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Thursday, 1 May 1980
Page: 2025

Senator CHANEY -Senator Keeffe asked a multi-point question of me today about the freezing of funds of the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account. I indicated at the time that I had no information that the funds had been frozen. I am now able to confirm on advice from my Department that the funds have not been frozen. Therefore the second part of the honourable senator's question about whether there was a dispute between the Department of Finance and my own Department does not apply. The allocation of funds from the ABTA to Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory in 1979-80 exceeded $350,000. This does not include substantial amounts paid to the Northern Territory land councils.

The next part of the honourable senator's question asked whether any Aboriginal organisations had been told that they must re-apply even though they were invited to apply in August 1979.I am advised that as far as my regional director is aware this did not happen. There may be individual instances where plans have been changed and organisations asked to re-apply. Senator Keeffe also asked whether severe hardship was being caused to Aboriginal organisations. The answer is no. The nature of grants from the ABTA is such that the grants are not made to alleviate hardship. Hardship grants are funded through grants-in-aid from my Department. There is no need for an answer to the next part of the question, which flows from the previous one. In respect to the final part of the honourable senator's question as to whether the grants will be paid immediately, I am advised that because of demands on the ABTA by operation of the land councils a number of applications for assistance from the ABTA have not yet been dealt with.

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