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Tuesday, 30 April 1957

Mr Bryant t asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -

1.   What steps does his department take to police the employment of aborigines, particularly in areas where they live in large numbers?

2.   Has the department taken any special steps to place aborigines in suitable employment?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   If the honorable member's question relates to inspection of conditions of employment, the answer is that my department's responsibilities in this field extend only to securing the observance of Commonwealth industrial legislation and awards. Aborigines employed under such awards would be accorded exactly the same treatment as other employees. In the Northern Territory, special arrangements for the protection of aborigines operate, but they are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Territories.

2.   The facilities of the Commonwealth Employment Service are available to any aborigine who seeks its assistance in obtaining employment.

Mr Bryant t asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -

Will he invoke his powers under section 9 (1) (a) of the Science and Industry Research Act to institute a scientific investigation into the position of aboriginals living in a tribal state with a view to (a) determining factors involved in raising their standard of living, and (b) deciding the best methods of food production in their living areas?

Mr Casey - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

The matter referred to in section 9 (1) (a) of the Science and Industry Research Act is outside the scope of the functions of C.S.I.R.O. which is not directly concerned with sociological or economic problems nor with matters of human health. As for (b), C.S.I.R.O., I am sure, would be prepared to offer advice to the proper authorities on methods of improving food production in the tribal living areas. However, tribal aborigines have never engaged in any form of agriculture but depend for their livelihood on the collection of indigenous plants and animals and it is difficult to see how their lot could be improved by agricultural research. The welfare of the aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory is the concern principallyof the Department of Territories which has undertaken an active and continuing programme for the betterment of the lot of the native peoples and particularly those who are in contact with the white population. Other than in the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction since responsibility for native peoples in the States is that of the State governments. I regret, therefore, that I cannot see my way clear to take the action suggested by the honorable member.

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