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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3238

Mr IAN CAMERON —by leave-I have very much pleasure in supporting the report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which has been tabled in the House today. I thank the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Blanchard), for his sterling efforts in continuing on with the enormous amount of work that has been involved in visiting so many Aboriginal communities. The House must understand that we have been not only to many communities but also to many of the outstations, which has involved even more and harder travel than one normally expects when visiting Aboriginal townships. We really have been to the outer edge of civilisation in this country.

One place we visited was Yaga Yaga, which is about 30 miles south of Balgo and which was put well and truly on the map recently when, unfortunately, two boys perished. We were probably within 20 miles of the spot where those boys died. It is very sad for their families that that happened. We visited a group of Aborigines on the outstation of Yaga Yaga who seemed to be reasonably contented. Unfortunately, like all of us, they have not reached the point where they have everything they want or might need. Overall, there is more to be done in order to help these people.

I support the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) about the need for water supplies. We saw different types of experimental buildings which have been erected for Aborigines on outstations. I particularly remember buildings in the Kimberleys. There is still a great need for us to help these people to get some sort of shelter over their heads if they wish to live in these isolated spots. I do not necessarily believe that we should encourage everybody to leave the communities, because if they do we will have to set up similar facilities in the outstations as well as in the communities.

I think that one of the worst problems the Aboriginal communities have is that of petrol sniffing. It is very bad in Central Australia. There are hundreds of young Aboriginal children who are not attending school and are wandering around their communities in some sort of stupor. Some of them are dying, and it is a very sad reflection on us and the part we are attempting to play in bringing these communities to some sort of settled understanding of the way in which they wish to live. We have an enormous task ahead of us in wiping out that problem.

The Committee has received a brief from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) to establish another inquiry into the problems that Aborigines have with the law in our more closely settled communities. Goondiwindi, in my electorate, has been notorious of late because of the happenings there. The social problems of these people obviously are much more exaggerated than our own. We have to continue to attempt to rectify these problems. We will never reach a perfect situation. Those of us on the Committee are genuine in our desire to bring about some change in order to help many of these people.

I refer now to land tenure. Obviously, if permanent buildings are to be established on these places, the Aborigines themselves should have some understanding about the sort of land tenure they desire to have. We believe in straight-out freehold-the same as for anybody else. I imagine the same applies to the veto on mining. I believe that the Australian Labor Party has come to a better understanding, particularly in the Northern Territory, where this House controls mining. It is moving the veto from the point of mining to the point of exploration. That is an improvement.

Mr Hand —In agreement with the Aborigines, too.

Mr IAN CAMERON —That is true. It does not go far enough. I do not believe that they should have any veto. We will start to rectify some of the social problems of these communities when we start to treat them as Australians, as equals.

Again, I thank the Committee staff and others who have helped. The honourable member for Melbourne mentioned those people. I would also like to thank very much the Hansard girls who travelled with us under very rugged conditions. I would particularly like to thank Bairbre, Marilyn and Julie, who spent many hours with us in the desert taking notes of our long-winded remarks and the many interviews--

Mr Hand —Your long-winded speeches.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Yes, my long-winded remarks and questioning. Chats with Aborigines are not always easy to interpret, but they have done an excellent job in recording those discussions that took place in the desert and the inland and also here in Parliament House.