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Tuesday, 9 May 1961

Mr Ward d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Did he say in January, 1957, after Mr. Grayden, a former Liberal member of the Commonwealth Parliament, had directed attention to the abominable conditions of certain aborigines in Western Australia, that the Government was waiting for documentary evidence regarding the sufferings of these natives, before deciding what it should do?

2.   What action was subsequently taken by the Government to correct the position as disclosed by its inquiries at that time?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   In reply to a telegram from the honorable member in January, 1957, referring to the Report of the Select Committee of the Western Australian Parliament appointed to inquire into native welfare conditions in the Laverton-Warburton Range area I indicated that, following discussions between a deputation from the Western Australian Parliament and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), it was agreed that a precise statement of facts would be submitted to the Commonwealth for its consideration. I subsequently informed the honorable member that I was not aware of any responsible allegation against the Commonwealth's administration in relation to aborigines.

2.   No action was taken because careful examination revealed no reliable evidence of suffering of natives in the areas concerned as a result of Commonwealth activities. Mr. Beale spoke of this in the House on 9th May, 1957. The Commonwealth has always been extremely careful to ensure that its activities in Central and Western Australia do not distress aborigines in the area.

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