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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2508

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - I want to make a few remarks in the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts mainly because of events that have taken place in the last few days in my electorate of Bowman. This afternoon we have heard Opposition speakers very clearly illustrate that the Government cannot continue to pass the buck in regard to responsibility for Aboriginal welfare. As has been said, the referendum result clearly laid the responsibility at the Federal Government's feet. Speakers from the Government side, such as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), this afternoon got on to the old theme, hackneyed though it is today, of the bandwaggoners and the do-gooders. It is a great pity that there are not a few more genuine do-gooders among Government supporters, because if there were I am sure that the event to which I wish to refer this afternoon would not have eventuated. I refer to the announced resignation a few days ago of Matron Joyce Wilding, who has been matron of OPAL hostel or the Joyce Wilding hostel in the Mount Gravatt area of my electorate, lt was established 16 months ago as a hostel for Aboriginal mothers who were passing through Brisbane and requiring temporary accommodation for various reasons - perhaps while they or their children were in Brisbane for hospital treatment. In many instances they were deserted wives.

Previously Mrs Wilding had run a hostel for these people in Russell Street, South Brisbane. At one time she had more than 160 people staying at the hostel. Many of them were young fellows seeking accommodation. The Government saw fit to advance money to the hostel through the efforts at that time of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who is present in the chamber this afternoon. I believe that he had a genuine interest in the welfare of these people and certainly a genuine interest in the social work that Mrs Wilding was carrying out. But frustrations have been thrust on her by the Government and by the Department administered by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) who sits at the table this afternoon. He has shown a complete lack of understanding of the problems she faced at Mount Gravatt. The officers of his Department refused to recognise the problems that I brought to their attention only in July of this year when the resignation of Mrs Wilding was imminent.

I contacted officers of the Department and pointed out to them that all Mrs Wilding had asked, in her efforts to provide the very valuable service that she was providing in an efficient way, was that a few small requests be met. These requests were blocked time after time by the dictatorial attitude of the OPAL board of management in Queensland. I took the case to the Minister's Department and suggested that such small items be provided as an independent budget for Mrs Wilding to maintain the home efficiently and effectively, an independent board of management to assist her and a car so that she could take the sick and injured children for medical treatment in times of emergency. These requests have been rejected because of the influence of the OPAL organisation in Queensland which has frustrated Mrs Wilding and driven her to the stage where she had no alternative but to hand in her resignation.

Yesterday when the resignation was made known to the OPAL board its president, Senator Bonner, who sits in the other place and represents Queensland as a senator, said 'We shall miss her'. Yet I suggest that it was the influence of this gentleman in particular, who has taken action in the past to prevent Mrs Wilding from receiving the assistance that may have been accorded to her by the Department for the carrying on of the very essential and valuable work that she had undertaken at Mount Gravatt, which has driven her to resign and driven her out of the hostel in order to illustrate the frustrations which she has faced, in working for the welfare of Aboriginals, through the incompetence of the Government. The Minister who at present administers the Department must bear a heavy responsibility for the failure to see the problems not only in this field but also in other areas of Aboriginal welfare in Queensland which are developing so quickly that it is almost too late to overcome them.

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