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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1898

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - This Bill provides for expenditure of $ 14.5m. A considerable part of the Bill concerns the people of the Northern Territory, so I feel I should speak on that point first. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) mentioned that representatives of Aboriginal electorates should be included in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. Aborigines have stood for electorates in the Northern Territory Legislative Council in the past but they have been unsuccessful. In the Council, the honourable member for Arnhem - which is where most of the Aborigines in the top end of the Northern Territory live - comes from a lay missionary background and knows the Aborigines very well. He is assisting them a very great deal in a lot of their projects across the top end of Arnhem Land. He is a cattle man and farmer. He can give first-class practical advice and assistance in places such as Milingimbi, Elcho Island, Bathurst Island, Croker Island, Goulburn Island and Maningrida with regard to developing projects which are in the interests of Aborigines residing in those areas. I have seen the member for Arnhem buying stud bulls at the Katherine Show bull sales on behalf of some of the mission settlements at the top end of Arnhem Land.

I imagine that, when the Aborigines wish to have representation in the Northern Territory Legislative Council they will nominate their own member and support him and he will be elected. The Opposition's amendment refers to the Government's failure to exercise the full and direct responsibility in Aboriginal affairs voted to it by 90 per cent of the electorate. It is a way of saying that anything that the Opposition considers the Aborigines should have was automatically voted for by 90 per cent of the electorate. It is a completely nebulous approach. Paragraph (b) refers to neglect to consult the Aboriginal people. There is an Aboriginal Advisory Council and there is an advisory council to the Administrator. These people were in Canberra not long ago advising the Minister.

I remember that some of the top end Aborigines were fairly firm in their remarks and attitudes towards some people in Canberra who purported to support the Aboriginal cause. Claude Narjic from Port Keats stated that he was quite capable of presenting the opinions of the Aborigines in northern Australia and that he did not have to be told by people whom he did not consider to be Aborigines how to go about things. Aborigines are quite capable of consulting and giving advice and they are given an opportunity to do so. Nobody has really yet given a definition of land rights. It seems to me that it is just a catchcry to -attack the Government, which is endeavouring to assist Aborigines to use the land which they have in the Northern Territory - 94,000 square miles - for their own benefit and to develop their own interests and projects.

While 1 am on this subject I would like to mention the properties on these reserves. Running through them quickly, there is Haasts Bluff with an area of 4,000 square miles, Yuendumu with an area of 850 square miles, Hooker Creek with an area of 843 square miles, and Daly River and Port Keats with an area of 5,200 square miles. A lot of these areas contain very good cattle country and with assistance they could be areas in which first rate cattle projects could be developed. There is Wagait with an area of 550 square miles; there is Beswick, probably one of the better developed settlement projects at the moment; and there is Bathurst Island. The Bathurst Island Mission is proposing a cattle run and a dairy herd. There is the Yugal pastoral company, which is virtually the old Roper River Mission cattle station up in Arnhem Land on the northern side of the Roper River. There is Bulman in Arnhem Land where there could well be an outstanding buffalo export industry. In fact I think a man is operating an industry there at the moment and I believe he intends to hand his plant and the whole concern over to the Aborigines and train them how to do the job so they can get into this very lucrative beef export industry.

The problem with regard to those projects is that whilst they exist and money is available more money could be made available. It is of no use members of the Opposition just raving and quoting figures about what was done 2 years ago or 3 years ago. The point is that people have to be prepared to go and help the Aborigines wilh these projects in the Northern Territory and in such areas. People must be prepared to go into these areas and, if it happens to be a buffalo project, train the Aborigines how to operate the project and to run it successfully and how to keep the carcasses scrupulously clean so that they will maintain an export standard. People will have to train the Aborigines how to run the mechanics of the whole operation and to stay on the job in their own interests for months at a time and to run the concern for their own benefit as a financial success.

The same thing applies, only more so, to the running of cattle stations, which are after all land. It is the land of these people and I do not know really what more some people want to give them. They have the right to use the land and to take their profit off it. I urge the Government to endeavour to recruit people to train to put in such places - I mentioned Haasts Bluff, which has 4,000 square miles of some of the best cattle country in Central Australia - to make these projects viable. The project at Haasts Bluff has been run by a very knowledgeable cattle man in the past but he is now retired. Four thousand square miles is a fairly sizable property, even in our language. Brunette Downs is 4,700 square miles. It would take millions of dollars to bring Haasts Bluff into production. It would take many years to train the local Aboriginal people who live in that area and who would feel that they would be entitled to be in the Haasts Bluff cattle company. 1 cite Haasts Bluff, but it could be in the Port Keats or Daly River area. The same set of circumstances would apply. It will take the time, the patience and the experience of as many men and women as possible.

If you envisage going out into this country, even today when the amenities are somewhat better than they used to be, trying to get organised a 4,000 square mile property with a number of Aborigines who are essentially not used to having to work regular and lengthy hours, you would have to fence the area, build yards, build outstations, brand regularly, attend local musters, watch your own boundary fences and look after your water supply. You could have 50 or 60 bores probably worked by pump engines in times of light winds to run this sort of place. You would have to have a tremendous imagination, foresight and guts. This to my way of thinking is the basis of using the land which the Aborigines have to their own benefit. In fact very shortly I will be going out into one of these areas by aeroplane and surface vehicle to try to appraise whether it will be suitable for an old Aborigine who considers he can live on it with his family.

Dr Klugman - 1 have been out there but hot air does not mean anything.

Mr CALDER - I think myself that it would be a jolly good idea if the honourable member went out there and did a bit himself some time too. I would like to see him out the other side of Tanami or somewhere. 1 will be going out there. A lot of Aborigines in this area have the determination and ability to run some places on their own, but the point is that the Aboriginal philosophy is such that if one man and his family get onto a block and get a few head of cattle and some water they are obliged to see that their relatives, if they arrive on the verandah or outside the homestead, are watered, fed and cared for. They may have 70 or 80 relatives in the area, all of whom the struggling owner of the small property could find on his doorstep asking to be maintained. This is the main problem of Aborigines who have their land and ventures of their own :o organise and run. So if they can be joined in a co-operative and be given shares in the main cattle company and can understand this, all the people who would normally live in that area could take shares in this place or take shares in a property in the Port Keats area, which would take the same sort of organising, the same amount of determination and ability to get under way and the same sort of capital to bring it to fruition. The problem would be the same. So I put it to the Government that this is the real crux of the problem.

I would suggest that we try to get people with this experience although it is very hard to get people to come into this country and do this sort of job. It is all very well for some honourable members to be down in this part of the country making smart remarks, but if they made them in that area they would find that their smart remarks did not get them very far. From the table that accompanies this Bill we find that $24.5m is to be spent in the Northern Territory this year on Aboriginal projects, as against an amount of SI 6.5m provided last year. The allocations for Aboriginal secondary schools and study grants have gone up $500,000 and $250,000 respectively to a total of $3. 727m. The amount allocated for the training scheme also has been increased, as has the amount of the allocation to the Department of Health. So to say that nothing is happening with regard to Aborigines is quite wrong.

In the last minute or two I have I would like to refer to something which was mentioned by the Minister for the Environ ment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) - enterprise and thought to assist Aborigines. There is the Apatula housing project which was established at Finke in respect of which the Aborigines were consulted on what sort of design they wanted. After some months they came out with a practical design and I note that the Government has made provision for the placing of one of those houses on show so that people can see what the Aborigines themselves wanted. We hear mention of the wrong sorts of houses being foisted upon them and about Aborigines living in houses of a design they do not wish. So I would urge the use of this particular design of house. I have seen it and it has virtually indestructible walls and has open living areas and outside camping areas in and around the main weather-tight living quarters. This move is to be commended and the Government is to be commended for supporting it. I hope that it will continue along these lines.

The Opposition said that the Government is doing nothing for Aborigines, but there are over 1,000 people in the Northern Territory who are doing something practical for them and who are putting in a tremendous amount of thought. The Government is putting in the money and the Minister has introduced into this House a Bill which is designed to help the Aborigines in the States. Some very fine houses have been built with Government assistance at places like Port Keats, Goulbourn Island, Elcho Island and Anguruga. There are 4 cases that I have thought of just like that where the Government is supplying the know-how and the finance to build these houses to improve the situation for Aborigines. If honourable members come to these place they will see what has been done.

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