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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1905

Mr WALLIS (Grey) - I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). Mentioned in the various sections of the amendment are all the things for which Australia has stood condemned in the past. I suggest that the House should support the amendment because, by accepting it, it will at least show that it is really fair dinkum in its attitude towards solving the problems of Aboriginals. The first point in the amendment condemns the Government for not accepting its full responsibility in Aboriginal matters following the referendum in 1967. The Bill before the House is the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill. The Opposition feels that the Commonwealth, instead of just passing money on to the States as it does, should be taking a greater interest itself, mainly because the attitudes to Aboriginals vary from State to State. Some States have a particularly bad record of treatment of Aboriginals. Others are a little better. I do not think that any State is perfect. I feel that this variation between the States in their attitudes to Aborigines is one of the reasons why the Commonwealth should take full responsibility, and that is one of the reasons why the first point in the amendment should be accepted.

The amendment refers to the Government's neglect to consult the Aboriginal people. Arguments could probably be developed on this point. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and other speakers have already pointed out areas where the Government has not consulted the Aboriginal people and, as a result, has taken the wrong course. The amendment refers to the Government's refusal to restore land rights to Aborigines. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) covered that matter pretty fully and so did the honourable member for Lalor. The question that worries me most is the question of housing. In the paper issued by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) we see a list of houses to be built by the Commonwealth. With the increasing growth of the Aboriginal population - it is a fast growing section of the Australian people - we are not overcoming the problem. We are not catching up with the increasing growth. We are not really getting at the teeth of the problem.

Something has been said today about non-European housing. The electorate which I represent contains a fair number of Aboriginal people, from the people in the north west corner who have had contact with the white man for only a few years, to the possibly more sophisticated people in the south - people with regular jobs, living in Europeanised conditions. In the north west Aboriginal reserve, where the housing position is possibly the worst, people are still living in humpies. They are not living as they did in the past when the humpy was probably suitable accommodation. As soon as they tired of a particular area or as soon as the area was befouled they moved on and built more humpies, wurlies, or wiltjas as they are referred to in the Pitjantjatjara. I have taken the opportunity to look at some of the accommodation of the Aboriginals in the north western area. These people are experimenting. They have tried a few things such as wire mesh frames with coverings over them, Nissan type huts and so forth. Of course, most of the people are still living in the wiltjas in which they lived before. I have heard an anthropologist say that this is the way in which they want to live and that a set environment could be unhealthy. The number of animals such as dogs around the place could cause a lot of the ill health that is experienced in this area. The mortality rate in that oval piece of country from the north west Aboriginal area to Alice Springs is very high. I certainly hope that with the efforts being made by the South Australian Government and with the provision of health services by the Federal Government, these mortality figures will be reduced considerably.

I think the most important point, and one with which I come into contact a great deal, is employment. I have been notified by the Commonwealth Employment Service at various times about the amount of unemployment in my area. Although I do not say that the figures are fictitious I would like to point out that the Service is registering only those who come along and report to it. However, there are very many itinerant people who stay in a town for a short time and then move on because they do not pick up a job straight away. Of course, as the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said, the people who come down from the rural areas and the north possibly are not quite used to an urbanised society; they run into social problems, trouble and so on. The training of people for employment also is important. Training schemes could be started on reserves in the north-west. I think that if we are to do the right thing by Aboriginal people we have to overcome the problem of employment.

We have a pretty bad situation when we link the problem of unemployment with poor educational opportunities that existed in the past, bad health conditions and so on. I realise that the South Australian Government, with possibly some assistance from the Commonwealth, has provided improved educational facilities for Aborigines. I know that a number of Aboriginal children are going to the local high school in my area. Some of these children have reached third and fourth year level and are equivalent in ability to quite a number of white children. But I am afraid that once Aboriginal children receive an education they do not have the opportunity to get the jobs that they want.

Much was said earlier about angry Aborigines. I think that we are really courting trouble if we educate Aboriginal children in an urbanised or country town situation and then throw them back on to the scrapheap. What we have is a person with a reasonable amount of education but who is unemployed. Mention has been made of protests. I think that these people will protest and that they have every right to do so if we aTe to throw them back on to the scrap-heap.

I can see some advances being made in my area. I think it could be admitted that the South Australia Government has possibly the most progressive ideas in relation to Aborigines. However, at the same time I think that the South Australian Government and indeed, all of us would admit that there is still a long way to go. As the honourable member for Fremantle has said, the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition sets goals - goals which I think are attainable and which I hope this Parliament will see are carried out in the near future.

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