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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 695

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I rise briefly to commend the sincere efforts of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in presenting the paper and the recommendation to the House. I support what the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) has said with regard to the speed and pressure that is put on Aboriginal children at various levels of learning in regard to whether they should learn their own languages or English. In the past a lot of damage has been done by the very sincere efforts of the authorities - I refer particularly to the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration - by pressure-cooking the job. Whilst it is difficult for Europeans to teach many of these languages I think that the Government will have quite a lot of trouble in getting the Aboriginal people themselves to teach these languages correctly, as is envisaged. I commend the Minister for Education on the thought he has put into the paper and I commend the work that has been done by Dr Watts, Mr McGrath and Mr Tandy.

I see the scheme as a way of encouraging Aborigines to be interested in teaching their own children in their own areas so that the children will grow up with respect for and knowledge of their own circumstances and traditions. I am pleased to see that the young ones growing up will be assisted to grasp the situation and to have more self respect as they grow older. In many cases even now they know nothing about their traditions. This scheme should help them to learn about those traditions and to learn the crafts and arts. Many children are rapidly growing into a European way of life. If they want to do so, so much the better for them. They should not be pushed one way or the other. If the young Aborigines enter our way of life it would be a great pity if they entered it without having any chance of knowing about their traditions, background and arts. I commend the paper and hope that the scheme will be successful. I hope that the people will be found to teach the Aboriginal children throughout the length and breadth of the country. This will be difficult as there are many dialects and languages but I am certain that it will be of benefit to them.

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