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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 1443

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - It was interesting to hear the adulation of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) for the honourable member for the Northern Territory. It is obvious that the honourable member for the Northern Territory has hidden talents which as yet have not been exposed to the public gaze in this Parliament. I do not advocate the preservation of the buildings at Kormilda College on the grounds of antiquity. At least we can be gratified that they have given long and faithful service since the Army had them erected in 1942. I do not suggest that we know the answers to the problems with which we are confronted. This is not an exercise in criticism of the Government. None of us knows the answers to the questions concerning the development of the culture of the Aboriginal people in such a way that they are able to fit into our societies. The Aboriginal people face a different challenge from the challenge facing the rest of the community, most of whom are able to live in a totally Western European type of society. The Aboriginal must live in a society which is basically Western European, in the numerical state of the nation, and also with his own race. This is a challenge to the intellect, psychology, emotions and spirit of a people and we really cannot understand it. It would be presumptuous for anybody to say he knew the answers. At least we can say that Kormilda is a step in the direction of trying to find the answers. As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has pointed out, we are a long way short of those answers.

I should make it clear, though, that the late arrival of the Government in showing interest in Aboriginal education was dictated more by the activities of the Labor Party in this Parliament than by any other factor. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee of the Labor Party has visited Kormilda on several occasions, the last as recently as July of this year. I suggest to the House and to the appropriate authorities the need to start looking beyond Australia's horizons for answers to these questions. My colleague, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), referred to some of the answers that Japanese researchers and social scientists have discovered to some of these questions. The whole problem of education of the Aboriginal people is still a closed book so far as we are concerned. Delving is proceeding throughout Australia, but we do not know the answers. At Easter time when I was in the Northern Territory for a conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders I had an interesting discussion with 2 people involved with the Aboriginal people. One was a senior inspector of schools in the Northern Territory. He pointed to the need for the young Aboriginal people who are going to make the pace for their own people becoming completely absorbed in the English language. The other man, who operates in Alice Springs among the Aboriginal people, said how important it was that they should be educated in their own language too. We have not developed techniques for bi-lingual or bi-cultural people in our society and therefore the Committee's investigations have opened up a new area for examination by us.

As has been pointed out this afternoon, we will have to turn all the wit, will and expertise in the community to the problem. I simply reinforce those statements that have been made about this question. Kormilda College, with all its adventurousness and with the new concept that we hope will develop inside it, will still be faced with tremendous problems with the Aboriginal children who come here. I refer to its utter loneliness and to the fact that children will be taken from their total communities 300 miles or 400 miles away and be placed into another community where basically the people who run it are not of their race. They will be isolated from the general community so we must develop many more techniques for parental involvement and community involvement. I do not think it matters much if we spend a few more million dollars doing this, as it is one of the greatest social and intellectual challenges Australia faces.

I should like to see more trained Aboriginal people involved on the staff of the College. I would agree that the time has come when we could place there people who do not fit our concepts of what the public service should be. Some of the best people to place as house parents would, of course, be people from the students' own background. The challenge is the same as it is for ourselves. How do we make education for the Aborigines relevant? We have not found the answers yet for adolescent education in Australia and therefore we need not be totally disheartened because we have not found it for the Aboriginal people. I appeal to the House and to the Government to make some general appeal to the international bodies concerned with questions of education and the training of across cultures rather than cross cultures. We should be a little less chauvinistic about these matters and should turn all our wit and will to them. I hope that Kormilda is a success and that we will provide all the resources that it needs. But, as has been pointed out and as is manifest in the evidence which has been made available to me - over 500 pages of it - the staffing and management of Kormilda still has to be a good deal more adventurous.

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