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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 881

Senator BONNER (QUEENSLAND) -I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that some 20 months ago he directed his Department to transfer 1,500 square miles of land to the Gurindji tribe in the Northern Territory? If so, when can the transfer be expected to be completed? Will the Minister be kind enough to let the Gurindji tribe know the progress to date?

Senator CAVANAGH - I have seen a report on the matter. Of course I was not Minister for Aboriginal Affairs 20 months ago so I gave no assurance. A statement was made that such an area of land would be made available to the Gurindji tribe at Wattie Creek. This transfer was held in abeyance awaiting the decision of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission chaired by Mr Justice Woodward. The report has now become available and, as stated when I tabled it, the necessary machinery for transferring pastoral land will be effected by the establishment of a commission. We shall set up a commission as soon as we can draft the necessary legislation, which shall be in the Budget session.

I also made a statement at the time expressing some doubt as to whether the Bagot area and the Gurindji people came within the ambit of the assistance recommended in the Woodward report and whether it was right to wait until legislation had been enacted to set up a commission or whether we should set up an interim commission for the purpose of considering this proposal. We are in the process of trying to find a suitable commissioner to establish an interim commission. I think we will be able to announce very shortly the establishment of the commission to investigate the claim of the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek.

The secretary of the Department and I have recently been to Wattie Creek to discuss the matter of the area of land to be made available, and we reached a satisfactory situation with the Gurindji people. But there still remains the matter of excising the land so that we can make a viable pastoral property for the Gurindjis, without denuding other areas from which the land has to be taken and making them non-viable properties. Some arrangements have been made for the acquisition of an area from Vestey 's, and we could well extend into Victoria River Downs to find a suitable area. But we have the matter under control and we are speeding on with it as quickly as we possibly can.

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