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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4516


Mr TURNER (Bradfield) Many members have said many things for many hours. I hope that I will not be begrudged 10 minutes to raise a serious matter. It is not a matter of interest, probably, to the Press or to many members in this House. But it is a human tragedy and I wish to have it recorded in the pages of Hansard, even if it stains the pages of our history. I said that it was a human tragedy. Let me read this article as an indication of what it is about. This is not the exact case but it is an analogous one. In the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 18th September 1971 there appeared this article:

An Aboriginal tribe on a Northern Territory mission station was slowly being 'massacred' by liquor, a Professor of anthropology claimed yesterday.

Professor Ronald Berndt, of the University of Western Australia, said in the three years since he last visited the mission the Aborigines had become apathetic and disillusioned.

During these three years - in late 1969 - a liquor store was set up on a mining lease at the edge of the reserve, he said.

Unles action was taken immediately, the 500 or so Aborigines on the mission would be destroyed.

Professor Berndt was talking about the Oenpelli Mission, about 150 miles east of Darwin.

Before the coming of the store, the Aborigines - primarily from the Gunwinggu tribe - were well on their way to adapting themselves to the 'tremendous changes' going on around them; at the same time retaining something of their cultural heritage, he said.

A good school was available at Oenpelli - and so was employment.

Mining in the area, with potential for greater Aboriginal participation, heralded a new economy.

But, under present conditions, the bright prospects would not be realised.

Professor Berndt claimed almost half of Aboriginal wages, pensions, endowment and trainee payments passed into the hands of the store's proprietor.

Family life was disrupted, children neglected, ther was an emotional vacuum and many of the adults were well on their way to becoming alcoholics.

The continuation of the present state of affairs spells genocide - just as surely as if the people were being massacred,' he said.

The only difference is that, in this case, it will be slower - but it will have the same result.'

The Aborigines did not know how to cope with the problem.

They had no tradition of drinking; it was not part of their culture.

Most of the people were powerless to react against it themselves because they did not see the implications.

In his statement, Professor Berndt spoke of Aboriginal men and women 'dazed and staggering, lying inert, yelling, quarrelling and fighting.'

The scene at the East Alligator Crossing almost defied description - with about half the adult male population of the mission in various stages of drunkenness.

The secretary for Aborigines of the Church Missionary Society, the Rev. Stanley Giltrap, said in Sydney that the liquor Licence was granted by the Northern Territory licensing authority over the objections of both the mission and the Aborigines themselves. 1 said that this was not the case that I wished to raise, but it is precisely analogous. lt refers to an area on one side of Arnhem Land. The case about which I am concerned is on the other side of Arnhem Land. If that is what happened in the area just described, this is what will happen in the other case to which I refer specifically.

I raised this matter in the House. It is recorded in Hansard of 6th and 7th May 1971 at page 2839. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt), in reply to what I had to say, said:

Is it realistic that the Nhulunbuy community should not have access to the same social amenities as other Northern Territory towns of the same size? There is a need for public accommodation for business and other visitors to the Gove project. The Aboriginals' preference for a club licence would nol be appropirate as it would undoubtedly limit the availability of the facilities to club members. Residents and visitors to the town would be excluded unless they joined the club. Unless a discriminatory club rule prevent it, Aboriginals would be able to join the club and have access to liquor. Moreover, restricted availability of liquor through the club would lead to black marketing, especially in respect to Aboriginal drinkers not wishing to join the club.

Those are very cool words when one considers that the issue of this licence is the prelude to precisely what 1 have read about having already happened in the last couple of years on the other side of Arnhem Land. I shall ask, before I sit down, that the transcript of the case before the licensing magistrate be laid on the table. I would anticipate no objection to that as the transscript was given to me by the Minister himself. This will allow members of this House or of the public to refer to it themselves.

In the brief amount of time I have at my disposal I want to refer to one or two of the points raised in the transcript. First of all, an officer of the Welfare Department of the NT Administration is responsible to decide whether liquor shall or shall not come onto an Aboriginal reserve. That is his duty. 1 would like to quote part of the transcript relating to the officer who has this responsibility. His name is Cyril Cecil Allom, a Regional Welfare Officer with the NT Administration. This witness was the person who, following the earlier application by Walkabout Holdings which was refused on the basis that the company did not have a permit to take liquor into Arnhem Land, issued such a permit. Crossexamined by Mr Elliott, counsel for the Aborigines, he was asked: Did you understand that this discretion -

That is, to issue a permit for the purpose of allowing liquor to be taken into Arnhem Land - was vested in you primarily as a protection for the Aboriginal people?

He answered: 'Yes, Sir'. On the same page of the transcript the witness also admitted that on the earlier application he had stated that before issuing a permit he would consult all parties concerned. The witness was asked by Mr Elliott whether or not he should have consulted the Aborigines before issuing the permit, He replied:

I have not consulted them, sir. I would have considered it an impertinance to consult them because their views are being expressed before this Court.

In relation to his earlier statement that he would have consulted all parties before issuing a permit, the witness stated in relation to the Aborigines:

They are parties, sir, but as I say they are already represented.

When asked a question in relation to bis powers to issue a permit under section 140E of the Licensing Ordinance, specifically having regard to the interests of the Aborigines, the witness replied:

No, I think I have to have regard to the interests of other people as well.

I will not read any more of his evidence. This man was supposed to be looking after the interests of the Aborigines but he did not consult them because they were before the court. The court might have liked to hear from somebody who had expertise in this field and whose duty it was to look after them what was his attitude, being presumably also the attitude of the Government. But I do not have time to go into this matter in detail.

Let me pass on the attitude of Walkabout to the club licence. Evidence was given by Mr Graeme James Robertson, Chairman of Walkabout Hotel. He was asked whether he had considered the disadvantages of a club licence as opposed to hotel licence. His answer was:

We would have to break the law; that was the only disadvantage.

That indicates that the witness supposed a club licence could not be enforced. The witness said:

We are not looking for a way over it.

He was referring to the disadvantages of a club licence. They were interested only in an hotel licence. So the question of a club licence was never before the court. Walkabout was not interested in it and it never came before the court as to whether a club licence might be the right answer.

Evidence as to the provision of amenities such as a canteen and provision for the families there in a community centre was given by the Site Administration Officer at Nabalco. This was highly satisfactory. I cannot go into all this but there was talk about a need to accommodate visitors. Yet when one reads on through the evidence one finds it admitted that the mining company does not encourage visitors. Of course it does not. It wants to get on with mining. Nevertheless there was talk before the magistrate about the accommodation of visitors. Even a trade union organiser said that the union wanted a hotel so that the workers in the mine could have their families there. It came out in evidence that this would cost about $20 a night exclusive, of course, of the costs of flying the families to this place and back home again.

I have not time to go into all these matters and I will lay on the table the transcript of evidence. It disclosed a disgraceful situation where the welfare officer gave no evidence to assist the court, where the applicant had no concern whatsoever for the Aborigines - he merely wanted a hotel licence to do what a storekeeper did on the other side of Arnhem Land - where there was talk about the accommodation of visitors whereas the mine discourages visitors and where every point of view was taken into account except the interests of the Aborigines. This is a human tragedy and T want it recorded in Hansard.







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