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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2334

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-

This Bill provides for a total of $32,250,000 to be paid to the States in 1973-74. That compares with $22m in 1972-73. In reality the comparative increase is much greater because the 1972-73 figure included $3.5m for special work projects which I now propose to fund by direct grants to the employing authorities which are almost entirely local government bodies. It is only 6 months since this Government legislated to give the States an additional $7. 5m and in introducing that legislation I made some comments about the disgraceful situation in which the Aboriginal people of Australia find themselves. To the extent that money and resources are required to change this situation this Government is determined to provide them.

Total expenditure by the Australian Government in 1973-74 is estimated to be $ 117.4m of which about $95 m is being spent through my Department. The balance is expended by the Department of Education for study grants and secondary grants, the Department of Health in the Northern Territory, the Department of Labour under its employment training scheme and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. This $ 117.4m compares with an actual outlay of $6 1.4m in 1 972-73.I think these figures speak for themselves. I now refer to matters of major importance covered in these proposed payments to the State.

The most obvious area of need is in housing and the Bill proposes that the States receive $14,422,000 for this purpose. This ought to be sufficient for over 1,100 houses, which would roughly equal what we believe to be the annual rate of family formation. I believe that the housing needs in some areas are so close to being overcome that we should make a major effort this financial year to clear the needs up. Thus, I am consulting my Victorian colleague with a view to our providing sufficient funds this year to meet that State's major capital needs for Aboriginal housing, and I am contemplating a similar approach in Tasmania.

In addition however the Government will continue the provision of funds for housing through Aboriginal housing associations which operate mostly in remote areas and rely heavily for their construction programs on Aboriginal labour and the maximum use of local resources such as timber and bricks. Depending on the progress of such associations it ought to be possible for them to build at least an additional 500 houses in 1973-74. A further approach which I am initiating is the construction of houses by local government authorities on the basis of direct grants. The total attack on the problem is thus much greater than is reflected in the level of the grants to the States, and we are starting to make inroads into the huge backlog of housing needs.

The increase in housing payments to the States is roughly 35 per cent. A greater increase could have been provided but I have not wished to make such an allocation until I am satisfied that the funds can be expended. Already one State has indicated that it is unable to use additional funds and I believe that another major State is also having difficulties in its Aboriginal housing program. I intend to keep this matter under close review and if satisfied that further funds can be utilised by the States, will seek to provide additional funds to them.

I should also say that I believe it is high time that the abysmally low rate of home ownership amongst Aboriginals is improved. The present procedures provide that houses acquired by the States are available for sale under the same terms and conditions as apply to other housing provided through Australian Government grants to the States. This has proved to be of little effect and I am with my Department exploring ways in which funds can be provided or guaranteed to enable Aboriginals to have either a sufficiently large deposit or have sufficiently low repayments to enable Aboriginals to acquire their own home.

Funds for health services and community amenities, especially water and sewerage supplies, provided for in this Bill total $ 10.3m compared with $3.7m in 1972-73. These funds will enable a big expansion of effort in providing community health services in rural and remote areas. This Government established a special study group of Commonwealth and States health authorities which recommended a co-ordinated program covering establishment of local health committees, delivery of health care- including much wider deployment of doctors and community health nurses- administrative reorganisation, education, family planning, research and other special programs. The funds now being provided are in keeping with the study group's recommendations. I do not pretend that even this effort will rapidly improve things since in areas where traditional practices are still strong the concepts of nutrition, health care, public health and sanitation which the nonAboriginal community take for granted have still to find a place in the thinking of the Aboriginal people. Programs to educate such people will take time to implement, but they have been started.

Honourable senators will recall that this Government extended the Aboriginal secondary grants scheme to cover all children at secondary schools. It is still a fact however that only a relative handful are undergoing tertiary education. Programs to overcome this situation have been approved by me and include support of teachers colleges carrying out courses in Aboriginal education; compensatory teaching programs for children in primary schools; support of a special college of Aboriginal education at Torrens in South Australia where a range of basic skills is taught, leading to further education or improved employment. In New South Wales a supportive and remedial service is proposed to be operated by four teams operating from different centres to provide a link between the school and the home. Each team will consist of a social worker, an Aboriginal liaison officer and a full time guidance officer.

This Government is following a policy of selfdetermination by the Aboriginal people. The Government's aim is increasingly to act as a supportive and resource centre for communities so that they will be able to develop their own community life at the pace and under the conditions which they themselves choose.

The Bill provides for payments totalling $708,000 for employment training programs, in such fields as forestry, fisheries, and heavy equipment handling. As I said earlier special work projects are now proposed to be funded direct by my Department and a sum of $5.4m has been set aside for this purpose. These projects provide a wide range of employment and training mostly through local Government bodies. Road making, kerbing and guttering, forestry, conservation of such areas as foreshores, maintainence, dust abatement, re-afforestation, flood mitigation and other social or environmentally useful projects are carried out under this item.

For the information of honourable senators I have had prepared several tables setting out past and proposed Australian Government expenditure on Aboriginal affairs and now seek leave for these to be incorporated in Hansard. The first table is a summary of the more important components in the payments to the States proposed in this Bill. The second table sets out the increases in the 1973-74 payments to the States as compared with the 1972-73 program. The third table sets out the manner of expenditure of the $22m paid to the States in 1972-73. The fourth table sets out those payments made direct by the Australian Government to a wide range of non-governmental bodies in 1972-73. The next table sets out the grants to the States over the 5-year period 1969-70 to 1973-74. The final table is a statement showing how the $ 117.4m being spent this year by the Australian Government is to be allocated.

Honourable senators will know that an important program we have embarked upon is the creation of nationally elected Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The enrolment of voters is going on right now across the nation and in November, in each of 41 electoral areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people will vote to elect one representative to come to Canberra to consult with and advise the Minister. The electoral system has been designed by the Aboriginal people themselves and I believe that the body they are creating is essential to give them an effective voice in the things that affect them so that they may achieve the respected and more satisfying place in the community which is their right. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.


















































































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