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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 69

Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to draw the attention of the House to the latest injustice perpetrated by this Government upon the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. In 1957 a co-operative for Aborigines was registered in New South Wales under the Cooperative Act of New South Wales. The cooperative flourished under the very able guidance of the Reverend Alf Clint. It had to be able considering the paternalistic policies of successive Liberal governments. One result of the formation of the co-operative for Aborigines was the establishment of Tranby Co-operative College at Glebe. The college became a focal point of the movement to establish Aborigines' cooperatives throughout Australia. In its own right the Tranby College performs an invaluable function as a teaching institution. Its day and night time students undertake studies in many diverse areas. Fish marketing, accountancy, truck driving and maintenance, nursing and typing are some of them.

Before I continue, let me clarify one point. Honourable members opposite often display an alarming predilection for confused and loose association of terminology. A co-operative is not a breeding ground for communists or any extremist organisation. The principle is the simple one of people collectively helping themselves by establishing an organisation which encompasses the interests of the group. In Australia the National Country Party has developed rural cooperatives as a policy for the graziers and dairy farmers. Fishermen's co-operatives have transformed the fishing industry, particularly in New South Wales. Above all, however, the notion of the co-operative reflects and encourages a unique aspect of the Aboriginal people's sociocultural makeup. Like most emergent races throughout the world the Aborigines, with few exceptions, have found themselves admirably suited to participation in an enterprise which is structured along co-operative lines.

The backbone of the educational program conducted by the Tranby Co-operative College is the course in co-operatives and commercial studies. This course was approved as a subject in 1974-75 and it becomes an approved course under the Aboriginal study grants scheme. This year the course in co-operatives was due to start on 14 February 1977. Incredible as it may sound, the College was notified on 10 February that Aboriginal study grants scheme funding had been withdrawn from Tranby students. Students had been recruited from Mornington Island, Palm Island, Townsville, the North Coast of New South Wales and the western and southern districts of New South Wales. Because of the lack of funds these students have been deprived of the opportunity to come to Tranby college.

Embodied in the Tranby course in cooperatives are the following principles: First, to teach the people to depend on themselves; secondly, to organise them to help one another and to secure the best rewards for their labours through co-operative action; thirdly, to teach the participants to discover and understand the way of their district and to develop and make use of all resources; and fourthly to lift them to a higher level of life, economically, spiritually and socially. I put it to the House: Are these not worthy aims? Evidently the Government does not think so. Twenty-three applications have been held up in respect of Tranby College at Glebe. Study grants are available for students. These study grants do not benefit the College but will help the students who are the Australians of tomorrow. I received correspondence written by the Reverend Alf Clint, the General Secretary of Co-operative for Aborigines Ltd. The address on the letter is 13 Mansfield Street, Glebe. The letter states:

To Aboriginal Communities:

Dear Friends,

The purpose of this letter is to let you know that the Tranby' Course in Co-operatives and Commercial Studies was cancelled at the last minute. The 12 weeks' course, i.e. the first term 1977, was to begin on Monday 14th February, 1977.

The course has been cancelled as a result of economic cuts made in the Study Grant Scheme for students, by the Federal Government Department of Education. This took place after weeks and weeks of discussions with representatives of the Department of Education, Department of Technical and Further Education and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. These discussions were held at 'Tranby' and at departmental offices.

It is becoming more and more apparent that bureaucratic thinking cannot understand the position that 'Tranby' holds in the minds of the Aboriginal people, and especially Aboriginal communities. An interstate society such as Cooperative for Aborigines Limited spells confusion in the thinking of federal public servants-especially when it endeavours to be loyal to its policy as a people's movement.

You will have had information from the government authorities mentioned above, and to whatever they have said to you, this society adds: 'Tranby will carry on a full training programme during 1977 in spite of the set back for the first term'.

We do hope that the plans set for the 2nd and 3rd terms will go as planned, and that 'Tranby' will be able to function within this framework- if it turns out otherwise you will hear from us in good time and we will advise you of the action which we recommend our friends should take in their support of the independent interstate function of Co-operative for Aborigines Limited.

With best wishes, Yours fraternally,

W.   A. CLINT,

General Secretary

JOHN SHORT, Chairman.

I ask the House to take note of this matter.

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