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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3234

(Question No. 928)

Senator Archer asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 31 May 1984:

(1) How many Aborigines in Australia are:

(a) full-blooded Aborigines; and

(b) part Aborigines.

(2) How many part Aborigines are in excess of 90 per cent non-Aborigine.

(3) What difference in status is there for different categories.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) and (2) Since the 1967 referendum gave the Federal Parliament power to make special laws for the advancement of the Aboriginal people, successive Australian governments have declined to endorse any definition of Aboriginal based on prescribed degrees of descent. Such definitions have been considered offensive, and therefore rejected as unsuitable for use by the Commonwealth. Consequently, the Australian Government has not kept any records of the kind which would be necessary to provide the information sought.

(3) It follows, therefore, that because there are no differences in category, there are no differences in status. When determining eligibility for programs of assistance for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, the Australian Government uses the following working definition:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community with which the person is associated.

The working definition has been developed by successive Australian governments since 1968, was adopted in its present form by the Fraser Government in 1978, and is accepted by the present Government.