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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4519

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) (2:20 AM) - I rise to speak about Aborigines also, but those to whom I refer are hundreds of miles from Cahill's Crossing and Nhulunbuy which have been mentioned. For the information of honourable members I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard an article from the Northern Territory 'News' of 3rd December 1971, headed 'Claims Gurindjis "Political Football".

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -


Supporter says unions broke aid promises

Many southern trade unions and other organisations which claimed to be helping Gurindji Aboriginals in their land rights case were really only using them as a 'political football', Mr Alan Thorpe alleged yeaterday.

Mr Thorpehas been living with the Gurindjis at Wattie Creek and Wave Hill since he went there in early March under sponsorship of 10 national unions.

In Darwin to buy stores yesterday, Mr Thorpe said he was 'quite disillusioned' about the unions which has sponsored him, and about 'several other organisations' which claimed to be helping the Gurindjis.

Most of them are simply using the situation for political gain, without any real knowledge of the situation, or any real regard for the real wishes of the Gurindjis,' he said.

I have no political affiliations at all.

I wanted to come to the Territory to help Aboriginals, and the National Union of Australian University Students offered to sponsor a two weeks visit to Wattie Creek through its Aboriginal Scholarship Scheme (Abschol)

This would not have Deen long enough to even get to know the people.

Then the Australian Meat Industry Employee's Union, through organiser Mr Jack OToole, arranged for a 30 weeks stay to be sponsored by a group of 10 unions. wages

Each union donated $150 to help meet my agreed wages of $50 a week.

When I got to Darwin the North Australian Workers' Union appointed me an honorary organiser to ensure award conditions for Aboriginal station hands in the Victoria River District.

There have been a lot of problems, and 1 have been attempting to solve them in what seems the best way for the Gurindjis and other Aboriginals in the area.

But it seem I have not been sufficiently militant enough for the unions.

For this or some other reason I don't know, they have not paid me since the end of April, despite requests for payment, or official notification that I will not be paid.

Despite this I have continued to use my abilities as a mechanic, bricklayer and agriculturist to help the Gurindjis as much as I can.

Quite a lot is being accomplished, without much fuss, along the lines which the Gurindjis themselves want.


At one stage Mr OToole said I should resign from the honorary job with the NAWU because he did not think I was a suitable man to be a union organiser.

I discussed the request with the Gurindjis themselves, and at their request decided to retain the post so I would have authority to speak on union matters with employers.

The NAWU has not made any move to withdraw its support.

One of the problems we have is the number of so-called experts on the Gurindji question.

Most of them are 10-day wonders - people who have made brief visits to Wattie Creek and think they know all the answers - or just distant wonders - people who have never been in the NT.

They are agitating for what the Gurindjis want - or what they believe the Gudindjis should want.

They have no knowledge of what the Gudindjis themselves want


Recently the Gurindjis, at a long meeting, decided they should seek a lease over the SOO square miles they are claiming as tribal land around Wattie Creek.

This is on Wave Hill station, and Vestey's, the controlling company, has said lt would not resist any Government move to excise the area and give it to the Gurindjis.

The Gurindjis decided they could gain control over the land within existing laws, by seeking the lease, while leaving their application for the land to be granted to them for future consideration.

But Abschol and the other organisations decided the lease application should not bc made.

They say it would admit Government ownership of the land claimed by the Aboriginals.

They believe the lease application would cut across the principle of Aboriginal land rights.

The Gurindjis themselves do not admit this' Mr Thorpe said.

They regard the lease as a first step and one which would give them undisputed control of the land now, while the principle is still being argued.

Yet the southern organisations are attempting to dictate what the Gurindjis should do.

They are refusing to let the people think or speak for themselves.

Right now, the Gurindjis want to seek a lease for the land 1 believe the Government will quite soon agree to grant them a small sit-down area at Wattie Creek, but they still want a lease over the whole 500 square miles.

They want permission and help to establish a small cattle station operation on the land. This would not be to supply all the Gurindjis - just some of the older people.

The others could work on other stations, or form a series of contract mustering teams.

Contract mustering is hard work - but these people can do it, and do it well.


Al least initially they would need someone to help wilh the business organisation and paperwork. "This is what all the interested organisations should be doing.

Working directly to help the Gurindjis to achieve their real aims.

Instead they are following pre-conceived ideas, usually based on political grounds, and expecting the Gurindjis to conform.

Some of the Territory people who have spoken recently on the question have also shown a complete lack of understanding of the real problem.

These include Dr Goc Letts (Legislative Council Member for Victoria River) and" Mr Brian Manning (Secretary of the Darwin branch of the Waterside Workers' Federation). "Their public argument recently about conditions and leadership at Wattie Creek is based on the situation as it was years ago - not on what is happening now,' Mr Thorpe said.

With Mr Thorpe in Darwin yesterday was Aboriginal Mr Panto Panto, whose mother was a Wailbri and whose father is a Gurindji.

Mr Pantois living in one of the 20 Housing Commission-type houses built by the Welfare Branch at Wave Hill settlement about five miles from Wattie Creek.


He said the Aboriginals at both centres were all one people', with a mixture of Gurindji and Wailbri descent.

He and several other Aboriginals were coming to Darwin with Mr Thorpe on supply runs lo learn how lo order and collect the goods for themselves.

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