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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr BEAZLEY - I am not sure of that. I am convinced some of them are highly skilled. I think they could become successfully established in the pastoral industry, and even if they do require the supervision suggested by the honorable member for Perth, that should be one form of vocational guidance that we should be prepared to give.

I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that we ought to take a look at the industrial conditions of the aborigines who are working in the pastoral and other industries to ensure that they have industrial protection. Without making it a matter for inflammatory propaganda, and without suggesting exploitation of the aborigines, we should see to it that aborigines are given the same kind of legal safeguards as are afforded European agricultural and pastoral workers. The essential problem confronting us is to ascertain just what steps are necessary for the survival of the aboriginal people at the maximum level of dignity.

I come now to the natives who are still in the tribal state. In some respects, this constitutes perhaps the least difficult aspect of the problem. In some of the northern areas of Western Australia, where hunting conditions are good, and where fishing conditions are good, the aborigines are of excellent physique, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence that towards the interior, towards the Warburton Ranges area, they are not of equally satisfactory physique. That condition is clearly related to nutrition. It seems to me that anything that can be done on the reserves to increase water supplies for the game to live on, and perhaps to teach the aborigines how to grow certain types of food to supplement their diet, and to make a regular check on their survival, and the survival of their children, would be the most that the Commonwealth could do for them, although I emphasize that I speak on these points quite ignorantly; I have no expert knowledge of the problem. I am reluctant to think - 1 know the Minister does not think it - that these people should be brought into civilization under pressure if they are now living their own way of life. They are, in fact, living their way of life but they have not the whole of Australia over which to roam as they once had. They are subject to the restrictions that white settlement has imposed. I think that we need to check periodically on their health, survival conditions and welfare. I feel that the Minister is to be congratulated upon his success in getting co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States and on the great advances that there have been already in his aboriginal policy.

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