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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2604

Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) -The States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1973 provides for the sum of $32.25m to be paid to the States in the manner set out in the Schedule to the Bill. The figure of $32.25m is some $ 10m more than was allocated for this purpose in the previous year. The largest share of this amount is to go to housing, and the amount allocated for this purpose is $14,422,000. In his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) said that this would provide some 1,100 homes. The second biggest amount is to be provided for health services and community amenities, especially water and sewerage supplies. The amount provided for these purposes is $ 10.3m. An amount of $5.4m is to go to local government authorities for certain employment providing works such as roadmaking, kerbing and guttering, conservation of areas such as the foreshores, maintenance, dust abatement, reafforestation and so on. Overall the outlays are directed to the areas in which they are required.

I would indicate right away that we have no opposition whatsoever to the moneys being provided. We all welcome the best endeavours that are possible in assisting in what is undoubtedly a very complex and a very difficult situation. I am under no illusions at all as to the vexed and difficult problems which are associated with the direction of Aboriginal affairs. I believe that the Minister is doing all he can to meet situations of great challenge. As we see more moneys being devoted to Aboriginal advancement, I have no doubt that it is the concern of all of us to ensure that those moneys are being applied in the right areas of need and that they are the most effective allocations in any given area.

There is no common policy which can be applied to meet the requirements of Aborigines in their various settings. I think that policies in relation to Aboriginal advancement should be resilient enough to accommodate the very real differences between the needs of Aborigines in their semi-tribal state, those in the part urban situaion who go back to the tribal situation, and those in urban areas. The problems of each of these groups have to be viewed with sympathetic understanding and appreciation. I give credit to the Minister for having said very quickly that, when moneys are being provided for Aboriginal enterprises, those enterprises should be properly vetted. At the dme the Minister mentioned this initially he said that he thought the best body for determining the acceptance or rejection of a given proposal would be an all party parliamentary committee. But since then the Minister has announced that he will have a special committee within his Department thoroughly to vet every proposal.

It is important that when moneys are expended for Aboriginal enterprises, the enterprise on which that money is expended should have a reasonable chance of being viable and that through its success it can add to the personal satisfactions and the dignities of the Aboriginal people. In my opinion, no greater harm could be done to these people than would be done if they are encouraged to take control of enterprises which in themselves do not have the actual capabilities of being successful. So when I speak of moneys being allocated, I am saying that we have no objection but rather welcome every possible concern and assistance which can be rendered to the Aborigines and the Torres Strait islanders. But greater care has to be applied to the direction of those finances.

I read in the Adelaide 'News' of 2 1 November that the Minister said there was merit in some criticisms levelled against the Department and at the way in which the Government was handling Aboriginal problems. He said this in reply to an article appearing in an earlier edition of the Adelaide 'News' written by Professor P. G. H. Strehlow, a professor of linguistics at the Adelaide University and one who had been engaged very actively in Aboriginal welfare through many years. Professor Strehlow was born at Hermannsburg mission in the centre of Australia and he grew up with the Aranda tribe. He is a very knowledgeable man and is most knowledgeable in all matters pertaining to Aboriginal welfare. He is also a man of deep understanding and dedication to these people. He said that some problems have grown in direct ratio to the money spent on their solution. This provides a pretty serious note to ponder over. He points out that in many instances moneys are being devoted not to the benefit of the Aborigines but to administering schemes in a proportion which is far in excess of that which should apply.

I see that the Minister is prepared to say that things certainly require very close investigation. I am not speaking now about enterprises such as the turtle farming about which many questions have to be answered and in relation to which much has to be sorted out. I am saying that there is an awareness on the part of the Minister of a situation that really requires the closest attention and the critical appraisal of what has been done, particularly in the last year or so with the increased amounts of money being made available.

The previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who is the present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), was a very generous man and a man who sought in a very real way the betterment of the Aborigines. But he did not achieve that which was being sought by him. In my opinion, the whole thing has gone back because of insufficient research and insufficient knowledge as to the way in which money could best be directed in the interests of these good people. We will give this Bill a speedy passage. In the process of doing so, we trust that the situation of the Aboriginal people of Australia will improve continuously until they are happy with their lot and we ourselves are content in their happiness. I support this Bill.

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