N A L L STATES AND THE NORTHERN T E R R I T O R Y . '

HE HAVE SET UP .THE A B O R I G I N A L L o a N-S COMMI SSI ON TO PROVIDE , : : ; ; , · ; : . . . . · ........ . . . . . ; . .

l o a n s t o: Ab o r i g i n a l s .f o r.b u s i n e s s e n t e r p r i s e s, a n d h a v e p r e p a r e d

’ : ; - : · · " : . · · : · . · ■ · . . . . . · ■ ■

LEGISLATION TO" MAKE I J EASIER FOR ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES' '

AND GROUPS TO 'INCORPORATE FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PURPOSES. · - : ■ : . * . ; · ■ * . ' *

> . . · . : . . .

■·'* ;■:· On e■ o f THE; Go v e r n m e n t' s m a j o r r e f o r m s .was .t o s e t up

t h e Na t i o n a l Ab o r i g i n a l Co n s u l t a t i v e Co m m i t t e e, a n a t i o n a l b o d y

t o;w h i c h. Ab o r i g i n e s m a y e l e c t r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s t o a d v i s e t h e ;

M IN :I STER ON P O L I C I E S ‘.AND PROGRAMS. W e WANT THE COMMITTEE' TO;

PROMOTE THE AUTONOMY·AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE ABORIG INAL PEOPLE:. . . ■ : : : . : . ; ; . ; . '

AND HELP THEM M A IN T A I N D I S T I N C T I V E CULTURES. : .

For th e same r e a s o n we e s t a b l i s h e d an Ab o r i g i n a l Arts

Board w i t h i n t h e Au s t r a l i a Co u n c i l , and tt i s g e n e r o u s l y fun d ed

to enc ou rag e t r a d i t i o n a l .a n d d e v e l o p in g Ab o r i g i n a l a r t s . .We

h ave i n t r o d u c e d b i l i n g u a l e d u c a t io n c o u r s e s i n n o r t h e r n Au s t r a l i a

so t h a t Ab o r i g i n a l c h i l d r e n can b e t a u g h t i n t h e i r own d i a l e c t s ,

. ■ ■ ' ·

" · . ' T he · Go v e r n m e n t has r e c o g n is e d from t h e; star.t t h a t

LAND RIGHTS' ARE CENTRAL TO YOUR ASPIRATIONS, YOUR D IG N ITY AND .

y o u r ''p l a c e i n ; a u u s t s o c i a l o r d e r, One of t h e Go v e r n m e n t ' s f i r s t

. a c t i o n s : i n De c e m b e r 1 9 7 2 was to f r e e z e m i n e r a l e x p l o r a t i o n and ·

•l a n d ; l e a s i n g i n No r t h e r n Te r r it o r y r e s e r v e s - a n d a p p o i n t a "

Ro y a l' Co m m i s s i o n ·t o ; a d v i s e on ways i n w h i c h : Ab o r i g i n a l la n d r i g h t s

• MIGHT, BEST b e ! RECOGNISED', AFTER HR JUSTICE WOODWARD'S FIRST

r e p o r t· i n J u l y 1 1 9 7 3 , . two r e g i o n a l La n d Co u n c il s were s e t up a n d, .

LARGELY;ON .THE; BASIS OF SUBMISSIONS PROM THESE COUNCI LS., A ■ . : : : i . . . · . ; . . ■ ; . _

; F i N A l J RlipORT' AND RECOMMENDATIONS WERE SUBMITTED. I N M.AY 1 9 7 4 .

THE RECOMMENDATIONS WERE ACCEPTED I N P R I N C I P L E BY GOVERNMENT,

Leg I SLAT i ON" 1$ b e i n g d r a f t e d f o r i n t r o d u c t i o n i n THE PRESENT '

' · ' : ; . . ; ; . . . . ■ " '

■ S E S S I O N - A F T E R ; FURTHER CONSULTATIONS WITH THE LAND COUNCILS, ... ■ : : ; . : - · ' '· ' - ■

. ; · , « · * . : ; ■ · · ·

. · - ·

M . l i - ■ · ; · . . . . . . . - r . · i . ' .... '

; :■ T h e -Ab o r i g i n a l La n d Fund Act was in t r o d u c e d an d p a s s e d

ί . . ' - - * - - - :

L A T E R ! I N 11 9 7 4 r ; I T ES T A B LI S H E S A FUND FOR THE PURCHASE BY ;

' ; . ■ : . V : : : . . . . . ■ ■ ■ . · '· . ............ ·

.. Ab o r i g i n a l c o m m u n i t i e s o f l a n d f o r e c o n o m i c-a n d" s o c i a l'p u r p o s e s

a n d f o r ’a: Co m m i s s i o n^ a d m i n i s t e r t h e Fu n d, At :l e a s t;t w o. o f ·

t h e f i v e.m e m b e r s o f Th e Co m m i s s i o n w i l l b e Ab o r i g i n a l, A n u m b e r :

•QF; LA R GE 'P R OP ER TI ES ;HAVE BEEN BOUGHT BY A B O R I G I N A L 'C O M M U N I T I E S

$J,NCE 1 9 7 2 ON -THE .BASIS OF FUNDS' PROVIDED BY GRANT BY THE- GOVERNMENT

G

• V ·

Ar r a n g e m e n t s a r e b e i n g m ade for t h e s u r r e n d e r t h i s y e a r of o v e r

1 , 2 0 0 SQUARE MILES FROM WAVE H l L L STATION FOR THE GURINDJI

. c o m m u n it y a t Wa t tIE Cr e e k i n t e r m s of t h e g r o u p' s o r i g i n a l

. REQUEST IN 1 9 6 7 " SO THAT THE GuRJNDUI CAN RAISE CATTLE ON

: THEIR OWN LAND,

H Y R Y x U X ^ A X A F > , > W K L X W ' A t V vLY -.E .1 T

.; I : :. · i | ' FUNdlNG . AND ACCOUNTING FOR MANY: OF YOUR ■ PEOPLE . ; THE D E P A R T S • " * : ' * : . . . . . . ’ * . · .

On TOP OF THAT VIE HAVE PROVIDED VASTLY GREATER SUMS

* * " · ‘ . . ί , · . . · · · " · . . .

\ ; ; ; 1 a Co m p a r i s o n t o b e a r i n m i n d , I n 1 9 7 Γ - 7 2 t h e l a s t f u e l y e a r

I HOPE YOUR OWN COUNCIL W ILL HELP"REMOVE THESE SOURCE

i of t e n s i o n , De s p i t e the e s t a b l is h m e n t of o th er Ab o r i g i n a l bobie .. · . . · · · " . · ! ‘ . ·" · . . : T H E R E v W IL L ALWAYS BE A NEED FOR YOUR ORGANISATION I N PROMOTING , ' -1 . " * ----- ■ '■ - ■ * · · ■ ■' - · - ■

■ UNDERSTANDING OF. ABORIGINAL NEEDS AND RUTTING FORWARD SOUND,

; · . PRACTICAL AND ENLIGHTENED P O LICIES,

L

YOU HAVE CAMPAIGNED WITH US ON MANY FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES -

THE 1967 REFERENDUM, THE REMOVAL OF DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATION ,

LAND RIGHTS FOR YOUR PEOPLE, THOSE BATTLES ARE MAINLY WON,

YOU CAN BE SURE OF OUR CONTINUED SUPPORT AS WE MOVE TOWARDS

THE ACHIEVEMENT OF OUR OTHER GOALS, DON'T BE DISAPPOINTED '

BY INEVITABLE SETBACKS AND D ELAYS,.BY ADMINISTRATIVE

D IF F IC U L T IE S , BY THE PROBLEMS POSED BY YOUR NEW R E S P O N S IB ILITIE S

AND YOUR NEW SENSE OF INDEPENDENCE, We ARE WORKING STEADILY,

PATIENTLY AND SURELY TOWARDS A BETTER WAY OF L IF E FOR THE

Ab o r i g i n a l p e o p l e , I n J im Ca y a n a g h we have a m i n i s t e r

WITH GREAT COMMON SENSE AND GREAT HUMANITY, He JS TACKLING

PRACTICAL PROBLEMS WITHOUT LOSING SIGHT OF IDEALS, THERE

WILL ALWAYS BE GROUPS WITH A VESTED INTEREST.IN OBSTRUCTION .

AND M ISCHIEF. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THOSE, IN BOTH THE

Ab o r i g i n a l and w h it e c o m m u n it i e s , w it h a v e s t e d in t e r e s t

IN TENSION, CONFRONTATION, EVEN VIOLENCE, I t IS IMPORTANT

TO RESIST THEM, TO GET ON WITH.THE JOB IN OUR OWN WAY, TO

KEEP CLEAR AND PRACTICAL GOALS BEFORE US, TO BE ON GUARD 1

AGAINST BOMBAST AND HYSTERIA. I ASK THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE

TO PUT THEIR FAITH IN A GOVERNMENT WITH THEIR TRUE INTERESTS

AT HEART, AND ULTIMATELY TO HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELVES.