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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr WALLIS (Gray) - First of all 1 would like to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross). I think that all honourable members on this side of the House, and I am sure quite a few honourable members on the other side, would agree that there is a need for a much more comprehensive programme for the welfare and housing of Aboriginals. The only way in which this can be done is to find out what the needs are and to work out some programme over a period so that it will not be done year by year as appears to be the case now; The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said that earlier this year a team of us went on a trip to the northern parts of New South Wales. Whilst we were there we had a look at some of the settlements along the banks of the Barwon River. I am sure that all of us in that team came away rather appalled at what we had seen. We knew that these fringe settlements were there but I did not expect them to be nearly as bad as they actually were. We found that the fringe dwellers were usually on the other side of the river from the main parts of the towns, with only one water pipe to serve a group of 30 or 40 shacks occupied by people.

We had a discussion with a Presbyterian Minister at Walgett. He has a very keen and genuine interest in the problems which face Aboriginals. He informed us that according to a survey which he had conducted 75 houses would be required in Walgett to solve the problem of Aboriginal housing. The figures which the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) gave show that in Walgett there were 5 houses. The Presbyterian Minister said that from his survey Walgett would need 75 houses but as of last year there were 5 houses. This discrepancy emphasises the need to determine what the actual needs are. We should have a crash programme. It should not be a long range programme but a wide-ranging programme to find out what the needs are and we should get on with the job of overcoming the deficiencies.

I will now refer to my own electorate of Grey in which I suppose two-thirds of the Aboriginals of South Australia reside. In the town I come from, Port Augusta, there Is probably a larger concentration of Aboriginals than in any other white community.

The Aboriginal population varies between 450 and 550. During the last few years, the Dunstan Labor Government made a lot of the improvements, which have been added to. We have seen tremendous improvement in the conditions of the reserve situated just outside of Port Augusta. Those people who saw that reserve 6 or 7 years ago saw a complete shanty town and people living in dwellings made out of flattened kerosene tins, hesian and so on. At least some progress has been made but we are still a long way from achieving the best possible result. One of the conditions is that after Aboriginals have been on the reserve for a certain period and the Reserve Council feels that they are ready to come into the. white society and can look after a home, they move into the town as houses become available. But. unfortunately housing presents a bit of a problem because the Housing Trust does not seem to be able to provide many houses for Aboriginals. So the people who are concerned with welfare matters at the reserve are faced continually with the problem of finding sufficient housing for Aboriginals.

I have checked and I have found that the Commonwealth has financed the construction of 5 houses in Port Augusta. If we go through the figures which are included in the Minister's second reading speech we find that out of 22 houses for Aboriginals which the Commonwealth financed in South Australia last year none was provided in Port Augusta. Port Augusta would have as big a housing problem as any other city in the State, but no Commonwealth houses were provided for Aboriginals in Port Augusta last year.

There are many other matters about which one could speak. Perhaps I should move on to the education of Aboriginal children. I think the Minister would agree that often he has received a lot of pleasure when he has seen one of his projects succeed and that Aboriginals have been able to raise their standards of living a little higher. When I come up against someone who is Jim Crow minded and has antiAboriginal feelings my reply is: T suggest that you go up and have a look at the children coming out of the high school. If you had watched the children coming out of the high school a few years ago you would not have seen any Aboriginal children, but the last time I checked I think there were 52 Aboriginal children attending the high school.' Those Aboriginal children mix with white children. They are dressed in school uniforms and I think that they are a credit to their parents.

But we strike another problem once these Aboriginal children reach a certain standard of education. Perhaps they reach the intermediate standard. Once they leave high school there is a gap before they can obtain employment because there is not a great deal of employment in Port Augusta for unskilled adolescents of between 15 and 20 years of age. This creates a grave problem. If we cannot provide these young people with employment and if they have nothing to do, grave social problems arise. With the appointment of two ' vocational guidance officers who will be stationed in Port Augusta to look after that particular area of South Australia, we hope that something will be done to solve this unemployment problem. Unless we can provide employment for these youngsters, we will not properly solve the other problems that face them. We are concerned about 4 matters - housing, health, education and employment. Unless we can do something in ' all 4 areas, we will not fully solve the problems which are facing Aborignals.

I return to the question of housing. I refer to a telegram which I received today from the Secretary of the Davenport Reserve Aboriginal Council. This Council administers the routine matters on the Aboriginal reserve. As I have mentioned, there are 5 Commonwealth financed houses in Port Augusta. Apparently they cost between $10,000 and $15,000 each to build. The average rental for a person in normal employment is between $11 and $13 a week. Usually work is available for the Aboriginals in the Commonwealth Railways and in other industries in the town, but usually it is work for which lower rates of wages are paid. Quite a number of Aboriginals work in foundries, in fettling gangs and so forth, but usually these are lowly paid jobs. So the amount of rent which an Aboriginal is required to pay for his house usually is beyond his means. I understand that adjustments are made in cases where Aboriginals are in bad circumstances.

As I said, the Secretary of the Davenport Reserve Aboriginal Council sent me a telegram today. Perhaps I should read it, because it indicates the way in which Aboriginals on the reserve are thinking. The telegram is addressed to me at Parliament House, and it reads:

Council instructs me to respectively request you to lay before Parliament the following with reference to the housing of Aboriginal families. That a home ownership scheme be devised to allow Aboriginal people to purchase homes on a low deposit moderate repayment and low interest basis in areas of full employment. Council considers this will fulfill a long felt want develop a pride of ownership and in so doing reduce the heavy overhead administration repair and maintenance costs and allow the initial vote to be self recouping to sustain continuing home purchase programme. Addition request that urgent consideration be given to the design of suitable transitional housing for average 100 monthly unemployed Aboriginals at Port Augusta.

Honourable members can see from that telegram that we have an unemployment problem. As I say, there are 4 matters to be considered - health, education, housing and employment. I certainly hope that the amendment is carried because I think that unless we allocate the necessary money we will not be able to solve the problems. We are doing it only bit by bit. Possibly next year an additional Sim will be provided to help towards the advancement of Aboriginals. But we are not yet overcoming the problem.

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