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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 3039

Mr WEST (Cunningham) -The other night when speaking during the adjournment debate I referred to the appalling health problems the Aboriginal people suffer as a result of Federal and State government racist and discriminatory administration and expenditure cuts in the key area of Aboriginal health. An article in the Melbourne Herald of! My 1979 stated:

An entire Australian community is living in 19th century conditions, in squalor and ill health, dying of 19th century diseases and facing 19th century life expectancy ... yet there is no national outcry, no scandal, no uproar in the Parliament. For the people are Aboriginals. They live mainly in the remotest areas . . . and nobody seems to care very much.

One of the most vital factors to good health is adequate housing. Since 1975 Aboriginal housing funds have been cut by 24 per cent. By Department of Aboriginal Affairs conservative estimates, the need is for 10,000 houses or dwellings. Over the next 10 years there will be a need to build at least 14,000 dwellings. There are 7,000 substandard Aboriginal dwellings in Australia at present. At Wilcannia, 20 families live in 10 small houses with an average of 12 people per house. At Walgett, 158 people live in 12 threebedroom houses with an average of 13 people per house. The Western Australian Department of Public Health identified a need to provide housing for 2,700 Aboriginal families. At current funding it will take at least 30 years to overcome the present backlog without taking into account any new demands. Total housing expenditure in Queensland from both Commonwealth and State grants has fallen from $ 12.7m five years ago to $5m this year.

There are disturbing reports about the way in which some States, particularly New South Wales, have applied strict eligibility ciriteria to the $20m earmarked for additional Aboriginal housing from welfare housing allocations. Allegations are that the New South Wales commission applied 'normal' criteria, meaning that the commission looked at applicants' need, income and suitability as future tenants. The commission was considering how clean and tidy people might be, completely overlooking the fact that many of those in need lived in tin sheds, shanties and car bodies. So the most needy, those in the most squalid environment, were excluded. And this was in the supposedly most enlightened State! Aggravating the housing problem is the lack of sanitation and water supply suffered by Aboriginal communities. Nationally, 15 per cent of Aboriginal communities have no water supply, 30 per cent have no electricity supply and 29 per cent have no sewerage services.

Mr Burns - Which State?

Mr WEST - I am referring mainly to Western Australia and Queensland. Of the communities that do have these services, only half operate with any degree of efficiency. It is now possible for Aboriginal housing associations to construct dwellings as cheaply as do the States through their housing commission structures with the added advantage of involving-Aboriginal communities in designing and constructing the types of houses they require to suit local conditions. There is a case for holding grants to the States steady and restoring Fraser 's housing cuts through grants-in-aid direct to Aboriginal housing associations and to expand federal -


Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will refer to the Prime Minister by his correct title.

Mr WEST - There is a case for holding grants to the States steady and restoring the Prime Minister's housing cuts through grants-in-aid direct to Aboriginal housing associations and to expand federal advisory and support services to these associations.

A continuing scandal is the refusal of some State departments, particularly the Queensland department, to implement court decisions to pay award wages to Aborigines. The Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement pays $ 1 20 to $ 1 40 gross a fortnight to its services employees on Queensland Aboriginal reserves. It labels Aborigines with the slow learners tag to justify this action. In Australia, persecution by this Government of Aborigines is condemned by the United Nations, by the international community at large, by all clearthinking white Australians and, most of all, by the Australian Aboriginal people. When will this Federal Government face its obligation with regard to the Aboriginal people.

MrDEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.

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