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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 408

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In yesterday's 'Age' under the sub-heading 'Minister plans to by-pass State', the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Mr Dickie, is quoted as saying that the Australian Government's initiatives concerning Aboriginal housing were 'just another example of the Commonwealth bulldozing the States out of the way'. Will the Minister indicate whether the incident at the weekend will inhibit initiatives to improve Aboriginal housing in Victoria? Does the Minister intend to by-pass the States in this matter?

Mr BRYANT (WILLS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I visited the Gippsland area at the weekend, and for part of the visit I was accompanied by the honourable member for Gippsland, who is much better as a member of the Opposition than he was as a member of the Government. In the course of my visit I discussed with a large number of Aboriginal people the housing situation in the area. The policy that we are following is this: We will deal with groups of people who wish to take initiatives on their own behalf, and deal with them directly. We will deal with municipalities which wish to take initiatives in their areas, and we will deal with them directly, we will deal with State governments which have programs and projects wherever they are willing to co-operate. We will take whatever steps are necessary to overcome the serious deficiencies in housing and other social needs of the Aboriginal people in the same way as we do in the repatriation system.

I am doing my best to encourage journalists, commentators and State Ministers to stop using the words like 'by-pass', 'take-over' and so on for this is nothing of the sort. It is a long tradition in this country for the Australian Government to deal directly with people for services for which it is responsible. We do that under the repatriation system. We deal directly with the individuals, we use cooperation with the States and we use other institutions. We do the same thing under the social security legislation. I have written to Mr Dickie to try to clarify these questions of the use of English and to make clear to him that the system is principally based upon the assumption that in a democratic society people are entitled to deal directly with the government responsible for the facilities which it supplies to them.

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