Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders - Senate Select Committee - Report on the Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites, dated August 1976


Download PDF Download PDF

Parliamentary Paper No. 199/1976

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS OF ABORIGINES AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS AND THE PRESERVATION OF THEIR

SACRED SITES

Report from the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders

Concluding a reference to the former Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment

Brought up and ordered to be printed 26 August 1976

The Government Printer of Australia Canberra 1976

Printed by A uthority by the G overnm ent P rinter of A ustralia

MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

Senator N.T. Bonner (Queensland), Chairman

Senator P.E. Baume (New South Wales)

Senator J.B. Keeffe (Queensland)

Senator J.I. Melzer (Victoria)

Senator J.A. Mulvihill (New South Wales)

Senator P.E. Rae (Tasmania)*

Former member of the Committee

Senator G.S. Davidson (South Australia) (Chairman - to 7 April 1976)

Secretary

R.G. Thomson, The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra

* Appointed 7 April 1976

iii

The Aborigines - Two S tatements:

We see them not as exotic primitives, strange survivals with a stone-age culture, but as contemporaries, m o d e m men and women, motivated by the same basic urges as ourselves, but with a different way of life, a different outlook, different values - one of the many variations on the theme of human beings.

Ronald M. & Catherine H . Berndt, The First Australians (2nd edn, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1967), p. 24.

... we still must express our conviction that if we are ever able to make atonement to the remnant of this people, it will require no slight attention, and no ordinary sacrifices on our part to compensate the evil association which we have inflicted; but even hopelessness

of making reparation for what is past would not in any way lessen our obligation to stop, as far as in us lies, the continuance of iniquity.

House of Commons Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements), 1837.

iv

CONTENTS

Use of Terms page vii

Recommendations ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Background to the Report 7

Chapter 2 Key Factors 23

Chapter 3 Statistics 35

Chapter 4 The Aboriginal Population 43

Chapter 5 The Waters in Between 55

Chapter 6 Health 71

Chapter 7 Education 139

Chapter 8 Housing 169

Chapter 9 Employment 213

Chapter 10 Land Rights 243

Chapter 11 National Aboriginal Consultative Committee 261

Final Statement 275

Appendixes 279

v

Acknowledgements for Permission to Reproduce Maps used in Report

Population Distribution (folio 47) -

Reproduced by kind permission of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Torres Strait Islands (folio 57) -

Reproduced by kind permission of the Department of Economics, Research School of Social Sciences and Pacific Studies, Australian National University.

Electoral Boundaries of National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (Folio 263) -

Reproduced by kind permission of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

USE OF TERMS

1. For the sake of brevity the term 'Aborigines' refers to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders unless otherwise stated.

2. Also for the sake of brevity 'second progress report' means the second progress report presented by the former Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment in April 1974.

3. In the footnotes Evidence means the official Hansard transcript of evidence taken at the public hearings of the Standing Committee on Social Environment.

4. The expressions 1 the Committee' and ' this Committee' refer to the Standing Committee on Social Environment, which conducted the inquiry, and/or the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, which has prepared

this report.

5. 'We', 'us' and other first person plural pronouns refer to the collective membership of either or both Committees.

6. The names of some departments and organisations changed one or more times during the inquiry. The title used in the text is that current at the time referred to.

vii

RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendations made in this report are brought

together and listed here for convenience of reference.

Aborigines and the Law

1. That the Senate establish, as a matter of urgency,

a select committee with terms of reference

sufficiently wide to enable it to examine all aspects

of relations between Aborigines and police.

Chapter 1, p. 19

Departmental Services to Tasmanian Aborigines

2. That the staffing of the Commonwealth Department of

Aboriginal Affairs in Tasmania be examined urgently

for the purpose of enabling the Department to give

more efficient service and more direct access to

Tasmania's considerable Aboriginal population.

Chapter 1, p. 21

Welfare Agencies 3

3. That the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in

consultation with all organisations involved in

Aboriginal affairs, be responsible for the

preparation of a register of all agencies and services

participating in Aboriginal welfare, and that copies

ix

of the register be circulated to all participating

organisations and to Commonwealth, State and local

government instrumentalities.

Chapter 2, p. 29

Cultural Factors

4. That more emphasis be placed on programs to promote

better understanding by all parties of cultural

factors so that the understanding gap may be bridged.

Chapter 2, p. 30

Statistics

5. That Aborigines and Islanders be appointed among

census collectors in areas where there are

significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

communities.

Chapter 3, p. 39

6. That comprehensive statistical records of Aborigines

be collected by all agencies to supplement those

obtained at the census.*

Chapter 3, p. 41

7. That all such statistics be forwarded to a central

statistical registry.*

Chapter 3, p. 41

x

8.

10.

11.

Torres

12.

That professional personnel in constant contact with

Aborigines collect data on a regular basis.*

Chapter 3, p. 42

That comprehensive demographic statistics be compiled

and analysed by qualified personnel provided for this

purpose .*

Chapter 3, p. 42

That all departments and authorities providing

services and facilities for Aborigines and Islanders

be required to develop urgently, in association with

the Australian Bureau of Statistics, appropriate

criteria and programs for the collection of general

and specific statistical data.

Chapter 4, p. 44

That the political or administrative decisions

precedent to the implementation of programs for the

collection of data then be made without delay.

Chapter 4, p. 44

Strait Islands

That electric generators and refrigerators be provided

on all the inhabited islands as a matter of urgency.

Chapter 5, p. 61

xi

That the inter-island surface transport network be

upgraded to provide better direct movement of

passengers and of adequate amounts of cargo between

islands.

Chapter 5, p. 65

That existing airstrips be improved to all-weather

standard.

Chapter 5, p. 66

That, in full consultation with the local communities,

airstrips be provided on all outlying islands where

the terrain allows.

Chapter 5, p. 66

That until adequate air services are available for

the carriage of mail, and of medical cases - at any time,

in emergencies - a hovercraft be provided.

Chapter 5, p. 66

That in the meantime the merits of helicopters as

opposed to fixed-wing aircraft be investigated to

determine whether they would be of advantage in this

region.

Chapter 5, p. 66

18. That the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian

Telecommunications Commission examine the matter

urgently with a view to providing acceptable postal,

telegraph and telephone services in the region without

delay.

Chapter 5, p. 67

19. That the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio

transmitting station approved for Thursday Island be

brought into operation without delay.

Chapter 5, p. 67

20. That appropriate action be taken immediately to give

the island councils real authority in matters relating

to the government of domestic affairs of island

communities, in order to permit freedom of movement

to any island and between islands.

Chapter 5, p. 70

Health

21. That the indications given by Aboriginal communities

that they desire preventive rather than merely

corrective programs should form the basis of a major

part of governmental response.

Chapter 6, p. 73

xiii

•22. That the Commonwealth's continuous morbidity reporting

system on trial at Borroloola be closely observed and

evaluated. *

Chapter 6, p. 74

23. That greater involvement of Aborigines in both

planning and delivery of health services should be a

high priority for governments.

Chapter 6, p. 87

24. That governments should accept as a principle the

importance of environmental factors when developing

health policy for Aborigines.

Chapter 6, p. 94

25. That assistance to Aboriginal mothers to enable them

to cope better with problems of child care and infant

feeding should assume a high priority.

Chapter 6, p. 94

26. That governments should publicly announce goals for

Aboriginal health improvement, and dates by which

these goals should be achieved, and that all government

activity in the health field should clearly relate to the

achievement of one or more of these goals.

Chapter 6, p. 94

xiv

27. That a national meeting be convened, as a matter of

urgency, with appropriate professional and Aboriginal

participation to draw up action proposals which will be

acceptable to Aboriginal communities and which might

modify some of the serious health problems so far

identified.

Chapter 6, p. 107

28. That the conclusions on immunological deficiency and

the effects of immunisation on Aboriginal children

postulated by Dr Kalokerinos be tested scientifically

with a view to producing, as a matter of urgency, a

definitive policy on the immunisation of Aboriginal

children against infectious diseases.

Chapter 6, p. 113

29. That special treatment centres modelled on the

Swaziland system be established where appropriate and

that staff be trained and allowed to apply appropriate

forms of basic therapy for rapid rehydration of infants

with gastroenteritis.

Chapter 6, p. 115

30. That preventive measures be taken by improving

substandard conditions of Aboriginal health and hygiene.

Chapter 6, p. 116

31. That an immediate survey be made throughout northern

Australia to determine the incidence of hookworm.

Chapter 6, p. 116

xv

32. That, in the making of the survey, hookworm be

particularly excluded as the cause in all cases in

which anaemia is demonstrated in Aborigines.

Chapter 6, p. 116

33. That appropriate remedial and preventive measures

for the eradication of hookworm be then planned and

implemented.

Chapter 6, p. 117

34. That local Aboriginal groups be allowed to exercise

a local option about whether there should be an outlet

nearby for sale of liquor, and receive governmental

support in their efforts to suppress illegal

trafficking in liquor within their communities.

Chapter 6, p. 119

35. That Aboriginal medical services be expanded and

given greater government recognition and support.

Chapter 6, p. 128

Education

36. That the Commonwealth Government appoint an Aboriginal

as a commissioner to serve on the Schools Commission,

with special responsibility for working in the

interests of Aborigines.

Chapter 7, p. 142

xvi

37. That, after due consultation following the

establishment of the new National Committee on

Aboriginal Education, Commonwealth project funding

in the area of Aboriginal education be transferred

to the Department of Education.

Chapter 7, p. 142

38. That Commonwealth and State Governments take steps to

facilitate Aboriginal representation on all State and

Commonwealth bodies responsible for the education of

Aborigines.

Chapter 7, p. 143

39. That, if no suitably qualified Aborigines are available,

provision for training be made immediately, as was

done in Papua New Guinea.

Chapter 7, p. 143

40. That suitably qualified Aborigines be appointed to

assist, in a professional capacity, the directors of

education in the States and Territories.

Chapter 7, p. 143

41. That funds be set aside to provide training to enable

Aborigines to become qualified to fill senior

administrative positions.

Chapter 7, p. 143

xvii

That the Commission on Advanced Education

investigate the feasibility of designing suitable

courses for training Aborigines in administrative

science.

Chapter 7, p. 143

That Government bodies lend due support to the

Bernard Van Leer projects where necessary.

Chapter 7, p. 144

That school principals and parent-teacher organisations

take all possible steps to invite and encourage

Aboriginal parents in their communities to take part

in school functions and activities.

Chapter 7, p. 144

That the proposed National Committee on Aboriginal

Education be given the task of initiating and

co-ordinating the establishment of learning centres

in communities where housing conditions inhibit

satisfactory home study.

Chapter 7, p. 145

That the National Committee on Aboriginal Education

and the Commission on Advanced Education examine the

feasibility of instituting special matriculation

courses for mature age Aborigines who wish to become

teacher education students.

Chapter 7, p. 146

xviii

47. That adequate supportive services and career

counselling be given to those Aboriginal senior

secondary students who show an inclination toward

the teaching profession.

Chapter 7, p. 146

48. That, in the first instance the Schools Commission,

and secondly State and Northern Territory education

administrators, take appropriate measures not only

to assist Aboriginal teacher aides to improve their

qualifications as aides, but also to assist those who

so desire to become fully qualified teachers.

Chapter 7, p. 147

49. That qualified and experienced teacher aides be given

appropriate academic credit for experience should they

undertake formal teacher training.

Chapter 7, p. 147

50. That State education departments establish, with

guidance and funds from the Schools Commission if

necessary, a program employing trained Aboriginal

liaison officers to advise and assist all Aboriginal

students enrolled at primary and secondary schools.

Chapter 7, p . 147

xix

51. That the Queensland Department of Education seek,

and act on, the advice of the Inspector of Schools

(Indigenous) concerning the possibility of training

and employing teacher aides in Torres Strait Island

schools.

Chapter 7, p. 148

52. That the Queensland authorities establish a high

school immediately at junior level and as soon as

possible at senior level, with boarding facilities,

on one of the central Islands.

Chapter 7, p. 149

53. That an investigation be undertaken to ascertain the

best means of providing Islanders with access to

technical and further education.

Chapter 7, p. 149

54. That the Commonwealth Government set goals in the

field of pre-school education, and target dates for

their achievement.

Chapter 7, p. 149

55. That the desirability and feasibility of conducting

pre-school in the vernacular (whether it be an language Aboriginal/or non-standard English) be determined by

the proposed National Committee on Aboriginal Education.

Chapter 7, p. 149

xx

56. That the Schools Commission be provided with funds

to initiate and co-ordinate action-research projects

in the Spates and Northern Territory designed to

discover the reasons why English, reading and

mathematics seem to offer exceptional difficulties

for cognitive mastery by Aboriginal children, and

to devise teaching methods to overcome those

difficulties.

Chapter 7, p. 152

57. That classes in the vernacular be conducted by

Aborigines whenever possible.

Chapter 7, p. 154

58. That bilingual education be introduced only after

full discussion with members of the local community

and after they have given their approval.

Chapter 7, p. 154

59. That, where possible, in communities of mixed tribal

composition, the wishes of minority groups speaking

particular languages of their own be taken into account.

Chapter 7, p. 154

60. That sufficient funds be made available to employ

the linguists and to print the texts required by

the programs.

Chapter 7, p. 154

xxi

61. That the Department of Education and the Northern

Territory Administration continue to provide such

assistance and funds as may be necessary for the

School of Australian Linguistics to carry on and,

where necessary, expand its functions.

Chapter 7, p. 155

62. That all possible co-operation be extended to the

Summer Institute of Linguistics (Australia) by

Federal and State authorities.

Chapter 7, p. 155

63. That Aboriginal studies courses, embracing contemporary

and traditional culture and, if possible, language,

be instituted in all Australian colleges of teacher

education.

Chapter 7, p. 157

64. That the Curriculum Development Centre continue the

work it has begun on investigating the best means of

introducing Aboriginal studies into the schools.

Chapter 7, p. 158

65. That Federal and State authorities immediately take

steps to ensure the substitution of textbooks which

present an erroneous and derogatory picture of

traditional Aboriginal society by accurate textbooks.

Chapter 7, p. 159

xxii

That the Tasmanian educational authorities revise the

textbooks used in their schools to acknowledge the

continuing existence of a sizeable Aboriginal community

in that State.

Chapter 7, p. 159

That the Curriculum Development Centre seriously

investigate the feasibility of introducing the study

of Aboriginal languages in secondary schools.

Chapter 7, p. 160

That the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme be

continued.

Chapter 7, p. 160

That the feasibility and desirability of extending

support to Aboriginal children attending primary

school be examined.

Chapter 7, p. 161

That Northern Territory and State education authorities

give serious consideration to the question of assisting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to

establish their own schools.

Chapter 7, p. 161

That State and Northern Territory authorities consider

instituting special incentives for teachers to stay in

schools in less attractive areas, and that teachers

who wish to stay in a particular Aboriginal community

xxiii

for more than a normal posting period be allowed

to do so.

Chapter 7, p. 162

That the report on Aborigines and technical and

further education prepared for the Aboriginal

Consultative Group of the Schools Commission be

given serious attention when it becomes available.

Chapter 7, p. 165

That a major effort be made to eliminate illiteracy

among adult Aborigines.

Chapter 7, p. 165

That technical and further education institutions

provide programs relevant to local Aboriginal needs.

Chapter 7, p. 165

That appropriate measures be taken to enable

Aborigines to take advantage of TAPE programs.

Chapter 7, p. 165

That the Minister for Employment and Industrial

Relations ensure that the Aboriginal Employment Section

of his Department is provided with sufficient funds

and staff to carry out its responsibilities effectively

by maintaining the required type and scale of services

to assist Aborigines, especially in remote areas.

Chapter 7, p. 166

77. That the proposed National Committee on Aboriginal

Education instigate a program of sex education.

Chapter 7, p. 167

78. That the Government continue to recognise the

importance of, and to provide the funds necessary for,

the successful achievement of the stated aims of the

Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council.

Chapter 7, p. 168

Housing

79. That the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and

government housing authorities give priority to

compiling a detailed and accurate assessment of

Aboriginal housing needs throughout Australia, region

by region.

Chapter 8, p. 172

80. That Commonwealth funding for homemaker services be

increased to enable such services to be extended to

all States and the Northern Territory.

Chapter 8, p. 177

81. That the Aboriginal Loans Commission receive an

adequate allocation of money to avoid early

exhaustion of funds, and to enable it to expand its

program to meet the needs of the large numbers of

Aboriginal people eligible for assistance under the

scheme.

Chapter 8, p. 183

xxv

82. That close attention be given by all public housing

authorities to the organisation and operations of the

Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia, with a

view to discovering from the example of the Board any

possible advantageous modifications that might be

made to their own Aboriginal housing programs.

Chapter 8, p. 195

83. That the Aboriginal Housing Co. Ltd continue to

receive sufficient Commonwealth Government support

to complete the Redfern project.

Chapter 8, p . 202

84. That the Commonwealth continue to provide full support

for Aboriginal housing societies.

Chapter 8, p. 204

85. That Aboriginal Hostels Ltd continue to receive

Commonwealth Government support at a level adequate

to enable it to attain its stated objective of

meeting the need for 6,328 beds by 1982.

Chapter 8, p. 212

Employment

86. That the Government, by its initiatives, and the

Public Service Board and departments, by their staffing

policies, encourage and facilitate enlargement of the

xxv i

employment opportunities for Aborigines within

the Public Service.

Chapter 9, p. 236

87. That similar efforts be made by statutory and other

official authorities operating in all areas where the

Commonwealth Government has influence or is involved.

Chapter 9, p. 236

88. That, along with efforts to raise educational

attainment, more attention be paid to informing young

Aborigines and Islanders of opportunities in the

armed services.

Chapter 9, p. 237

89. That the special provisions for Aborigines under the

national employment and training scheme remain

in effect.

Chapter 9, p. 241

90. That the special work projects scheme be allocated a

sufficient level of funds to permit its expansion in

order to reduce Aboriginal unemployment.

Chapter 9, p. 241

(See also recommendations 73 to 76.)

Land Rights

91. That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory)

Bill 1976, which was introduced on 4 June 1976, be

xxv ii

considered for early passage through the Parliament.

Chapter 10, p. 255

That the following matters should remain the

responsibility of the Australian Parliament and

Government:

1. Protection of fauna on Aboriginal lands.

2. Right of entry on Aboriginal lands.

3. Protection of sacred sites.

4. Processing of land claims in towns and other

areas where traditional claims cannot be

effectively established.

5. Control of territorial seas adjoining

Aboriginal land, within two kilometres of

the boundary of the Aboriginal land.

6. Rights of Aborigines to enter on pastoral leases.

7. The right to mining on Aboriginal lands.

Chapter 10, p. 255

That funds be provided to enable Aborigines to

sustain themselves on any land which they are given.

Chapter 10, p. 256

That the Government accept cash compensation as an

alternative to grants of land to Aboriginal people.

Chapter 10, p. 258

xxviii

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

95. That, without delay and on a basis acceptable to all

parties, the Government resolve the confusion about

the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee.

Chapter 11, p. 273

96. That the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee be

restructured, and its goals clearly defined, to ensure

that general Aboriginal opinion is heard.

Chapter 11, p. 274

97. That the Government effectively support the

restructured body by providing funds, staff,

communication facilities and other resources to

enable the objective of better representation of

Aboriginal opinion to be achieved.

Chapter 11, p. 274 *

* These recommendations were made in the second

progress report and are repeated in this report.

xxix

INTRODUCTION

Establishment of the Committee

Appointment of the Select Committee on Aborigines and

Torres Strait Islanders was agreed to by the Senate on 17 March

1976. Establishment of a select committee was proposed in

order to make possible completion and presentation of a report

on the following reference:

The environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites.

This matter had been referred to, and considered by, the

Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Social

Environment which was appointed during the previous Session.

That Committee ceased to exist on the dissolution of the

Parliament on 11 November 1975. Work on the reference had

reached its final stages, but the Committee has not been

reappointed in the Thirtieth Parliament.

The membership of the Standing Committee on Social Environ­

ment during the inquiry is shown in Appendix I.

Terms of Reference

The resolution agreed to by the Senate when appointing the

Select Committee, on motion by Senator Baume, was as follows:

1

That

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6) (7)

(8) (9)

A Select Committee he appointed for the purpose of completing the consideration of a matter previously referred to, and considered by, the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Social Environment appointed during the previous Session, namely, the Environmental Conditions of Aborigines

and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites, and reporting to the Senate upon that matter.

The Committee have power to consider the Minutes of Evidence and records of the former Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Social Environment relating to the matter referred to in paragraph (1).

The Committee consist of six Senators, three being members of the Government, nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and three being members of the Opposition, nominated by the Leader

of the Opposition in the Senate.

The Committee elect a Government member as Chairman, who may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be Deputy-Chairman. The member

so appointed shall act as Chairman at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.

In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, have a casting vote.

The quorum of the Committee be three.

The Committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to meet and transact business in public

or private session.

The Committee report to the Senate by 31 May 1976.

The foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.

2

On 27 May, the Senate, on motion by Senator Bonner, extended

the time for presentation of the report to 31 August 1976.

Membership

Members were appointed to the Committee on 18 March 1976,

the membership being identical with that of the previous

Standing Committee on Social Environment. On 7 April Senator

G.S. Davidson, who had been elected Chairman on 23 March, was

discharged from further attendance and Senator P.E. Rae was

appointed to fill the vacancy.

The Committee's Charter

Under the terms of the resolution of appointment, the

Committee was empowered to consider the minutes of evidence

and records of the former Standing Committee on Social

Environment. All the relevant material was made available to

the Select Committee immediately after its establishment.

The Committee, in keeping with the spirit of its

appointment, agreed at an early stage that the inquiry phase

of the reference be regarded as closed, in order to permit

completion and presentation of the report by the date fixed by

the Senate.

Relationship to Reports Presented by Standing Committee on

Social Environment

This final report should be read in conjunction with the

two progress reports by the Standing Committee on Social

24451/ 76— 2

3

Environment, which were presented in September 1972 and April

1974. In this document we discuss developments in the inquiry

since April 1974, report on matters not dealt with previously

and elaborate on others.

Acknowledgments * I I I

As will be realised, during a lengthy inquiry such as this

has been, the Committee has been in touch with and has been

assisted by many hundreds of individuals and an enormous number

of organisations whom it is not practicable to enumerate. Nor

have we any wish to single out particular ones for mention in

preference to others who may be equally deserving.

In accordance with practice we list the names of all persons

and organisations who gave formal evidence or presented written

submissions. This information appears at Appendixes II and

III respectively. We list, in Appendix IV, also those

Aboriginal community councils, and their chairmen, with whom

informal discussions were held.

To all who appeared as witnesses, forwarded submissions or

joined with us in discussion of the many matters of common

concern, we extend our thanks and appreciation. We are

especially indebted to all Aboriginal and Islander people and

organisations who assisted during the inquiry. We recall also

with gratitude those officials and residents who helped to

conduct us about the numerous communities visited on field

trips and the many kind hosts whose hospitality was generously

extended to us.

4

The interest and contributions of all have been of basic

importance to the effective conduct of the inquiry.

5

CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND TO THE REPORT

Inquiry on a National Scale

The lengthy inquiry that this report brings to a close

extended over a very broad range of issues and across the

entire continent. In most respects, this was the first full-

scale national examination of the diverse factors influencing

the lives of Aboriginal and Islander peoples.

The range and complexity of the issues, many of them

fundamental to social and economic well-being, raised problems

in the conduct of the inquiry. These were exacerbated by

the geographical spread and variety of the localities that the

Committee found it necessary to visit. The breadth and

complexity of the issues tended in some respects to limit the

depth of inquiry, and lengthened the time required, especially

in the field work. Political and parliamentary events also

delayed the inquiry by compelling the cessation of formal

activities twice on the occurrence of double dissolutions of

the Parliament.

In the late stages of the inquiry we experienced delay in

obtaining from the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal

Affairs an updating submission and some difficulties in

obtaining specific information on current situations and recent

developments in a number of important matters. A parliamentary

committee might justifiably have expected to receive more

assistance from the Government and Information Branch.

7

If less attention than might have been expected appears to

have been devoted to some things, this is because evidence

received was not uniformly detailed in all areas. As in the

earlier reports, attention is concentrated on major problems

which were brought before us around the country and which

seemed to overshadow most noticeably all others in the

Aboriginal and Islander communities.

Definition *

Differing definitions of 1 Aboriginal1 and 'Torres Strait

Islander1 have been used among the States and in the Northern

Territory in various contexts over the years. To avoid

confusion the definition adopted throughout the inquiry was:

... a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Islander and is accepted as such by the community with which he is associated.

This definition is now very widely accepted. It is used by

the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs which

considers that the principal criterion is that of self­

identification.

Course and Progress of the Inquiry

Following the presentation of the second progress report

the Committee continued the taking of formal evidence from

numerous witnesses and the gathering and assessment of other

information. During 1974 and 1975, field work was undertaken

8

in South Australia, Queensland (including the Torres Strait

Islands), Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria. To

facilitate completion of the field work, the Committee on a

number of occasions operated in sub-committees so that two

regions might be visited simultaneously in the restricted time

available.

Over the whole inquiry, formal evidence was given by some

180 witnesses, of whom 45 were Aborigines and Torres Strait

Islanders. Most of the public hearings were held in Canberra.

Many hundreds of Aborigines and Islanders were consulted and

afforded an opportunity of presenting their views to the

Committee in completely informal discussions. These were

conducted with individuals, small groups and large community

gatherings during visits to about 110 localities in all States

and tie Northern Territory (see Appendix V). These direct

meetings with Aboriginal and Islander groups and their

spokesmen, on their own ground, were of the highest importance

to the whole exercise. That such meetings have inevitable

limitations has not escaped our notice, but the contacts were

beneficial in many ways. Also valued highly were the many

contacts with scores of advisers, officers and others working

directly with the Aborigines and Islanders in the communities

visited.

We hope and believe that the field work was of mutual

benefit to the Committee and to those with whom the members met

and talked. We trust that it will also be viewed by both the

Parliament and the broad community as an effective and practical

way of taking Parliament to the people in the way foreshadowed

9

when the system of legislative and general purpose standing

committees was established by the Senate. This kind of activity,

in appropriate circumstances, stems naturally from the role of

committees which are now a noteworthy feature of the operations

of the Australian Parliament.

Of necessity the inquiry ranged so widely as to make it

impracticable to follow up in detail many potentially interesting

and signficant matters. This caused some regret but it had to

be accepted to avoid undue delay in the presentation of this

report.

We are of the opinion that this is an appropriate stage at

which to report finally, notwithstanding that a definitive

assessment of all matters included in the reference is not

yet possible. Any matter of which further study is desired

could be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare,

to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal

Affairs or to a select committee at a later stage. We hope

that any such reference would be in terms conducive to a

fairly quick examination of specific issues.

Lack of Information from Queensland

Regret and deep concern have been occasioned by difficulty

encountered in obtaining official and authoritative information

from the Queensland Government, and sometimes inability to

obtain information at all.

In common with the administrations of all other States,

the Government of Queensland, by letter to the Premier, in

10

December 1971, was afforded full opportunity to co-operate

in the inquiry and to provide official information to assist

and inform the Standing Committee. All other States provided

information in response to the initial invitation. The

Queensland Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal

Affairs, the Honourable N„T.E. Hewitt, on 28 December 1973,

wrote to the Chairman, Senator Keeffe, in these terms:

Dear Senator Keeffe,

I wish to acknowledge and to thank you for your letter of the 13th December, 1973 in which you informed me that your Committee is continuing its examination of the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres

Strait Islanders. I have also noted the Committee's interest in the protection and preservation of sites of significance related to the culture of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The work of my Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs is fully documented in the annual reports of the Department and a study of this permanent record provides excellent background data and resource material for your

Committee.

In view of the foregoing I do not feel that submissions or oral evidence will provide the Committee with additional material and I am very much of the opinion that direct and first-hand study of each situation will provide a real

and substantial basis of assessment; consequently I would be pleased to extend any reasonable facilities and services that would facilitate an "on the spot" evaluation of environmental factors.

Yours faithfully,

(Sgd) N.T.E. HEWITT

Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs.

11

The annual reports to which we were referred by Mr Hewitt

fail to provide much of the necessary information on numerous

matters that we believe to be of fundamental importance,

including health, education, housing and employment. In order

to inform ourselves as fully as possible, we undertook an

extensive program of field work and in this we received some

co-operation from Queensland departments and their officers

in the conduct of inspections, in discussions with members of

local communities, and in the completion beforehand of all the

necessary arrangements.

In our endeavours to extend all possible courtesy and to

elucidate other important matters, we took further measures.

Following the presentation, in public hearing on 14 September

1973, of evidence containing allegations against the Queensland

Police Force, Senator Keeffe wrote to the Minister for Police

in Queensland, the Honourable A.M. Hodges, on 1 October 1973,

enclosing a proof copy of the official Hansard report of the

evidence for information and comment. This letter also sought

the Minister's co-operation in arranging for the Commissioner

of Police to forward a written submission and to attend before

the Committee on a convenient date. When no more than an

acknowledgment had been received by 22 April 1975 - more than

18 months later - Senator Keeffe wrote again in the following

terms:

My Dear Minister,

You are no doubt aware that on 7 October 1971, the Senate referred to this Committee for examination the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites.

12

I refer you to initial correspondence with the Premier, dated 10 December 1971, and to subsequent communications on related matters.

On 1 October 1973 I wrote to you concerning evidence given in public hearing, by Mr Ward McNally, on 14 September 1973, which involved Mr R.W. Whitrod and other matters concerning the Queensland Police Force.

During the course of the Committee's examination of evidence and numerous visits interstate, the Committee has become conscious of the difficulties and problems related to Aboriginal involvement with the law and its enforcement.

Your assistance in arranging for a written submission to be presented by the Commissioner of Police to the Committee covering statements made by Mr Ward McNally and the following matters would be appreciated.

1. Any official guidelines for responding to situations involving Aborigines.

2. Any special training for police who have daily contact with Aborigines.

3. Areas of special difficulty adversely affecting relations between police and Aborigines.

4. Confessions and pleas of guilty.

Other matters which may warrant discussion could also be raised.

If supplementary evidence is needed or the Committee wishes to discuss particular aspects of the submission further, an invitation to attend a public hearing will be extended. I shall be grateful if you will nominate an

appropriate officer or officers to appear if supporting evidence is required.

For your information and assistance, I forward copies of the list of membership of the Committee and the terms of reference for the inquiry, together with a copy of the letter mentioned in paragraph 2.

The Committee will be appreciative of your assistance in this matter.

Yours sincerely

(Sgd) JIM KEEFFE Chairman

13

Mr Hodges replied by letter dated 30 April to the effect that

the matters raised would be discussed with the Commissioner

of Police. In a letter dated 13 May the Minister wrote:

Dear Mr. Keeffe

I again refer to your letter of 22 April 1975.

It is not proposed that the Commissioner or any other member of the Police Force will appear before your Standing Committee. However, the Commissioner is prepared to supply written answers to any specific

questions you may wish to submit through me.

So that we may assist you as far as possible you may care to supply questions on which the Standing Committee desires comment, including any other matters which may warrant discussion to which you refer.

Yours sincerely

(Sgd) A.M. HODGES

Minister for Police

On 3 June 1975 the Committee forwarded two sets of specific

questions, one stemming from the evidence given on 14 September

1973 and the other based on matters raised in the general

context of the examination of the reference. A further series

of specific questions relating to later evidence concerning

relations between police and Aborigines in Townsville was

forwarded to Mr Hodges on 19 August 1975, together with a

proof copy of the Hansard report of that evidence. On both

occasions an assurance was given that any general comment

offered would be given full consideration by the Committee.

Mr Hodges replied finally on 2 March 1976, in these terms:

Dear Senator

I refer to your letters of June 3 and August 19, 1975, submitting a series of questions arising from evidence

14

given by certain persons to the Standing Committee in respect of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

I submit for your information, comments by my Commissioner of Police, Hr. R.W. Whitrod, C.V.O., Q.P.M., relating to these matters.

Yours sincerely

(Sgd) A.M. HODGES

Minister for Police

Apart from answers to the specific questions submitted, no

comments were offered in response to the Committee's broad

invitation.

In the field of education the Queensland authorities

extended co-operation, but in general the attitude of the

Queensland Government was negative and suspicious, though not

taken to the extent of frustrating field work. This reaction

contrasted markedly with the response received in all other

States. The attitude of the Queensland Government did not

assist the Committee in its work on behalf of the Senate.

Reiteration of Views

In the preparation of this report account has been taken

of the content of the second progress report. We consider it

appropriate to direct attention again to the general tenor of

the observations made in the Introduction and Chapters 1 to 4

inclusive. It is unnecessary to restate all that was set down

there, but we wish to reaffirm it most strongly and to

elaborate a little on some points. Those sections of the

earlier report stated, as it were, the Standing Committee's

15

considered philosophical approach to a number of basic issues.

Those issues and their import are still crucial to the whole

complex of problems embraced in the examination of the conditions

of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

In respect of health, education, housing and employment,

particularly, this report fills in the picture partly

delineated previously.

The second progress report emphasised what the Standing

Committee believed should be the basic objective. The

principles of humanity and justice on which those earlier

observations were founded merit repetition:

We see as an imperative need the firm establishment of a national outlook favourable to and actively seeking the restoration to the Aboriginal people of the fundamental human dignity and self-respect of which they have been

largely, and in some instances completely, deprived in the historical development of European settlement and the exploitation of the resources of this continent. In justice and equity, this nation can have no lesser aim for the survivors of a people who have been so disadvantaged by changes forced on their traditional and highly specialised way of life and,^until recently, so

ignored by the national conscience.

In the time that has passed since we committed ourselves to

that statement we have seen some indications of increasing

acceptance of this basic objective and of programs to achieve

it. 1

1. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of Their Sacred Sites, Second Progress Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 59

of 1974 (Canberra, 1975), p. 1.

16

But there are many inhibiting factors. In contemporary

situations, some old attitudes have to be broken down and

repressive responses to new situations have to be overcome. As

well as a need for change in the attitudes of non-Aboriginal

society, there is need for change in some Aboriginal attitudes

and responses. In the past, Aborigines have sometimes appeared

to accept white domination. Many,even now, are reluctant to

participate in programs for their advancement because often

these are imposed by the white culture. Aborigines must be

enabled and encouraged to see themselves as part of a program,

and must have an effective role in determining from the outset

what that program will be. Their fears have to be allayed.

Their real needs have to be perceived by themselves and by

those who are working with them.

In addition the resources available for the implementation

of programs have to be so organised as to enable them to be

concentrated appropriately where they are most needed from

time to time. Constant reassessment of programs must be

undertaken to ensure their efficacy, and there must be

sufficient flexibility of management and allocation of resources

to permit ready modification if review shows this to be

desirable.

Matters for Further Attention

Though the inquiry has extended across almost the whole

of the national scene since the last progress report was made,

we are still unable to suggest a solution to every problem.

There have been many new programs and much change. The whole

17

situation is as yet highly fluid, though there has been some

slowing down in the rate at which new initiatives have been

taken.

Many programs and projects have not been in progress long

enough for their effectiveness to be apparent. The land rights

program, for instance, is barely past its planning stages and

even then action is limited to the Northern Territory. To

take another example, the contribution of the National

Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which advises and presents

views on behalf of Aborigines across the nation, cannot yet be

determined. Indeed, we have noted recently the appointment of

a committee to report to the Government on the future role of

the NACC. Some attention is given to both these matters in

later chapters.

To give another illustration in the health field, it seems

too early yet to assess the continuing investigations into the

immune capacity of Aborigines and its relationship to

mainourishment and chronic infection, though there is further

comment on this aspect in a later chapter.

The matters covered by this inquiry are extremely complex

and diverse. We have of necessity confined ourselves to what

we regard as the most important and most critical factors

affecting the welfare and future of the Aboriginal people. The

omission of some matters does not necessarily mean that they

are unworthy of attention.

One issue which we have not been able to resolve, and

18

which received some attention in the second progress report,

is the question of relations between Aborigines and the law.

We received some ex parte material and evidence concerning

relations between Aborigines and Police in Queensland and the

Northern Territory. The Minister for Police in Queensland

provided brief written answers to specific questions but

refused to make an officer of the Police Force available to

give evidence to the Committee. The Northern Territory Police

Force did not respond to several of the Committee's requests

for information. Events continue to produce cause for concern

The Skull Creek incidents in Western Australia which led to a

Royal Commission provided a good illustration.

Professor Ronald Sackville has presented some discussion 2

of this issue in a recent report.

We are forced to question whether, in the operation of the

law, Aborigines receive the same opportunities of exercising

fundamental rights as do others in the community. Aboriginal

legal aid groups have brought major benefits for Aborigines

in their relations with the law, where the services of such

groups are available. There are still many Aborigines beyond

their assistance and we believe that there ought to be a

thorough and comprehensive examination of this whole issue at

an early stage. Accordingly the Committee RECOMMENDS that the

Senate establish, as a matter of urgency, a select committee

with terms of reference sufficiently wide to enable it to

examine all aspects of relations between Aborigines and police 2

2. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Law and Poverty in Australia, Second Main Report (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975).

19

In the chapter on health we have made some comments on

alcohol and its use by Aborigines. This is an issue of great

difficulty and we are pleased to note that it is at present

the subject of inquiry by the House of Representatives

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.

There is, of course, a basic need for continuing assessment

and evaluation of every program to measure its efficiency,

to maintain proper oversight of costs, and to determine the

benefits that flow to Aborigines and to their communities.

In the last few days of the preparation of this report

further information has come to this Committee relating to the

staffing of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs

in Tasmania. The Regional Office there is administered from

Melbourne, the headquarters of the south-eastern regional

administration, which takes in Victoria, the lower southern

part of New South Wales and Tasmania.

We are informed that the current staff strength in Tasmania

is one officer and that, as he is required to travel a good

deal in the performance of his normal duties, the office is

frequently unattended. This, we are told, effectively denies to

Aboriginal clients of the Department ready access to the

Tasmanian Regional Office. The result is to deprive them of

the very services which this office exists to provide and

which the clients have been taught to expect from it. A

particular complaint has been made about delays in the

processing of transactions affecting borrowers from the

Aboriginal Loans Commission. We are informed that some are

on the verge of bankruptcy as a consequence and that much

20

distress is being caused.

We have had no opportunity of examining and testing the

claims made. Our information is that, of an estimated 5,000

people of Aboriginal descent in Tasmania (p. 53), some 1,500

to 2,000 would identify as Aborigines. So the task of

effectively chanelling the Department's services to its clients

would, we believe, require augmentation of the staff.

We therefore RECOMMEND that the matter be examined urgently

for the purpose of enabling the Department to give more

efficient service and more direct access to Tasmania s

considerable Aboriginal population.

21

CHAPTER 2 KEY FACTORS

This chapter sets out some salient features to assist

in providing a perspective on some of the important issues.

Diversity of Communities

In the second progress report the three broad categories

of Aboriginal communities were described. These are:

Tribal groups living a more or less traditional

lif e .

Groups living in shanty encampments on the fringes

of country towns or in government or other

institutions in the older settled areas.

Those who live in major urban centres.·*·

While many basic social needs such as food, shelter, means

of communication, education and a source of income are common,

there is much variation in detail and in community aspirations.

Needs and aspirations of a tribal community at, say, Yuendunu,

in the Northern Territory, are different from those of a

group living on a reserve beside a town such as Gnowangerup,

in Western Australia, or Oodnadatta, in South Australia. The ^ 1

1. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, The Environm ental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of Their Sacred Sites, Second Progress Report Parliamentary Paper No. 59 of 1974

(Canberra, 1975), p. 7.

23

needs and aspirations of groups such as these are different

again from those of Aborigines living in the inner suburbs

of a capital city. And the needs and aspirations of Islander

communities in the Torres Strait are different from all of

these. Similarly, Islanders living on the mainland in,

say, Townsville or Cairns have needs different from those

of residents in Torres Strait.

Differences are produced by the nature of the physical

environment, the degree of attachment to the traditional

culture, the period of contact with Europeans and the closeness

of that contact, the nature of the industries in the particular

region and the employment opportunities available. Distinctive

ethnic origins and culture also are responsible for differences

between Aboriginal and Islander communities and for a degree

of aloofness between them.

Two factors in particular seem significant in accounting

for differences between the situations of Aborigines and

Islanders. Firstly, Islanders were able to come into the

cash economy gradually over a long period by involvement in

beche-da-mer and turtle fishing and also pearling. Though

there is now dependence on wage labour, gardening and fishing

for subsistence remain. Secondly, Islanders were less

vulnerable than were Aborigines, on the mainland. The

Islanders occupied no lands required for cattle runs or, to

date, for mining ventures. Their villages were somewhat

difficult of access and village autonomy was less readily

destroyed by administrative penetration. The experience of

Aborigines was in contrast, not solely as a direct result of

24

the taking of the land and the destruction of the balance of

nature to which their skills were relevant, but rather because

these and other changes brought about the rapid loss of

Aboriginal social autonomy. Having lost the protection of

its own social control, Aboriginal society was easy to penetrate

and destroy.^

Socio-economic Circumstances

Certain factors seem to be at the very core of the

difficulties that require solution. Most of the strands that

one picks up when examining any particular issue lead back,

in some meaningful way, to basic factors integral to the

socio-economic position of Aborigines. These include housing,

health, education, employment, cultural influences, and racial,

social and community attitudes and behaviour patterns - matters

which are considered in some detail in other chapters. The

problems are inter-related and of fundamental importance in

the consideration of measures to promote advancement and

general welfare.

Tne adverse socio-economic conditions experienced by most

Aboriginal people are of pervading importance in their social

environment. 2

2. C.D. Rowley, The Remote Aborigines (Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1971), pp. 6 and 7. No. 7 in the series Aborigines in Australian Society, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council of Australia.

Aborigine1 Attitudes

In the final analysis, we have not found evidence that

even the Aborigines who remain closest to the original tribal

state wish to reject all that the European life style offers

and return to a way of life in which there is no European

influence. Some of the advantages of European technology,

particularly in communications and transport, are keenly

appreciated and valued.

Among tribally oriented groups, however, there is a wish

to retain much of their old culture even though they are

prepared to accept those European facilities and services that

they perceive will promote their welfare and happiness. As

in the general community, there appears a tendency for younger

people to express views divergent from those of their elders.

Even among those groups whose tribal structures and links

have disappeared, there is a growing wish to seek out their

cultural roots and to re-establish their own identity.

The aspirations of those whose tribal links apparently

have been largely or completely broken tend to be concentrated

more on their economic position within the general Australian

community. This appears as a factor in the growing movement

of Aborigines from fringe-dwelling situations to the major

urban centres, where they see better opportunities for

employment, on which they believe their economic position

depends.

26

Proliferation of Agencies

A study made in Perth in 1974 revealed a multiplicity

of agencies working among Aborigines in that city. This is

typical of a general situation. They included:

Nine different health services Education Department Pre-School services Community Welfare

Aboriginal Legal Aid Police Aboriginal Rights League Aboriginal Advancement Council New Era Aboriginal Fellowship Various Church agencies Citizens Welfare Bureau

Housing Commission, incorporating welfare workers, maintenance inspectors, rent collectors etc. Corrections Department Family Planning National Aboriginal Consultative Committee Department of Social Security

Various service clubs Shire health a athorities.^

Some of these are Aboriginal organisations, some governmental

and some of the community welfare type. Some are organised

from within the Aboriginal community; some are directed by

non-Aborigines. Several families were reported to have

received 10 or 15 official visits in a week, and this could

have been regarded by some of the clients as an invasion of

privacy. 3

3. Frances Northrop, Final Report to the Minister for Community Welfare (Perth, 1974), p. 2.

The observations of the Committee in field work throughout

the country, supported by oral evidence from many organisations,

confirm that there is a tendency for the number of operative

agencies to multiply, especially in the metropolitan areas.

It is in one sense a heartening sign of increasing awareness

of Aboriginal needs within the community and its official

authorities, but such a proliferation of agencies presents

certain dangers. These may be manifested in competition

between agencies, though we have seen little real evidence of

this. Another danger is that resistance to the efforts made

by the agencies may develop, either actively or passively.

Again, one may be played off against another by those whose

interests both are trying to serve. There may be duplication

and waste of energy and money, and an attitude of assigning

responsibility to others instead of accepting it. Where the

needs of clients fall between areas covered by two agencies,

those needs may not be covered. Needless to say, a great deal

of confusion and doubt may be produced among the very Aboriginal

people who most depend on the agencies for assistance and

support.

We have no wish to decry the efforts of persons or

organisations working to serve the best interests of Aborigines

anywhere, and we are sure no-one would wish to interfere with

well motivated activity. But the potential dangers ought

to be kept under close scrutiny by participating organisations

and authorities, and especially by funding governments.

Undue fragmentation of available financial resources would

inhibit programs to which they might be devoted.

28

The Committee RECOMMENDS that the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs, in consultation with all organisations involved in

Aboriginal affairs, be responsible for the preparation of a

register of all participating agencies and available services,

and that copies of the register be circulated to all

participating organisations and to Commonwealth, State and

local government instrumentalities. Appropriate particulars

of the functions and responsibilities of each participating

agency should be recorded.

Aboriginal Cultural Influences

The second progress report made some observations on

Aboriginal adaptation and expressed the view that factors in

Aboriginal cultural and economic backgrounds were to some degree

inhibiting advancement. We remain convinced of the validity

of the views expressed then and of the failure on the part

of numerous authorities, organisations and individuals to

attach sufficient importance to the influence of Aboriginal

cultural beliefs and behaviour patterns. This was seen

especially in key areas such as housing, health, education and

employment, as succeeding chapters will indicate, and in general

relations with the dominant non-Aboriginal society in Australia.

We have heard much from tribally oriented communities

and also from urban and fringe-dwelling groups about real

difficulties in the provision, maintenance and reasonable

utilisation of facilities that members of the general community

take for granted as part of their daily lives. From this kind

of setting stems the sort of non-Aboriginal reaction that

29

questions what can be done with Aborigines and asserts that

they ruin anything they are given. This kind of response

does considerable injustice to the many members of Aboriginal

society who are belittled by it. Too often it results from

an overwhelmingly non-Aboriginal oriented approach to something

that many Aborigines cannot possibly see in anything like

non-Aboriginal terms, and it takes little or no account of

economic circumstances and social and cultural backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the available information does not enable

the Committee to produce any ready answers. We RECOMMEND,

however, more emphasis on programs to promote better

understanding of cultural factors by all parties so that the

gap may be bridged.

By and large, non-Aboriginal society tends to have

imposed - or cajoled Aborigines, at least initially, into

accepting - non-Aboriginal concepts without adequate preparation

of Aboriginal communities to understand and receive them.

Aboriginal society will be better able to make an appropriate

response if the strange concepts are presented with

understanding of its highly specialised and conditioned

background.

Throughout the history of relations between Aborigines

and the rest of Australian society, where the relationship

has not been one of complete domination the tendency has been

for it to become one of patronage by the non-Aboriginal

segment of the community. Aborigines have their own

perception of their needs and see them very differently from

30

the way in which non-Aborigines see them. However,

non-Aboriginal society has been accustomed to take the view

that it is in a position to determine what is best for

Aborigines. Even where the opportunity to listen to their

views has presented itself, non-Aboriginal Australians have

in the past rarely listened attentively or effectively. When

decisions have been made and presented to Aborigines for

acceptance - a common practice - inadequate time may have been

allowed for an Aboriginal consensus to be reached. Absence

of a negative response has then been interpreted as an

affirmative answer.

For Aborigines, time is not of the same overriding

importance as it is in virtually all non-Aboriginal affairs.

Members of an Aboriginal community tend to talk at length

around issues and so arrive at a consensus. In exchanges

between them and non-Aborigines the contrast in attitudes to

time is of crucial importance. Failure to take due account

of this contrast has contributed to poor communication of

Aboriginal views. We believe this basic difficulty is now

becoming well known.

Should we assume that the Aboriginal is unaware of the

importance of time to a person who is not Aboriginal? Or

should we assert that one who is not Aboriginal fails to

understand the relative unimportance of time to the Aboriginal?

Most who are not Aboriginal tend to think in terms of the

first proposition rather than the second. We believe that

better progress could be made if non-Aboriginal administrators

responsible for programs and projects better understood

31

Aboriginal attitudes and learned to use rather than reject

them. If this reorientation could extend across the whole

range of problems involving cross-cultural communication, there

could be a significant advance in relations between the two

cultures.

Efforts to assist Aborigines are likely to be more

successful if they are based on understanding and appreciation

of the qualities of the people being dealt with. Imposition

of a requirement of change as a prerequisite of improved

status will not assist. We do not suggest that Aborigines need

not make considerable adaptation, but we believe that it will

come more effectively and more naturally if non-Aboriginal

approaches are keyed to these considerations. There would

also, we expect, be a higher assurance that major expenditures

would produce worthwhile results and that waste of financial

and material resources would be avoided.

Another factor that has come to our attention on a

number of occasions is the Aboriginal reaction to repeated

visitation and examination by all sorts of visiting parties.

This reaction tends to distinguish little between the various

visiting groups in terms of their objectives and standing.

On a number of occasions the Committee met the reaction: 'We

are sick and tired of being examined as objects of curiosity

by party after party of visitors. They all talk to us and

then go away, and we never hear any more.1

One of the major objections is to the shortness of time

spent with a community by the visitors. This is not

32

the Aboriginal way. Non-Aboriginal subservience to the

element of time, however, frequently, as in our case, makes

it impossible to stay long enough to satisfy Aboriginal

susceptibilities in such matters. This experience leads us

to conclude that especial care should be taken to avoid

over-visitation of an Aboriginal community and that visiting

groups should meticulously explain the reasons for a visit

and its importance for the particular community. The utmost

effort should always be made to spend enough time with an

Aboriginal group to enable its members, in their traditional

way, to come to the point of the discussions and to express

their real views.

Repeatedly, in both urban and isolated communities,

misguided or heedless action or disregard of Aboriginal

behaviour patterns has strained inter-communal relations.

On occasions the gulf has been widened by inept handling of

minor incidents by non-Aborigines. Once ill feeling appears,

co-operation becomes doubly difficult to achieve. When

confrontation ensues and an atmosphere of mistrust prevails,

even the best of motives on either side are often misunderstood

and misinterpreted on the other. When this occurs, the

Aborigines are inevitably the major losers, especially in the

short term.

We cannot emphasise too much the need for patience,

tolerance and sympathetic consideration to be extended to

Aborigines in their efforts to cope with the pressures and

33

economic and social systems on their life style and social

structure.

During the inquiry we found widespread evidence of

Aboriginal acceptance of many features of the European way

of life. Heightened awareness of the value of education, and

of the importance of good health and the factors conducive to

it; increasing acceptance of the European approach to daily

work and of cash payment for one's labour given on a regular

basis; appreciation of the benefits of European technology,

especially in communications and transport - these and many

other developments demonstrate the ability of Aborigines to

adapt and their readiness, in some respects, to do so. In

the main, these signs indicated to us that Aboriginal society

does not fear the prospect of having to adapt if it is afforded

the opportunity of doing so largely at its own pace and timing.

At this point we think it appropriate also to reiterate

our rejection, as expressed in the second progress report,

of any view that Aborigines are of inferior intelligence.

We reaffirm our previous statement that the causes of

non-achievement by Aborigines in numerous fields considered

important in the general community are to be found in factors

other than intelligence.

34

CHAPTER 3 STATISTICS

The absence of reliable demographic data on the Aboriginal population of Australia reflects their unequal status in contemporary Australian society. Until now they have been easy to ignore because they have been

geographical, political, and social outcasts. Indeed, under the criteria applied until recently by Australian immigration authorities to screen potential settlers, most Aborigines would have been denied the right to settle

in their own country ...

Despite the inadequacy of official statistics, census data and local surveys reveal the unequal status of Aboriginal Australians. In a highly urbanised nation, they are the least urban element; in a rich nation they

are the poorest; in a well-educated nation they are the least educated; and in a full-employment economy they participate as an underclass, moving from unemployment into unskilled labouring jobs, or into invalidity.

The great majority of Aborigines and Torres Strait

Islanders claim distinctive racial identities. Yet the

official approach to statistics has been mainly to avoid

looking at them as being in any way distinct from the remainder

of the Australian population or from each other. As a

consequence, the extent and in some respects even the nature

of the inequality of their status tend to be obscured. 1

1. F. Lancaster Jones, Racial and Ethnic Minorities: the Case of Aboriginal Australians. Paper presented to the Conference of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, Liege, Belgium, 1973.

24451/ 76— 3

35

The second progress report commented on the inadequacy of

statistical information. In directing attention once again to

this problem, we can do no better than cite the following

comments from the first report of the National Population

Inquiry:

The terms of reference of the National Population Inquiry laid down that it should include the Aboriginal population not only in the total situation, but also as a separate sub-study. There can be no doubt that a

separate study is needed. In every conceivable comparison, the Aborigines and Islanders, whom it is proposed in general to treat as one group, stand in stark contrast to the general Australian society, and also to other 'ethnic* groups, whether defined on the basis of race, nationality, birthplace, language or religion. They probably have the highest growth rate, the highest birth rate, the highest death rate, the worst health and housing, and the lowest educational, occupational, economic, social and legal

status of any identifiable section of the Australian population. Yet less hard data is available about the Aboriginal population than about the most recent immigrant groups. Professor F.L. Jones, author of most of the existing papers on Aboriginal demography, has pointed out

that it is a measure of the inequality of the Aborigines' position in Australian society that in a country whose population and social statistics rank among the best in the world, there should exist a group for whom the

statistics are as poor as those of most developing countries.^ 2

2. National Population Inquiry, Population and Australia - A Demographic Analysis and Projection, First Report, (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975), vol. 2, p. 455.

36

The reasons for this state of affairs were outlined in these

words:

In the case of census statistics, the Statisticians in their reports on the Australian censuses have always mentioned two factors: practical difficulties involved in enumerating tribal people, and the requirement of

Section 127 of the Australian Constitution (now repealed) that 1 in reckoning the population of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted.' As for current population, health and social statistics, the reasons most commonly mentioned by Government officials during

the course of the Inquiry were the difficulty in defining *who is an Aborigine* and a vaguely formulated, but nevertheless strongly held view that separate statistics are in some way discriminatory, even if collected in

order to enable special provisions to be made for Aborigines.^

After stating that there are no technical reasons why there

should not be adequate statistics for the Aboriginal population

of Australia, the report commented:

Methods were developed at the very first Western Australian Census (in 1848) for enumerating tribal Aborigines, and the Guardian of Aborigines was collecting vital statistics for the Aborigines in the Port Phillip

region in the 1830s. There is certainly the problem of defining who is an Aborigine; this results primarily from the confusion in the minds of part-Aborigines engendered by one hundred years of legislative

3. Population and Australia, p. 455.

and administrative manipulation of the definition of the population in the name of the assimilation policy, which held that the country's 'native problem' would be solved by the eventual disappearance of the Aboriginal race,

either by destruction or legislated absorption.^

When discussing health in the second progress report, we

directed attention to the absence of adequate statistics and

recommended specific measures to fill the gap. We wish to

extend our earlier comments to the whole complex of matters

involved, notably to general welfare and employment services,

the law, penal institutions and the like. During the inquiry

we met time and again the statement by representatives of

various authorities: 'We do not keep separate statistics for

Aborigines. We do not record who are Aborigines and who are

not.' We believe that this lack of basic statistics hinders

assessment of the extent of needs and therefore of the scale

and at times the depth of programs required to meet perceived

needs. Programs can be planned adequately and assessed for

their efficacy only if appropriate statistics are kept for the

purpose of indicating the numbers of Aborigines and Islanders

for whom particular services and facilities are required.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recommended that

all statistics be based on self identification and that this

should be achieved by the posing of a general question asking

persons to state their race. This would bring the definition

and question used in current statistics into line with the 5 census.

4. Population and Australia, p. 456. 5 5. Population and Australia, p. 460.

We RECOMMEND that Aborigines and Islanders be appointed

among census collectors in areas where there are significant

Aboriginal and Islander communities.

The National Population Inquiry report argues that

objections to distinguishing Aborigines in statistics, as well

as to asking people to describe their own race rather than

having it decided for them by an official, do not come from

Aborigines. They come from officials who are concerned that

they may arouse suspicion or resentment by asking about race,

from persons who take the view that separate statistics are in

themselves discriminatory, or from others of assimilationist

views who believe that there should be no distinction of any

minority from the general population.

Some people may resent being asked to state their race,

and it is said that Aborigines may be affronted by such a

request. In many parts of Australia, especially in rural and

provincial areas, pressures to pass as white in order to avoid

discrimination are still strong and many people of Aboriginal

descent find it necessary to conceal their racial identity.

If the Bureau's recommendation were implemented, such people

would be able to identify as they chose. This would seem to

be less offensive than an individual's race being decided for

him by the clerk who fills out the forms.^

6. Population and Australia, p. 461.

39

Despite the pressures mentioned above, the Committee saw

much to indicate that Aborigines are becoming increasingly

disposed to identify as such. Furthermore, we have seen little

to suggest that Aborigines tend much, if at all, to raise the

sorts of objections that have been mentioned.

The Committee considers that unless an Aboriginal of limited

literacy is enabled to understand the choices offered by a

census question, which may be couched in a strange kind of

official jargon, he is not really offered an effective choice.

Similar difficulties arise also with forms used in hospitals,

prisons, police stations, and unemployment offices, for example.

The whole question of collecting statistics in such areas

requires careful consideration to ensure that useful statistical

information is collected.

The National Population Inquiry report concludes that in

all probability the failure to collect separate data will merely

allow inequalities to go unchecked, since those responsible

can deny, as is done now, that any inequality exists. The

report calls for the remedying of this deficiency as a matter

of urgency.^ Several illustrations of these matters can be

given from the Committee's experience. Official police

attitudes towards Aborigines in Redfern became less credible

when we learned that separate statistics relating to Aborigines

were not kept. Also it was usually difficult to obtain any

information about the adequacy of hospital facilities available

7. Population and Australia, p. 462.

40

to Aboriginal patients, as statistical records did not identify

Aborigines as such.

Since birth and death registration forms used in the States

do not request identification of race, there is no means of

identifying the Aboriginal and Islander segments of the g Australian population. The failure to distinguish them in the

statistics for the general population, especially in fields

such as employment, social services and child welfare, health,

education, and the administration of justice and pensions,

precludes the maintenance of separate statistics needed for

planning new initiatives and assessing the efficacy of existing

programs. Clearly, the impact of official intervention is

impossible to quantify in the absence of reliable and

comprehensive data establishing the size and distribution of

each of these racial groups.

The second progress report contained the following

RECOMMENDATIONS which we now reiterate and which were intended

to extend the range, adequacy and use of health statistics on

Aborigines and Islanders:

That comprehensive statistical records of Aborigines be collected by all agencies to supplement those obtained at the census.

That all such statistics be forwarded to a central statistical registry.

8. Racial and Ethnic Minorities: the Case of Aboriginal Australians .

41

That professional personnel in constant contact with Aborigines collect data on a regular basis.

That comprehensive demographic statistics be compiled and analysed by qualified personnel provided for this purpose .9

We understand that interdepartmental discussions have been

held and that the previous Government had agreed to amend

existing legislation in the Territories with respect to

racial identification in the registration of births and

deaths. Attitudes in the States appear to vary somewhat, but

some are prepared to follow the Commonwealth's lead. We trust

that the present Government will proceed with this proposal

and with others to ensure more comprehensive health statistics

for Aborigines and Islanders.

We suggest that the collection of the specific statistics

for Aborigines and Islanders recommended in this chapter be

reviewed after 10 years to determine whether there will any

longer be a need for such statistical programs.

9. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of Their Sacred Sites, Second Progress Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 59 of 1974

(Canberra, 1975), p. 24.

CHAPTER 4 THE ABORIGINAL POPULATION

In this chapter on a somewhat specialised subject we have

drawn extensively on Part C, Volume 2, of the First Report of

the National Population Inquiry , as this presents the findings

of the most recent authoritative work that has been done. It

is based primarily on the 1971 census.

The demographic changes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander population since the beginnings of European settlement

are of interest in the whole context of the contemporary

situation. Accurate projections of population have major

significance for future programs for Aborigines and Islanders.

Inadequacy of Data

There has been until very recently an absence of adequate

census data. Those that are available are lacking in

comparability because of substantial changes in racial

identification that are occurring. Any conclusions reached

must be tentative, but it may be expected that all those wishing

to identify as Aborigines and Islanders will eventually do so

and that the statistics will then be more accurate and useful.

For this reason it is essential that a start be made now on

the collection of appropriate statistics on a regular basis.

We have been told by many agencies throughout the country, 1

1. National Population Inquiry, Population and Australia - A Demographic Analysis and Projection, First Report (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975).

43

including police, law, housing, education and social welfare

authorities, to name but a few, that separate statistics on

Aborigines are not kept. We therefore RECOMMEND that all

departments and authorities providing services and facilities

for Aborigines and Islanders be required to develop urgently,

in association with the Australian Bureau of Statistics,

appropriate criteria and programs for the collection of general

and specific statistical data. We further RECOMMEND that the

political or administrative decisions precedent to the

implementation of programs for the collection of data then

be made without delay.

Present Numbers

The 1971 census identified 115,953 persons as of Aboriginal

or Torres Strait Islander racial origin - 106,290 Aborigines

and 9,663 Islanders. The largest proportion of Aborigines

was in Queensland, followed by the Northern Territory, New

South Wales and Western Australia, all with roughly similar

numbers. Queensland had by far the overwhelming proportion of

Torres Strait Islanders also, with 7,508, most of the remainder

being evenly divided between New South Wales and Victoria.

44

These are the combined figures for the two groups by State

and Territory:

New South Wales 23,873

Victoria 6,371

Queensland 31,922

South Australia 7,299

Western Australia 22,181 Tasmania 671

Northern Territory 23,381 Australian Capital Territory 255

115,953

State and Territory estimates are higher than the census

figures, as they include persons known to be of Aboriginal or

Islander descent and considered to be Aborigines or Islanders,

giving a total figure up to 40,000 higher than the numbers

enumerated at the census. The National Population Inquiry 2 .

report takes account of this situation. Recent information

received from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs gives an

estimated total of 154,143 at 30 June 1976. This is a

demographic estimate taking account of the 1971 census figures

and the State and Territory estimates. Our own work suggests

that it is highly conservative though more realistic than the

1971 census enumerations, which seem to understate the size of

the Aboriginal and Islander population.

2. Population and Australia, pp. 463-4.

45

Demographic Movements and Potential for Growth

The best available estimates indicate a total pre-European

population of about 315,000, with more than one-third located

in what is now Queensland. There was a rapid decline in the

numbers until about 1890, then a slow regression in the rate

of decline until it ceased about 1930, with the numbers

stabilising about 1933 at a little more than 20% of the level 3 in 1788.

The National Population Inquiry report asserts with some

confidence that the rate of growth of the Aboriginal population

is more than twice that of the Australian population as a whole

and is sufficient to double the size in less than 30 years.

The bulk of the natural increase will in all probability occur

in the rural reserve communities, which have the least 4 capacity to absorb it. It is emphasised that these estimates

are merely the best available, given the gross inadequacy of

the data recorded.

Distribution

Aborigines and Islanders are only a tiny minority of the

Australian population, at present constituting about 0.9%. As

a proportion of the non-European population, they have declined 3 4

3. Population and Australia, p. 481. 4. Population and Australia, p. 488.

T E K KJJ ° " Ϋ

U L A Ν D

S T E R N

A U S T ^ A L I A

AUSTRALIA DISTRIBUTION OF ABORIGINALS AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS, 1971

from 72% to 54% in the last 10 years. In a country that is

overwhelmingly urban, they are primarily, though decreasingly,

a rural minority.

Though the rate of growth is over twice that of the total

Australian population, the proportion of the whole has remained

constant, as the natural growth of the non-Aboriginal element

has been supplemented by immigration from overseas.^ This

immigration has also had the effect of preventing metropolitan

Aboriginal populations from increasing markedly as a proportion

of the total metropolitan populations, though, in the

Aboriginal population, metropolitan growth has been the

most rapid. Because of the low growth rate of the non­

Aboriginal population, Aborigines and Islanders have increased

as a proportion of the total rural population.

Aborigines have been increasing as a proportion of the

total population in non-metropolitan urban areas, except in the

Northern Territory. In 1971 more than 55% of the Aboriginal

and Islander population was enumerated in rural areas, compared

with a little over 14% for the Australian population as a whole.

The proportion in rural areas has decreased at each census in

the last three. This is considered to be due not only to

movement of Aborigines from those areas but also to changing

of racial identification by a proportion of urban dwellers.

The total proportion of Aboriginal and Islander population in

urban areas almost doubled, from 23% in 1961 to 44% in 1971.

5. Population and Australia, p. 495.

48

It can be said that the present geographical distribution

of the Aboriginal population, with the majority still in

rural areas, compared with the small percentage of the general

population, reflects the marginal status of Aborigines within

the Australian community.

The States and Territories vary in the extent of urbanisation.

The Northern Territory still has the smallest proportion of

the Aboriginal population in urban areas, at about 18%, and

Victoria the highest, at some 85%.

There is only limited information on the dynamics of the

changing Aboriginal population. But it is clear that interstate

movement is relatively restricted. Moves within States are

much more significant. But urban-urban moves outnumber rural-

urban moves by more than two to one.

Characteristics

In 1971 the Aboriginal and Islander population was a young

one compared with the general Australian population. Over 40%

was under 15 years, and almost 20%, under 5 years, compared

with less than 30% and less than 10% respectively for the

general population. Only 6% was over 60 - less than half the

proportion for the general population. Fewer than 44% of

Aboriginal males reach pensionable age and those who do live

on average only another 11 years compared with 67% and more

than 12 years for the general population. Only 477, of

Aboriginal females survive to pensionable age, and they live on

average less than 15 years more, compared with 86% and almost

49

20 years for the general population.

Statistics relating to occupations of Aborigines and

Islanders reflect the basically agricultural and rural nature

of the employment opportunities available to them, their low

participation in the work force and the low status of the work

they find. Between 1966 and 1971 there was a slight increase in

the proportion of working Aborigines who were employers or self-

employed, but the Aboriginal labour force is still overwhelmingly

made up of employees. Changes in occupational distribution are

occurring. The proportion of males in farming and mining

decreased from 1966 to 1971, and the proportion in the process

workers/labourers category increased.

Projections for the Future

Projections of population growth rates based on 1971 census

figures suggest that by the year 2001 the Aboriginal and

Islander population in the economically active ages (15 to 64

years) will be about 150,000 or three times as large as at 6 present.

Although the overall fertility, mortality and growth rates

of the Aboriginal population are likely to fall in the future,

there will be reservoirs of natural growth in rural areas for

a long time to come, and those areas will face tremendous

pressures. So also will major urban centres such as Syrdney

and Melbourne, owing to the likelihood that they will receive

large influxes from rural areas.

6. Population and Australia, p. 531.

50

There will be continuing demands for programs to overcome

backlogs in employment, education, housing, health services

and the provision of community infrastructure. Not only in

terms of population and growth, but also in terms of social

and economic development, the rural communities hold the key

to the future of much of the Aboriginal population. Many of

these communities are located in areas where there is no

independent economic base, and all of them are in rural

areas, where Aborigines occupy the lowest position economically

and socially.

To a limited extent, movement to the metropolitan and

regional centres can remove the pressures generated in rural

communities. But, though it can in the long run benefit the

individual or family involved, it can, if continued for a long

period, have the effect of worsening the situation in the

communities from which the movement comes, because they will

become increasingly composed of individuals and families who

cannot cope anywhere else.

The analysis of population undertaken in this chapter is

necessarily an aggregate one. Policy initiatives, however,

must be directed towards individual communities with a view

to assessing their long-term viability as centres of

settlement. Forces outside Aboriginal communities have

determined in most instances where and how Aborigines live.

Some existing communities, such as government settlements, are

an artifice of administrative convenience. Others, such as

fringe settlements, are the historical consequence of outcast

51

status and dependency. Aboriginal communities originating

from the exercise of free choice by Aborigines themselves, in

the sense of choosing between viable alternatives, are

comparatively rare. Only recently have we seen slowly

increasing numbers living where they choose to live. An

illustration may be the community at Yayayi, in the Northern

Territory, established by the action of the Pintubi people in

withdrawing from Papunya government settlement.

Often the size and distribution of Aboriginal groups

determine the initiatives and policies required. Where

substantial Aboriginal communities exist independently in

non-urban situations, they should be recognised for what they

are - not as temporary aggregations liable to be shifted some

day, but as permanent communities grossly deficient in

infrastructure, facilities and services.

Governmental commitments to adequate housing of all

Aborigines by about 1982 imply major programs not only in

housing but also in town planning and municipal works. In the

execution of such programs, there should be an explicit

commitment that Aborigines themselves will be effectively

consulted about and involved in the actual work. This would

have greatly beneficial effects by increasing local training

and employment. It would suffice in some measure to sustain

non-urban communities economically for a limited time. There

will be a need to develop plans for providing these communities

with an economic base, whether by importing industries,

developing indigenous ones or purchasing adjacent properties.

52

Tasmania

As a result of the Committee's experience in Tasmania we

are of the opinion that some special observations about the

position in that State ought to be made at this point.

Information provided by the Tasmanian Government in 1972

was based primarily on the Aboriginal community on Cape Barren

Island. We were informed that the 55 Aborigines permanently

resident on the island at that time were the only grouping of

Aborigines anywhere in the State. It will be noted from the

table at the beginning of this chapter that the 1971 census

enumerated 671 Aborigines and Islanders in Tasmania. The first

report of the National Population Inquiry records that the

State's estimate was a minimum of 1,000.^ Another estimate is

that there are up to 5,000 persons of Aboriginal descent in m . 8

Tasmania.

It appears that a definition of 'Aboriginal' has never

existed in Tasmanian law but that the practical working

definition adopted in recent times may be said to have been

'a person of Aboriginal descent who is resident on Cape Barren

Island'.

7. Population and Australia, p. 465. 8. B.C. Mollison (Ed.), A Synopsis of Data on Tasmanian Aboriginal People, 2nd ed. (University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1974), para 2.4.

53

Indeed, the impression gained by the Committee is that

until very recently the Tasmanian authorities considered that

there was a mere handful of Aborigines to be thought of. The

few meagre programs related specifically to Aborigines as such

seem to have been confined to Cape Barren Island. There seems

only recently to have been a somewhat startled official

realisation that there are Aborigines living elsewhere in the

State and that more comprehensive programs are needed. With

the availability of Commonwealth funds for housing, education

and health, some provision is now being made to meet the needs

of Aborigines throughout Tasmania.

54

CHAPTER 5 THE WATERS IN BETWEEN

The title of this chapter on the Torres Strait Islands came

to us in a phrase used by the Chairman of an Island Council

in a speech of great courtesy and dignity, when welcoming the

Committee amidst a gathering of his people. It symbolises the

major, inescapable fact of life among the Islanders of the

Torres Strait - the importance of the waters separating the

islands, for the part they play in the daily lives of the

people and the special problems of transport and communications

that they produce.

Thanks to the availability of a hovercraft being evaluated

at the time for its usefulness in the provision of adequate

medical services throughout the Islands, the Committee was able

to visit eight of the outlying islands as well as Thursday,

Hammond and Horn Islands. This was a much more extensive

coverage than had originally seemed possible and was of

enormous advantage in enabling us to meet many more Islanders

and to see much more fully the nature of the Islands themselves,

with their considerable variation.

Background Information

The background information given here is based largely on

the socio-economic studies of the Torres Strait Islanders

published by the Department of Economics, Research School of

55

Pacific Studies, Australian National University, in 1974

and 1975. 1

The Torres Strait Islands consist of about 20 islands

scattered over an area of approximately 225 kilometres from

east to west and 170 kilometres from north to south between

the northern tip of Queensland and the south-western coast of

Papua New Guinea. These islands have been part of Queensland

since 1879. Some 14 have been gazetted as reserves under

Queensland laws and come under the administration of the

Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement.

The town of Thursday Island, with a total population of just

under 2,500, about 2,000 of whom are Islanders - considerably

more than the 1971 census enumeration of 1,400 Islanders -

extends over most of the habitable land on the small island

of that name. Australia's most northerly town, it is the

administrative and commercial centre for the Torres Strait.

Thursday Island and several of the neighbouring islands,

including Horn, Prince of Wales and Hammond, are excluded

from the reserves. A Catholic mission community exists on

Hammond Island and an Anglican one at St Pauls on Moa Island.

The reserve islands fall into four geographic groups.

Stephen, Darnley and Murray, in the Eastern Group, are small

and steep, with rich volcanic soils capable of supporting

dense tropical vegetation. The surrounding waters are

1. 'The Torres Strait Islanders, vols I-VI (Australian National University, Canberra).

56

F!γ Rive*

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Bramble Cay

Boigu I.

( ^ ^ ^ P S a i b a i I. Dauan I. £

Pearce Cay

Deliverance / • Stephen I t

Moon Turnagain /.

Gabba /.

Turtle Backed I. (Y am I.) * Murray I.

Dauar /.<

STR AIT TORRES M u/grave /. ( Badu I.)

'ocoanut I.

Banks I. (Moa I.)

» Sue I. ( Warraber I.)

M t E r n e s t I.

(N a g ir I.)

Ham m ond /.

THURSDA Y I. Horn I.

Prince o f W ales I.

C o w a l C re e k B a m a g a

P o p u la te d i s l a n d s u n d e r lin e d

N O RTH ERN PE N IN SU LA

R E SE R V E S

CAPE YORK

kilometres

0 10 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 80

PENINSULA

miles

.QUEENSLAND

57

deep, and fish are plentiful. The Central Group consists

of Warraber, Coconut and Yorke Islands, which are small and

flat with sandy soils and coral bases supporting fairly dense

vegetation. The adjacent waters are shallower, but support

abundant marine life. The western islands - Badu, Mabuiag,

Moa, Dauan and Yam - are generally larger and cultivated.

Though classified, according to physical attributes, with the

western islands, Yam is really situated in the Central Group.

Dauan, a remnant of the old land bridge between New Guinea

and Australia, is one of the top western or north-western

islands, which include also Saibai and Boigu. With the

exception of Yam, the western and north-western islands make

up what is known as the Western Group. The rocky soil of the

western islands encourages bush and scrub rather than the

richer vegetation found to the east. The western waters

are shallower and more suitable for diving for pearl shell.

The sea floor is grassy rather than composed of coral, and is

suited to certain specialised forms of marine life such as

dugongs. Saibai and Boigu lie very close to the

Papua New Guinea coast. They are large and low-lying, their

main physical features being swamps, mangroves and mud flats.

The waters of this area appear to be less rich in sea life.

At Appendix VI will be found a list of the islands of the

Strait.

The Torres Strait Islanders are Melanesian in appearance.

Their ethnic origin is difficult to identify; many claim to

58

have ancestors from Polynesia, Melanesia or Asia.2 Despite

their proximity to the Australian mainland they appear to be

quite unrelated to the Aborigines. Small numbers of

Aborigines are resident on islands close to Cape York and

there has been some intermarriage.

Two main languages are spoken. Miriam, the mother

tongue of the people of the eastern islands, belongs to a

South Papuan family of languages. Mabuiag, with some minor

variations, is spoken throughout the central and western

islands and is said to have some affinities with Aboriginal

languages of the northern part of Cape York Peninsula.

The political organisation of each island revolves

around an elected Island Council, which holds office for three

years. The number of councillors shall not exceed five, but

varies, depending on the population of the island. The usual

number is three. Each council elects one of its members to

be Chairman.

The council is responsible for the administration of the

island. It maintains law and order, liaises with the other

island councils, with the Queensland Department - and now with

the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It also

plays an important role in the organisation of major island

social activities, such as feasts. In addition, there are 2

2. The Torres Strait Islanders, vol. 1, p. 3.

59

three Group Representatives. The councils of the Eastern,

Central and Western Groups each elect one of these. One of

the Group Representatives is also Group Chairman. He and the

Group Representatives wield considerable power.

A Group Representative is entitled to attend meetings

of every Island Council within the group and may advise each

such council on the exercise of its powers and the performance

of its functions. He shall not vote concerning the business

of an Island Council of which he is not a member.

The Group Representatives constitute the Island Advisory

Council for the Torres Strait. Its functions are to advise,

and make recommendations to, the Minister and Director of

Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland on matters

affecting the progress, development and well-being of the

Islanders.

The Main Elements of the Torres Strait Situation

Generally the Committee found the Islanders to be happy

and contented, with tremendous pride in themselves, their

communities and their home islands. The problems that they

placed before us were for the most part mentioned with

moderation and restraint. They wanted only the usual

facilities available to other Australians in, for example,

health, education, transport and communications, and electric

power supply, to enable them to deal with their problems.

Dependence on others, in a real sense, was not contemplated by

them as an inherent feature of their future.

60

The Committee noted during its visit that fewer than

half the inhabited islands had electric generators and

refrigeration. We RECOMMEND that these be provided on all

the inhabited islands as a matter of urgency.

The groups and spokesmen with whom we talked conveyed

to us quickly their acute awareness of some major difficulties.

These related primarily to economic stability and opportunity,

and to transport and communications. There were also problems

in the provision of health, education and welfare services

which they share in common with isolated Aboriginal communities.

Though all isolated communities share these problems, they

are more severe in communities of Aborigines and Islanders.

These issues will be discussed in appropriate chapters

elsewhere in the report.

The Torres Strait Islanders have been subject to Australian

laws for nearly 100 years now and their position has changed

very greatly in that time. They exhibited to us a great deal

of evidence of the adaptation that has taken place and of their

long familiarity with many of the important features of the

European way of life. They displayed much confidence in

their capacity to deal with non-Islanders generally. Their

understanding of both the advantages and disadvantages of a

complex modern way of life was demonstrated in a number of

ways, and especially in their approach to political institutions

such as the Island Councils and the system of Group

Representatives.

61

At the time of the 1971 census 9,663 Torres Strait

Islanders were enumerated throughout Australia. Of these,

2,348, or less than 25% lived in the reserve islands, 1,578,

or about 16%, on Thursday Island and the nearby unreserved

islands, and 584 at the Bamaga Reserve near the tip of

Cape York. This gave a total of 4,510 living in what may be

described as the Torres Strait region. A further 2,998

lived elsewhere in Queensland, the biggest congregations

being 1,011 in the Cairns statistical region and 772 in the

Townsville statistical division. So it will be seen that

almost 60% of the total Islander population enumerated in 1971

was then living outside the Torres Strait Region.

In the chapter on Aboriginal population we have already

mentioned that the 1971 census figures seem to understate the

numbers of both Aborigines and Islanders. This may account

for some apparent arithmetical inconsistencies.

The Border Question

The Committee refrained from raising the border issue

generally in its discussions, but on most islands it was

referred to by the Council Chairman and some of the other

spokesmen. The theme on all occasions was that the people

of the particular island regarded themselves as Queenslanders

and Australians, and they demanded the right to remain so.

In the closing stages of our preparation of this report

we have noted the negotiations between the Australian and

Papua New Guinea Governments on the border question, and the

62

appointment, by the Australian Parliament's Joint Committee

on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of a sub-committee to examine

the matter. We earnestly hope that any final decision will

take due account of the expressed wishes of the Islanders

themselves, and that they will be fully consulted before it is

made.

Islanders stated that they were in no way embarrassed

by visits by people from Papua New Guinea for the purpose of

trade, fishing and social relationships. On several of the

eastern islands we were told that visits were exchanged, with

Islanders in their turn visiting, say, Daru in Papua New Guinea.

Unless an Island Council disagrees, people from

Papua New Guinea are welcome to visit, in accordance with

long-established practice. Councils believe that they can

control the situation and ensure that visits are of limited

duration only.

Generally speaking, Islanders seem happy to allow fishing

by Papua New Guinea citizens in the waters of the Strait.

They stated to the Committee, however, that they believed

Australian naval patrols in the area ought to be augmented

sufficiently to prevent incursions by Indonesian and Taiwanese

fishing boats, which were regarded as a threat to the fishing

grounds.

Transport and Communications

The major difficulty raised in all our discussions related

to transport and communications. It was clear at the time of

63

our visit that, throughout the area, services of both kinds

were in many respects inadequate and were generally considered

unsatisfactory.

Water-borne transport is supplemented by limited air

services by light aircraft carrying passengers and occasionally

mail but no significant cargo. The development of the region

depends on the availability of suitable transport services to

ensure accessibility and movement of goods.

Scheduled visits are supposed to be made to all the

populated islands fortnightly by boats operated by the

Queensland authorities, but our information is that the

schedules are not adhered to. The largest of these vessels

is about 35 metres in length and has a cargo capacity of

approximately 80 tonnes. Passenger capacity is usually

insufficient, causing delays in personal travel. Inadequate

cargo space limits economic development. Furthermore, port

facilities on the outer islands are lacking or inadequate.

Of the four or five vessels providing this service, three at

least lack refrigeration. The services are not even adequate

for the movement of food and other household requirements.

Often building materials and other bulky and heavy goods

essential to the improvement of living standards in the outer

islands are delayed at Thursday Island for a considerable

time. At the time of the Committee's visit, air strips

existed only on Yorke, Moa, Badu and Saibai Islands, with severe

limitation of operations in wet weather to other than Yorke

Island. Because of the limited number and capacity of

64

island strips, with consequent limitations on the size of

the aircraft that can be operated, air transport of bulky

cargo is not possible.^

The provision of adequate cargo capacity is important in

two respects. As well as enabling the needs of the Islanders

for goods to be met, produce of the Islands could be moved

to markets. Incentive for the Islanders to develop the use

of their natural resources is lacking at present because of

the limited shipping services. Island communities are aware

of this. Medical services are limited by the transport

difficulties. The Committee was informed, for example, that

expectant mothers are usually taken to Thursday Island about

two months before the expected date of confinement. This leads

to disruption of family life. The local communities consider

the nominal fortnightly shipping schedules unsatisfactory

for the movement of people between the islands and to and from

Thursday Island where the administrative, medical and other

services are based.

We RECOMMEND:

That the inter-island surface transport network be

upgraded to provide better direct movement of passengers

and of adequate amounts of cargo between islands. 3

3. The Torres Strait Islanders vol. 1, p. 105.

65

That existing airstrips be improved to all-weather

standard.

That, in full consultation with the local communities,

airstrips be provided on all outlying islands where the

terrain allows.

That until adequate air services are available for

the carriage of mail, and of medical cases - at a n y .time,

in emergencies - a hovercraft be provided.

That in the meantime the merits of helicopters as

opposed to fixed-wing aircraft be investigated to

determine whether they would be of advantage in this

region.

Because of the difficulty of movement between the islands,

most communication is by radio, per medium of the transmitting

and receiving network operated by the Queensland Department

of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. All messages

transmitted and received, whether personal or administrative,

are available to the regional Manager of the Department.

Considerable complaint was made to the Committee about the

current situation. It is widely believed by the people that

arbitrary decisions are taken in determining whether messages

will be delayed or transmitted at all. The Committee's

observations tended to substantiate the existence of ground

for complaint due to some degree of paternalism in the

functioning of the Department.

We believe it would be better for the maintenance of

relations between the people and the Queensland authorities,

and for the people's conduct of their own personal and public

66

business, if mail and telecommunication services were provided

by the Commonwealth independently of the Queensland Department

of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. We have no information

about the cost of appropriate services in a region such as the

Torres Strait. However, we believe that the Commonwealth has a

direct responsibility for providing normal mail and

telecommunication services for the residents of the Torres

Strait, as it does for Australian residents everywhere. The

needs of the Island communities require that normal basic

facilities be provided for them in the same way as for other

remote Australian communities," costs notwithstanding.

Accordingly, we RECOMMEND that the Australian Postal

Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission

examine the matter urgently with a view to providing acceptable

postal, telegraph and telephone services in the region without

delay.

The local airwaves are at present dominated by Papua

New Guinea, Indonesia and Singapore and we RECOMMEND that the

Australian Broadcasting Commission transmitting station

approved for Thursday Island be brought into operation without

delay.

Migration to the Mainland

The large drift of population from the Torres Strait

to the mainland is indicative of the limited economic

opportunities in the Islands. A survey of the Torres Strait

67

24451/ 76—4

Islander communities in Cairns and Townsville was made in

1973.^ Lack of employment opportunities was mentioned by

40% of the households surveyed in Townsville as the reason

for the move to the mainland, and this seems to have been the

main motivating force. Other factors were lack of education

and medical facilities, and limitation of individual freedom

by the administration of Island Councils under the Torres

Strait Islanders Act 1971-1974. Responses received from 53%

of the households surveyed in Townsville indicated that they

favoured living there for the good employment opportunities

and living conditions in general. The survey showed that

the level of income and material consumption enjoyed on the

mainland was considerably higher than the average on Thursday

Island, where the level was above that on the reserve islands.

The survey established that there was a great difference

between living conditions in the Torres Strait region and in

mainland towns.

In the reserve islands, paid jobs for women were available

only as medical aid post assistants and turtle farmers and in

some teaching positions. For men, the opportunities were

limited to employment as teachers, turtle farmers, island

policemen and builders' labourers. For the residents of

several of the western islands there were some opportunities

for short-term employment on pearling luggers, a culture pearl

farm and crayfishing boats. On the mainland the range of 4

4. The Torres Strait Islanders, vol. III.

68

employment opportunities was much wider. In the households

surveyed in Townsville, almost half the male wage earners were

employed as railway workers, 21% as construction labourers

on nearby nickel sites, and 25% as general labourers for local

councils or other employers. Only 14% of the households were

dependent on direct government assistance,5 whereas social

service payments represented almost half the aggregate income

of the surveyed reserve islands of Murray, Yorke, Saibai and

Badu in 1973.5 6

This background and the fact that not a great deal of

contact has been maintained with the home islands suggests,

despite what one may hear to the contrary on the islands

themselves, that there is little likelihood of those who have

migrated to the mainland seeking to return permanently to their

islands of origin. Among the households surveyed in Cairns

and Townsville there was little desire to return to Torres

Strait and the kind of life that was customary there, even if

employment opportunities existed. However, the reduction

of the labour force in the islands as a result of migration

will limit the opportunities for economic development where

labour is needed.

When the Committee visited islands in the Torres Strait,

we received from individuals a number of complaints that

5. The Torres Strait Islanders, vol. Ill, p. 49. 6. The Torres Strait Islanders, vol. 1, p. 53.

69

relatives on the mainland were not allowed to return to

islands where members of their families resided, even for a

visit.

The Torres Strait Islanders Act 1971-1974 gives to

island councils authority to make all decisions relating to

the local government of the domestic affairs of island

communities, but it appears that such authority is purely

nominal.

We RECOMMEND that appropriate action be taken immediately

to give the island councils real authority in these matters

in order to permit freedom of movement to any island and

between islands.

70

CHAPTER 6 HEALTH

... field research reveals high infant and childhood mortality, high morbidity, high levels of respiratory diseases, and generalised anxiety. These are the results of a century and a half of an alternating mix

of oppression, neglect, and paternalism by the European majority.1

The View from Two Cultures

It is doubtful that there exists any completely adequate

definition of what constitutes 'health', especially when

applied to a whole community. Certainly, the absence of

identifiable diseases, physical and mental, can be measured.

But is absence of disease an adequate measure of community

health? For that matter we may properly ask what constitutes

'disease': for instance, is alcoholism a physical disease in

this sense or is it simply a 'social problem'?

The Australian community must be careful not to approach

the issue of Aboriginal health with preconceived ideas of what

constitutes 'being healthy'. Health problems of any cultural

group must be examined in the cultural framework in which they

occur. Aboriginal health should be seen from the Aborigines'

point of view as well as from the viewpoint of non-Aboriginal

society. 1

1. F. Lancaster Jones, Racial and Ethnic Minorities: the Case of Aboriginal Australians. Paper presented to the Conference of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, LiSge, Belgium, 1973.

71

Before we, then, proceed to report our findings we wish

to indicate, from the evidence presented by Aborigines and

Torres Strait Islanders themselves, what they consider to be

the state of health of their communities, the principal

problems which they identify and the remedies which they

suggest.

Direct statements to the Committee raise several dominant

issues related to the community health field. Among Aboriginal

people who presented their views were Messrs Bill O'Kai

(iwupataka); Jimidja Jungarai (Yuendumu); Paddy Peripatj

(Papunya); Tim Jugadai (Haasts Bluff); N. Marmarika

(Umbakumba); Nandjiwarra Amagula (Groote Eylandt); Douglas

Daniels (Roper River) and S. Roberts (Maningrida).

All of these Aborigines identified inadequate housing,

poor community hygiene and alcohol, and their consequences, as

their principal concerns. The Oenpelli Council expressed 2 almost identical views.

Most Aborigines themselves did not emphasise their

community health problems in terms of numbers of doctors,

access to hospitals, rates of infant mortality, cases of

leprosy or the like. Housing, public sanitation and water

supplies and the consequences of the ready availability of

alcohol were their real, expressed concerns. It is essential 2

2. Letter dated 21 October 1975, to the Honourable W.C. Wentworth, M.P.

72

that our responses should at least acknowledge and answer their

clearly stated concerns. It is certainly true that, in terms

of non-Aboriginal evidence given to the Committee, the problem

of alcohol was the one most frequently mentioned, but we must

raise the issue of what influence this evidence from the

Aboriginal people will have on non-Aboriginal government

planning and setting of priorities.

We RECOMMEND that the indications given by Aboriginal

communities that they desire preventive rather than merely

corrective programs should form the basis of a major part of

governmental response.

Data

The Committee feels that it would serve little purpose to

reiterate all the findings from its second progress report

although several of the major conclusions have received

reinforcement by evidence presented to us since the printing

of that report. In it we noted the lack of valid statistical

data on Aboriginal health, compounded by inadequate and variable

definitions of 'Aboriginal'. This lack of data was stressed

further by witnesses such as Professor Basil Hetzel who

considered it vital 'to monitor the health of the people and,

in particular, to determine the value of any changes that may

have been produced related not only to the social and physical . 3 . .

environment of Aborigines but to health services . Similar 3

3. Evidence, p. 2416.

73

concern was expressed by the Commonwealth Department of Health

in its first submission4 5 6 and by Mrs Helen Henderson, of the

Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia.

Data Collection

The Committee repeats the RECOMMENDATIONS of its second

progress report:

That comprehensive statistical records of Aborigines be collected by all agencies to supplement those obtained at the census.

That all such statistics be forwarded to a central statistical registry.

That professional personnel in constant contact with Aborigines collect data on a regular basis.

That comprehensive demographic statistics be compiled and analysed by qualified personnel provided for this purpose.

That the Commonwealth's continuous morbidity reporting system on trial at Borroloola be closely observed and evaluated.^

4. Evidence, p. 320 ff. 5. M. Helen Henderson, Toward a Programme of Health Education for People of Aboriginal Descent in Western Australia. Working paper prepared for the Executive Officer of the

Health Education Council of Western Australia. 6. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites,

Second Progress Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 59 of 1974 (Canberra, .1975), p.. 24.

74

The present lack of such data makes constructive planning

in terms of service delivery, problem identification and program

evaluation almost impossible. However, it is also quite

clearly recognised that mere possession of such information

constitutes no guarantee that programs will be more meaningful,

efficient or effective. Lack of data, equally, does not mean

that some degree of success has not already been achieved

through existing programs. Indeed, there is evidence of

improved health standards in several areas.^ But proper

evaluation of results is made more difficult if we do not know

the situation at the time when programs were introduced.

Apart from lack of general data, the unavailability of more

precise demographic patterns of Aboriginal population compound

the difficulties faced by health planners.

Health Manpower and Planning Policies

The lack of complete demographic statistics makes health

planning very complex. Also, planning by non-Aborigines for

Aborigines needs to take cognisance of the differing

perceptions of needs and expectations between the two cultures.

The Workshop on Aboriginal Medical Services held in

A 1bury in July 1974 drew attention to many of these matters.

7. T. Brown and M. Barrett, 'Increase in Average Weight of Australian Aborigines', in The Medical Journal of Australia, 7 July 1973, p. 25. Also, T.D. Bolin et al., 'Aboriginal Health on Mornington Island 1972', in The Medical Journal

of Australia special supplement, 22 February 1975, p. 29.

75

The Aborigines who attended expressed strong opinions that

Aborigines themselves 1 should be actively involved in sessions

on Aboriginal health in medical schools' (recommendation 13 of g the report). They also recommended that non-Aborigines

being trained to provide medical services should be better

educated about Aboriginal culture and its constraints. It is

disappointing then that the report of the Committee on Health

Careers paid little attention to the specific needs of training . 9

for medical practice in a different cultural milieu.

Among specific problems which may be highlighted here, we

include the following:

Uneven distribution of medical personnel between

urban and rural areas.

Difficulties in recruiting and training personnel

for practice in a harsher and less attractive physical

environment.

The concentration on particular types of health

personnel (e.g. doctors) in preference to others (e.g.

nurses, mother-care experts) in a manner which may not

always be the most appropriate.

8. Commonwealth Department of Health, Workshop on Aboriginal Medical Services (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1974), p. 38. 9. Committee on Health Careers (Personnel and Training),

Australian Health Manpower, report to the Health and Hospital Services Commission, (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975).

76

Excessive emphasis on non-Aboriginal institutional

arrangements (e.g. hospitals) which, again, may not be

the most appropriate.

The tendency to view Aboriginal health problems in

isolation, discounting vital environmental factors such

as housing, and cultural factors such as the role of

traditional feeding or medical practices.

The long lead time involved in the training of health

personnel points up the need for action in this area to be

taken immediately. It goes without saying that the real lack

of qualified Aboriginal personnel in the health field also

calls for urgent action.

The lack of adequate planning in these fields is

highlighted also by the Annual Reports of the Department of

Aboriginal Affairs. The 1974-75 report, apart from its

failure to provide hard data to support the Department's

official assertions of progress, illustrates, in the view of

the Committee, the continuing problem arising from all

perceptions of Aboriginal health being made through non­

Aboriginal eyes.

The Committee would agree with the view expressed by

Dr J.H. Hirshman relating to the problems of Aborigines:

Problems may be largely social and politico-economic but sound health services are the life raft of survival. The involvement of Aboriginals themselves in giving health

77

services to their own people can provide some of the bindings to hold the life raft together.

Apart from the evidence presented to the Committee by the . . . 11

Aboriginal Medical Service, Sydney, little evidence on this

matter has been made available, although the findings of a 12

research study made for the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty

may well have more universal relevance and applicability.

The Aboriginal Medical Service drew our attention to

problems such as lack of continuity of service by medical 13 practitioners and the general lack of financial assistance 14

for voluntary groups in the field; and, by way of contrast,

pointed out the great value of having an Aboriginal nursing

sister on the staff of the Service.^

The Poverty Commission study focused attention on some of

the problems associated with services to which some financial

costs were attached (e.g. the cost of joining ambulance * 1 1

10. J.H. Hirshman, Aspects of Aboriginal Health Services in the Northern Territory, report to the Commonwealth Minister for Health, 30 July 1974, p. 21.

11. Evidence, p. 751 ff. 12. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975). Research report by

Kathleen F. Hill. 13. Evidence, pp. 752-3. 14. Evidence, pp. 748-9. 15. Evidence, p. 753.

78

services), lack of family planning advice and especially lack

of knowledge of the availability of health services. The

report noted - and indeed was at pains to stress - the

improvement in the general level of Aboriginal health after

the institution of a scheme whereby the resident public health

nurse visited reserve families daily and held daily clinics.

This reinforces what the Committee has already said about the

types of service most appropriate in providing health care for

Aboriginal communities.

Finally, it should be noted that there are no real

standards by which the success of various existing programs

can be measured at this time. The absence of such standards

is yet another reflection of the problems presented by the lack

of adequate statistical information.

Health and the Physical Environment

Throughout our investigations we were continually reminded

of the interrelationship between individual and community health

standards on the one hand and the physical environment on the

other. Four factors impressed us as being especially relevant:

The climatic situation, especially having regard to

the arid nature of great parts of the country.

Standards of Aboriginal housing.

The provision of public hygiene facilities.

16. A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns, pp.32-4.

79

Standards of Aboriginal nutrition.

Each of these factors needs to be examined. We have, however,

left the question of nutrition, which is linked with diet, for

attention later in this chapter.

Climate

The arid nature of much of inland Australia, combined

with the high temperatures encountered, contributes to high

levels of health problems associated with diseases of the eye.

This matter was specifically referred to by the Department of

Health in its submission, which we quote in part, drawing

particular attention to the last sentence:

A high incidence of eye diseases is found in many parts of the world where poor hygienic conditions and a tropical climate prevail ... The repeated damage caused by bright sunlight, dust, the infections conveyed by

flies and the aggravation produced by the continual rubbing of inflamed eyes frequently leads to permanent damage of the eye ... These conditions are particularly common in the arid regions in the centre of the Territory.

... At the same time it is essential to realise that the raising of living standards could by itself produce a major improvement.17

Dr Archie Kalokerinos also draws attention to the climatic

factor in the causation of blindness, although he rates this as

17. Evidence, p. 322.

80

less important than certain other factors, such as vitamin 18 deficiencies. Suffice it to say that no study of Aboriginal

health problems can overlook the fact that living in very arid

or tropical regions produces health problems quite specific to

those areas.

Housing

In evidence presented to the Committee, the Aboriginal 19 20

Medical Service, Sydney, the Department of Health, Dr 21 22

Evelyn Urban, and Messrs E.E. Payne and H.M. Ford all drew

attention to the role played by inadequate standards of housing

and accommodation in perpetuating the low level of Aboriginal

health. A report by W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd also linked

poor health of Aborigines in the Sydney metropolitan area with 23 .

housing conditions. As we have already noted, housing

standards were brought up by all the Aboriginal community

leaders with whom the Committee had discussions. Although it

is not our purpose to discuss housing in detail at this point

in the report, its importance as a factor in community health

standards must be recognised. Many of the great health

advances throughout the world since 1900 have resulted from

18. Archie Kalokerinos, 'Blindness amongst Australian Aborigines 1. 19. Evidence, p. 750 ff. 20. Evidence, p. 317. 21. Evidence, p. 82. 22. Evidence, p. 150 ff. 23. W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd, Problems and Needs of the

Aborigines of Sydney (Sydney, 1973). Report to the Minister for Youth and Community Services, New South Wales.

81

improvements in housing rather than from specific advances in

medical science.

Messrs Payne and Ford drew attention to the necessity for

educating many Aboriginal families in such basic matters as the

functioning and use of flush toilets or septic tanks and the

need to provide types of housing relevant to particular

community requirements.^

The Aboriginal Medical Service, Sydney, summarised the

link between housing conditions and health as follows:

The sub-standard housing which is available to the black urban community, at greatly inflated cost, is a constant source of medical problems. Little, and sometimes no, plumbing, lack of hot water, in fact - often only one cold tap to cover the needs of the entire household, poor ventilation, over-heated in siammer, frozen in winter conditions prevail, and high incidence of respiratory ailments, chronic chest complaints, jaundice, gastro-infections, and general poor health are a result. Cross-infection and mass-infection of the entire household because of crowded conditions are also common.25

The link between housing and health standards applies equally to

urban, rural and tribal situations. The Committee believes it is

vital that this important factor be recognised in the discussion

of Aboriginal health problems, and accepts that it is impossible

to separate the two issues. It is unrealistic to expect that

members of a community which is poorly housed will be able to

24. Evidence, 25. Evidence, p. 151. p. 750.

enjoy satisfactory health. The House of Representatives

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs drew further attention

to this matter, as did the Oenpelli Council in the letter to 27

which we have already referred.

Overcrowding has been identified by several researchers as

a major factor leading to lower standards of physical health. Dr

Hoodie gives details of the problems that arise from over­

crowding :

The number of persons per dwelling is directly related to family size (including grandparents and other relatives, and permanent 'visitors') and is of particular relevance to the physical facilities present - cooking, food

storage, washing, bathing, excreta disposal, sleeping - all of which may be grossly overloaded in very large households irrespective of the number of rooms. The average Australian domestic refrigerator and septic tank,

for instance, are designed for an average household of around five persons. Even if these facilities are present in an Aboriginal household of fifteen, there will be problems of food spoilage and possible food poisoning

on the one hand, and raw septic tank effluent contaminating the environment with pathogenic bacteria and worm eggs on the other. Inadequate sleeping accommodation results in sitting and dining areas, and bathrooms when present,

being adapted as bedrooms and storage areas, with further deterioration in domestic hygiene.2°

26. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Aboriginal Health and Related Matters in the South-West of Western Australia, Parliamentary Paper No. 296 of 1975 (Canberra, 1976).

27. Letter to the Honourable W.C. Wentworth, M.P. 28. P.M. Hoodie, Aboriginal Health (Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1973), p. 32.

83

The problem of overcrowding is discussed further in our

consideration of housing for Aborigines.

Hygiene

Again, evidence presented to the Committee by various

people including many Aborigines, showed their grave concern

about inadequate public hygiene. Numerous Aborigines told us

that community facilities such as toilets, showers and water

taps were expected to serve too many people, and that refuse

dumps were located close to housing. This kind of planning

has often been imposed by non-Aboriginal authority. Often

public sanitation facilities were improperly maintained.

Utilisation and Acceptance of Services

It is here that some of the most obvious cross-cultural

problems arise. Great variations occur, depending on factors

such as locality (i.e. whether urban or rural); frequency of

availability (i.e. whether a service is established or simply

occasional); the degree of participation in service provision

by Aborigines themselves; and Aboriginal knowledge of the

existence and availability of services.

The Committee observed the following matters on which

comment could be made:

Reticence of Aborigines about seeking health care,

especially in the early stages of health problems.

84

Frequent disdain and disregard of Aborigines by

health workers.

Belief by key health personnel that Aborigines do

not care about the health of their children.

Irregular use of prescribed medicines by some

Aboriginal patients.

Fear on the part of health personnel that professional

services would not be paid for, with allegations being made

to the Committee about fees being demanded in advance of

professional services.

In the second progress report we drew attention to the

problem of reticence among many Aboriginal communities about

seeking medical assistance, especially in the early stages of

trouble, and this was reinforced by the Committee's observations

in most States. A clear example of this is provided in a

study at Woorabinda in 1972 which illustrated the failure in a

particular community to bring children with the running nose

syndrome (a possible forerunner of otitis media) for early 29 treatment.

Professor Tatz has drawn attention to unacceptable examples . 30

of racial discrimination in the provision of health services.

29. A.E. Dugdale et al., 'Influence of Nutrition and Social Conditions on School Performance of Aboriginal Children', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 16 August 1975, p. 1 ff. 30. C. Tatz, 'The Politics of Aboriginal Health', a supplement

to Politics, vol. VII,No. 2, November 1972, p. 13.

85

Dr Moodie comments on the same matter:

... considerable economic discrimination by some doctors against Aborigines exists in settled Australia, because of the many who cannot pay or who do not belong to medical benefits funds. The same doctors may discriminate

equally against white patients who do not pay, but the Aboriginal patient is more likely to attribute the discrimination to his Aboriginal identity ...31

Quite clearly cultural differences come into focus.

The differing cultural frameworks of many Aborigines lead

them to fail to appreciate, in non-Aboriginal terms, the

consequences of inattention to symptoms of illness or failure to

seek 'outside' help for what do not initially appear to be

serious problems. Some fear being confined in institutions -

that is, hospitals - which are seen as threatening and remote.

Rigid clinic times, which are sometimes difficult for

Aborigines to cope with, also act as a deterrent against

utilisation of health services.

In this regard, the outstanding efforts of groups such as

Aboriginal medical services must be noted, together with the

31. P.M. Moodie, 1 The Health Disadvantages of Aborigines', in Black versus W h i t e , v o l . 2 of F.S. Stevens (ed.) Racism:

the Australian Experience (Australia and New Zealand Book „ Co., Sydney, 1972), p. 238.

86

contribution of some medical programs which penetrate 32 Aboriginal communities.

Where contact with hospitals is possible, the situation 33 may differ. In city areas such as R e d f e m or Fitzroy,

where local Aboriginal medical services are available, the

rate of utilisation is high and levels of acceptance of

medical service are much improved.

To a large extent, participation is the key to greater 34 success. The Committee RECOMMENDS that greater involvement

of Aborigines in both planning and delivery of health services

should be a high priority for governments.

Specific Health Issues

Although our second progress report dwelt at some length

on specific health problems, we feel it necessary to review

this material to take into account a great deal of further

evidence which has come to our attention since that report

was published. The following is not meant to be by any means

32. G. Briscoe, Towards a Health Programme for Aborigines. Paper presented to Research Seminar on Aboriginal Health Services (Monash University, Melbourne, May 1972). 33. Aboriginal Health, Chapter 19. 34. P.M. Moodie, 'The Part Aboriginal Community*, and G. Briscoe,

'The Aboriginal Medical Service in Sydney', in B.S. Hetzel et al. (edd.), Better Health for Aborigines (University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland, 1974).

87

an exhaustive study of all the major health problems facing

Aborigines. Rather it is intended to indicate areas which are

of particular concern, either because of the prevalence of a

specific problem among Aborigines or because of the special

steps which ought to be taken by health planners to overcome

the problem.

General Morbidity and Mortality

Attention has frequently been focused on unacceptably

high levels of Aboriginal mortality, especially among infants.

Equally, there is a great deal of evidence to indicate that

these levels have been declining in recent years with

improvements in levels of health care and systems of health

care delivery. Improvements in hygiene, housing and

nutrition have probably contributed to this. The Federal

Department of Health presented the following figures in 35

evidence before the Committee:

Stillbirth Rates 1965 1970

Aus­ tralia

N.T. Abori­ gines

Aus­ tralia

N.T. Abori­ gines

Stillbirths 2,689 15 2,449

(1968)

25

Rate/1,000 live births 11.75 20.18 10.11 26.17

35. Evidence, pp. 320-1.

88

Age Specific Mortality Rates

1965 1969+

Aus­ tralia

N.T. Abori­ gines

Aus­ tralia

N.T. Abori­ gines

Neonates -Less than 4/52 2,947 30 3,240 36

Rate 13.22 40.37 12.95 40.14

Percentage total deaths 2.94 12.34 3.04 15.51

Infants -4/52 - 12/12 1,170 77 1,242 61

Rate (IMR)* 18.47 14.27 17.92 94.80

Percentage total deaths 1 .17 31.68 1.16 26.29

Toddlers -1-4 years 847

(1966)

50 837 31

(1970)

Percentage total deaths 0.84 (1966) 20.57 0.78 13.36

(1970)

* IMR = Neonatal + infant deaths per 1,000 live births. + Information available for 1970 and 1971 would suggest similar results.

Certified Cause of Death (Children from birth to 4 years) N.T. Australia Aborigines

(1968) (1970)

Respiratory infections 824 31

Percentage 0-4 years deaths 16.11 23.84

Gastroenteritis 174 34

Percentage 0-4 years deaths 3.40 26.16

Prematurity and birth trauma 2,718 28

Percentage 0-4 years deaths 53.15 21.54

Others 2,224 25

89

Crude Birth and Death Rates 1965 1969

Australia N.T. Abori­ gines*

Australia N.T. Abori­ gines

Mid year population 11,278,600 20,400 12,309,700 22,800 Live births 222,854 743 250,176 897

Birth rate, crude 19.76 36.42 20.32 39.35

Deaths 99,955 243 106,496 232

Crude death rate 8.87 11.91 86.60 10.17

* Source: RHS records

Selected Morbidity Prevalence in Pastoral Areas ___________________in the Northern Region 1970_________________

Weight of children 0-5 years as compared to combined 1 Harvard Standards1

99 -90 89-80 Under 80

Percentage under 80

No. Standard per cent per cent per cent per cent

165 45 57 8 25 15.15

Height of children Standards1 0-5 years as compared to combined 'Harvard

99-90 89-80 Under 80

No. S tandard per cent per cent per cent

162 48 165 9 Nil

Anaemia in children 0-15 years

No.

No. under 10 gms per cent Percentage Anaemia

314 62 20.5

Chronic Middle Ear Disease in Children 0-15 years

No.

Dry Wet

perforation perforation Percentage perforated

316 21 26 15

90

The evidence presented shows quite clearly the improving

general health standards of Aboriginal communities and this

becomes even more evident when the figures given in evidence

are set against the figures given by Hoodie for the years 1957

and 1958 when the crude death rate per 1,000 was shown as 17.1

and 15.6 respectively. We have already indicated our

concern about the inadequacy of statistics, including health

statistics. Trends should therefore be interpreted cautiously

and in a qualitative rather than a quantitative sense.

Infant Mortality

It is in the consideration of infant mortality that one

sees the clearest illustration of the alarming state of

Aboriginal health. The Department of Health, in its

submission, stated:

The mortality rates for Aboriginal children are far in excess of those expected ... 37

36. Aboriginal Health, p. 49. 37. Evidence, p. 320.

91

Statistics on infant mortality in the Northern Territory, which

have been provided by the Department since, illustrate the

seriousness of the situation:

Infant Mortality Rates, Northern Territory Aborigines

Year

Live Births

Infant Deaths

Infant Mortality per 1000 Live Births

1965 743 107 144

1966 825 123 149

1967 860 87 101

1968 927 75 81

1969 897 85 95

1970 930 107 115

1971 938 134 143

1972 874 76 87

1973 866 69 80

1974 845 47 56

1975 899 45 50

In a submission to us, the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship

Inc. presented papers by Professor W. B. MacDonald, Department

of Child Health, University of Western Australia, and Dr

Michael Gracey which gave some statistics on Aboriginal infant

mortality. Professor MacDonald's paper stated:

In meaningful terms to those not accustomed to dealing with statistical returns, the risk of an Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal baby dying before the age of 1 year in Australia is about five to six times as high as for a white infant.38

38. Evidence, p. 1351.

92

Again, it is necessary to point out that in recent years there

have been marked improvements in these statistics.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs recently noted:

In the Northern Territory, where statistics have been maintained for some years, the most recent figures, 1974, are the best (lowest) since records began to be kept. The infant mortality rate averaged 111.5 for the five years

1965-69; it averaged 97.4 for the most recent five years, 1970-74 inclusive; in 1974 it was 55.6. The statistics now being maintained in Western Australia indicate that the rate there stood at 76.9 in 1971. These rates are

far from the highest in the world - though they are, of course, unacceptably high.

These statistics are expressed as the number of infant deaths

per thousand live births. The infant mortality rate for the

Northern Territory for 1975 was 50.1. While this is a further

improvement it still compares badly with the infant mortality

rate for the general Australian population, which was 16.14 in

1974.

It is very difficult to rank the reasons for the high

level of infant mortality among Aborigines, although Dugdale

et al. state:

There are 3 main causes for neonatal deaths, congenital malformations, immaturity and obstetrical causes. ...

39. Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Annual Report 1974-75 (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p . 27.

93

Deaths between one month and one year ... are due mainly to infectious diseases in association with undemutrition and malnutrition, poor living conditions and indifferent maternal care.

It would seem that improvements in physical conditions for

Aborigines, plus better education of Aboriginal mothers in

child care and feeding practices, could make substantial

contributions to the reduction of the rate of Aboriginal

infant mortality.

The Committee RECOMMENDS:

That governments accept as a principle the importance

of environmental factors when developing health policy for

Aborigines.

That assistance to Aboriginal mothers to enable them

to cope better with problems of child care and infant

feeding should assume a high priority.

That governments should publicly announce goals for

Aboriginal health improvement, and dates by which these

goals should be achieved, and that all government activity

in the health field should clearly relate to the

achievement of one or more of these goals.

40. A.E. Dugdale et al., 1 Neonatal and Infant Mortality Rates among Australian Aboriginals', in The Medical Journal of Australia, 29 September 1973, p. 635.

94

Anthropometric Measures

Studies by Lickiss and others indicate that Aboriginal

children suffer from a degree of growth retardation due largely

to inadequacies of diet, and that this problem is magnified in

later life because there appears to be little 1 catching up*

growth during the school years. The following table from . . i 41

Lickiss study is illustrative of this position:

Heights and Weights of Aboriginal Children in Sydney and of Inner City Non-Aboriginal Children Compared with Australian Standard Curves"

Subject

Height

Number of Children

Number Below Tenth Percentile

Percentage Below Tenth Percentile

Aboriginal children: (i) Preschool 32 20 62.5

(ii) School 49 19 39

Non-Aboriginal school children (5 to 11 years) 50 6 12

Weight

Number Number Percentage

of Below Tenth Below Tenth

Children Percentile Percentile

Aboriginal children: (i) Preschool 34 18 53

(ii) School 37 15 41

Non-Aboriginal school children (5 to 11 years) 43 6 14

* Institute of Child Health, Sydney.

41. J.N. Lickiss, 1 Health Problems of Sydney Aboriginal Child­ ren, in The Medical Journal of Australia, 28 November 1970, p. 995 ff.

95

The Woorabinda study by Dugdale et a l . mentioned before, which

was made in 1972, revealed this situation:

In all measurements the median of the percentage of the value-for-age is below the 100% of Caucasian standards. A weight less than 85% of the expected weight-for-age is suggestive evidence of under-nutrition. Half the ^ children in this sample had weights below the 85% level.

These observations are similar to those made following two 43 other studies. Once again, it is necessary to put this

matter in perspective by drawing attention to yet other

studies which indicate the real improvements noted in this

field. Brown and Barrett compared the average weight of

Aborigines living on a Commonwealth Government settlement at

Yuendumu, in the Northern Territory, in the 1960s with weights

of Aborigines living in the same region in the 1930s and 1950s.

42. The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 16 August 1975, p. 2. 43. D.G. Jose et al., * 1 Deficiency of Immunological and Phagocytic Function in Aboriginal Children with Protein-

Calorie Malnutrition, in The Medical Journal of Australia, 1 November 1975, p. 699. Also, D.G. Jose et al. 'A Survey of Children and Adolescents on Queensland Aboriginal Settlements', Australian Paediatric Journal

(1969), vol. 5, p. 71.

96

44. T. Brown and M. Barrett, 1 Increase in Average Weight of Australian Aborigines', in The Medical Journal of Australia, 7 July 1973, p. 25.

Because in recent years there have been marked improvements

in the food habits of Aborigines, Brown and Barrett concluded

that the differences were due largely to nutritional factors

as well as to better medical care and improved living

conditions.

Diet and Nutrition

The Committee was presented with a considerable amount of

material on this question, and in addition there is a great

deal of evidence from research reported in the medical and

other academic literature.

The nutritional status of the Aboriginal population,

especially children, is dependent not only on the provision of

food in sufficient quantities, but also on factors such as:

The real nutritional value of foods.

The cost of various food items.

The acceptability of certain foods to the Aboriginal

people.

The level of understanding of basic dietary

requirements.

The understanding of basic feeding patterns and

requirements of infants.

The effect of isolation on the availability of

adequate foods.

The adequacy of facilities for food storage.

98

In the view of the Committee, government planners have lacked

understanding of just how basic are dietary matters in the

development of policies for the Aboriginal people.

Malnutrition and/or undemutrition in terms of protein-calorie

deficiency will lead not only to higher levels of infant

mortality and greater susceptibility to disease and infection

but also to eventual growth retardation.

At one extreme, the Committee is also aware of evidence

of the effects of poor or inappropriate nutrition. There is

known to be an increasing tendency to obesity in adult

Aborigines and it now appears that this is associated with

hyperinsulinism and maturity-onset diabetes. Wise and his 45 co-workers found diabetes in 117= of sample, and borderline

diabetes in 13.8% of sample, among Aborigines in South

Australia associated with significant obesity not present in

the non-diabetic group. Further, obesity was seen,

particularly at Davenport Reserve, near Port Augusta, where

the incidence of diabetes also was particularly high. Since

the incidence of diabetes is 3% in the general community, one

can see that maturity-onset diabetes related to obesity is a

particular health problem in some South Australian Aboriginal

communities and almost certainly in other Aboriginal communities

throughout Australia.

45. P.H. Wise et al., 'Diabetes and Associated Variables in the South Australian Aboriginal', in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine (1976),vol. 6, p. 191.

99

24451/ 76—5

In evidence, the Department of Health drew our attention

to a study of the admissions of 230 Aboriginal children to

Darwin Hospital, which indicated that 70% of these children

were malnourished by internationally accepted standards and 46

that a further 7% were suffering from severe malnutrition.

This is an appalling situation in a country as wealthy as

Australia, one of the world's great food producers.

Hoodie examines this matter in detail, and concludes:

In common with most other diseases in the Aboriginal population, the detection of the malnutrition problem does not in itself suggest the solution in the specific context of Aboriginal society. ^

Dr Holman, in his evidence before the Committee, supported

this view and urged greater attention to the following matters:

Encouragement of mothers to feed their children

sufficiently and before they feed other members of the

family.

Education in budgeting of incomes to meet nutritional

needs.

Education in food purchasing to ensure the greatest

nutritional value at least cost.

Education in food preparation, infant feeding and

carbohydrate abuse.^

46. Evidence, p. 319. 47. Aboriginal Health, p. 178 ff. 48. Evidence, p. 1305 ff.

1 0 0

Many of these matters will be clearly seen to relate to the

great problem which we have already identified - that of cross-

cultural values and patterns of behaviour.

The Committee noted in its second progress report the

efforts of the Institute for Aboriginal Development in Alice

Springs to educate Aboriginal women, in Aboriginal terms, about 49

the proper approach to nutrition and diet. Similar attempts

were illustrated in submissions such as that of the Aboriginal

Advancement Council of Western Australia (lnc.).~^

Evidence suggests that the provision of special dietary

supplements such as milk powder for mothers, or fortified white

flour, may be effective, provided that the foodstuffs reach

those for whom they are intended. The availability of a

program such as this is in itself no guarantee of the children

getting the foodstuffs. In the end, only an accelerated or

improved growth rate of Aboriginal children will indicate

success.

49. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of Their Sacred Sites, Second Progress Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 59 of

1974 (.Canberra, 1975), p. ,51.

50. Evidence, p. 1326 ff. 51. Kamien et al., 'Nutrition in the Australian Aborigines - Effects of the Fortification of White Flour’, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine (1975),vol. 5,No. 2,

p. 123 ff.

1 01

The Committee can only conclude by reiterating its

concern at the serious nature of this problem - serious

because methods available to overcome it are not being used,

and because failure to deal with it effectively is producing

long-term results which will affect future generations of

Aboriginal children and deny them even a fair start in the

Australian community.

Leprosy

The Committee noted evidence of only a moderate incidence

of leprosy among Aborigines in Northern Australia and health

workers showed concern about identification and treatment of 52 the disease. Though there is evidence that the incidence

of leprosy in Aboriginal communities is falling, it is still

grossly in excess of that seen in non-Aboriginal communities.

While this situation remains, it should still be treated as a

serious problem.

The evidence of the Department of Health indicated that'

there were some 870 cases in the whole of the Northern 53

Territory, a large proportion of them quiescent, in 1972. The

Department of Aboriginal Affairs noted that the number of new

cases reported in the Territory fell from 205 in 1951-55 to 67 . 54

in 1971-75. Messrs Payne and Ford directed our attention

to the successful attempts to overcome this disease by the

52. Commonwealth Department of Health, Leprosy in Northern Territory Aborigines, 1970. 53. Evidence, p. 321. 54. Annual Report 1974-75, p. 27.

102

leprosarium at East Arm near Darwin, as did Dr Holman in his

evidence.

Eye Diseases

We have already noted the special problems of diseases of

the eye which are related to the specific climatic conditions

in which many Aboriginal communities exist. The Committee is

of the opinion that at present there is too little attention to,

and acknowledgment of widespread and serious problems of eye

disease. The situation is compounded by a great shortage of

specialised medical personnel (ophthalmologists) who are needed

to cover the vast outback areas of the continent. As the

Department of Health has acknowledged in its submission, apart

from the limited survey conducted by Professor Mann in 1954-56

and Professor Hollows in 1974, little attention and work have

been devoted either to the compiling of comprehensive

statistics on the incidence and prevalence of trachoma or to

the necessity for treating eye diseases

Where surveys have been conducted in well established

Aboriginal communities, a high incidence of eye disease has 58

emerged. For example, Edwards et al. reported 187, with a

55. Evidence, p. 158. 56. Evidence, p. 1309. 57. Submission dated November 1975, pp. 32-3.

58. F.M. Edwards et al., 1 Visual Acuity and Retinal Changes in South Australian Aborigines', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine (1976), vol. 6, p. 205.

103

visual defect (visual acuity of 6/9 or worse) in each eye, and

a further 22% with a similar loss of visual acuity in one eye

only. In this study the incidence of abnormal visual acuity

was greater in children at a more urbanised reserve and was

unusual in less urbanised communities. The authors suggest

that special, as yet unidentified, factors may be affecting

some aspects of retinal abnormality in Aborigines.

The Committee attaches high priority to the training of

personnel in the early recognition and treatment of simple

eye disease. We note the preventive and therapeutic program

undertaken by the College of Ophthalmologists in relation to

eye disease in Aboriginal populations. The Committee applauds

this initiative and looks with interest towards successful

completion and evaluation of the program.

Dr Kalokerinos makes the point, which the Committee

accepts, that great advances in preventive care and treatment

will be made in the specific field of eye diseases with general

improvement in the living conditions of Aborigines.

Ear Diseases

The incidence of diseases of the ear has rightly been

described by Dr Kalokerinos as alarming, especially among . 59

children. Several studies of this problem have been made,

59. Evidence, p. 1698.

104

including that of Dugdale et al. which found that among a

total of 49 children aged 6 to 10 years, only 43% could be

considered otoscopically normal.^ Studies by Dr Max Kamien

revealed ear abnormalities in 60.4% of Aboriginal children

compared with 16. l°/a of non-Aboriginal children. Concerning

the causes, Kamien noted:

The reasons for the chronicity of middle ear diseases in disadvantaged groups are open to conjecture. There are, however, three factors which seem to be all-important. They are the high incidence of upper respiratory tract disease associated with overcrowding, the greater degree

of ear disease in those who are malnourished and the lack of medical attention at either a preventive, curative or palliative level.61

Evidence as to the continuing patterns of ear disease is

contradictory. Stuart et al. reported that the incidence of

hearing loss in their study fell from 41% to 28% between

February 1970 and February 1972, in part due to spontaneous

improvement. ^ pr Urban, on the other hand, referring to

chronic ear disease in children in the area extending from

60. The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 16 August 1975, p. 1. 61. M. Kamien, 'Ear Disease and Hearing in Aboriginal and White Children in Two Schools in Rural New South Wales',

in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 10 May 1975, p. 33. 62. J.E. Stuart et al., 'Follow-up of Aboriginal Children with Ear Disease and Hearing Loss', in The Medical Journal of

Australia special supplement, 10 May 1975, p. 38.

105

Fregon, south of Emabella, in South Australia, north to

Newcastle Waters, in the Northern Territory, said:

The incidence of the disease, and the percentage who incur permanent hearing loss, has not lessened during the past six years in spite of considerable efforts on the part of medical staff, and co-operation on the part of parents and

teachers. ^3

The Committee noted recent newspaper reports released by

Professor Saint, Dean of Medicine at the University of

Queensland, indicating that, in a large group of Aboriginal

children studied, only 30% could be said to have normal hearing

and 407c were classed as having serious hearing abnormalities.

Most of these observers place considerable emphasis on the

physical conditions of Aboriginal children as a major factor in

this high incidence of ear disease, and seem to accept that

improvements in physical environment will markedly alter the

63. Evidence, p. 83.

1 06

pattern of infection. However, this finding is quite

specifically challenged by the reported study of Canty et al.,

who state that nutrition and hygiene are probably not important

in perpetuating ear conditions and place greater stress on 64

unidentified familial factors.

It does not matter which of the factors is more important:

the fact remains that too many Aboriginal children are growing

up with impaired hearing. The seriousness of this situation

cannot be over-emphasised. It is imperative that a national

program of prevention be mounted urgently to attack reversible

hearing diseases in Aboriginal children.

The Committee RECOMMENDS that a national meeting be

convened, as a matter of urgency, with appropriate professional

and Aboriginal participation to draw up action proposals which

will be acceptable to Aboriginal communities and which might

modify some of the serious health problems so far identified.

Tuberculosis

The Committee noted evidence that Aboriginal communities

suffer from an excessively high incidence of this disease.

The Department of Health, in its submission in 1972, stated

that the number of Aborigines on the Tuberculosis Case Register

64. A.A. Canty et al., 'Factors Leading to Chronic Middle Ear Disease', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 10 May 1975, p. 45.

107

in the Northern Territory was approximately three times that

for the rest of the community though they are only one quarter

of the Territory's population. This situation was

attributed to 'the classic triad of malnutrition, poverty and

overcrowding'.^ Dr Laing also drew attention to this problem,

•particularly among the alcoholics and those who are living

closely together*.^ The Department of Health, in its

submission of November 1975, particularly stressed the need

for rigorous application of anti-tuberculosis programs,

especially in urban areas.^ Nevertheless, the Committee is

aware that the conquest of tuberculosis world wide began with

improvements in housing, nutrition and hygiene long before the

advent of effective chemotherapy. With this disease,

therefore, we once again return to the need to improve the

environmental conditions of Aboriginal communities as a start

to effective control.

Venereal Disease

Again, contradictory statements about the incidence of

venereal disease are made. Dr Langsford, at the time

Commonwealth Director of Health in the Northern Territory,

told the Committee in 1972:

For 3 years running, I was able to show a decline in the actual number of cases reported - not just the

65. Evidence, p. 321. 66. Evidence, pp. 761-2. 67. Submission dated November 1975, pp. 44-7.

108

percentage of people, but a decline in the actual number at a time when the population was increasing.68

On the other hand, in its 1975 submission, the Department of

Health reported:

Syphilis and to a lesser extent gonorrhoea have both increased considerably in the past 2 years and granuloma inguinale continues to occur sporadically in the Southern Region. Although part of this rise may be due to better ^ notifications, there has undoubtedly been a real increase.

The Department saw the trend in the Territory as a ’reflection

of a world-wide trend of increasing incidence1. It has

provided the following information:

Notifications of Syphilis and Gonorrhoea in the Northern Territory for the Years Ending 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975

1972 1973

Syphilis Gonorrhoea

Total Aboriginal Other Total

74 35 50 85

404 91 433 524

1974 1975

Aboriginal Other Total Aboriginal Other Total

Syphilis 208 64 272 346 92 438

Gonorrhoea 140 423 563 124 370 494

68. Evidence, p. 336. 69. Submission dated November 1975, p. 48.

109

Drs Graham and Langsford implied that there was still some

problem with failure to notify incidence of venereal disease.

The Committee does not regard venereal disease as a

problem particular to Aboriginal communities but recognises

that control is likely to be no more easy to achieve within

Aboriginal communities than it is in the general community.

Dental Health

The only direct submissions on this matter came from the

Department of Health. In 1972 the Department noted that in

areas without any fluoridation of water supplies, either

naturally as at Yuendumu or by government action, the position 71

of Aboriginal dental health was fair to disastrous. In its

1975 submission, the Department related this, in the case of

Aboriginal children, to the combined effects of early

malnutrition, cariogenic foods, poor oral hygiene, and poor

access to both fluoridated water supplies and regular dental 72 care.

T. Brown notes that dental decay is more prevalent in

Aborigines living at settlements than in those not in continuous

contact with non-Aborigines. He attributes this mainly to

the adoption or partial adoption of European food habits.

Aborigines living in settlements are consuming more processed

70. Evidence, p. 337. 71. Evidence, p. 232. 72. Submission dated November 1975, p. 27.

1 1 0

food and have shown a liking for refined carbohydrate foods.

An increase in dental decay would be expected in view of the

well established association of dental caries with the

consumption of sugar-rich foods. Brown also notes that many 73

of the Aborigines have little knowledge of dental hygiene.

The Department of Health's 1975 submission and the 1974

workshop on Aboriginal medical services both drew attention

to the need to train Aboriginal health workers in this field.

The success of school dental schemes was noted in the

Department's 1975 submission and gives hope for major

improvement in the situation.

Experience with fluoridation in this country indicates

that, where fluoridated water is used, one could expect

improvement in Aboriginal dental health comparable with the

improvement that has been proved to occur in the general

community. Aboriginal communities in control of their own

water supplies should have fluoridation made available to them

if they wish it.

Vitamin C and Immunology

The Committee, in its second progress report, expressed

concern about malnutrition and dietary imbalances and their

effects on the general health of Aborigines. We stated that

73. T. Brown, 'Dental Decay in Aborigines', in B.S. Hetzel et al. (edd.) Better Health for Aborigines, p. 97.

Ill

to a large extent this problem was repeated in a cyclical

fashion so that, as a direct consequence of the ravages of

infant morbidity, Aboriginal adults often suffer from ill

health. The Committee also referred to protein-calorie

malnourishment as often the most serious manifestation of

malnutrition.^

However, Dr Archie Kalokerinos challenges the view of

malnutrition as a primary cause of illness. He agrees that

malnutrition affects body weight and growth rate, but claims

that immunological deficiencies are the primary cause of

illness. According to Kalokerinos, if the diet of the

mother is inadequate, the baby suffers from deficiency of

vitamins, especially vitamin C, which predisposes it to

infection and increases the chances of infant death from viral

infections. Dr Kalokerinos* 1 views have also been supported

in part by the study by Jose et al. which reported:

Immunodeficiency clearly forms a critical link in the cycle of infection-malnutrition.^6

It has not been established whether immunological deficiency

or malnutrition is primary, but only that they are associated.

74. Second Progress Report, p. 26. 75. Evidence, p. 1687 ff. 76. D.G. Jose et al., 1 Deficiency of Immunological and Phagocytic Function in Aboriginal Children with Protein-

Calorie Malnutrition*, in The Medical Journal of Australia, 1 November 1975, p. 705.

1 1 2

In its 1975 submission, the Department of Health

specifically included an appendix entitled 'Statement on

Evidence Submitted by Dr A. Kalokerinos1 in which it made

comments highly critical of Dr Kalokerinos1 views, especially

those relating to the effects of immunisation of Aboriginal

children. The Committee does not wish to pass judgment on

the conflicting medical views put forward, but RECOMMENDS that

the conclusions on immunological deficiency and the effects of

immunisation on Aboriginal children postulated by Dr Kalokerinos

be tested scientifically with a view to producing, as a matter

of urgency, a definitive policy on the immunisation of

Aboriginal children against infectious diseases.

Castro-Intestinal Infections

Acute diarrhoea may be a life threatening illness in

children. It is more frequent where sanitation is poor and

water purity uncertain. In developing countries it is a

major factor in deaths of infants and is a problem requiring

special attention.

Acute infantile diarrhoea is a grave problem in many

Aboriginal communities. All Aboriginal groups without

adequate sewage disposal systems and without water of certain

purity have a high incidence of acute and chronic diarrhoea in

their children. Poor housing, which makes it impossible to

isolate and adequately nurse these sick children, compounds

the problems and tends to perpetuate gastro-intestinal

infection.

113

Severe acute infantile diarrhoea represents one of the

medical emergencies of childhood. Thus, Gracey has observed:

Gastroenteritis amongst Aboriginal children contributes largely to their unsatisfactory morbidity and mortality statistics.'7?

Professor Tatz told the Committee that at one time the

Department of Health was so alarmed at the 'gastroenteritis*

figures submitted to it that it ordered this classification to

be broken down 1 into several other things so that there was not

an alarmingly high picture of one particular ailment'.^ The

Department of Health, in its submission in 1972, identified

the spectrum of diseases causing admission to Darwin Hospital

as being 'dominated by diarrhoeal disease (gastroenteritis), i 79

respiratory infections and malnutrition'.

The medical problem presented by infantile diarrhoea, and

the usual cause of death, is one of acute dehydration. In

Aboriginal communities it may often occur on a basis of

previous marginal malnutrition and malabsorption. In this

situation the capacity to withstand infection and dehydration

may be lowered. Successful resuscitation involves adequate

replacement of fluid parenterally (that is, by injection) in

severe cases, and personnel and treatment centres are too few

for this to be done effectively and quickly in rural Australia.

77. Evidence, p. 1353. 78. Evidence, p. 846. 79. Evidence, p. 319.

114

Some developing countries have established acute treatment

centres for rehydration of infants on a brief-care basis and

have achieved considerable success. For example, in Swaziland,

in southern Africa, a network of 14 tiny clinics, each staffed

by a nurse, covers an area with A radius of 40 miles and a

central hospital. At the clinics, intraperitoneal fluids are

administered because the intraperitoneal route is extremely

simple to use and there are rarely any complications. This

method, however, does not apply in cases of severe dehydration.

These are transferred to the central hospital. If transfer is

not possible, scalp-vein drips are set up by the nurse.

The Committee RECOMMENDS that special treatment centres

modelled on the Swaziland system be established where

appropriate and that staff be trained and allowed to apply the

forms of therapy mentioned, for rapid rehydration of infants

with gastroenteritis.

Studies by Best et al. , ^ and by Welch and Stuart,^ have

found that although treatment is successful in reducing

intestinal parasites in children, reinfection occurs within a

few months. The Committee notes that, again, many of these

infections, as well as being associated with inadequate diet, * 1 1

80. J.C. Best et al., 'Treatment of Intestinal Parasites in Australian Aboriginal Children', in The Medical Journal of Australia, 3 January 1976, p. 14. 81. J.S. Welch et al., 'A Longitudinal Study of Parasite

Infections in 120 Queensland Aboriginal Infants', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 11 January 1975, p. 14.

115

are caused directly by the substandard conditions of Aboriginal

health and hygiene in a purely physical sense. We therefore

RECOMMEND that preventive measures be taken by improving these

substandard conditions. Particular importance should be

attached to the provision of facilities for clean water supply

and proper sewage disposal.

Hookworm

In our second progress report we directed attention to 8 2 the problem of hookworm. We repeat that this is another

common problem of Aboriginal health which is largely derived

from a combination of climatic conditions and unsatisfactory

levels of community hygiene and sanitation. Hookworm, we

noted, is still endemic in parts of the far north of Western

Australia, and probably throughout northern Australia, and

contributes to the general levels of morbidity and in

particular to iron deficiency, and to iron deficiency anaemia

often of severe degree. Severe anaemia may be one cause of

so-called 1 apathy* and failure to achieve to expected levels.

We RECOMMEND:

That an immediate survey be made throughout northern

Australia to determine the incidence of this disease.

That, in the making of the survey, hookworm be

particularly excluded as the cause in all cases in which

82. Second Progress Report, p. 25.

116

anaemia is demonstrated in Aborigines.

That appropriate remedial and preventive measures

be then planned and implemented.

Alcohol

Alarm at the incidence of alcoholism in Aboriginal

society was expressed by Aborigines and others in evidence

presented to the Committee. Alcoholism among Aboriginal

communities constitutes one of the gravest threats to Aboriginal

health. We were particularly impressed by the fact that

Aborigines themselves were anxious to bring this matter to our

notice, through the submissions of groups such as the Aboriginal

Advancement Council of Western Australia, and the Sydney

Aboriginal Medical Service, and also through the informal

discussions which the Committee had with Aboriginal people

throughout Australia.

Almost all parliamentary reports, both Federal and State,

which have dealt with Aboriginal health or environmental and

social conditions have directed some attention to this problem,

and the Committee notes, again, that the House of Representatives

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs is undertaking a more

detailed study of this specific matter.

The control of alcohol use is central to the whole

question of alcoholism among Aborigines, and we note several

matters in this regard.

117

The Oenpelli Council was very firm in its insistence that

it opposed the continuation of the liquor licence at the

Border Store. The Council stated:

If the licence of the Border Store is revoked it will not stop drunkenness but it will considerably reduce the problem, by taking it out of walking distance.

The Council was also opposed to the granting of further

licences, other than special club licences, in the Arnhem Land 8 3 Reserve. To the best of our knowledge this plea has been

ignored.

The Queensland Parliamentary Commissioner for

Administrative Investigations, in a report on the proposed

mining venture at Aurukun, stated:

The Mission is presently free of liquor and the attendant miseries usually associated with drink. The responsible Aurukuns want to keep it this way. 84-

Professor Hetzel drew our attention to programs for

control of this problem which were successful 'as a result of

the Aboriginal community making the decisions' about 8 5 availability of alcohol. The Committee has personal

experience of a number of Aboriginal communities which have

either excluded alcohol or effectively controlled its use.

83. Letter to the Honourable W.C. Wentworth, M.P. 84. Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations, Report Upon the Facts Surrounding the Attitudes of the Aurukun People to the Proposed Mining Venture, tabled in

the Queensland Parliament on 6 April 1976, p. 9. 85. Evidence, p. 2433.

1 1 8

We have noted these points because we wish to dispel one

of the most widely held prejudices about the alcohol problem

among Aborigines, namely, that they make no effort, or have no

desire, to control the problem themselves. This is simply not

so, and the efforts of Aboriginal groups and communities to

combat this scourge should receive greater recognition and

support. The problem is made more intractable by the civil

rights argument that all pbrsons, including Aborigines, should

have access to alcohol, and that laws which restrict its

availability to Aborigines are, by definition, discriminatory

and ought, ipso facto, to be done away with. However, this

argument fails to take account of the wishes of an Aboriginal

community which may want to exercise a local option about

whether it should have an outlet nearby for sale of liquor,

as do some non-Aboriginal communities in various parts of

Australia. The Committee RECOMMENDS that local Aboriginal

groups be given this option and receive governmental support

in their efforts to suppress illegal trafficking in liquor

within their communities.

Another commonly held view is that there is in the genetic

structure of Aborigines something which makes them more

vulnerable to problems with the handling of alcohol. No

evidence for this view exists, and, indeed, Kamien has written

that 1 there has never been any proof that Aborigines are

genetically vulnerable to alcohol'.^ However, there is

86. M. Kamien, 'Aborigines and Alcohol: Intake, Effects and Social Implications in a Rural Community in Western New South Wales', in The Medical Journal of Australia, 8 March 1975, p. 291.

119

evidence that in all people there are certain enzymes which

deal with alcohol and which are adaptive, i.e. they increase,

depending on the load. Because many Aborigines have had

little experience with alcohol their enzyme levels may be low,

and consequently they may be more susceptible to the effects

of liquor.

It is generally accepted that group psychological pressures

are the real cause of alcoholism among Aborigines. Again, the 87 studies of Kamien on this point are very strong. Margaret

Franklin, Secretary of the Armidale Association for Aborigines,

puts the position thus:

A high incidence of addiction to alcohol noted in the literature from the early contacts, can be easily enough accounted for as escape from the tragedy of a disintegrating society and world view; a form of defiance of authority, and as a means of discharging those tensions and resentments which ... normally had to be hidden under the mask of apathy ...88

The impact of non-Aboriginal social attitudes towards

alcohol and its effects on Aboriginal communities has been

described by John Newfong:

Everyone knows how important drinking is to white men in Australia and, especially in the outback, it is often the main criterion for social acceptance ... These standards have necessarily defected Aboriginal attitudes. Like most minorities confronted with the different

standards of a major society, Aborigines have been

87. The Medical Journal of Australia, 8 March 1975, p. 291. 88. M. Franklin, 'Aborigines and the Crime of Drunkenness', in The Australian Humanist, September 1972, p. 7.

1 2 0

psychologically disadvantaged and therefore highly susceptible.

It is preposterous to assume that our initial resistance to alcoholism could be any greater than our initial resistance to other white man's diseases ...89

Reliable evidence on the incidence of Aboriginal alcoholism is

scarce and often highly subjective in nature.

We drew attention to the problem of alcohol in our second 90 . . .

progress report. The Western Australian Royal Commission

into Aboriginal Affairs estimated the rate of alcoholism among

Aborigines as being about four times that in the non-Aboriginal

community. Margaret Franklin has clearly pointed out that

Western Australia is almost unique in the comprehensiveness of

its statistical records on this point compared with other „ 91

States.

Our real concerns about alcoholism relate to not only its

social but also its health implications. Aborigines who

spend most of their money on alcohol have less to spend on

food, and, more to the point, less to spend on food for their

families and dependants. Dr Laing, in his evidence about the

consumption of both alcohol and methylated spirits, directed

attention to the number of young drinkers and their resultant

89. J. Newfong, 'The Other Side of the Story', reprinted in Identity, July 1973, p. 10. 90. Second Progress Report, p. 67. 91. The Australian Humanist, September 1972, p. 4.

1 2 1

problems of vitamin deficiency as a consequence of their not

eating. He also offered some hopeful thoughts about a project

in Sydney in which he and Mrs Kaye Bellear were involved. Its

purpose was to provide vitamin injections for those who 92

otherwise were virtually unable to eat. Mrs Bellear herself,

as a representative of the R e d f e m Aboriginal Housing Committee,

offered further insights into the social nature of this problem,

when she noted that, whereas in non-Aborigines alcoholism tends

to be a selfish/individual problem, in the Aboriginal community

it is a shared/communal phenomenon. She said, in summary:

In the community in which I am involved I see the complete sharing of alcohol. I know that alcohol is a common bond to them, and they do share it. I do not see this with white alcoholics. If a pension cheque comes into the community, everyone benefits - if you could call alcohol a benefit - from that pension cheque.^

Most of our witnesses expressed confidence that Aboriginal

communities, given the necessary authority, could cope with

this problem. Professor Hetzel supported this view by

describing the approach adopted at Hermannsburg:

The mission originally had a paternal role but it relinquished this role and it assisted the community itself to come to decisions about the restriction and the availability of alcohol in that community.94

92. Evidence, p. 758. 93. Evidence, p. 776. 94. Evidence, p. 2433.

1 2 2

The Aboriginal Advancement Council of Western Australia made

the following comments on the needs of Aborigines:

... they need specialised help in the initial stages so that they can understand the system to find how and where they can fit. It would help if the system were made flexible to allow the aborigines to fit and not compel

them to change entirely to suit the system. It is therefore essential for government policy to give aboriginal communities real responsibility and authority. This will stimulate them to put forward effective leaders and to build social structures through which they can again arrive at decisions that reflect community consensus.

Dr Kalokerinos put to us an essentially different point of

view in which he expressed his pessimism about future solutions

to this problem, and called for greater study of the genetic

problems of Aborigines coping with alcohol, due to a different 96

enzyme level in the Aboriginal population. We have already

noted that Dr Kalokerinos* views on genetic inability to

handle alcohol adequately have been challenged by Kamien,

whose material also suggests that Aboriginal drinkers have a 97

greater chance of becoming reformed than white drinkers.

We are not in a position to judge the efficacy of any

program of intervention related to alcoholism, including

alcoholism in Aboriginal communities. We have no data to

indicate the success of communities such as that at Kuitpo

near Adelaide which has been operating as a centre for male

95. Evidence, p. 1328. 96. Evidence, p. 1716. 97. The Medical Journal of Australia, 8 March 1975, p. 291.

123

alcoholics for about 10 years. Recently the Kuitpo colony

was given a government grant to conduct a program for alcoholic

Aborigines. Evaluation of such programs is urgently needed.

The Committee is also concerned at the prospect of Federal

funding of some other programs which are related to alcoholism

in Aboriginal communities and which use unconventional

techniques - e.g. 'wet' treatments - without evaluation and

often with minimal professional advice.

In our second progress report, due to lack of data, we

expressed unwillingness to pass judgment on the extent of the

alcohol problem in the Aboriginal community. We were

especially reluctant to judge the problem vis-a-vis alcoholism

in the white community. This is still our position. However,

we believe that alcohol constitutes one of the most serious

health and social problems for Aboriginal communities.

Finally, on this point, we want to record our view that

there is much encouragement to be taken from the success which

Aboriginal groups have had in controlling the availability of

alcohol in their own communities. Many wish to control this

scourge and have coped well when given the necessary authority.

Community Health Education

Many of the health problems of Aborigines are susceptible

to vast improvement, given adequate programs of community and

personal health education. We have already noted, in our

discussion of nutrition, that such programs have been

124

instituted and are considered vital to plans for health

improvement. There remain three outstanding matters which

need attention - family planning, problems of hygiene, and

the general appreciation of preventive services.

Family Planning

Here again one is forced to recognise a great cultural

gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Matters

such as the status of women in the community, the proper

definition of women's responsibilities, attitudes to the size

and development of families, and the ages at which marriages

occur, are all matters which cannot be understood within the

conventional non-Aboriginal framework. The Department of

Health, for instance, in its 1975 submission, drew attention

to the resistance that Aboriginal communities had shown to

non-Aboriginal family planning programs in the past, having

regarded them as just another facet of white man's attempts

at genocide.^

Traditional attitudes are changing. J.K. Burden and

J.E. Stuart record the lowering of resistance to family

planning schemes, especially as the general level of health 99

education in Aboriginal communities improves. To a large

98. Submission dated November 1975, p. 36. 99. J.K. Burden, 'The Acceptability of Contraception Among Aboriginal Women in South Australia', in B.S. Hetzel et al. (edd.), Better Health for Aborigines, p. 204. Also

J.E. Stuart, 'Aboriginal Attitudes to Family Planning Methods', Better Health for Aborigines, p. 231.

125

extent the acceptance of family planning depends on the way

in which it is marketed to Aboriginal communities. Kamien

records that, in one community, birth rates were reduced from

71 per 1,000 in 1964-71 to 35 per 1,000 in 1972. The

reduction was found to be attributable largely to the non­

directive, low-cost, readily available and personalised

service provided. Kamien also identified the critical

psychological and sociological factors involved in promoting

acceptance of family planning by Aborigines.

Family planning presents immense sociological problems,

quite apart from issues related to determination of family

size. The Committee appreciates the great cultural problems

involved in this question, the beliefs to be overcome and the

importance of the task. Family planning is as important for

Aboriginal as it is for non-Aboriginal communities. The

assertion that family planning for Aborigines is a form of

genocide is wrong. But there should be no question of

compulsion to use family planning programs. They should be

the means by which each Aboriginal couple may voluntarily

plan their children. It has been shown that family size is

one determinant of poverty in Australia, and the larger the

100. M. Kamien, 'Family Planning in a Part-Aboriginal Community 1970 to 1973' , in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 22 February 1975, p. 21. 101. M. Kamien, 'The Social Psychology of Family Planning in

a Part-Aboriginal Rural Community 1970 to 1913', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 22 February 1975, p. 25.

126

r

family the greater the vulnerability. It is therefore

important that Aboriginal Australians understand the economic

as well as the social and sociological implications of family

planning and the advantages which might flow to them from

planned numbers of children.

The incidence of large families, combined with traditional

child-rearing practices, has led to depression of infant health

standards. Traditionally, Aboriginal mothers used to breast­

feed babies for several years. Where births are well spaced

this may assist Aboriginal children to maintain an adequate

intake of protein. Where births are in close sequence each

child will be breast-fed for a shorter time and may be more

susceptible to malnutrition and disease. Family planning is

an important factor in overcoming this problem, and, within

the cultural and traditional restraints already mentioned,

must be given high priority in any government medical program.

Each community must be involved in the planning and

implementation of its program, so that proper account of

community attitudes and wishes will be taken.

Hygiene and General Preventive Services

J.H. Downing has placed on record the work of the

Institute for Aboriginal Development in Alice Springs and has

noted the real improvements in standards of child health care

which have occurred among mothers who have been influenced by 102

the Instituted courses either directly or second hand.

102. J.H. Downing, 1 Health Education in Alice Spring^, in B.S. Hetzel et al. (edd.), Better Health for Aborigines, p. 191.

127

J. Jans, writing in the same work, has noted the need to expand

health education facilities to include all sections of 103 Aboriginal communities.

We noted in our second progress report that health

education had to take cognisance of Aboriginal attitudes

towards health. These frequently differ from non-Aboriginal

attitudes. Often the link between hygiene and health is not

understood; nor are things like the germ theory of disease.

It is in this regard that there is need for non-Aboriginal

medical experts to be prepared to make use of the skills and

reputations of traditional Aboriginal practitioners to convey

ideas about health education to Aboriginal people. The

Committee is pleased to note that the Commonwealth Department

of Health has started a program in Central Australia in which

the traditional Aboriginal practitioner is employed on the

health team.

Aboriginal health groups such as the Aboriginal Medical

Service in Redfem, and similar bodies in Fitzroy and Perth,

have demonstrated a remarkable degree of effectiveness in their

work for Aborigines in the urban environment. The Committee

RECOMMENDS that such services be expanded and given greater

government recognition and support.

However, the best services in the world are useless to

people who do not know of their existence. It is clear that

103. J. Jans, 'Health Education in Victoria', in Better Health for Aborigines, p. 201.

128

much greater effort will be required to ensure that all

Aborigines are made aware of the availability, accessibility

and relevance of health care for themselves and their families,

and that they are educated in the simple matters which will

contribute markedly to real improvements in their own standards

of health and well-being.

The evidence suggests that once Aboriginal people are

aware of the availability and relevance of services they do in 104 fact make use of them. This suggests to us that high

priority must be given to all attempts to increase awareness of

the existence and value of these helping services, be they

purely medical, family planning, or community advice.

Mental Health

Nowhere else in our study did we find an area in which so

obviously, differing value systems and cultural patterns came

to the fore as in the study of Aboriginal mental health.

Essentially the existing mental health problems have arisen

from the breakdown of traditional Aboriginal culture and

society under the impact of white 'civilisation*.

The Department of Health, in its 1972 submission,

presented this broad over-view:

That psychiatric illness is absent from a primitive community undisturbed by outside influences is not accepted as true. However, there is little doubt that

104. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns.

129

the disruption of a way of life and the added strains imposed by unfamiliar pressures increase the incidence of psychiatric conditions. Whilst a psychiatric illness is difficult to define nevertheless, accepting the term in a broad sense, there is a higher incidence in the Aboriginal population^ than in the non-Aboriginal Australian community.

106 107

The work of Dr Hoodie, Professor John Cawte and Dr

Ivor Jones et al. all focuses on the problems of cultural

assumptions made by non-Aborigines when studying mental health

in Aboriginal communities. Jones et al., writing about

intuitive knowledge of Aboriginal culture, state:

When dealing with Aborigines we lack this intuitive knowledge of their culture, and sometimes we make up for the lack by assuming that he has similar attitudes and values to our own; this is not so. While we can

practise general medicine and surgery competently with these people without knowledge of their culture, Aboriginal psychiatry depends to a great extent on this knowledge ... 108

This serves to underline several of the matters which we have

already identified: cultural problems associated with the

understanding of Aboriginal issues; the need for greater

education of non-Aboriginal health workers about Aboriginal

105. Evidence, p. 322. 106. P.M. Hoodie, Aboriginal Health, Chapter 11. 107. J. Cawte, 'Social Hedicine in Central Australia: the Opportunities of Pitjantjara . Aborigines', in The

Hedical Journal of Australia, 3 February 1973, p. 221. Also Evidence, p. 2518 ff. 108. I.H. Jones et al., 'Diagnosis of Psychiatric Illness Among Tribal Aborigines', in The Hedical Journal of

Australia, 19 February 1972, p. 345.

130

values: and the need for more Aborigines themselves working in

the field.

The Committee recognises the existence of a widespread

view that there is strong evidence linking mental illness or

levels of mental competence with nutritional factors.

Examination of the available evidence has revealed little

objective support for this view, and the matter remains

unresolved.

Social disintegration leading to mental illness, in a

vicious circle, is the central problem identified by Professor

Cawte, whose studies over several years have pioneered this

field. Depression resulting from problems which are

essentially socio-economic in origin, rather than personality-

disorder based, looms as the largest single category of

disorder in the Aboriginal community. Professor Cawte gave

the Committee evidence which suggested that mental illnesses

(especially those due to adaptational problems) were experienced

in Aboriginal communities before contact with whites, but that

these were essentially different from those presently

predominant. Equally, he alleged that problems differ between

'traditional* and 'transitory* Aboriginal populations (that is

those having less or greater contact with non-Aborigines).

Above all, Professor Cawte impressed on us the need for better

training of Aboriginal health workers in this area, especially

through the establishment of departments of mental health

within various Aboriginal health organisations.

131

24451/ 76—6

The Committee noted the positive steps taken in this

direction in Western Australia. Dr Ellis outlined, in his

evidence, details of the then proposed Aboriginal Mental

Health Education Service which was to institute a program

aimed at reducing emotional breakdown and mental illness

among Aborigines in Western Australia. Initially, the major

emphasis was to be on secondary prevention by training

Aborigines to help in identifying at-risk individuals;

providing and encouraging support to prevent breakdown; and

facilitating early referral for treatment when required.

Before beginning this program there was to be consultation with

Aboriginal leaders and informed non-Aborigines. Consultation

and feedback were to continue during the program, for the

purpose of gradually transferring responsibility to the

Aboriginal people, their respresentatives and organisations.

Every effort was to be made to devise training and techniques

which would support and extend existing or traditional

Aboriginal positive mental health activities and attitudes 109

rather than to project non-Aboriginal models artificially.

The Committee urges that all States closely examine the details

and future performance of this program which may serve as a

guide to the development of comprehensive programs in the

field of Aboriginal mental health.

The problem, as we have noted, is compounded by physical

factors such as overcrowded accommodation, and undue use of

alcohol, together with the perpetuation of a situation in

109. Evidence, p. 1295.

1 3 2

which Aboriginal people do not have the same degree of basic

control over their life and their communities as we insist on

for Australians generally. The destruction of the traditional

patterns of Aboriginal culture, community and social

organisation - the breakdown of familiar patterns of authority

and order - has proceeded so rapidly that it is little wonder

that grave problems arise for those being forced to cope with

new systems and new values, unprepared and virtually excluded

from participation in or control over the decisions which so

greatly affect them.

Training of Health Personnel

Throughout our investigation we have been disappointed to

see how little education, in non-medical terms, is provided for

those persons working in the field of Aboriginal health care.

Their failure to understand some of the fundamental features

of Aboriginal life and society impairs their overall effective­

ness as health workers, no matter how great their medical skills.

Perhaps even more than in the white community, the role of

the health worker must extend far beyond merely looking after

the physical well-being of Aborigines. This role, which must

not be paternalistic, is further described by R.M. Spargo.

He notes the necessity for the doctor to be part of a wider

medical team based centrally in the community:

The doctor is, therefore, only a part of a health team which must grow larger as other disciplines are added to it. By being community based the health team

133

presents a firm platform from which experts in euthenics can make contact with the Aboriginal community. By being permanent and community based, it is able to ensure that activities designed for social change are continuous and not fragmented by piecemeal implementation. The aim in

the short term is for a controlling and preparatory role in anticipation of an improved environment. In the long term the aim is to cut the intergenerational chain of poverty which is mimicking an hereditary impairment and

effectively preventing the progeny of the Aboriginal community from attaining their genetic potential.

Similarly the role of the nurse, recognised as vital by the

Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, is described by F.S. Soong

as involving two vital aspects in addition to the traditional 11

nursing role - information giving and community development.

The Committee has been advised of programs under which

the local community health nurse makes house calls to Aboriginal

families in order to provide vitamin supplements. At the same

time she is able to give advice on health matters. The Committee

has available to it no evidence to indicate that this service is

comprehensive, or accessible to Aboriginal communities

generally. With the emergence of new health worker models,

the opportunities for encouraging people to assume greater

roles in looking after their own health and the health of their

own communities, including opportunities to play a significant

role in community development, will increase. * 1 1 1

110. R.M. Spargo, 'Aboriginal Communities in Remote Australia: Health Care Delivery - A Doctor's Role', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 11 January 1975, p. 3. 111. F.S. Soong, 'Health Education as a Means of Improving

Aboriginal Health: A Study of the Nurse's Role', in The Medical Journal of Australia special supplement, 11 January 1975, p. 4.

134

Dr Hirsham also drew attention to the much neglected

field of training of Aboriginal people as paramedical 112 personnel. In this regard it was encouraging to read,in

a submission by the Department of Health, details of the

development and expansion of such programs. The Department

has been conducting training programs for Aboriginal health

workers at Darwin Hospital for 13 years. Recently, plans

have been made to restructure the program to provide for 1 on

site* education rather than send the students to a central

training facility in Darwin. The students will be trained in

their communities with the help of resident departmental staff, 113

local community staff and visiting resource personnel.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs gives details of 114

the expanded training of community advisers. Over the

past 30 years tertiary institutions have provided an increasing

number of courses and seminars for community advisers. One

of the most important is a two-year course at the South

Australian Institute of Technology which is designed to enable

Aborigines who lack tertiary entrance requirements to gain

knowledge and skills to work in community development among

their own people. It developed out of discussions between

Aborigines, the Department for Community Welfare in South

Australia and the Institute of Technology, and it is funded by

the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

112. Report on Aspects of Aboriginal Health Services in the Northern Territory. 113. Submission dated November 1975, section 3, p. 2. 114. Annual Report 1974-75, p. 21.

135

Few attempts have been made to integrate the usual health

services provided by non-Aboriginal practitioners with those

which still constitute a vital part of tribal 'traditional*

health practices. We repeat our previous observation that

there is need for cross-cultural training in which the skills

of the tribal practitioner are utilised.

There is a need to recognise that although Aboriginal

communities have certain problems and characteristics which

differ markedly from those found in white communities, there

can be no cavil at the principle that all Australians are

entitled to equal standards of basic health care. In order to

bring this about, great improvements must be made in the

services available to Aborigines, and this development must be

based on a greater understanding of the problem by all concerned.

General Conclusions

The Western Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal

Affairs noted:

Health is not a matter of health services alone, but is intimately intertwined with cultural factors, housing, education, job opportunities and social factors.

Throughout our report we have agreed with this conclusion and

have sought to stress that health problems cannot be viewed in

medical terms alone; nor can they be viewed in isolation from

115. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Affairs, Western Australia, Report (July 1974), p. 127.

136

the role of Aborigines in m o d e m Australian society.

We are of the opinion that improvements in the physical

environment of Aborigines and, above all, in their housing

standards, will contribute directly and dramatically to

improvements in the general level of Aboriginal health.

Better housing and better nutrition are the key elements in

any program to improve Aboriginal health standards. Naturally,

expanded health education and the provision of more, and better

trained, health workers are also important goals.

The direct participation of Aborigines in programs designed

to better the condition of their own people is another goal

which must be given highest priority.

Nevertheless the Committee cannot escape the conclusion

that the depressed state of Aboriginal health in Australia is

due largely to inadequacies in the physical environment of the

people concerned. Aborigines are not genetically more

predisposed to illness, to mental breakdown or to alcoholism

than are other Australians. They suffer, however, as all

minority races (e.g. Red Indians in North America) have

suffered, from neglect and deprivation due to the attitudes of

the dominant society. Changes in the attitudes and priorities

of non-Aboriginal society are necessary if Aborigines are to

improve their health standards without unnecessary impediment.

137

In drawing these conclusions from the great weight of

evidence available to the Committee, we seek to apportion no

blame . The past is one thing: our concern is the future.

138

C H A P T E R 7 EDUCATION

The problems of Aboriginal education have been widely

discussed in recent years, and it is not our function to canvass

them at length here. Briefly, we would agree with the

proposition that 'to date, the school system has failed 1

Aborigines very badly by its inappropriateness and inadequacy1.

For those interested in exploring further the literature on

the subject, we note that the Australian Institute of

Aboriginal Studies maintains a comprehensive bibliography on

Aborigines and education. We also draw the attention of the

reader to the remarks and recommendations on education made

in our second progress report. In this final report, however,

we wish to concentrate our recommendations on the prime

concern, namely, ensuring that the education system serves the

needs of the Aboriginal people. An important factor in this

will be ensuring that Aboriginal and Islander voices have a say

at the highest levels of decision making.

In formulating our recommendations on education, we have

taken special cognisance of the recommendations in this area

made by the Schools Commission in its report for the triennium

1976-1978, and also by the Aboriginal Consultative Group of the

Schools Commission in its June 1975 report. Needless to say,

we also acknowledge the very great assistance we have received

from our own witnesses in reaching our conclusions.

It has become obvious during our inquiry that the consensus

among Aborigines is to have as much involvement as possible

1. Evidence, p. 1825.

139

in the education of their own people. Many

Aborigines recognise the great differences in circumstances,

degree of acculturation, and educational aims among their

local communities throughout Australia, but withal they insist

on the distinctiveness of their general Aboriginal heritage

and on the commonality of a broad set of cultural values and

aspirations which distinguishes them from the non-Aboriginal

section of the Australian population. For them, education

must be concerned with maintaining and cultivating Aboriginality,

as well as transmitting the knowledge and skills of twentieth

century civilisation.

Aboriginal Involvement in Decision Making

The greatest immediate need is for Aborigines of appropriate

ability to attain placement at the highest policy-making levels

in administration. The tendency hitherto has been for Federal

and State departments to use Aboriginal personnel simply in a

subordinate capacity, whereas we are persuaded that Aboriginal

insight and empathy must be involved if the best decisions are

to be made. Decision-making groups comprising both Aborigines

and non-Aborigines, with Aborigines in the majority, would

appear to be the best way to achieve this objective.

Unfortunately, the number of Aborigines with expertise

in educational administration is at present very small. While

it is obvious that it would be counter-productive to place

people in positions of responsibility for which they had

insufficient skills, we consider that the possession of formal

140

qualifications should not be the sole criterion considered

when making appointments to such positions. We realise that

the Schools Commission has been looking seriously at ways of 2 overcoming this problem , and we support the recently announced

intention of the Minister for Education to establish a

National Committee on Aboriginal Education within his Department.

This Committee, with all-Aboriginal membership, will have

responsibility for policy advice, liaison and research. The

Committee should also be the prime source for the Commonwealth

Department of Education's advice to State education departments

and other educational agencies.

Specifically, as announced by the Minister, the functions

and responsibilities of the National Committee on Aboriginal

Education will be:

(1) To be responsible for providing the Minister and the Department of Education with a reliable expression of informed Aboriginal views on: . the educational needs of Aboriginal people;

. appropriate methods of meeting these needs; . the suitability of particular Aboriginal education proposals, as required; . the effectiveness of particular Aboriginal education

projects and programs, as required.

(2) To consult with various elements of the Education portfolio, other Australian Government agencies, and education authorities in the States and Territories, as necessary.

(3) To assist the Department of Education and other agencies in monitoring existing programs and in developing new programs and policies. 2

2. Schools Commission, Report for the Triennium 1976 to 1978, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975), Chapter 9, 'Education for Aborigines', p. 131ff.

1 4 1

(4) To undertake or promote investigations, studies, and projects relevant to these responsibilities.3

We also RECOMMEND that the Commonwealth Government appoint

an Aboriginal as a commissioner to serve on the Schools

Commission, with special responsibility for working in the

interests of Aborigines.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has hitherto been

responsible for planning and administration of direct Common­

wealth Government expenditure on Aboriginal education, through

grants to States and grants to voluntary organisations. We

feel that the establishment of the National Committee on

Aboriginal Education will give the Department of Education

the necessary Aboriginal expertise to be able to administer

such expenditure satisfactorily. We therefore RECOMMEND that,

after due consultation following the establishment of the new

committee, Commonwealth project funding in this area be

transferred to the Department of Education.

Although this Department has a crucial part to play in

co-ordinating policy on a national scale and in acting as the

central advisory body on curriculum development, actual

operational responsibility for Aboriginal education lies with

the States, except in Commonwealth territories. Here, too, there

is at present a dearth of Aboriginal policy makers. To remedy 3

3. Schools Commission, Aboriginal Consultative Group, Proposal for the Establishment of a National Committee on Aboriginal Education (1976), p. 7.

1 4 2

this situation, our Committee RECOMMENDS:

|

That Commonwealth and State Governments take steps to facilitate Aboriginal representation on all State and Commonwealth bodies responsible for the education of Aborigines.

That, if no suitably qualified Aborigines are available, provision for training be made immediately, as was done in Papua New Guinea.

That suitably qualified Aborigines be appointed to assist, in a professional capacity, the directors of education in the States and Territories.

As there are at present too few Aborigines personally

qualified to fill senior administrative positions, we RECOMMEND

that funds be set aside to provide training for this purpose.

We hope that it will be possible to have Aboriginal personnel

working at superintendent level within three years. Naturally,

a concerted effort will have to be made, and it may that the

most efficient way to achieve the objective would be to

institute courses in administrative science designed

specifically for Aboriginal trainees. The Commission on

Advanced Education would seem to be the most appropriate body

to decide on this question, and we RECOMMEND that the

Commission investigate the feasibility of designing suitable

courses for training Aborigines.

Involvement of Parents

The involvement of parents in the formal educational

process, always important, is especially so with Aboriginal

143

families. Even among communities furthest removed from

traditional culture, kinship ties remain extraordinarily strong

compared with Anglo-Saxon society.

The Committee has been particularly impressed by the

operation of the Bernard Van Leer programs, which stress the

importance of parental involvement in education. The Aboriginal

Family Education Centres in New South Wales appear to have had

some notable successes, principally in stimulating pride in

Aboriginality.^ The AFEC final report (1974) states that, as

a result of the projects, many more people are acknowledging

their Aboriginal heritage.^ The Committee was also impressed

by the contribution which Maori field officers were able to

make to the project.

We are convinced of the worth of the Van Leer projects and

RECOMMEND that government bodies lend due support to them

where necessary.

We have also noticed, with some regret, that it is not

common for Aboriginal parents to seek election

to school councils, or to participate much in parent-teacher

activities. Of course, this is often an effect of the parents'

own lack of formal education and the failure of others in the

community to welcome such participation. However the cycle

must be broken at some point, and we RECOMMEND that school 4 5

4. Alexander Grey, Aboriginal Family Education Centres (AFEC): a final report to the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, 1969-1973, (University of Sydney Press, Sydney, 1974). 5. Aboriginal Family Education Centres, p. 370.

principals and parent-teacher organisations take all possible

steps to invite and encourage Aboriginal parents in their

communities to take part in school functions and activities.

We also urge Aboriginal organisations to inform parents of the

advantages of participation.

As our witnesses have often had occasion to point out, and

as we have observed ourselves in the course of field inspections,

housing conditions are often such as to make it practically

impossible for children to do satisfactory home study. In some

communities, there would seem to be a good case for setting

up learning centres, and we RECOMMEND that the proposed

National Committee on Aboriginal Education be given the task

of initiating and co-ordinating such projects.

Aboriginal Teachers and Aides

As our chapter on population makes clear, the Aboriginal

population is distributed widely over Australia, which means

that many of the communities are quite remote from the cities.

In remote communities, teacher turnover is always very high.

However, it is fair to assume that Aboriginal teachers, by and

large, would be content to stay a little longer. The success

of bilingual education also, which is discussed later in this

chapter, is ultimately dependent on a continuous supply of fully

trained Aboriginal teachers. It is also highly desirable that

Aborigines be represented throughout the teaching profession

at large, both for their own benefit and so that Australian

children generally may benefit from the cultural insights of

Aboriginal teachers.

145

The shortage of Aboriginal teachers reflects the fact that

Aborigines in general have hitherto lacked good schooling.

When sufficient numbers begin to complete their schooling at

matriculation level a certain percentage will presumably enter

teachers' colleges. We have heard the proposal that the usual

entry requirements for teachers' colleges be relaxed, but we

give weight to the contrary view that it is no use admitting

entrants who for one reason or another do not have the

necessary habits of study, and who have not attained the levels

of literacy and numeracy regarded as acceptable for a teacher

education student. In the light of these considerations, we

RECOMMEND that the National Committee on Aboriginal Education

and the Commission on Advanced Education examine the feasibility

of instituting special matriculation courses for mature age

Aborigines who wish to become teacher education students. In

addition, we RECOMMEND that adequate supportive services and

career counselling be given to those Aboriginal senior secondary

students who show an inclination toward the teaching profession.

On the other hand, evidence presented to the Committee

indicated a continuing role for Aboriginal teacher aides.

They should be seen not as inferior substitutes for teachers,

but as para-professionals performing an invaluable task in the

classroom in mediating Aboriginal and Western culture between

teachers and children. They should also serve as representatives

of the local community within the school. A certain number of

aides will see their commitment as essentially a short-term

one, but others will see it as the beginning of a career.

146

V

For these latter we RECOMMEND:

That, in the first instance the Schools Commission,

and secondly State and Northern Territory education

administrators, take appropriate measures not only to

assist Aboriginal teacher aides to improve their

qualifications as aides, but also to assist those who

so desire to become fully qualified teachers.

That qualified and experienced teacher aides be

given appropriate academic credit for experience should

they undertake formal teacher training.

Liaison Officers

Especially in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania,

the Aboriginal population is often dispersed in small numbers

among the community at large. Many schools have only a

few Aboriginal students. These children face the problems

common to all Aboriginal students. Even in areas where

Aboriginal families form a significant community, there is

need for someone to inform them of scholarship and other

schemes designed for their benefit, to offer counselling on

individual problems, and to facilitate communication with

other Aboriginal families. We therefore RECOMMEND that

State education departments establish, with guidance and

funds from the Schools Commission if necessary, a program

employing trained Aboriginal liaison officers to advise and

assist all Aboriginal students enrolled at primary and

secondary schools. In Queensland, we stress, such liaison

officers should be employed by the Department of Education, not

1 4 7

the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement.

Torres Strait Islands

Torres Strait Island schools are still administered by

the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders

Advancement. We consider that it would be far more appropriate

for these schools to be conducted by the State Department of

Education, and we welcome recent developments indicating

that the administration of Torres Strait Island Schools will

be transferred to the Queensland Department of Education by

1978. We expect that this transfer of responsibility will

ensure that schools in the island system are staffed by fully

qualified teachers and teacher aides. We RECOMMEND that the

Queensland Department of Education seek, and act on, the

advice of the Inspector of Schools (Indigenous) concerning the

possibility of training and employing teacher aides in Torres

Strait Island schools.

The Committee also considers it most unsatisfactory that

Islander teachers have been paid at only 25% of the normal

Queensland Department of Education rate of salary for teachers

in such schools. Islander teachers until very recently had

little opportunity of obtaining normal professional

qualifications, a state of affairs we consider deplorable.

We note, however, that from the beginning of 1976 Torres Strait

Islander teachers have been able to undertake normal

professional training at Kedron Park Teachers College, and

welcome this development.

The Committee also noted during its visit to the Torres

Strait Islands that, although some island children were able

to attend a high school at Bamaga on Cape York, and another

on Thursday Island, there are no State educational facilities

at secondary level in Torres Strait. Nor are there adequate

facilities for technical and further education. We see no

reason why Islander children should be, in effect, deprived

of secondary education, and RECOMMEND to the Queensland

authorities that a high school, immediately at

junior level and as soon as possible at senior level, with

boarding facilities be established on one of the central Islands.

Likewise, we RECOMMEND that an investigation be undertaken

to ascertain the best means of providing Islanders with access

to technical and further education.

Pre-school Education

This Committee, with its limited resources, was not able

to survey and evaluate all the existing pre-school education

programs for Aborigines. However, the importance of pre-school

education is accepted, and we RECOMMEND:

That the Commonwealth Government set goals in the

field of pre-school education, and target dates for their

achievement.

That the desirability and feasibility of conducting

pre-school in the vernacular (whether it be an Aboriginal

language or non-standard English) be determined by the

proposed National Committee on Aboriginal Education.

149

Under-Achievement

Although the generalisation which declares that the

majority of Aboriginal students do not excel in the present

system of education is fair enough, we feel that we must

emphasise that there are, on the other hand, a large number

of Aboriginal children who do pass successfully through the

system. The Committee recalls with pleasure the meetings

we have had with many Aborigines who have achieved eminence

in their chosen careers.

Many people mistakenly relate under-achievement at school

to lack of intelligence. Under-achievement is due in the

first instance to poverty and cultural deprivation. As long

as there are large numbers of families living in camps and

makeshift accommodation, as long as families are trying to live

in housing without adequate sanitary or ablution facilities,

and as long as they are living in overcrowded homes - for so

long will there be large numbers of children unable to cope

with the demands of the school curriculum. Elsewhere in this

report we have indicated the grave health problems arising from

lack of housing and low income, and we reiterate here that it

is virtually impossible for a chronically sick child to do well

at school.

Australian educationists must also realise that in dealing

with Aborigines they are dealing with an ethnic group whose

mother tongue is not standard English. The persistence, even

in-New South Wales after 200 years of colonisation, of languages

such as Wiradjuri and Bandjalong, has surprised and impressed

1 5 0

members of the Committee. Aboriginal communities have tended

to keep pretty much to themselves, and as a result have in

many cases never mastered the subtleties of formal English.

School teachers, on the other hand, tend to use a more formal

English and, as well, success in school depends very much

on reading.

Aboriginal children also seem to find particular difficulty

with mathematics. There are several reasons for this:

Aboriginal thought does not give prime importance

to empirically verifiable cause and effect. In the

Aboriginal world, causation is explained more by intuitive

than by deductive logic.

In traditional society, phenomena were explained by

reference to custom or dogma: a spirit of analytical

inquiry did not develop.

Aboriginal languages measure time not by quantified

units, but by using different tenses. Neither do they

quantify length, distance, weight, area or volume with

mathematical precision. In fact, Aboriginal languages,

developed for use in a hunting/gathering society, never

developed a vocabulary and syntax to express numeration

and quantification, such as were developed by the

languages of technological societies.6 6

6. A.G. Bishop, 'Aboriginal Students and Mathematics: Aims of the Study of Mathematics', The Aboriginal Child at School, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Dec. 1973), pp. 12-20.

The implications of the above factors should be obvious.

As one statement of the problem put it:

The present study shows that, in today's situation, a large proportion of Aboriginal children do not reach the concrete operational stage. This implies that they will not be able to handle efficiently the major part

of the primary school curriculum. Furthermore, it means that these children will not be able to reach the stage of formal operations, which is thought to be indispensable for secondary education.7

As currently presented, English, reading and mathematics,

the three bases of our formal education system, seem to offer

exceptional difficulties for cognitive mastery by Aboriginal

children.

There is an urgent need to discover the reasons for these

difficulties, and to devise teaching methods to overcome them,

and we RECOMMEND that the Schools Commission be provided with

funds to initiate and co-ordinate action-research projects in

the States and Northern Territory designed to this end.

Bilingual Education

The Committee has observed with keen interest the progress

made during the last few years toward establishing bilingual

7. P.R. Dasen, 1 Cognitive Development in Aborigines of Central Australia - Concrete Operations and Perceptual Activities' (Ph.D. Thesis, Australian National University, 1970), p. 320.

152

education programs in the Northern Teritory, South Australia,

Queensland and Western Australia.

The following definition of bilingual education has been

adopted:

Bilingual education is the use of two languages, one of which is English, as mediums of instruction for the same pupil population in a well-organised program which encompasses part or all of the curriculum and includes

the study of the history and culture associated with the mother tongue. A complete program develops and maintains the children's self-esteem and a legitimate pride in both cultures.8

The bilingual programs place emphasis on both teaching in the two languages and teaching of aspects of two cultures; so perhaps a more exact designation might be 'bilingual/bicultural programs'.9

In an area where so much is still experimental it is at

present impossible to draw final conclusions. However, one

indication of the promise of the bilingual program is the

favourable response it has usually elicited among the people

of the communities where it has been implemented.

Continuation of the program would seem to be heavily

8. United States of America, Bilingual Education Act (Title VII ESEA). 9. Commonwealth Department of Education, Progress Report on the Bilingual Education Program in Schools in the Northern

Territory (Darwin, 1973), p. 2.

153

reliant on teachers and aides recruited locally. The ideal

situation would be one where fully qualified local Aboriginal

teachers conduct the schools concerned, and we urge education

authorities to work toward this goal. Every encouragement

should be given to Aboriginal teachers who wish to specialise

in bilingual education. We draw attention to the fact that

the numbers of trained teacher aides have been rapidly

increasing - there are now 600 throughout Australia - and we

repeat our RECOMMENDATION that they be given every opportunity

of improving their professional qualifications.

The Committee RECOMMENDS:

That classes in the vernacular be conducted by

Aborigines whenever possible.

That bilingual education be introduced only after

full discussion with members of the local community and

after they have given their approval.

That, where possible, in communities of mixed tribal

composition, the wishes of minority groups speaking

particular languages of their own be taken into account.

That sufficient funds be made available to employ

the linguists and to print the texts required by the

programs.

The establishment in 1974 of the School of Australian

Linguistics as part of the Darwin Community College was an

important step forward. The purpose of the School is to train

Aboriginal linguists who will have the tasks of preparing

standard grammars and orthographies, and of designing teaching

154

materials. This objective has our wholehearted support and

we look forward to an expansion of the number of languages

studied. We RECOMMEND that the Department of Education

and the Northern Territory Administration continue to provide

such assistance and funds as may be necessary for the School

to carry on and, where necessary, expand its functions.

The invaluable work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics

(Australia) is also acknowledged by the Committee, as it is

by all who have any knowledge of the bilingual programs, and

we RECOMMEND that all possible co-operation be extended to it

by Federal and State authorities.

We also wish to direct attention to the recommendations

concerning bilingual education made by Dr Geoff O'Grady and

Dr Ken Hale in 1974. In particular, we support the following:

That bilingual education programs be established

as quickly as possible in communities which request them.

That the Aboriginal base of the bilingual education

staff be constantly broadened.

That special provision be adopted for the recruitment

of non-Aboriginal staff in bilingual education programs.

That newly recruited non-Aboriginal staff be given

time each day for language and culture study.

That adult education facilities at the site of each

bilingual program be strengthened and that language-related

study constitute a regular component within it.

That efforts be continued to develop curricula

relevant to the needs of each Aboriginal community with

155

emphasis on the use of the Aboriginal language in

teaching aspects of these curricula.

That efforts be begun as soon as possible to broaden

the scope of educational materials in Aboriginal languages.

That the principles of language engineering be made

known on a community-wide basis so that the conceptual

apparatus of the vernacular can be brought as quickly

as possible into alignment with the m o d e m world.

That a growing library of tape recordings be

established in association with each bilingual education

program for the purposes of documenting the oral

literature and specialised knowledge of the community.

That,in multilingual communities, community feeling

and the degree of similarity among the various languages

be primary factors in determining the precise form of a

bilingual program.

That in implementing bilingual education in

communities where the linguistic usage of adults and

children is markedly different, studies be undertaken

to determine which variety of language the children feel

most comfortable with, and that they be taught in this

medium in their initial school experience.

That the introduction of literacy in English be

adjusted according to the proficiency of children in

vernacular literacy and oral English.

That each new bilingual education program seek to

provide training in vernacular literacy for all school

156

children enrolled at the inception of the program. 10

Aboriginal Studies in Teacher Education

The Armidale College of Advanced Education, New South Wales

the Canberra College of Advanced Education; Townsville Teachers

College, Queensland; the Mount Lawley College of Advanced

Education, Western Australia; and Graylands Teachers College,

South Australia, have already instituted full courses in

Aboriginal studies. This is a development which the Committee

welcomes. It is an unfortunate fact that the great majority

of teachers share the misconceptions and ignorance about

Aboriginal society characteristic of the Australian people

at large. ^ This is most undesirable among teachers, and we

RECOMMEND that Aboriginal studies courses, embracing

contemporary and traditional culture and, if possible, language,

be instituted in all Australian colleges of teacher education.

We emphasise that these courses should be conducted by

adequately trained people familiar with Aboriginal culture.

The co-operation of Aboriginal communities should be sought, but * 1 1

10. Geoff O'Grady and Ken Hale, Recommendations concerning Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory, Parliamentary Paper No. 329 of 1974 (Canberra, 1975), pp. 2-3. 11. B. Chambers 1 Attitude-Changes in Teachers' College Students

toward Aborigines: the Effect of an Aboriginal Studies Course on the Attitudes of Third Year College Students Towards Aborigines'(B. Ed. Thesis, University of New England, 1971). Available from the Australian

Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.

157

naturally due regard must be paid to their right to privacy,

and also to the limitations imposed on the disclosure of

secret/sacred practices.

Aboriginal Studies in Australian Schools

So many of the changes advocated in this report depend

for their successful implementation on changes in attitudes

among Australians generally, that we believe it essential that

Australian children be taught to know and appreciate what is

meant by 'Aboriginality'. This Committee RECOMMENDS that the

Curriculum Development Centre continue the work it has begun

on investigating the best means of introducing Aboriginal

studies into the schools, and we urge the Centre to work in

close collaboration with the proposed National Committee on

Aboriginal Education.

We have learned with dismay during our inquiry that the

majority of social studies and history textbooks used in our

schools present a completely erroneous and derogatory picture

of traditional Aboriginal society, and a mendacious and

propagandistic version of European settlement in this country.12

The use of such materials is in violation of Article 4 of the

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of

Racial Discrimination, to which Australia is a party, and this

12. Evidence, pp. 1086 ff., 1851, 2145. See also Bryan Havenhand, 1 Racism in School Materials 1,in Aboriginal News, Vol. 1, No. 9 (Oct. 1974), p. 12 ff.

158

Committee RECOMMENDS that Federal and State authorities

immediately take steps to ensure their substitution by accurate

textbooks.

Educationists must also acknowledge the fact that much

of traditional English popular literature has a racial bias

which is offensive to indigenous peoples.^ We have no

desire to instigate a 1burning of the books' in this area,

but' we urge teachers to bear the facts in mind when

discussing and using such literature.

Tasmanian Aborigines take particular exception to the

constantly reiterated assertion that they are 'extinct'. In

fact, there may be up to 5,000 persons of Aboriginal descent

in Tasmania, ^ and many Aborigines there have maintained

their separate identity despite the terrible oppressions of the

early European settlers. In 1975, 344 Tasmanian students

were in receipt of Aboriginal secondary scholarships, and 13

of post-secondary Aboriginal study grants. We RECOMMEND that

the Tasmanian educational authorities revise the textbooks

used in their schools to acknowledge the continuing existence

of a sizeable Aboriginal community in that State.

Errors and racial bias will be much less common in the

13. J.L. Cotterell, 'The Image of the Aboriginal in Modern Australian Children's Fiction: a Survey of the Writing in the Last Ten Years', in The Aboriginal Child at School, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Feb. 1975), p. 19 ff. 14. B.C. Mollison (ed.), A Synopsis of Data on Tasmanian

Aboriginal People (2nd edn. University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1974), para 2.4.

159

schools if an appreciation of Aboriginal history and culture

is fostered. Perhaps nothing is more conducive to such an

appreciation than the study of Aboriginal languages. Although

there are so many different Aboriginal languages, the study

of any one of them will open the door to an understanding of

those factors of Aboriginal life common across the continent . ·

the intimate relationship between the people and the land

and fauna; the importance of kinship as the basis for social

relations; the concept of communal rather than private property;

and the idea of a society where every mature individual has

a proper area of authority and where matters affecting a

group are decided in common by the persons directly concerned.

We therefore RECOMMEND that the Curriculum Development Centre

seriously investigate the feasibility of introducing the

study of Aboriginal languages in secondary schools.

Secondary Grants

Over the six years since its inception, the Aboriginal

Secondary Grants Scheme has proven its worth, as Professor

Betty H. Watts has made clear in her evaluation of the Scheme, -*-5

and we have no hesitation in following her RECOMMENDATION

that it be continued. We are aware, however, that the

scheme is capable of abuse, and we are also aware that there

are other educationally disadvantaged groups in our society.

We also wish to suggest the possibility of extending similar

support to children attending primary school. We therefore

15. Betty H. Watts, Access to Education: an Evaluation of the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1576).

160

RECOMMEND examination of the feasibility and desirability of

such a scheme.

Independent Aboriginal and Islander Schools

The Committee hopes that independent Aboriginal schools,

such as the Townsville Black Community School,^ will be

assisted, not discouraged. Although the great majority of

Aboriginal children will continue to receive their education

in state schools, the Committee believes that independent

schools may have a valuable role to play in developing

supplementary courses and teaching methods suitable to

Aboriginal, rather than middle-class non-Aboriginal, children.

The Committee has noted the recent disquieting statistics

recording a decline in Aboriginal school attendance in the

Northern Territory.^ We RECOMMEND that Northern Territory

and State education departments give serious consideration

to the question of assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander communities to establish their own schools.

Teacher Turnover

We have already alluded to the problem of high teacher

turnover. This problem is common to all country schools

and schools in poorer urban areas, and so is not specifically

a problem of Aboriginal education. Nevertheless, Aboriginal

16. Evidence, pp. 1826,1850. 17. Senate, Parliamentary Debates , 7 April 1976, p. 1178.

161

children are greatly disadvantaged by it,especially those

in Central and Northern Australia,living in tribal communities.

We RECOMMEND to State and Northern Territory authorities that

they consider instituting special incentives for teachers

to stay in schools in less attractive areas, and that teachers

who wish to stay in a particular Aboriginal community for

more than a normal posting period be allowed to do so.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

The Committee has been impressed by the work being done

in South Australia in the area of adult education by the

Torrens College of Aboriginal Education, the Aboriginal

Leadership Training Course (the Task Force course) at the

South Australian Institute of Technology, and the South

Australian Department of Further Education. We also note

the introduction of a course in community organisation in

Victoria at the Swinburne College of Technology, Melbourne,

and we hope that this will be emulated in other States and the

Northern Territory.

The term 'adult education' covers a great many activities

involving both cognitive and personal development, and

vocational training. It is impossible in this report to

make a multitude of detailed recommendations; and, in fact, a

great deal of research to determine needs and priorities

still has to be done. However, as H.E. Worrall has indicated,

the areas of need come under the broad headings of

162

'Literacy', 'Technical Training', and 'General Education'.18

Illiteracy among Aboriginal adults, especially in remote

inland settlements, is an enormous problem; it effectively

bars the acquisition of technical skills, and it widens the

'generation gap', to mention just two of the consequences.

Approximately one quarter of all Aborigines and Torres Strait

Islanders aged 15 years and over have never attended

school.19 The following table gives an indication of the

education system's low rate of retention of Aborigines and

Islanders above the compulsory school age:

School Participation Rates, 1971

Age Aborigines and

Torres Strait Islanders

All

Australians

Years Per Cent Per Cent

15 59.64 81.5

16 28.16 53.7

17 7.96 28.8

18 2.51 7.6

19 0.61 1.3

Source: Australian Department of Education.

The primary education scene for Aboriginal children is

18. H.E. Worrall, Adult Aboriginal Education: Proposals and Guidelines, (South Australian Department of Further Education, Adelaide, 1975), p. 34. 19. Schools Commission, Aboriginal Consultative Group,

Aborigines and Technical and Further Education (Canberra, 1976)7 para. 2.5.

163

24451/ 76— 7

extremely depressing. Primary schooling obviously is not

preparing them for secondary learning experiences. Consequently

children are leaving schools ill equipped to pursue further

education or to enter the workforce.

The 1971 census data revealed that very few Aborigines

were employed at the clerical, administrative, professional

or technical levels. The frequency rates for these categories

for the Australian population as a whole were almost twelve

times greater than for Aborigines. It is a matter for serious

concern that the pool of potential Aboriginal personnel with

skills and experience to provide administrative leadership

for Aboriginal communities is so small. There is also cause

for concern in the greater susceptibility of Aborigines to

unemployment - about 27%, compared with the general Australian

rate of 4.9%, at 30 June 1976.

In common with other areas of Aboriginal affairs, there

is a dearth of statistics relating to Aboriginal utilisation

of TAPE facilities. However, in our observation, there are

very few Aborigines at present undertaking TAPE courses.

This is due largely to their lack of formal schooling.

Other factors hindering Aboriginal access to TAPE are:

The differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal

Australian culture, and the fact that TAPE institutions

are presently organised only to meet the needs of the

latter.

Lack of adequate hostel or other accommodation.

164

Lack of knowledge about TAPE opportunities and

programs.

Lack of appropriate support services such as

vocational counselling, job placement and preparatory-

courses .

Lack of income.

In view of the importance of the problem, the great

range of issues involved, and the small amount of research

that has been done to date, it is very encouraging to be able

to record that the Technical and Further Education Commission

asked the Aboriginal Consultative Group of the Schools

Commission to undertake a thorough inquiry. The inquiry

was carried out by Dr L. Kendall, of the Canberra College

of Advanced Education, and this Committee RECOMMENDS that his

final report be given serious attention when it becomes

available.

We RECOMMEND:

That a major effort be made to eliminate illiteracy

among adult Aborigines.

That technical and further education institutions

provide programs relevant to local Aboriginal needs.

That appropriate measures be taken to enable

Aborigines to take advantage of TAPE programs.

The vocational training aspect of adult education is,

of course, closely affected by the availability of employment

opportunities, and this Committee strongly RECOMMENDS

165

that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations

ensure that the Aboriginal Employment Section of his

Department is provided with sufficient funds and staff

to carry out its responsibilities effectively by

maintaining the required type and scale of services to

assist Aborigines, especially in remote areas.

Sex Education

As with the community in general, sex education is a

delicate issue. We emphasise that 'sex education' is not

a synonym for 'family planning': it embraces the whole range

of sexual behaviour and human relationships.

Evidence presented to the Committee by expert witnesses,

supported by reputable published articles, indicates that

among Aborigines there is as great a need for sex education

as there is among other sections of the community.20

Traditional Aboriginal culture attached importance to human

relationships as well as to sexual relationships, and the

breakdown of that culture has impaired the social mechanisms

which regulated relations between the sexes. Moreover,

because Aboriginal society is so very different from

Anglo-Saxon society, sex education programs designed for use

among the Australian community at large are quite irrelevant

to many Aborigines. Indeed, to put it bluntly, such programs

20. Evidence, pp. 2577-8.

166

which have emphasised family planning have been regarded by

some Aborigines as merely one more white attempt at genocide.

It is essential that Aborigines be in complete control of

sex education, from initial planning to final implementation.

This Committee therefore RECOMMENDS that the proposed National

Committee on Aboriginal Education instigate a program of sex

education.

Encouragement of Aboriginal Culture

This chapter has emphasised the importance to Australian

education of fostering the continuing development by Aborigines

of their distinctive culture, with all its local variations,

and of cultivating an appreciation of that culture based on

knowledge among the Australian public at large. The Aborigines

are very proud of their separate identity, and most are

determined to maintain it, as they have done for the last

188 years despite the shock of European settlement. Their

endeavour will be made much easier, and will prove much more

fruitful for Australian society as a whole, if they receive

assistance and co-operation from the elected governments of

this country and from the established educational and arts

authorities.

We draw attention to the comprehensive submission which

167

the Committee received from the Aboriginal Arts Board of the

Australia Council.21 The Board was constituted in 1973,

with the task of making recommendations to the Commonwealth

Government on the allocation of funds concerning all forms

of Aboriginal art within Australian society, and of advising

on matters affecting policy toward Aboriginal culture, its

preservation, its continued development and its impact on

the wider community. The stated aims of the Board have our

wholehearted support, and we RECOMMEND that the Government

continue to recognise the importance of, and to provide the

funds necessary for, the achievement of those aims.

21. Evidence, p. 2697 ff.

168

CHAPTER 8 HOUSING

Housing Needs

Visits to local communities undertaken during four years

of inquiry impressed on the Committee time and again the fact

that housing conditions for many Aboriginal families are

appalling. This Committee is not alone in making such a

judgment:

It is evident that many Aboriginals in urban and settled rural areas are living in appalling conditions.-*·

An estimated minimum of 4,455 Aboriginal families

throughout Australia are living in humpies, shacks, abandoned

car bodies, and other such makeshift shelter, and are thus in

dire need of adequate accommodation.

There is an even larger number of families living in

substandard and overcrowded accommodation.

A housing survey made by the community health workers of

the Aboriginal Health Section of the Health Commission of New

South Wales in 1976 revealed more than 2,000 families, or about

507o of the Aboriginal population of the State, living in sub­

standard housing in conditions which are detrimental to physical

and social health. Unfortunately, the extent of the total need

has not yet been assessed with statistical precision.

ΤΓ Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia, Third Main Report (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p. 377.

169

ABORIGINAL HOUSING - POPULATION CENSUS OF 30 JUNE 1971,OCCUPIED

PRIVATE DWELLINGS

Improvised dwellings and caravans, etc. occupied by Aboriginals expressed as proportions of total private dwellings occupied by Aboriginals.

Situation in Selected Statistical Divisions

State, etc. Name of Statistical

Division

Improvised dwellings and caravans, etc., as proportion of total private dwellings

%

New South Wales Northern 14.5

North Western 23.6

Murray 15.2

Far West 42.7

Queensland South Western 26.0

Rockhampton 10.8

Central Western 34.9

Far Western 13.5

North Western 22.7

South Australia Eyre 10.7

Far North 72.7

Western Australia Southern Agricultural 18.7 Eastern Goldfields 47.8

Central 44.3

North West 48.2

Pilbara 31.9

Kimberley 60.4

Northern Territory N.T. less proposed Greater Darwin 65.4

Source: Statistics Group,Legislative Research Service, Commonwealth Parliamentary Library

170

STATISTICAL DIVISIONS OF WORST ABORIGINAL HOUSING

171

We therefore RECOMMEND that the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs and government housing authorities give priority to

compiling a detailed and accurate assessment of Aboriginal

housing needs throughout Australia, region by region.

In respect of housing,the Aborigines, as distinct from

Torres Strait Islanders, are definitely in a worse position.

The Islanders, at least, still live on their traditional land,

and thus have not been so completely deprived of economic

viability.

Estimates of Aboriginal housing needs in selected towns

and areas throughout Australia at July 1976 appear at Appendix

VII.

Poverty of Aborigines

Aborigines lack adequate housing because they are poor.

Their poverty is a self-perpetuating cycle, originally partly

a consequence of their having been dispossessed of their land.

To a great extent, the solutions to Aboriginal poverty are the

same as those measures designed to eliminate poverty in

Australian society generally, but in addition we must take

account of Aborigines * desire to maintain a distinct cultural

identity. Tenacity in maintaining their own traditions, family

and kinship ties, and attachment to their ancestral lands,

172

together with racial prejudice against them, have in the past

tended to make it difficult for Aborigines to take advantage of

what limited opportunities were available to them for improving

their condition.

Type of Housing Required

The traditional camp of the Aborigines never consisted of

shelter more substantial than bark and sapling windbreaks, or

woven grass huts. Such shelter was suitable for a way of life

characterised by seasonal shifts of residence, few material

possessions, and intimate adjustment to the natural environment.

However, that traditional way of life is now largely defunct,

and the natural environment has been changed out of recognition

by farming and grazing, the construction of roads and towns,

and by the settlement of a large alien population. The

traditional 1gunyah1, 'wiltja*, 'mia-mia' (or whatever it may

be called in the appropriate local language), and its modern

descendant, the humpy, or any architectural variation of it,

are completely unsuitable as a permanent habitation in

contemporary Australia. What many Aborigines have told this

Committee they want is normal, standard Australian housing,

that is housing that would be regarded as acceptable by the

ordinary non-Aboriginal Australian. This is a fairly wide

definition,and would include variations such as, for example,

large houses with up to seven bedrooms for large (extended)

families, or features such as a single large kitchen cum

living-room with an open fireplace.

173

Transitional Housing

The building of 1 transitional1 housing of the type 2

referred to in our second progress report has now been

discontinued in all States and the Northern Territory.

Nevertheless, many families still live in these units. The

committee has concluded that 'transitional' is simply a

euphemism for 1 substandard', and therefore considers the

policy of 'transitional housing' to be unacceptable. Seldom

if ever, in our observation, was any training in home

management given to the householder assigned such accommodation.

This accommodation was not 'transitional' in the exact sense

of the word: it was quasi-permanent. In New South Wales,

for instance, there developed the anomalous situation in

which women living in these dwellings were so far beyond the

learning stage in housekeeping as to be able to obtain

employment as housekeepers in local towns. Considering that

transitional housing caused a high degree of mental and

physical ill-health to those obliged to use it, it was not even

cheap. The following comment was made by Kathleen Hill on

such housing in Western Australia and we consider it to have

general application:

It is difficult to understand the thinking that goes into the erection of a 'home' which, of necessity, will house families with increasing 2

2. Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, Environ­ mental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites, Second Progress Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 59 of

1974 (Canberra,. 1975), p. 57 ff.

174

numbers of babies and children, and which has no immediate access to running water, no adequate means for preparation of food and washing of clothes, and absolutely no privacy whatsoever.3

Homemaker Services

Undoubtedly people moving from the traditional tribal way

of life to the normal contemporary Australian way of life -

from campfire to the suburban bungalow - need counselling and

assistance. And so do people moving from riverbank makeshift

accommodation. The Committee has seen irrefutable evidence of

abuse of housing in some instances where it has been provided

without teaching people how to use it. Even for the average

Australian, who has lived in a house since he was bom, it is

very difficult to understand what a complicated set of

behaviour is necessitated by living in one.

We must also point out, parenthetically, that abuse has

often been due to the fact that the housing provided was

1 transitional1, and therefore not of a kind to inspire pride

of occupancy. Or, in other cases, one three-bedroom bungalow

was provided for an extended family of up to 30 members. To

provide good accommodation for a select few families in an

Aborig inal community may merely be to expose them to hatred and . 4

reprisals from their less favoured relatives. 3 4

3. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns, (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975), p.70. Research report by Kathleen F. Hill. 4. A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns, p. 68.

175

There is definitely a need for counselling and assistance

of the kind provided by the Homemaker Service of the Western

Australian Department for Community Welfare. The Homemaker

Service, though not exclusively for Aborigines, has had

considerable success in assisting Aboriginal households to

adjust to the unfamiliar demands of living in newly acquired

houses in predominantly non-Aboriginal communities. The men

and women employed as homemakers act as role models for all

areas of family routine, such as keeping the house clean and

in a state of good repair, using appliances, managing home

delivery services and the electricity and gas supply, budgeting

housekeeping expenditure, etc. They also provide counselling

on the availability and use of community services. The Service

is not provided unless requested, and is not maintained if the

client wishes to discontinue use.

So far, two evaluations of the Service have been published,

both of which conclude that it is performing an essential

function and ought to be continued.^ Our own observation also

supports such a conclusion. A point worth noting is that 25%

of the Aboriginal families surveyed in the Department for

Community Welfare evaluation required two years or more of

contact with the Service before they were able to dispense

with it.

The Committee notes with satisfaction that the Tasmanian

Department of Social Welfare has been providing a homemaker 5

5. Western Australian Department for Community Welfare, An Evaluation Study of the Homemaker Service in the Metropolitan Area (Perth, 1975); A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns, p. 47 ff.

176

service similar to the Western Australian since the beginning

of 1975.

We commend the Western Australian Government on its

Homemaker Service and RECOMMEND that Commonwealth funding for

homemaker services be increased to enable such services to be

extended to all States and the Northern Territory.

We emphasise that provision of such a service is an

essential complement to the provision of a house and furniture.

Furniture

Many Aboriginal familes moving into a house for the first

time have absolutely no suitable furniture. Whatever may

have served the purpose in the humpy is quite unsuitable for

use in a conventional house. Moreover, the incomes of families

in such circumstances are usually so low as to make it

impossible to purchase immediately a set of furniture and

home appliances. We therefore note with approval that loans

may be made by the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund

for the purchase of household effects.

Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund

The Aboriginal Loans Commission Act 1974 established the

Aboriginal Loans Commission, which administers the Aboriginal

Enterprises Fund, for the funding of business enterprises and

the like, and the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund.

177

The latter Fund was established in November 1974 with

initial capital of $5m. Altogether, $10m. was made available

to it between then and November 1975. The purpose of the

Fund is to provide concessional home finance to Aborigines who,

despite demonstrable good faith and regular employment, are not

able to acquire finance from the usual commercial sources.

In fact, few Aborigines have an established credit. Since, in

part, as we have indicated above, this inability stems from

racial origin, and the often related economic situation, it

highlights the need for recognition of the special requirements

of the Aborigines.

An arrangement has been made with the Australian Association

of Permanent Building Societies under which the Association's

member societies act as local agents of the Aboriginal Loans

Commission, and a similar arrangement is being made with the

banks to act in localities not served by a permanent building

society.

The Commission also assists Aborigines to establish and

operate terminating building societies. At 30 June 1976, three

such societies were operating with loan commitments totalling

$2m. They are required by the Commission to retain the services

of experienced terminating society secretaries, and their

operations to date have been most satisfactory.

At November 1975, the maximum limits for housing loans

ranged from $25,000 in Western Australia, South Australia,

Tasmania and Queensland, through $30,000 in New South Wales

178

and Victoria, to $32,500 in the Northern Territory and the

Australian Capital Territory. The maximum period for loans

was 32 years. As a general rule, borrowers are required to

provide a cash or equivalent contribution (e.g. land) of at

least 5% of the total cost of the house, land and furniture

to be purchased. Meeting this requirement indicates the

client's sincerity, capacity to save and capacity to repay.

Unlike most housing loan transactions, the 5% deposit may go

to meet legal expenses and stamp duty.

Interest rates vary from 2% to 107=, depending on a scale

adjusted to National Seasonally Adjusted Average Weekly State

Earnings Statistics as computed by the Australian Bureau of

Statistics. If the borrower's income is under 1107ο of the

Average, the interest rate is 2%; for 110-1207,, interest is

57,; for over 1207,, it rises to 10%. A borrower with more than

two children is allowed a deduction of $5 from his estimated

weekly income to make him eligible for a lower interest rate.

As most borrowers to date have had incomes below 110% of the

Average, the most commonly charged rate of interest is 2%.

This low rate ensures that the low income borrowers have the

capacity to service 95-100% borrowing. On the other hand, the

charging of interest impresses on clients the fact that the

assistance is a loan, not a grant, and therefore encourages

a responsible attitude. Housing loan agents receive an annual

fee equal to l\°/0 of the loan balance, and the 2% interest

rate permits the Commission to recoup the administrative cost of

providing and maintaining the loan.

179

From the inception of the Fund in November 1974 to

November 1975, when moneys available for lending by the Fund

during 1975-76 were exhausted, the Commission had provided

404 housing loans throughout Australia, totalling $10m. The

cost of providing these loans was $118,750 and within the

first year interest of approximately $190,000 was expected to

be returned. The Commission is undoubtedly able to provide

Aboriginal housing assistance at low administrative cost.

An examination of loans made indicated that 86% were made

to Aborigines earning less than the average wage in their

State; in fact 54% were earning less than 85% of the average.

Total loans in Queensland number approximately 200 and

compromise 50% of the Commission's approvals. An analysis of

119 loans approved in that State revealed the following

information:

Ninety two per cent of borrowers were below the State average wage, with 65% below 85% of this average.

Occupation distribution was -

Of the 119 borrowers -Thirty-six (30%) had more than two dependants. One hundred and six (89%) were earning less than the average wage. Sixty-seven (56%) were earning below 85% of the average wage.

Unskilled Semi-skilled Skilled Clerical Other

180

These figures seem to justify the contention of the Commission

that it is providing housing finance to a clientele who would

be unable to obtain it through normal commercial channels. If

an interest rate of 67, had applied, few, if any, of the 119

loans would have been possible, whereas current commercial

rates are at least 107,.

This Committee supports the view that any increase in

interest rates charged by the Commission would eliminate

from the scheme those Aborigines least able to obtain finance

from any other source - precisely those whom the Aboriginal

Loans Commission Act was specifically designed to assist.

We are convinced that it is far more desirable for

Aborigines to become home owners than tenants. The

following table prepared for the Commission of Inquiry into

Poverty indicates very concisely the advantages of owning

181

rather than renting:

Impact of income tax provisions on tax payable by renters

and owners: weekly basis (family with four children)

Renter $

Full Owner $

Earned income (a) Add Income-in-kind (net)

95 70

from home ownership 0 25

'Total Income' 95 95

Less Taxable deductions (b) Rates 0 3

Loan Interest 0 0

Taxable income (a-b) 95 67

Less Tax payable 17 9

Income after tax Tax payable as a per cent of 'Total Income'

78 86

17.9% 9.6%

6» Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Poverty in Australia, First Main Report, vol. 2, (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1975) p.97.

182

We therefore approve the aims and purposes of the Aboriginal

Housing and Personal Loans Fund, and RECOMMEND that the

Aboriginal Loans Commission receive an adequate allocation

of money to avoid early exhaustion of funds, and to enable

it to expand its program to meet the needs of the large

numbers of Aboriginal people eligible for assistance under

the scheme.

We note, however, that the Commission attempts to cater

not for the needs of all sectors of the Aboriginal population,

but only for the specific portion of it capable of meeting

the Commission's requirements for equity and loan repayment.

In other words, the Commission is able to assist only those

Aborigines having some form of regular employment: it has

not been constituted to provide housing for those outside the

employment system.

There is, however, one sector of the Aboriginal population

for whom the Commission does not at present cater, but to whom

it could possibly extend its services. We refer to those who,

despite a demonstrable record of regular employment, have a

level of income or living expenses such that no saving

capacity exists. These people are unable to accumulate the

necessary 5°/0 minimum equity but they could service a loan at

a concessional rate of interest.

The Commission is therefore considering the introduction

of a 'no equity* scheme. Under this scheme, no equity would

be required from borrowers with incomes less than 75% of

their State's average wage. In our opinion such a scheme would

183

I

benefit a large number of Aboriginal people, and we urge the

Commonwealth Government to support its introduction.

There is also a need to assist Aborigines who, though

ineligible for State housing authority assistance, do not

earn sufficient to service mortgage loans from normal commercial

lenders. It might be possible for the Commission to give

such people assistance by way of concessional second mortgage

finance.

In the opinion of this Committee, the Aboriginal Loans

Commission housing scheme has to date been highly successful.

It has already provided 404 loans, and at 30 June 1976 had

650 eligible applicants awaiting loans. The unrecoverable

arrears rate is 2.4%, which is low for a clientele consisting

of people with below average incomes. As noted above, the

Commission has been established to provide housing assistance

not to all sections of the Aboriginal population, but principally

to those Aborigines whose main need is simply for finance.

We agree that the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund,

as administered by the Commission, is the most efficient way

of assisting people in this category.

States Grants Program

The main avenue of Commonwealth expenditure on Aboriginal

housing until 1974-75 was the States Grants program. Between

1968, when the program was introduced, and 30 June 1976,

State Governments had received approximately $70m. from the

Commonwealth in States Grants for housing for Aborigines,

184

which resulted in the provision of approximately 5,500 houses.

A Department of Aboriginal Affairs estimate of outstanding

need in 1976 gave a figure of 18,754.7 This estimate is

arrived as follows:

(a) Estimated aggregate Aboriginal population, based on 1971 census figures projected to 1976

(b) Estimated average size of Aboriginal household

(c) Number of houses needed at 30 June 1976 (a*b)

(d) Number of houses provided through all Commonwealth programs

154,143

6 persons

25,690

6,376

(e) Number provided privately, etc. 560

(f) Outstanding need (c-[d+ej) 18,754

In order to meet this need by 1982, approximately 4,055

houses per year would have to be provided. Estimated

expenditure of $17m. for 1976-77 through States grants

is likely to provide 543 houses. Another 1,321 houses may

be provided by an estimated expenditure of $22,900,000 through

Aboriginal housing societies and $17,500,000 through the

Aboriginal Loans Commission, making a total of 1,864, at a

7. Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Desirable and Anticipated Actual Housing Programs for Aboriginals for the Three Year Period 1 July 1976 to 30 June 1979 (Canberra, March 1976), p. 11.

185

I

total cost of $57,400,000. Therefore, the average cost per

unit would be $30,794, and 4,055 would cost some $125m. It

is interesting to note that the total Department of Aboriginal

Affairs expenditure in all areas in 1974-75 was $124,286,700.8 9

The total cost, at constant value, of providing 4,055

additional houses per year until 1982 would be about $750m.

One might compare this with the $324m. it is estimated will be

spent on reconstructing Darwin over three years.^

Clearly, then, it is considered possible for Australia

to find in excess of $100m. per year to meet reconstruction

costs of a disaster-stricken community.

State housing authorities use funds made available through

the States grants program to purchase or construct houses for

Aborigines. Generally speaking, the State housing authorities'

programs for housing Aborigines are similar to their normal

housing operations. Types of dwelling are similar, and

Aboriginal tenants are subject to requirements similar to those

placed on other tenants. However, rentals are usually lower,

as a special rent scale is used, based on a percentage of

8. Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Annual Report 1974-75 (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p. 48. 9. Appropriation Bills (Nos 1 and 2)1975-76; Civil Works

Program 1975-76; Estimates of Receipts & Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year ending 30 June 1976; and estimate derived from Treasurer's press release No. 98

made on 20 May 1976.

186

family income. Its application varies slightly among the

States, but the general level is 15% of income, or an economic

rent, whichever is the smaller. Aborigines are also able to

apply for public housing authority homes in the normal way.

Two major criticisms can be made of the States grants

program. The first is that the presently projected programs

will not meet the backlog of applications in the foreseeable

future, as the following table illustrates:

Housing provided 1975-76 Outstanding applications under States grants_____ 30 June 1976______

N.S.W. 152 1,000

Qld 90 n.a.

S.A. 143 361

Tas. 7 55

Vic. 50 160

W.A. 71 1,000

Compiled from information supplied by the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

The second major difficulty is that the present program

does not help enough of the people most in need, that is,

those in makeshift accommodation who have insufficient regular

income to ensure successful application for public housing.

Current administrative practice tends towards selection of

tenants with good rent records, good property maintenance

practices, small families and a breadwinner in regular

employment. Such households are more able than most to find

187

suitable acconmodation through the private housing market. -*-0

Aborigines, of course, are not the only members of the

community to be affected in this way. At the time of the

1973 National Income Survey conducted for the Commission of

Inquiry into Poverty more than half the households in public

housing had incomes above $5,000 and 12.9% had incomes above

$9,500.H As a result of inflation, it has become increasingly

costly for Governments to make available low interest finance

for public housing. Provision of public housing has thus

continued to fall relative to need, and currently only about

one in ten of the householders who can pass the means test

actually obtains public housing a i d . ^

Until the present high rate of inflation is reduced to

harmless proportions, probably the only way to enable people

on low income to become home owners is to introduce a scheme

of loan repayments under which interest payments remain low

and capital repayments only increase with rising income, as

suggested by Hugh Stretton.13 However, even if this were * 1 1

10. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Rural Poverty in Northern New South Wales (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1974), p. 143. Research report by the Department of Sociology, University of New England. 11. Priorities Review Staff, Report on Housing, Parliamentary

Paper No. 261 of 1975 (Canberra, 1976), p. 58. 12. Hugh Stretton, 'An Answer to the Housing Crisis',in The National Times, 7-12 June 1976. 13. The National Times, 7-12 June 1976.

188

done, there would still be a large number of people with

incomes too low and irregular to permit them to consider home

purchase.

Another undesirable feature of current public housing

schemes is the tendency for such housing to be concentrated

in certain neighbourhoods, which then become virtual 1ghettoes1

of the poor. This is relevant to Aboriginal needs, as

Aborigines manifest a great variety of locational preferences:

some wish to live in towns; some in rural areas; some

only among their own people; others without particular regard

for proximity to other Aborigines.

We note that the Priorities Review Staff Report on

Housing advocates that public housing assistance be given

primarily by providing those eligible for assistance with an

income adequate to enable them to purchase or rent housing

appropriate to their needs on the open market. As a corollary

to this, the same report also recommends that housing acquired

by public authorities, by either construction or purchase ,

be made available to clients at ruling market prices.

According to the report, charging market rates would free

public housing authorities from the constraint of necessarily

having to undertake construction themselves; they would be able

to purchase existing houses. This would enable them to meet

the individual locational needs of clients more easily.

People assisted by public housing authorities would have much

189

greater freedom to live in a neighbourhood of their choice.^

We consider the above suggestions by the Priorities Review

Staff to be worthy of further study by government housing

policy makers, and we feel they may have special relevance to

Aboriginal housing.

Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia

The Committee has been impressed by the achievements

of the Aboriginal Housing Board of the South Australian

Housing Trust, which has policy-making responsibility for the

Aboriginal Funded Housing Program of the Housing Trust.

We consider that the Board merits special discussion. The

following account is based on a recent report by the Board.15

In 1975-76, $2,585,900 was made available to South

Australia for housing under the States Grants (Aboriginal

Assistance)Act. In that year 143 families were housed

(compared with 216 in 1974-75 with a grant of $3,606,972,

or $4,039,809 at constant value $). If allowance is made for

12% inflation during 1975-76, the grant for that year

represented only 64% of the value of the 1974-75 grant.

Consequently, only 66% of the number of families housed in

1974-75 were housed in 1975-76.

14. Report on Housing, p. 487. 15. Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia, Report on the Progress of the Aboriginal Funded Housing Scheme (Adelaide, 1976).

190

Applications are being received at an average rate of

20 per month, while families are being housed at the rate

of 12 per month. The average waiting time increased during

1975-76 from 15 to 18 months. A total of 241 applications

were received during the year - 103 for country areas and 138

for Adelaide. Outstanding applications at June 1976 stood

at 361 after allowing for 89 which had lapsed.

The average cost per house provided in 1975-76 was

$28,255 (compared with $25,000 in 1974-75, or $28,739 at

constant value $). The average rent paid as at December 1975

was $10. Rents ranged from $3.75, for a temporary rural

dwelling, to over $35. These rents reflect an average income

among tenants of $70, with three common income levels at

$65 (average pension), $90 and $105. Few tenants earn above

the National Average Weekly Wage - $150 at December 1975.

A house sale scheme has been introduced whereby approved

applicants may purchase a funded house with a loan at

47o interest and on condition of providing 2% equity. However,

even these generous terms are beyond the means of most

Aboriginal families in South Australia, and the majority of

families assisted by the Board will continue to rent.

Since the establishment of the Board, rental arrears

have been greatly reduced. The Board has adopted a firm

policy toward rent collection in order to eliminate an

attitude of dependency among tenants.

The Aboriginal Housing Board has been in existence since

191

July 1975 when it replaced the Aboriginal Housing Policy

Committee of the South Australian Housing Trust. We believe

that the Board has achieved a high degree of efficiency in

providing housing to its clientele, within the limits of

available funds. Its efficiency is largely the result of

close Aboriginal representation and involvement throughout

the area of the State presently served by the Board. This

involvement is effected by eight Housing Management Committees

elected or co-opted from local regions. Each Management

Committee is represented on the Board, which also has

representation from the Housing Trust, the South Australian

Department for Community Welfare, the Commonwealth Department

of Aboriginal Affairs, the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee and Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. The Board, thus

constituted, makes policy and administrative decisions which

are implemented by the Housing Trust. The Board has a

secretariat of three people, funded directly by the Department

of Aboriginal Affairs - at a level of $30,100 in 1975-76.

Each local Housing Management Committee is responsible

for the day-to-day decisions and general operation of the

program in its region. In particular Management Committees

supply application forms and keep the local communities

informed on developments, approve applicants as eligible for

housing, allocate houses and approve evictions. They

recommend houses to be purchased, approve houses for purchase,

and recommend upgrading where necessary. They also maintain

close contact with tenants, inform them when they will be

housed, take complaints, liaise with the Department for

192

Community Welfare, and undertake any other tasks associated

with housing in their region.

Most committees have one or two people, usually the

Chairman and Secretary, who do the day-to-day work between

monthly meetings. It must be noted that committee members

work voluntarily. In 1975-76 seven committees, consisting

of approximately 50 people, shared total operating expenses

of $1,000.

The chief advantage the regional Housing Management

Committees bring to the Board is to allow decisions to be made

with the benefit of close personal contact with the clientele.

Because each committee knows the applicants and tenants in

its area personally, it can make good decisions on exactly

which houses to allocate to which families. This is especially

important in small country towns. Likewise, it is able to

make sound decisions on which houses to buy in its area

because it knows local conditions and the house type preferred

in the particular community. After the formation of the

Housing Management Committees, a significant change occurred

in the type of house purchased, and the houses obtained prior

to their formation are now unpopular and difficult to allocate.

Because the local Housing Management Committee knows the

history and circumstances of the families it houses, and,

as well, knows the local town, it can assess how well a

particular family will fit into a street or get on with

neighbours, and it will be aware of distances to shops,

school, work, and so on. Therefore, it is able, when

193

allocating houses, to make decisions sensitive to all the

factors and possible consequences involved. As a result, it

is able to make optimum decisions for local circumstances, in

a way which would be beyond the capability of a remote

bureaucracy.

The Board has been able to avoid concentrating its clients

in certain undesirable areas in 'ghettoes' - in Adelaide

particularly, because of its policy of buying existing houses

in preference to constructing new ones. Funded houses in

Adelaide are distributed widely throughout the metropolitan

area, reflecting the widely differing aspirations and needs of

Aboriginal people.

The Board has been attempting to establish a homemaker

service to assist families moving for the first time into an

urban environment to understand the care of house and equipment,

use of appliances, budgeting, child care, and so on. Progress

so far has been slow because many of these functions are

presently the responsibility of several agencies - the

Department for Community Welfare, the Department of Public

Health, the Housing Trust - which have been unwilling to

relinquish them to a co-ordinated service administered by the

Board.

To sum up, this Committee has been favourably impressed

by the success of the Aboriginal Housing Board of South

Australia in ensuring an equitable and efficient expenditure

of funds made available for housing under the States Grants

(Aboriginal Assistance) Act. It appears that the major

194

constraint under which the Board operates is an insufficiency

of allocated funds in relation to the assessed need for

publicly funded housing. The currently assessed need of

240 per year, at an average cost of $28,255 per house, would

require a grant of $6,781,200. However, recent reports

suggest that the grant for 1976-77 will be at least 10% below

that for 1975-76, or about $2.7m.

We note also that the Board has made useful proposals

for improving the efficiency of Aboriginal housing societies

in South Australia. These we discuss below.

This Committee RECOMMENDS that close attention be given

by all public housing authorities to the organisation and

operations of the Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia,

with a view to discovering from the example of the Board any

possible advantageous modifications that might be made to

their own Aboriginal housing programs.

Aboriginal Housing Societies

At 30 May 1976 there were 157 Aboriginal housing societies

in existence throughout Australia: 45 in the Northern

Territory, 44 in Queensland, 30 in New South Wales, 16 in

South Australia, 14 in Western Australia, 8 in Victoria and

Tasmania.

It is important to remember that the Aboriginal housing

societies were originally established with several aims in

mind, of which the provision of housing was only one. The

195

24451/ 76— 8

I

societies were primarily to be vehicles for encouraging

self-determination and community development at a local level.

To this end, as well as the provision of housing, they were

also charged with the task of developing management expertise

among local communities, and also with providing apprenticeship

and training programs to alleviate unemployment. They were

also used as testing grounds for the application of new ideas

in architecture and environmental design in relation to

Aborigines. There was, therefore, a variety of tasks assigned

to the Aboriginal housing societies, and it should be borne

in mind also that the order of priorities was not constant,

but changed according to economic circumstances and government

policy.

Housing societies were formed in areas where Aborigines

form a distinct community, and in the States are incorporated

under State law. Until now they have been funded by the

Commonwealth from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, to

a total of $21,871,075 for 1975-76. Statistical Analysis of Aboriginal Housing Society Scheme from its Inception (1972-73) to 30 May 1976

1.

No. of Societies No. of Houses

Already Under

Built Cons-

truction

N.S.W. 30 36 50

Vic./Tasmania 8 8 2

Qld 44 41 55

S. A. 16 103 19

W. A. 14 31 27

N.T. 45 282 133

Total 157 501 286

196

2. No. of Societies in Remote Areas

N.S.W. 3

Vic./Tasmania 2

Qld 10

S.A. 12

W.A. 10

N.T. 40

3. Expenditure

(a) Direct Expenditure (expressed in $'000)

Land &

Wages to Other

Fees to Archi-

Building tects & other

Materials Aborigines Wages Consultants

N.S.W. 2,294 929 244 206

Vic./Tas. 583 213 0 5

Qld 11,234 146 69 140

S.A. 3,257 646 65 323

W.A. 1,188 175 43 177

N.T. 6,842 4,497 2,284 1,240

Total 25,398 6,606 2,705 2,091

% of total expenditure 52.35 13.62 5.58 4.31

Total Direct Expenditure = $36 ,800,000 = 75. 85% Total Expenditure

197

3. Expenditure (contd)

(b) Indirect Expenditure (expressed in $ 1000)

Estab- Account-lishment ants & Auditors

Adminis- Roads,Sewerage tration & Electrifi- Insurance cation, etc.

Home­ maker Services

N.S.W,. 182 37 275 397 3

Vic./ 49 6 49 126 5

Tas. Qld 323 13 189 494 12

S. A. 306 77 572 769 23

W.A. 55 28 - 1,575 -

N.T. - 735 2,025 3,225 164

Total 915 896 3,110 6,586 207

% of total expenditure 1.89% 1.85% 6.41% 13.57% 0.43%

Total Indirect Expenditure = $11,714,000 =

Total All Expenditure = $48

= 24.15%

,514,000

total expenditure

(to 30 May 1976)

4. Average Cost per House

Direct Cost All Costs Included

$ $

N.S.W. 32,500 40,410

Vic./Tas. 34,830 45,040

Qld 30,420 33,120

S.A. 26,820 37,740

W.A. 21,100 43,210

N.T. 40,170 56,790

Australia-wide 32,800 43,240

198

5. Assessed Demand for Aboriginal Housing Society Houses at 30 May 1976

N.S.W. Vic./Tas.

672 145

Qld S . A. W.A. N.T.

3,026

1,557

286 481

Total for Australia 6,167

Compiled from information supplied by the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Given the variety of objectives assigned the housing

societies, and given also the different orders of priorities

obtaining at different times, it is not a simple matter to

attempt to evaluate their effectiveness, especially in view

of the short period they have yet been in existence.

One New South Wales example which has proven a success

by all criteria is the Jerringah Tribal Housing Company Pty

Ltd, at Roseby Park Reserve, near Nowra. The company was

established in March 1975, and by the end of 1976 will have

built 16 houses (3 and 4 bedrooms) at an average cost of

$35,000, ranging from $28,643 to $42,403. As well, in the

course of the project, 10 local Aborigines have received

training in the building trade. In addition to house building,

the project entailed sewerage and drainage installation, and

a certain amount of road building. An architect was retained

at a fee of $44,000 for advice on house design and town planning.

199

Another Aboriginal housing society worthy of mention is

the Aboriginal Housing Co. Ltd at Redfem, New South Wales. The

project, since its initiation in 1973, has been the subject of a

considerable amount of public comment not all of which has been

based on sound information. This Committee would like to

record the following facts concerning the project:

In December 1972, a group of homeless Aborigines

'squatted' in empty terrace houses under a 'blind eye1

agreement with the owner, I.B.K. Constructions Pty Ltd.

The Aborigines, the majority of whom were Bandjalong

people from the North Coast of New South Wales, formed

themselves into an Aboriginal Housing Committee and began

to plan a community development project centring on the

purchase and renovation of the block bounded by Caroline,

Vine, Eveleigh and Louis Streets, Redfern. The block

contained 78 houses and 2 factories.

On 15 April 1973 the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs agreed to assist the project with a grant of

$530,000 - altogether $599,300 was made available in

1972-73 - and in July 1973 the Aboriginal Housing Co. Ltd

was formed.

The project aimed to establish a community centre

with a pre-school, workshops for technical education, a

cultural centre to encourage Aboriginal language and arts,

and a clinic for alcoholics and invalids. The 78 houses

in the block were to be renovated to provide accommodation

for single persons and married couples, and the back

200

fences were to be demolished to form a large communal

courtyard. The overall planning was done free of charge

by Sydney architect Colin James.

At 30 June 1976 a total of $2,321,781 had been

allocated to the project. At that date 45 houses and

one former factory had been acquired, the renovation of

19 houses had been completed, and 23 families had been

housed. Thirty-five people are presently employed in

building and renovation, thirty of whom are Aborigines.

Thirteen are undertaking training as tradesmen, seven

of these as apprentices in building industry trades.

In a project such as this, with a large amount of

electrification and sewerage renovation, and construction

of buildings which will be used for purposes other than

housing, it is difficult to estimate the average cost

per dwelling. One estimate by the Department of

Aboriginal Affairs puts the average cost per house (all

costs, plus the cost of errors) in the early stages of the

project at $38,000, and the present cost at $24,472.

The unit cost, however, varies according to what general

costs pertaining to the project as a whole are included.

There is undoubtedly a need for accommodation for

Aborigines in the Redfern area, and also for an Aboriginal

community centre. We believe that these needs are being

fulfilled at reasonable cost by the Aboriginal Housing Go.Ltd, and

201

RECOMMEND that the company continue to receive sufficient

Commonwealth Government support to complete the project.

So far there has been no comprehensive evaluation of the

Aboriginal housing society scheme. To be valid, such an

evaluation would have to investigate every society, and take

account of the special factors of remoteness, average level of

formal educational attainment, etc., affecting each individual

community. At the time of writing, two partial evaluations

had been undertaken. One produced the report on the delivery

of services by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which was

made by Mr David 0. Hay and which has not yet been made

public. The other resulted in a report by the Aboriginal

Housing Board of South Australia.^

The South Australian report strongly supports continued

funding of Aboriginal housing societies. The report indicates

that in several instances, for example Nepabunna, Point Pearce,

Point McLeay and Amata, a high ratio of labour to material

cost, and large architects' accounts, had led to houses being

built at costs in excess of $40,000. Moreover, some of these

houses were badly constructed. However, the problems

leading to such inefficiency have been overcome, and in most

cases the societies can now provide houses more quickly and

at lower cost than the South Australian Housing Trust.

16. Report on the Progress of Housing Societies in S.A. (Adelaide, 1976).

202

An example of the kind of turnaround that has occurred

is the Point McLeay Aboriginal Housing Society. Three houses

recently completed at Point McLeay cost less than $25,000 each,

whereas the first three houses built there cost in excess of

$60,000 each. The decline in cost is attributed locally to

dispensing with architects, and the employment of a new

building supervisor, who also undertook the design of new

houses. Nine local Aborigines are employed on the building

team.

The Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia has been

asked by several housing societies to take over some of their

responsibilities, in particular rent collection and house

maintenance. The Board has agreed in principle to assume

these responsibilities from housing societies operating in

townships, but is reluctant to do so where a society operates

on an Aboriginal reserve. In townships the Board has several

advantages:

It can negotiate lower purchase prices.

It can negotiate lower upgrading contracts.

Administration costs are generally lower, as

they are spread over a greater number of houses.

It can collect higher rents, and ensure more

prompt payment of rents, thus providing more finance

to cover maintenance costs.

On reserves, however, it appears that the Reserve Councils

are able to administer housing more cheaply than the Board

could through the Housing Trust. On the other hand, the

203

Board, as an impersonal, state-wide body with considerable

status and authority, might be in a better position than many

Reserve Councils to demand regular payment of rent.

One significant point made by the Aboriginal Housing

Board was the possibility of incorporating housing societies

into the Board (and thus the funded scheme) as Housing

Management Committees. This would have the advantage of

combining the state-wide resources of the Board with the

sensitivity of the housing societies to local needs, and would not

incur a diminution of the local authority of the latter.

Aboriginal housing societies are an effective form of

organisation for providing low-cost housing efficiently to

Aboriginal communities. They presently constitute one of the

few effective means whereby the large number of Aboriginal

families on very low incomes may obtain housing.

The assessed need for housing to be provided by housing

societies, as at 30 May 1976, was 6,167 units throughout

Australia. At an average cost of $43,240 per house, the cost

of providing 6,167 units would be $266,661,080. This

Committee therefore strongly RECOMMENDS that the Commonwealth

continue to provide full support for Aboriginal housing

societies.

Architects

The Committee has found that there is a certain amount

of confusion among individuals and groups involved in Aboriginal

204

housing as to the contribution professional architects may be

expected to make. There has, for example, often been complaint

by Aboriginal housing societies of the high cost of architects'

fees. The mean percentage of architects' and other

consultants' fees as a proportion of total expenditure on

housing societies over the three years to 30 May 1976 is

estimated by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs at 4.31%.

There has also been complaint about the unsuitability of

habitations specially designed by architects for Aboriginal

communities: for example, at Laverton, Western Australia,

Lawrence Howroyd designed a dwelling supposedly in accordance

with the structures of tribal custom, which, when erected at

a cost of 354,000, proved unacceptable to the local Wongai

people.

Undoubtedly there has been inappropriate use of the

services of architects, especially by some housing societies.

In some cases, we feel, architects have been retained by

housing societies when plans could have been obtained gratis

from public housing authorities. In other cases, housing

societies have accepted plans incorporating novel features

which have unnecessarily increased building costs. Overall,

we feel there has been over-emphasis by the Department of

Aboriginal Affairs and individual housing societies of the

view that Aborigines have special architectural needs simply

because they are Aborigines. We happen to believe that

Aboriginal housing needs are not especially complicated, and

can be catered for in most cases by drawing on the resources

of public housing authorities.

205

In most cases Aboriginal dissatisfaction with architects

has been due to breakdowns in communication. The Aborigines,

for one reason or another, have been unable to communicate

their real design preferences. Often, we suspect, these

have been much simpler than the proposals put forward by­

architects. The Laverton example referred to above was the

result of a sincere attempt at consultation with the local

Wongai people but in the end the building constructed proved

unacceptable to them. Until Aboriginal communities develop

the ability to communicate their preferences accurately to

architects, frustration and waste of resources are likely to

continue.

At this point, the Aboriginal Housing Panel should be

mentioned. It was established in July 1972 with a grant of

$10,000 made by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. In

May 1974 the Council of the Royal Australian Institute of

Architects and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs

endorsed the current formal Objective of the Panel:

To provide assistance, advice and co-ordination to Aboriginal, Government, professional and community organisations in the planning, development and construction of housing for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, taking full account of environmental, physical and social parameters in the best interests of the local community.

The Panel was given the functions of conducting research into

Aboriginal architectural and housing needs, of evaluating

publicly funded housing programs, and of advising the

Department of Aboriginal Affairs on housing policy. In

206

practice it has become, because of the small size of its

staff and the meagreness of its resources, primarily a point

of contact between architects and the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs.

At present there are four Aboriginal members of the Panel,

and one Torres Strait Islander observer. We feel that there

has been too much emphasis, in both the Objective and the

operations of the Panel, on presenting the views of architects

to Aborigines rather than assisting Aborigines to present their

views to architects.

There is a need for research into the architectural needs

of Aborigines, but we must also bear in mind that the most

important immediate need is to provide decent housing as soon

as possible to those many families throughout Australia

presently living in tin shacks, bag humpies and tents, in

virtual refugee camp conditions. The amelioration of these

conditions should have first call on any funds made available

for Aboriginal housing.

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd is a Commonwealth Government owned

public company providing hostel accommodation for Aborigines.

It is also a significant employer of Aborigines, and provides

management training and experience for its Aboriginal staff.

Of its board of directors, six are Aborigines; the three

additional non-Aboriginal directors have considerable

experience from the private sector in the financing and

provision of accommodation on a large scale.

207

At June 1975 there were 120 Aboriginal employees,

representing 71% of the total staff. Most hostel managers

are Aboriginal, as are all six regional managers. A training

section has been established within the head office services

group to train hostel and regional managerial staff. The

under-study approach to management training is also used, in

that an Aboriginal may take an appointment as a manager-on-

probation supervised by a training manager. General staff in

the hostels are almost exclusively Aboriginal.

The company's formal objective, as stated in its first

Annual Report (1975), is:

To assess the need for, and to operate or fund, suitable accommodation for Aboriginals whose tenure of residence will be determined by need, adding to capacity at a rate which will meet needs by 1982 -

specifically in categories such as -

. aged and/or infirm . students . persons seeking rehabilitation . supporting single parents and children . workers and trainees . transients.

Funds which have been allocated to Aboriginal Hostels Ltd

in each financial year from 1973-74 to 1976-77 are:

1973- 74 1974- 75 1975- 76 1976- 77 $3.7m. (estimated).

$1.8m. $5.4m. $3.6m.

At 30 June 1975, a total of 74 hostels were operated directly

or indirectly by the company, comprising a total of 1,103 beds.

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd has conducted a town by town survey

of hostel needs throughout Australia, and has calculated that

an additional 6,328 beds are urgently needed, with a further

5,200 beds at a lower priority. Details of the urgent needs

are shown below:

Type Beds already Additional beds

owned by A.H. required urgently

Education 266 550

Employment 165 740

Training courses 116 48

Transients 153 2720

Supporting mothers 58 1005

Medical outpatients - 640

Alcoholics 57 225

Legal 32 100

Aged persons 22 300

Other 45 -

Total 914 6328

Source: Aboriginal Hostels Ltd submission.

Hostels are needed to enable Aboriginal individuals and

families to move to new areas for education, employment,

rehabilitation and medical treatment, and to travel for

personal purposes, while maintaining a decent standard of

living at a price they can afford. Emergency accommodation is

209

necessary also for families in crisis or in transit, until

permanent housing can be found.

None of these needs are met by other housing programs,

which cater only to the need for permanent housing, and the

private accommodation market is not readily accessible to

Aborigines, with limited finances, and in the f^ce of

apprehension on the part of landlords and agents. In the

absence of suitable hostel accommodation, many Aborigines are

unable to avail themselves of opportunities for education,

vocational training or employment. Often, those who do attempt

to travel in search of opportunities may be forced to resort

to sleeping in parks or to seek accommodation in the homes

of relatives or friends, thus possibly producing overcrowded

and unhealthy conditions and creating a nuisance. The

difficulties caused by unsatisfactory living conditions

jeopardise performance in education or employment, causing many

to abandon attempts to improve their life style. Suitable

hostel accommodation is essential if Aborigines are to derive

full advantage from the following programs:

1. Department of Education - Aboriginal Secondary and Study Grants.

2. Department of Employment and Industrial Relations - trade training courses and individual placements in employment.

3. Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Health (through third parties) - alcoholic rehabilitation programs.

4. Department of Aboriginal Affairs (through Aboriginal legal services) - pre-court, probation and post-release action.

210

5. State and Federal Departments of Health - general health care programs can be ineffective in the face of overcrowding and poor living conditions.

Tariffs are currently governed by the following guidelines:

1. Income earners are required to pay 33.3%, of normal gross earnings up to a maximum of $31.35 per week (the maximum tariff applicable to migrant hostels).

2. The family tariff for an income earner is 50% of

the normal gross earnings up to a maximum of $56 per week.

3. Recipients of social service benefits are required to pay 50%, of the amount of benefit received.

4. Students are required to pay the full living-away- from-home allowance.

5. Residents occupying houses or apartments are required to pay an * economic rental1 calculated according to the formula used for Government funded Aboriginal housing.

6. Hostel managers/house parents are provided with free board and lodging; dependants of such persons are required to pay tariff charges equivalent to those obtaining for migrant hostels.

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd had anticipated acquiring an

additional 29 hostels comprising 621 beds during 1976-77,

and in pursuance of this objective had submitted a claim for

$6,097,000 in the forward estimates exercise. However, this

claim was rejected, and in fact Cabinet decided to suspend

hostel acquisition altogether for 1976-77. Proposed expenditure

211

for 1976-77 is therefore as follows:

$

Hostel acquisition Hostel development Hostel operating loss Operating and capital

nil

476,000 1,154,000

grants to third-party hostels Administration

599,000 1,471,000

$3,700,000

We believe that temporary accommodation is a major part

of the remedial action necessary to interrupt the cycle of

poverty and dependence in which so many Aborigines are now

caught. Aborigines need the support of special accommodation

and sometimes welfare assistance as they are usually the last

choice of employers and landlords and lack the resources of

saving, and technical and social skills.

This Committee RECOMMENDS that Aboriginal Hostels Ltd

continue to receive Commonwealth Government support at a level

adequate to enable it to attain its stated objective of meeting

the need for 6,328 beds by 1982.

212

CHAPTER 9 EMPLOYMENT

In a reference to employment, a submission presented on

behalf of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs stated:

Legally and administratively, Aboriginals have the same rights and freedoms in respect of work, choice of employment, trade unions, working conditions and wages, and are entitled to the same protection against unemploy­ ment, as other citizens. Legislation and industrial

awards apply equally to Aboriginals and other members of the community and provide protection against possible impedients and restrictions.1

The Committee found, however, that the legal and administrative

rights and freedoms referred to do not assure Aborigines of

equal opportunity in the labour market.

The significance of employment, and the lack of it, was

described by the Kanangra Society, Canberra, in these words:

Employment, and lack of employment, are but one component of the cycle which ensures the perpetuation of poverty. If a person is to break out of the poverty situation into which he was born, he must be

able to achieve economic security, which implies permanent employment and opportunities for advancement.

... the inescapable conclusion is that the lack of employment currently experienced, and the type of employment usually undertaken by Aborigines are strong factors causing and reinforcing poverty among the Aboriginal population. If employment is to be used as a

focal point in breaking the poverty cycle, it is

1. Evidence, p. 1043.

213

imperative to understand why the current problems exist so that measures can be taken to alleviate them.^

Employment, as we have said, is one of the key

socio-economic factors affecting Aborigines. It can be a

major determinant of their status in the Australian community

and has much bearing on their ever increasing involvements

with non-Aboriginal Australians. It has close links with

education and health, in particular, and we do not hesitate to

say that it is crucial to the whole process of social, economic

and political development and advancement for Aborigines.

Absence of employment opportunities keeps many Aborigines

locked into a cycle of poverty and dependence. Many lack the

opportunity of earning an income adequate to provide for the

needs of themselves and their families. This is something

that most Australians would regard as a fundamental right.

A primary objective must be to ensure for Aborigines employment

opportunities at least equal to those of other Australians.

The present high level of unemployment can only further

prejudice the position of Aborigines. They therefore need,

as do others who are unable to obtain employment, or unable to

take it because or incapacity or other cause, some alternative

as a source of the necessary income. To put the situation in

a nutshell, Aborigines need to be assured of a viable economic

future.

2. Evidence, p. 1551.

214

Culture of Poverty

Dr Frank Stevens referred to the encapsulated situation

of Aborigines in respect of their socio-economic status in

these words:

Encapsulation: The concept of encapsulation refers to a social system which is bound on all sides by certain constraints which effectively impede the pragmatic development or change of the people who make up the group concerned. It envisages a system which

restricts the ability of the individual to either adjust to external stimuli or remove himself from the environment concerned.

The prominent American Sociologist, Oscar Lewis, has given considerable attention to the limitations on social change amongst impoverished groups and has demonstrated that resistance to change is a feature

of their position.3

A table from the third main report of the Commission of

Inquiry into Poverty, presented later in this chapter,

indicates that 20.6% of the Australian population

may be considered poor. Percentages for the Aboriginal

populations of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth respectively were

given as 55, 55 and 76.7 - from 2\ to almost 4 times as great.

The Commission had earlier cautioned against reliance on the

limited data on Aborigines produced by the National Income

Survey, because of the reluctance of members of Aboriginal

3. Evidence, p. 2054.

215

households to be counted and to reveal their incomes to white 4 interviewers. The report went on to state:

There is no recent study of the incomes of rural Aboriginals, but our impression is that they are generally lower - because of higher unemployment for instance - and we expect: the incidence of poverty to be consequently higher.

Our own observations support both conclusions.

It seems obvious, then, that Aborigines are, relatively,

so far below the rest of the Australian community in their

income standards as to be almost completely confined in what

may be described as a culture of poverty. Dr Frank Stevens,

by reference to the work of Oscar Lewis, described the

factors producing a culture of poverty:

Culture of Poverty: Oscar Lewis in his study La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty - San Juan and New York, hypothesizes that, given conditions of

(1) a cash economy, wage labor and production for profit, (2) a ... high rate of unemployment and underemployment for unskilled labor (3) low wages (4) the failure to provide social political and economic

organisation ... (on the part of the government)

4. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Poverty in Australia, First Main Report, Parliamentary Paper No. 210 of 1975 (Canberra, 1976), p. 260. 5. Poverty in Australia, p. 261.

216

(5) (political and social disorganisation) (6) the existence of a set of values in the dominant class which stress the accumulation of wealth and property, the possibility of upward mobility

and thrift and explains low economic status as the result of personal inadequacy or inferiority

will develop a subculture which will be characterised by attitudes of fatalism and low levels of aspiration. As a result, individuals will show lack of responsiveness to economic and other incentives based on the values of

the dominant class. The adaption represents an effort to cope with feelings of despair and hopelessness which develop from the improbability of achieving success.^

Unemployment Among Aborigines

We have already indicated that Aborigines and Torres

Strait Islanders represent only about 1% of the Australian

population and that the proportion has remained

constant. Yet, at June of this year, 9,405

Aborigines were registered with the Commonwealth Employment

Service as unemployed - some 27% of the estimated Aboriginal

workforce of 35,000. At June last, after seasonal adjustment,

4.9% of the total Australian workforce was registered as

unemployed.^ Clearly, then, Aborigines are greatly disadvantaged

in availing themselves of employment opportunities. The

Department pointed out that for the years ended 30 June 1972,

1973 and 1974 there had been a steady increase each year in

the registrations of Aborigines. The increase had occurred in

6. Evidence, p. 2054. 7. Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, Monthly Review of the Employment Situation (Canberra, June 1976).

217

country rather than metropolitan areas and was attributed to

the extension of Commonwealth Employment Service facilities

in remote areas, making them more accessible to Aborigines.

Despite the tendency for more Aboriginal people to move to

metropolitan centres there had been a slight decrease in g

registrations of Aborigines in those centres. So it is

evident that Aborigines away from metropolitan centres have

fewer employment opportunities.

The Committee believes that the figures relied on by the

Department may understate the gravity of the situation. The

general handicaps of Aborigines, due to lack of educational

attainment, in coping with form filling and the like, and

often their unawareness of facilities available to them, as

well as their remoteness from such facilities as are available,

must surely account for a degree of under-registration.

Factors Limiting Employment Opportunities

Aborigines typically have poorly paid jobs, and many are

unemployed. The 1971 census showed that the great majority

are employed as farm or unskilled workers. Interestingly, a

research study made in Brisbane for the Commission of Inquiry

into Poverty revealed that half the Aboriginal women working

in that city were employed in white-collar jobs with higher 9 .

employment status than that of the men. This Committee has

8. Submission dated 31 July 1975, pp. 10-11. 9. Poverty in Australia, p. 261.

218

noted that to some degree the availability of office work has

led to better opportunities for skilled work for females than

for males.

Early in the inquiry the Department of Labour and National

Service stated that most employment available to Aborigines 10 was seasonal and unskilled. The truth of these words was

confirmed from time to time throughout the inquiry, both

in the formal evidence and in our field work. The Kanangra

Society stated:

Probably one of the most important factors explaining the unfavourable employment status of Aborigines is lack of education and skills.H

The Department of Labour and Immigration emphasised the

disadvantages of Aborigines in finding employment opportunities.

In the Department's view these disadvantages were produced

by remoteness from employment opportunities, relatively low

levels of education, lack of work skills, and cultural 12 differences. This sums up what the Committee found to be

the prevailing situation almost everywhere. * 1 1

10. Evidence, p. 356. 11. Evidence, p. 1554. 12. Submission dated 31 July 1975, p. 3.

219

Miss A.T. Breen, a field worker assisting Aborigines in

Sydney, told the Committee that very few of many young

Aborigines who sought her aid in obtaining jobs had been 13

educated to School Certificate level. Mrs Rosalind

Langford, herself an Aboriginal, said in evidence:

In the long term better employment opportunities in our competitive industrialised society will be closely tied to educational achievement and this fact serves to ^ emphasise the need for action on all fronts immediately.

Limited educational achievement, in particular, has been

a recurring theme. We therefore re-emphasise our RECOMMENDATIONS

on education for Aborigines because of their importance in

extending the capacity of Aborigines to take advantage of

employment opportunities wherever they occur.

As was shown earlier (p. 49), the majority of Aborigines

live in rural areas where job opportunities are less readily

available than in urban centres. Mr Kangan, of the Department

of Labour and National Service, made the following comments in

evidence:

The availability of employment is the limiting factor of the placement in employment and we, as a matter of policy, are very cautious about intruding into family ties or, if you like, breaking family

ties. We would superficially say: 'Let us move this

13. Evidence, pp. 688-9. 14. Evidence, p. 2142A.

220

youngster or that youngster to a place where there is employment1. This is the decision of the person who is seeking the employment but in the culture which we are talking about it is not his or her decision alone.

It is very often a group decision. There are gaps between the aspiration point and the fulfilment point.15

The Department's submission emphasised the importance of this

problem:

The remoteness of some Aboriginal communities from employment centres is a particular problem. Despite the various projects being developed in scattered geographic locations, the Department points to the obvious judgement that Aborigines can be absorbed more

speedily into the work force when they move towards centres of employment. There are, however, other considerations which demand that caution be exercised

in seeking to implement this judgement, e.g. the wishes of the Aborigines themselves, their preferred way of life and such other factors as the availability of temporary and permanent housing and community services

of various kinds.1^

We believe that Aborigines need special assistance for

transfer to, and re-establishment in, centres of employment.

This requires the provision of appropriate information to

Aborigines in remote locations to enable them to understand

the opportunities that may be available elsewhere as well as

the types of employment offering. They should be fully aware

of the great adjustments that will be needed if a move has to

be made. Only the possession of this kind of information will

15. Evidence, p. 377= 16. Evidence, p. 361.

221

Η

put them in a position to make a free and unfettered choice

in deciding whether or not to move to another place for work.

The Historical Perspective

Aborigines were generally seen from the beginning of

European settlement as people who could offer little by way

of assistance to the settlers. Equally, their relative inability

to oppose effectively the inroads of settlement on their lands

and their social systems seems to have contributed to the

lack of regard for them as a potential labour force. For

example, a Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements),

in 1837, reported to the House of Commons:

Passing to the case of Australian Colonies, it appears that on the eastern, western and southern shores of New Holland the British settlements are brought into contact with Aboriginal tribes, forming probably the least-instructed portion of the human race in all the arts of social life. Such, indeed, is the barbarous state of these people, and so entirely destitute are they even of the rudest forms of civil polity, that their claims, whether as

sovereigns or proprietors of the soil, have been utterly disregarded. The land has been taken from them without the assertion of any other title than that of superior force.17

The limited use of Aboriginal labour was in essence highly

exploitive.

The Kanangra Society informed the Committee that overt

racial prejudice cannot be ignored in any consideration of

17. House of Commons, Report from Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements) (1837), p. 82.

222

Aboriginal employment, and quoted the following comments by

Mrs Lorna Lippmann:

There is a definite prejudice on the part of private employers against offering work to Aborigines, which is justified with the categorisation: 'They're so unrealiable'. It would appear that an employer who

has had 2 or 3 Aborigines leave over a space of years is inclined to generalise as to Aboriginal shortcomings. The whites who leave in proportionally as great numbers and for no apparent reason are regarded as individuals,

and their 'unreliability' is not,therefore attributed to racial origin. In fact, a survey of Aboriginal employment, carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service in 1969 on an Australia­ wide basis gives evidence to show that retention rates

for the same sort of jobs did not vary between white and Aborigine.18

Dr Frank Stevens illustrated by reference to the pastoral

industry in the Northern Territory:

I have run across a number of arguments in this respect and a number of situations in northern Australia, particularly in cattle stations, where there are theories which hold amongst managerial people that whites will

not work under blacks. This effectively precludes them from gaining leadership or an authoritarian role and status. This could possibly be correct, but the question whether Aborigines have leadership capacity and the psychological cohesion to give leadership in a cross

cultural sense rests on the reservations which have been built up in the minds of whites about their ability.

18. Evidence, p. 1554.

223

There are lots of situations where Aborigines apply themselves amongst themselves and even in mixed race cattle camps where the proficiency and physical abilities of Aborigines are recognised, but in fact they are rarely rewarded because you have this

economic restraint and leadership restraint arising out of a European situation and not the Aboriginal situation itself.19

The witness also said that management attitudes in the mining

projects at Groote Eylandt and Weipa were completely at

variance: in his view both could not be right. He went on

to say:

I believe the situation at Weipa is that the managerial attitudes or the sociological attitudes of the white community are such that Aborigines will not be given that leadership until the attitudes of the company and the community change. BHP adopt an entirely different attitude to this problem on Groote Eylandt. They started off on a basis of equality and

surprisingly enough, the skills which Comalco said are not present, are present in Aborigines on Groote Eylandt.20

The Department of Labor and Immigration commented that often

employers are reluctant to employ Aborigines, because they

believe that they are poor workers and unreliable. There is

also sometimes the expectation of failure even when employers 21 do agree to take them.

19. Evidence, p. 2108. 20. Evidence, p. 2109. 21. Submission dated 31 July 1975, p. 26.

224

Only with the large-scale development of the pastoral

industry was there some major use of Aboriginal labour. This

was for unskilled work in the more remote regions where other

labour was scarce and where the Aborigines' knowledge of the

local tribes and the country, particularly its water supplies,

was valuable to the pastoralists. Not until relatively recently

has there been real consideration of the potential of Aborigines

as a labour force in other fields.

Cultural Differences

A little must be said here about the consequences of

cultural differences between the Aboriginal population and the

rest of the community. The attitudes and social background

of Aborigines have played their part also in the Aboriginal

response to the need for employment and the development of the

attitudes towards Aborigines as workers which have commonly

prevailed and which still tend to linger. The Aboriginal's

relationship to life has been described as one of 'being'

not 'doing' - a relationship lacking the motive to work for

a living as we know it and to conserve funds for future use.

The value concepts are so alien as to make what is at times 22

needful in one without relevance in the other.

22. Submission by the United Church in North Australia (Division of Mission) and the Church Missionary Society to the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, p. 5.

225

We were told also that the type of social background

which most Aborigines have does not fit them for survival in

the non-Aboriginal working world. Concepts such as reliability

on the job, punctuality, desire to achieve, obligation to an

employer, motivation to work, higher levels of responsibility,

perception of opportunity, saving and planning ahead, are 23

foreign and have to be learned. Representatives of the

Commonwealth Public Service Board made these comments:

There are a number of factors of a cultural or social nature which inhibit some Aborigines from seeking and retaining employment. These may involve difficulties in coping with an unaccustomed environment and value system, and are particularly prevalent amongst Aborigines who have recently moved from a rural

environment. It is apparent that the needs of Aborigines for accommodation, social support, orientation towards the. city, and other factors tangential to the work environment, must be met if increased numbers of Aboriginal

staff are to be retained in the Service and make satisfactory careers there.24

Training

A number of schemes have been adopted to train Aborigines

in work skills and job requirements, to give them access to a

wider and more skilled range of employment and to encourage

and facilitate their movement to areas where better employment

opportunities might be found. The following descriptions are

based on those given by the Department of Labor and

Immigration.

23. Evidence, p. 1554. 24. Evidence, p. 1664. 25. Submission dated 31 July 1975, p. 17 ff.

226

The Employment Training Scheme for Aboriginals

This scheme was administered by the Commonwealth Employment

Service and was introduced in July 1969. When the national

employment and training scheme was introduced on 1 October 1974,

this scheme was absorbed into it.

The employment training scheme was designed to correct

environmental and other disadvantages by encouraging employment

for Aborigines and facilitating their movement to areas

offering regular employment and a wider and more skilled range.

The scheme provided for the payment of fares to take up

employment and, for junior Aborigines, living-away-from-home

allowances, payment of return fares to visit their families,

payment of the first week's accommodation costs, assistance

with daily fares in major employment centres, and clothing

grants. It provided also for subsidies to employers to encourage

them to employ Aborigines and to compensate the employers for

providing on-the-job training for not less than 12 months.

Placements in subsidised employment training were 358 in

1969-70; 609 in 1970-71; 653 in 1971-72; 983 in 1972-3;

1,363 in 1973-74 and 534 in the first six months of 1974-75,

which included the first three months of the national employment

and training scheme also. The numbers of juniors granted

living-away-from-home allowances in these years were 121, 198,

383, 443, 567 and 205 respectively.

At the introduction of NEAT 4,331 Aborigines had been

placed in subsidised employment training and 903 were still in

227

24451/ 76—9

training. Some 37% of all the placements were in semi-skilled

work as factory operatives, machinists, and building, metal

and electrical workers, and about 19% in unskilled work. Some

22% of junior males were placed as apprentices or trainees

in skilled trades. Approximately 48% of junior females were

placed as office and sales workers and nursing assistants, and

most of the remainder as clothing machinists or other

factory workers. From the commencement of the scheme to the

end of September 1974, 670 Aborigines had completed the

negotiated 12 months subsidised training term and all but a

few continued in their employment.

National Employment and Training Scheme

A special Aboriginal program was introduced within the

national employment and training scheme. This provides

Aborigines with greater scope for training, particularly by

including the possibility of formal course training. To ensure

that Aborigines will not be disadvantaged under the scheme,

certain additional provisions are made available to them:

The period of employer subsidy is longer for

Aborigines than for others.

Employers engaging Aboriginal school-leavers

continue to be subsidised.

Employer subsidy for apprentices continues for the

the full period of the apprenticeship, and non­

apprenticeship training of longer than two years may also

be negotiated.

228

NEAT subsidy is available to employers who offer

to train Aborigines for up-grading on the job.

Subsidy payments may be made retrospectively in

cases where it is considered warranted, for example,

in areas remote from Commonwealth Employment Service

activities.

Living-away-from-home allowance is available under

NEAT for any young Aboriginal required to move away

from home to obtain suitable employment arranged or

approved by CES. Living-away-from-home allowance

continues until age 21 or until receipt of adult wages.

Adult Aborigines living away from home are entitled

to the normal return fare provisions of NEAT. There

was no such entitlement under the Employment Training

Scheme for Aboriginals.

Where an Aboriginal is unable to adjust to the new

working and social environment and is unable to pay the

fare home, a fare may be paid.

The $45 clothing grant remains available to Aborigines

under 21 entering their first full-time employment or

training, and there is scope for higher amounts to be

paid, depending on the circumstances of individual

cases. Moreover, the grant is now not age related.

The assistance given for institutional training provides

scope for training on a much wider and more flexible basis

than was possible previously. To the end of January 1975,

229

285 Aborigines had been placed in training under the scheme.

Of these, 38 were formal course trainees.^ of 14,700 in

training at the end of June 1975, 1,470 or 10%, were 27 Aborigines. As Aborigines are only about 1% of the population,

they have benefited to a greater extent than non-Aborigines

under this scheme.

Pre-vocational and Pre-employment Training

Following examination of the need for special courses to

prepare Aborigines for employment, committees at State level

consisting of education, apprenticeship, welfare and employment

authorities established the need, defined the roles of the

various Australian and State authorities and set down guidelines.

As a result pre-vocational courses at State level are providing

training in carpentry, bricklaying, panel beating, spray

painting, welding, sheet metal working, and food service and

catering.

The special training courses are intended to remedy

educational and social deficiencies which impede easy movement

into and adjustment to employment. In most instances the

courses prepare Aborigines for specific occupations by equipping

them with basic skills, familiarising them with work routines

and establishing confidence.

26. Department of Labor and Immigration, submission dated 31 July 1975, attachment C. 27. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Aboriginal Unemployment: Special Work Projects

(Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p. 19.

230

Special Work Projects Scheme

This scheme, which was introduced in 1969-70, is

administered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Its

purpose is to relieve Aboriginal unemployment in areas where

employment and training opportunities are not available.

Requests for funds under this scheme are received from local

government and other bodies as well as State government

departments. Details have to be given indicating the number

of employees for whom funds are requested, the period of

employment, the type of work and/or training to be provided,

estimated wage costs, and equipment and supervising costs,

as well as the likelihood of Aborigines being offered

permanent work at the conclusion of a project.

Each request is submitted to the Department of Labor

and Immigration (now the Department of Employment and Industrial

Relations) for evaluation of the viability of the proposed

project. The following considerations are taken into account:

The extent to which the project will absorb

unemployed Aborigines.

The value of the training and work skills acquired

during the course of the Aboriginal workers'

participation in the scheme.

The extent to which their employability is improved

through the experience gained, or the possibility of

being brought into the permanent work force of the local

employing authority.

231

From our own observations, in a number of places visited, the

special work projects scheme seems to have had relatively

light impact on Aboriginal unemployment. By way of illustration,

on the occasion of the Committee's visit to Laverton, in

Western Australia, we were told that unemployment funds had

enabled an average of only four persons to be employed over

a year. As a further indication, at the end of June 1975,

750 Aborigines were employed under the scheme throughout

Australia. This represented less than 3% of the estimated 28 Aboriginal workforce. We acknowledge the related social

benefits for those employed under the scheme, but the fact that

only small numbers of Aborigines are assisted by this scheme

occasions us concern.

Regional Employment Development Scheme

This scheme began in September 1974. Its purpose was to

improve employment opportunities in areas of excessively high

unemployment by encouraging local initiatives in these areas

to develop suitable work programs. Labour-intensive projects

of a socially useful or economically viable nature were the

basis of the scheme. In the selection of labour for projects

under the scheme, preference was given to persons with dependants

who had been unemployed longest. No priority was given to

Aborigines as such, but their disadvantaged position in most

instances gave them priority for recruitment. At the end of

June 1975 about 1,800 Aborigines were employed under the scheme 29

- or about 5.5% of the Aboriginal workforce.

28. Aboriginal Unemployment: Special Work Projects, p. 13. 29. Aboriginal Unemployment: Special Work Projects, p. 17.

232

On 10 September 1975 the Minister for Labor and

Immigration announced that no more new projects would be

approved under the scheme. In June 1976 only one project was

being continued and this was expected to end by 15 August.

We find ourselves in agreement with the general principles

on which these schemes have been based, but we have not

adequate information on which to make a firm assessment of

their effectiveness. A full evaluation of schemes such as

these would require a depth of detailed study not possible

within the framework of the broad ranging and complex inquiry

occasioned by this reference. Statistical indications alone

would not take account of the numerous social benefits related

to Aboriginal morale, work motivation, development of an

employment history, and work experience, for example.

Aboriginal Organisations and Enterprises

During the inquiry members of the Committee met

representatives of numerous Aboriginal organisations throughout

Australia. We are aware that new organisations continue to

be formed. They take the form of, for example, advancement

and community associations, medical and health services, legal

aid services, welfare societies, women's associations, housing

associations and cultural bodies. Though basically managed by

Aborigines, many of these agencies rely to some degree on

the assistance and advice of non-Aborigines possessing

particular expertise and skills. The objectives are not

essentially economic, but these bodies collectively constitute

233

a major source of employment for Aborigines. They also enable

Aborigines to receive training and experience in managing

their own affairs. Moreover, the employment opportunities

they provide are not always confined to major centres of

population. We emphasise these benefits and urge that

employment potential also be considered.

The Aboriginal Enterprises Fund (formerly the Commonwealth

Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises) administered by the

Aboriginal Loans Commission provides financial assistance to

enable Aborigines to engage in business enterprises. Examples

of enterprises financed include community fishing and pastoral

ventures and brickworks, plant hire services, crayfishing and

retail businesses. The purpose of the Fund is to encourage

Aborigines to develop their aptitudes, to accept responsibility

for their individual efforts, and to become self-sufficient.

The pursuit of these objectives also has an impact on

Aboriginal employment by providing self-employment for some

and enabling them to employ others.

The Aboriginal Land Fund Commission provides government

assistance for the purchase of properties off reserves. The

operation of stock, gardening and other ventures made possible

in this way provides significant employment opportunities,

mainly for Aborigines in more remote locations.

We believe that in these two spheres of activity the

potential beneficial effect on the level of Aboriginal employment

is of major importance and should be one of the benefits to be

234

actively sought in considering the provision of financial

assistance through these channels.

Commonwealth Authorities

At 1 October 1975, in all categories, the Commonwealth

Public Service employed 1,591 Aborigines, representing 1% of 30 total Public Service staff. This corresponds to the

Aboriginal proportion of the total Australian population. The

Department of Aboriginal Affairs employed 649, the Department

of Education 401, the Department of Health 121 and the 31

Department of Housing and Construction 130. These were

by far the major employers of Aboriginal staff in the Public

Service. The Public Service Board pointed out, however,

that these statistics were probably under-estimates, because

of problems of definition and race identification.

Representatives of the Board told the Committee that its

overall aim was to increase the proportion of Aborigines in

the Service and to diversify the employment categories and

careers in which they were represented.

We acknowledge the importance of the factors referred to

earlier in comments made by representatives of the Board

(p. 226) and re-emphasise the need for better educational and

training opportunities for Aborigines and for continuing

research into social and cultural factors.

30. Public Service Board, Employment of Aboriginals in the Australian Public Service, Statistical Bulletin, (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p. 3. 31. Employment of Aboriginals in the Australian Public Service,

p. 24.

235

Apart from the Public Service, there are various

statutory authorities and other official or semi-official

bodies, such as Aboriginal Hostels Pty Ltd, Aboriginal Arts

and Crafts Pty Ltd, the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia

Council, and the Aboriginal Loans Commission. All of these

provide employment opportunities for numbers of Aborigines, and

their importance in this respect should not be overlooked.

The Commonwealth Public Service is plainly a major field

of employment for Aborigines. We RECOMMEND:

That the Government, by its initiatives, and the

Public Service Board and departments, by their staffing

policies, encourage and facilitate enlargement of the

employment opportunities for Aborigines within the

Public Service.

That similar efforts be made by statutory and other

official authorities operating in all areas where the

Commonwealth Government has influence or is involved.

A particular agency to which we direct attention by way

of illustration is the Australian National Parks and Wildlife

Service of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community

Development. This Service could provide employment for numbers

of Aborigines as rangers. We suggest that corresponding State

services also could seek to employ Aboriginal rangers in greater

numbers.

236

We recall the service of 679 Torres Strait Islanders in

the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion during World War II.

The armed forces could provide good career opportunities in

peacetime for numbers of Islanders and Aborigines. We

therefore RECOMMEND that, along with efforts to raise educational

attainment, more attention be paid to informing young Aborigines

and Islanders of opportunities in the armed services.

Income Support: Minimum Income Security

Comprehensive statistics on levels of income among

Aborigines are lacking, but several studies by the Commission

of Inquiry into Poverty have made it possible to draw up the 32

following table of comparisons:

TABLE 10.1 Weekly income unit income (before housing costs) in relation to poverty line Comparison of National Income Survey with several Commission studies of Aboriginals.

Survey Less than 100-120% Total

poverty line poverty line poor

(very poor) (rather poor) % % %

Australian Population National Income Survey 12.5 8.1 20.6

Aboriginals Brisbane, May 1973 (a) 48 7 55

Adelaide, late 1973 (b) 22.3 33.1 55.4

Adelaide, late 1974 (c) 32.5 22.5 55

Perth, late 1974 (c) 58.3 18.3 76.7

32. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia, Third Main Report, Vol. 2 (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), p .363.

237

(a) Source: J.W. Brown, R. Hirschfeld and D. Smith, Aboriginals and Islanders in Brisbane (Commission Research Report, AGPS, Canberra, 1974), p. 62.

(b) Source: F. Gale and J. Binnion, Poverty Among Aboriginal Families in Adelaide (Commission Research Report, AGPS, Canberra, 1975), p. 24 (adjusted).

(c) Source: G. Killington, 'Use of Health Services by Aboriginals' (Commission Research Report, Health Studies of Selected Disadvantaged Groups, AGPS, Canberra, in press).

The high level of unemployment among Aborigines at June 1976,

with approximately 27% of the Aboriginal workforce registered

as unemployed, also gives some indication of income levels

among Aborigines.

The consequences for housing, health, education, and

employment are obvious: 'without adequate housing, children

may be too ill to obtain a reasonable standard of educational

achievement; without adequate schooling, the youth cannot

obtain a permanent well-paid job; without regular employment

at a reasonable wage, the man cannot afford adequate housing'„

The solution is, therefore, to make Aborigines employable

- and to give them employment. They will become employable if

they have the opportunity of undertaking both general and

vocational (professional) education, and if they are better

able to take advantage of work opportunities by being free of

anxiety over ill health and inadequate housing.

33. Frances H. Love joy,'Housing for Aborigines' (M. Ag. Ec. thesis, University of New England, 1972), p. 201.

238

This Committee is of the opinion that a large number of

Aborigines will not be able to take advantage of the

opportunities for general education provided by the public

school system, or of the various programs of vocational

training available, unless their families are guaranteed an

adequate minimum income while they undertake such education

and until they are employable and employed.

Our attention has, therefore, been drawn to proposals

for guaranteed minimum income, and particularly to the guaranteed

minimum income scheme proposed in the First Main Report of the

Commission of Inquiry into Poverty.

The Income Security Review Committee has been established

to advise the Government on the feasibility, implications and

desirability of implementing some form of guaranteed minimum

income scheme. An experimental income supplement scheme has

been in operation since 1972 in Melbourne, conducted by the 34 Brotherhood of St Laurence.

The First Main Report of the Commission of Inquiry into

Poverty recommended that a guaranteed minimum income scheme

be introduced in the medium-range future. The report described

a minimal and a preferred version of the scheme. Both versions

34. Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Resources for Poor Families: an Experimental Income Supplement Scheme (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1974). Research report by Jan Salmon, Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

239

contain two main elements:

The present progressive income tax scale would be

replaced by a proportional income tax rate, on a family

unit basis.

Concessional tax deductions, pensions, welfare and

child endowment would be replaced by a series of tax-

exempt, non-means-tested guaranteed income payments to

all citizens ('negative income tax').

This Committee has not been in a position to analyse

thoroughly, and to form a considered judgment on, the

guaranteed minimum income scheme proposed by the Commission

of Inquiry into Poverty. Our concern, first and last, has

been with the social environment of Aborigines and Torres

Strait Islanders. As a result of our inquiry, we can say

with certainty that many of them lack basic income security.

We would therefore encourage the Government in its consideration

of ways and means of redressing this lack.

We also point out that guaranteed minimum income alone

would not be in itself sufficient to raise Aboriginal

incomes to average levels comparable to those of Australians

generally.

35. Poverty in Australia, pp. 71-2.

240

We make the following RECOMMENDATIONS for the general

improvement of employment opportunities for Aborigines:

That the special provisions for Aborigines under

the national employment and training scheme remain in

effect.

That the special work projects scheme be allocated

a sufficient level of funds to permit its expansion in

order to reduce Aboriginal unemployment.

We regard the second of these recommendations as being of

particular importance owing to the termination of the regional

employment development scheme.

Some of the RECOMMENDATIONS made in the chapter on

education have a particular bearing on employment opportunities

and we reiterate them:

That a major effort be made to eliminate illiteracy

among adult Aborigines.

That technical and further education institutions

provide programs relevant to local Aboriginal needs.

That appropriate measures be taken to enable

Aborigines to take advantage of technical and further

education programs.

That the Minister for Employment and Industrial

Relations ensure that the Aboriginal Employment Section

of his Department is provided with sufficient funds and

241

staff to carry out its responsibilities effectively by

maintaining the required type and scale of services

to assist Aborigines, especially in remote areas.

242

CHAPTER 10 LAND RIGHTS

The Committee has always recognised that the land rights

issue is of vital importance. However, when the Aboriginal

Land Rights Commission (Woodward Commission) was established

we decided to await the outcome of its investigations because

of the complexity of the matters involved. The Committee

therefore did not devote particular attention to land rights

and very little time during the inquiry was given to the

subject. We feel, however, that the knowledge we have gained

from our investigations on Aboriginal matters, and from study

of the Commission's report and of other material, justifies

some general comment on the issue.

Background

When Governor Phillip landed on the east coast in 1788,

the whole of Australia was occupied by the Aborigines.

Archaeological evidence has established that they have lived

here for about 30,000 years. In the last 188 years the white

settlers have taken over most of the country, with little or

no regard for the rights, legal or moral, of the indigenous

people. There was never any suggestion of paying or

compensating the Aborigines for their territory beyond a few

paltry handouts of blankets and the like.

The following passage appeared in the Annual Report of

the Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory for the year

243

ended 30 June 1920:

The greatest difficulty that confronts the Administration in dealing with the natives is the fact that they do not form themselves into settled communities, with individual possession as in New Guinea.1

A description of the way the Aborigines utilised the land

is given by Berndt:

In Aboriginal Australia generally, land was traditionally inalienable.

... Throughout most of Aboriginal Australia there were basically two kinds of small social group, each related to the land in a different way: one through descent, directly or otherwise, the other through occupancy and use. The first was an exogamous unit, such as a clan, closely associated with a site

or combination of sites...This was a land-owning group: its focus was on these sites and the area immediately adjacent to them. Their ownership was not a personal or individual affair, and territorial claims were not transferable: the land was held in trust, collectively, in a time perspective which extended indefinitely back into the past and forward into the future. The other type or unit was what has usually been called a horde ... This was a land-occupying and utilizing group,concerned predominantly with hunting and food-collecting...

These two kinds of unit reflected the two basic issues in social life - the religious and economic, viewed as interdependent ... All Aborigines, male and female, were simultaneously members of both kinds of unit; but adult males had two distinct roles: in one,

as land-owners, they were land-renewing or land-sustaining, in the sense of keeping the basic 'machinery' going; 1

1. Quoted in A.B. Pittock, Aborigines and Land Rights: the - Question of Australian Aboriginal Land and the Preservation of Sacred Sites (Stockland Press, Melbourne), p. 15.

2 4 4

in the other, with their womenfolk, they were land- exploiting. To appreciate the question of land tenure in Aboriginal Australia these two facets must be taken into account.2

The spiritual relationship that the Aboriginal people had

with their land is described well in the following extract:

No English words are good enough to give a sense of the links between an aboriginal group and its homeland. Our word 'home', warm and suggestive though it be, does not match the aboriginal word that may mean 'camp',

'hearth', 'country*, 'everlasting home', 'totem place', 'life source', 'spirit centre' and much else all in one. Our word 'land' is too spare and meagre. We can now scarcely use it except with economic overtones unless we happen to be poets. The aboriginal would speak of

'earth' and use the word in a richly symbolic way to mean his 'shoulder' or his 'side'. I have seen an aboriginal embrace the earth he walked on. To put our words 'home' and 'land' together into 'homeland' is a

little better but not much. A different tradition leaves us tongueless and earless towards this other world of meaning and significance. When we took what we call 'land' we took what to them meant hearth, home, the

source and locus of life, and everlastingness of spirit. At the same time it left each local band bereft of an essential constant that made their plan and code of

living intelligible. Particular pieces of territory, each a homeland, formed part of a set of constants without which no affiliation of any person to any other person, no link in the whole network of relationships, no part

of the complex structure of social groups any longer had all its co-ordinates. What I describe as 'homelessness', then, means that the aborigines faced a kind of vertigo

2. R.M. Berndt, 'The Gove Dispute', in Anthropological Forum, vol. I, No. 2, November 1964, pp. 264-5.

245

in living. They had no stable base of life; every personal affiliation was lamed; every group structure was put out of kilter; no social network had a point of fixture left. There was no more terrible part of

our 19th century story than the herding together of broken tribes, under authority, and yoked by new regulations, into settlements and institutions as

substitute homes.^

This special relationship was not appreciated by the settlers,

who viewed the land only through their own cultural bias

which saw it as being a possession; though there is some doubt

about whether better understanding would have made any

difference to the history of land settlement. The basic

conceptual difference has produced inevitable consequences

with which we are still grappling and will be grappling for a

long time. Often the non-Aboriginal sees the Aboriginal people's

failure to cope with our system as being a failure within

themselves when really it is a mutual failure to understand

each other's point of view.

Attempts by the Aborigines to regain their land through

legal channels have so far been fruitless. The most famous

case was Milirrpum v. Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of

Australia, heard in 1971. The central legal questions were

those of 'proprietary rights' and of the application of the

doctrine of communal 'native' title, i.e. the doctrine that

at common law the rights, under native law or custom, of

3. W.E.H. Stanner, After the Dreaming, the Boyer Lectures, 1968 (Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1969), p. 44.

246

'native' communities to land within territory acquired by

the Crown were rights which persisted and must be respected

by the Crown itself, and by its colonising subjects unless

and until they were validly terminated.

Mr Justice Blackburn, however, found against the Aboriginal

claims and concluded that the doctrine of communal 'native'

title did not form, and had never formed, part of the common

law of Australia and that the history of land settlement in

Australia had proceeded without any provision for recognition

of this doctrine.

This case indicated that Aborigines had little hope of

regaining their land through the courts. It appears that the

only way they can achieve their aims is by direct government

action supported by legislation.

Demands Made by Aborigines

The major objective of all the Aboriginal organisations

is to gain for Aborigines the right to control their own

destiny. It is this purpose that is the basis of all other

demands. Land ownership would provide Aborigines with the

spiritual, social and physical base that they need to choose

their own style of life, perhaps to improve their standard of

living and, if they wish, to maintain their own separate

identity.

247

Aborigines' attitude to their position with regard to

land were expressed in a resolution proposed by Senator Bonner,

and passed by the Senate on 20 February 1975. It states:

That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership

by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and ^ Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.

This statement recognises that Aborigines regard any benefits

given by the Government, not as charity, but as just

entitlements. It is from this stance that they make their

demands.

A policy on land rights has been drawn up for consideration

by the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and, although

approved in principle, it has not yet been accepted by the

NACC as official policy. However, the Federal Council for the

Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI)

has put forward a fairly comprehensive list of demands:

1. Aboriginal ownership of existing reserves (Aboriginal) .

4. Senate, Parliamentary Debates, 20 February 1975, p. 367 ff. '

248

2. Recognition of Aboriginal ownership of traditional tribal land at present owned and leased by the Crown.

3. Aboriginal consent for, and benefit from, mining and other development on all Aboriginal land.

4. Establishment of an Aboriginal Land Claims Court, to facilitate the awarding of compensation to Aborigines wherever Aboriginal land is alienated.

5. Setting up of a National Aborigines Lands Trust Fund, to accept and allocate compensation or rent for all of the land of Australia which has been alienated from the former Aboriginal owners.5

Response to Demands

Aboriginal Land Rights Commission

In recent years Federal and some State Governments have

shown increasing awareness and understanding of the problems

Aborigines face with regard to land rights. In February 1973

the Federal Government set up the first major inquiry into

the matter. Mr Justice Woodward was appointed to report on:

The appropriate means to recognise and establish the traditional rights and interests of the Aborigines in and in relation to land, and to satisfy in other ways the reasonable aspirations of the Aborigines to

rights in or in relation to land, and, in particular, but without in any way derogating from the generality of the foregoing:

5. Peter Tobin, Aboriginal Land Rights in N.S.W»: Demands, Law and Policy (Abschol, Melbourne), p. 50.

249

(a) arrangements for vesting title to land in the Northern Territory of Australia now reserved for the use and benefit of the Aboriginal inhabitants of that Territory, including rights

in minerals and timber, in an appropriate body or bodies, and for granting rights in or in relation to that land to the Aboriginal groups or communities concerned with that land;

(b) the desirability of establishing suitable procedures for the examination of claims to Aboriginal traditional rights and interests in or in relation to land in areas in the Northern Territory of Australia outside Aboriginal reserves or of establishing alternative ways of meeting effectively the needs for land of Aboriginal groups or communities living outside those reserves;

(c) the effect of already existing commitments, whether in the nature of Crown leases, Government contracts, mining rights or otherwise, on the attainment of the objects of recognising and establishing Aboriginal traditional rights and interests in or in relation to land;

(d) the changes in legislation required to give effect to the recommendations arising from (a), (b) and (c) above; and

(e) such other matters relating to rights and interests of the Aborigines in or in relation to land as may be referred to the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. 6

In his report Mr Justice Woodward outlined the general

conclusions which he had reached during the course of his

6. Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, Second Report April 1974 (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1974), p. 1.

250

inquiry. These are the main ones:

The Aboriginal people themselves must be fully consulted about all steps proposed to be taken.

Any scheme for recognition of Aboriginal rights to land must be sufficiently flexible to allow for changing ideas and changing needs amongst Aboriginal people over a period of years.

Cash compensation in the pockets of this generation of Aborigines is no answer to the legitimate land claims of a people with a distinct past who want to maintain their separate identity in the future.

There is little point in recognising Aboriginal claims to land unless the Aboriginal people concerned are also provided with the necessary funds to make use of that land in any sensible way which they wish.

It is important that Aboriginal communities should have as much autonomy as possible in running their own affairs.

Aborigines should be free to follow their own traditional methods of decision-making.

Aborigines should be free to choose their own manner of living.

In the final analysis there must be some accountability by Aborigines for their use of lands, natural resources and public moneys.

Differences between Aborigines should be allowed for, but any artificial barriers, in particular those based on degrees of Aboriginal blood, must be avoided.

7. Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, Second Report April 1 9 7 4 , pp. 8-10.

251

The Committee is in general agreement with these findings,

though we have reservations on some specific points, including

the statement on cash compensation, which is discussed later

in the report.

Some of the major recommendations made in Mr Justice

Woodward's report which provide a means of meeting the

Aboriginal demands are outlined below:

Freehold title to Aboriginal reserve land should

be owned by Aborigines. The title in each case should

be held by an Aboriginal corporation called a Land Trust.

With the consent of the responsible Minister land could

be transferred from one Aboriginal corporation to another,

but it could not be sold or mortgaged.

Regional Land Councils should be incorporated to

direct the Land Trusts and to carry out general

administration.

Entry to Aboriginal land should be regulated by a

permit system to be administered by the Regional Land

Councils.

With regard to other land Mr Justice Woodward

recommended that a number of areas be treated in the g

same way as Aboriginal reserves. Other areas of

8. See Appendix VIII.

252

vacant Crown land were not to be alienated to non­

Aborigines before 1976, thus giving Aborigines time to

formulate any claims they might wish to make on those

lands.^

The Committee notes that to the date of completing

this report no vacant Crown Land has been transferred to

non-Aborigines since the Woodward report was presented.

With regard to pastoral leases Mr Justice Woodward

proposed that an Aboriginal Lands Commission should be

established to inquire into traditional Aboriginal claims

to pastoral lease lands, register these claims and make

recommendations about them. Some pastoral leases should

be purchased as tribal lands or as economic ventures, or

usually as both, and a fund from which these lands could

be purchased should be established.

It was recommended that minerals and petroleum on

Aboriginal lands should remain the property of the Crown;

that Aborigines should have the right to prevent

exploration on their traditional lands; and this right

should be over-ridden only if the national interest

required it. If the Aborigines decided to grant a lease

for exploration, they should receive payments for

exploration rights, royalty payments and perhaps an

equity interest in the venture. It was proposed that these 9

9. See Appendix IX.

253

royalty payments might be increased from as at

present to 3%%. It was also recommended that no

exploration licences over Aboriginal land should be

issued before 1977.

The Committee is pleased to find that, although legislation

enforcing this recommendation has not yet been passed, to

the date of writing no exploration leases over Aboriginal land

have been granted.

The Committee is in full agreement with the sympathetic

attitude taken by Mr Justice Woodward. However, because we

have not considered the issue of land rights in depth, we are

unable to assess the merits or implications of these

recommendations.

In order to implement these major recommendations the

Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill 1975 was drawn up.

It reached the second-reading stage in the House of

Representatives but because of the double dissolution on

11 November 1975 lapsed and was not passed. On 7 April 1976

Senator Keeffe introduced into the Senate a private members

bill similar to the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill

1975. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the

Honourable R.I. Viner, M.P., introduced a new Aboriginal Land

Rights Bill into the House of Representatives on 4 June 1976.

Although it differs from Senator Keeffe1s bill in some respects,

it does provide for the major recommendations made by Mr

Justice Woodward. Matters which are not provided for in the

254

bill, and which instead are to be given to the Northern

Territory Legislative Assembly to deal with are: protection

of wildlife on Aboriginal land; control of entry into

Aboriginal lands; control of territorial seas adjoining

Aboriginal land, within two kilometres of the boundary of

the Aboriginal land; protection of sacred sites; and handling

of applications for land to meet the needs of Aborigines in

towns and other areas where traditional claims cannot be

established.

The Committee RECOMMENDS:

That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory)

Bill 1976, which was introduced on 4 June 1976, be

considered for early passage through the Parliament.

That the following matters should remain the

responsibility of the Australian Parliament and Government: 1 2 3 4 5

1. Protection of fauna on Aboriginal lands.

2. Right of entry on Aboriginal lands.

3. Protection of sacred sites.

4. Processing of land claims in towns and other

areas where traditional claims cannot be

effectively established.

5. Control of territorial seas adjoining Aboriginal

land, within two kilometres of the boundary of

the Aboriginal land.

255

6. Rights of Aborigines to enter on pastoral

leases.

7. The right to mining on Aboriginal lands.

Financial Assistance to Rural Aborigines

The Committee realises that Aborigines will need financial

assistance to sustain themselves on any land which they are

given, and we RECOMMEND that funds be provided for this

purpose.

Compensation

The response of governments to the demand for cash

compensation for land which it is not possible to resume has

so far been negative. Although the Woodward Commission's

terms of reference did not include the issue of compensation,

Mr Justice Woodward put forward the view * that the only

appropriate direct recompense for those who have lost their 10

traditional lands is other land1. While the Committee

appreciates the logic of the statement, we are concerned that

there may be many Aborigines, especially those living in

cities, who will not benefit at all from the granting of areas

of land. They, too, should have the right to choose their own

styles of living. In order to exercise this right effectively,

they may require material assistance.

10. Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, Second Report April 1974, p. 9.

256

There have been suggestions about how compensation

should be given. The National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee put forward a proposal that an Aboriginal Claims

Commission should be set up. This Commission should have

attached to it an Investigations Branch staffed by local

historians, land valuers, economists, anthropologists,

geographers, legal experts in property law, and genealogy

researchers. The function of this body would be to find out

who is historically descended from the Aboriginal clans; to

work out how much land they should be traditionally entitled

to; and to calculate the financial value of the land. The

money so gained should be paid to the National Aboriginal

Trust to be invested for all time and the annual interest

should be used to provide education, housing, health, employment

training, and cultural and community restoration facilities

and services. Our Committee believes that,if such a Claims

Commission were established, advice from specialists in the

fields listed should be provided. This would ensure that the

body would be objective and that the findings and recommendations

would be valid.

Another way in which cash compensation could be given was

put forward in the Senate by Senator Bonner: I

I am asking for an amount of money to be set aside from the annual national Budget which will become the true entitlement of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders so that we may recapture our dignity and our pride as human beings ...

257

... I say that the day is fast approaching when this compensation for dispossession of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders must - I say 'must1 - be channelled to an all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statutory body empowered to administer such a compensation for dispossession fund, for the survival of fellow Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The statutory body must be empowered to call upon such non-Aboriginal expertise as is considered necessary by the body. I propose that the all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statutory body should be answerable only to the Parliament.11

The Committee feels that although land grants are the most

appropriate means for compensating those from whom land has

been taken, it is not possible or desirable to compensate all

Aborigines in this manner. Land in a remote rural area would

be of little use to an Aboriginal who wished to continue an

urban way of life. We therefore RECOMMEND that the Government

accept cash compensation as an alternative to grants of land to

Aboriginal people. We suggest that it consider the proposals

outlined above and further investigate the means by which this

form of compensation could be implemented.

Present Government's Policy with Regard to Land Rights

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs outlined to the

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee on 5 March 1976

the present Government's policy with regard to Aboriginal 1 1

11. Senate, Parliamentary Debates, 19 September 1974, p.1273.

258

land rights:

Not only are we committed to the principle of land rights for Northern Territory Aboriginals but we have expressed through our Policy Statement certain intentions and the main ones are as follows:

(i) that the traditional Aboriginal owners gain inalienable title to their lands;

(ii) that they also determine how their lands are to be used and preserved;

(iii) that they have the same right as any

other owner to determine who enters their land and whether the person is an Aborigine or non-Aborigine;

(iv) that sites significant according to Aboriginal tradition be preserved and protected.

The Committee is in full agreement with these views and

urges that this policy be implemented as soon as possible.

Responses by the State Governments

South Australia established an Aboriginal Lands Trust in

1966. This was the first State to move towards according land

rights. The Western Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust was set

up in 1972 by an Act of State Parliament. In New South Wales

an Act in April 1973 established an Aboriginal Land Trust to

hold title to Aboriginal reserve lands and mineral resources

thereon except gold and silver. On 24 July 1971 full legal

title in the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Reserve and the Framlingham

259

24451/ 76— 10

Aboriginal Reserve in Victoria was vested in all-Aboriginal

trusts.

On 20 February 1975 Senator the Honourable J.L. Cavanagh,

as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, announced in the Senate:

We have discussed with the appropriate Minister in each State the method of adopting the Woodward Commission report to give land to Aboriginal people. We have reached agreement with all States, except Queensland, whereby the States will set up Aboriginal land councils which will hold settlement areas or other areas that will be given by the State governments or purchased by the Australian Government. The Land councils will be set up under Acts of the State parliaments and will then hold the land in perpetuity for Aboriginal people. We are in the process of arranging for the land councils to lease the land on a 99-year basis to the Aborigines who are actually on the settlements. Therefore the Aborigines will be the occupiers and owners of that land. In many cases we are funding the Aborigines to make the properties viable. The only exception is Queensland which will not have a bar of giving anything to Aborigines. We are discussing now on an interdepartmental committee how we can give

land to Queensland Aborigines in the same way as we have succeeded in giving, or are in the process of succeeding in giving, land to Aborigines in the rest of Australia.12

The Committee is pleased that such negotiations have taken

place and urges the State Governments to continue to implement

the recommendations of the Woodward Report. We urge the

Queensland Government to reconsider its decision not to give

land to Aborigines and to co-operate with the Federal Government

in its efforts to recompense the Aboriginal people for the

land that has been unjustly taken from them.

12. Senate, Parliamentary Debates, 20 February 1975, p. 368.

260

CHAPTER 11 NATIONAL ABORIGINAL CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE

Background

The first meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee took place on 13 December 1973. The Committee

comprises 41 elected members, each representing an Aboriginal

population between 2,100 and 2,400. There are 9 members from

Queensland (including the Torres Strait Islands), 8 each from

Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory,

4 from South Australia, 3 from Victoria and 1 from Tasmania.

An Executive Committee consisting of the President, the

Vice-President and 8 members elected from within the Committee

was chosen to deal with different areas of Aboriginal Affairs.

At present, the official designations of these areas of

responsibility are: Information; Land Rights, Compensation

and National Resources; Housing and Employment; Legal Affairs;

Sports and Recreation; Culture and Education; Finance and

Administration; and Health and Welfare.^

It was originally proposed that, at local level, community

groups be identified or, where necessary, established in each

electoral region. From each of these groups one representative

was to be elected or appointed to a regional assembly. These

regional assemblies were to meet regularly to advise and

assist the local National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

member, make recommendations and communicate information to

the Aboriginal people within the region. However, in most

1. Senate, Parliamentary Debates, 3 June 1976, p. 2379.

261

electorates these assemblies have not been established.

The new Committee received a great deal of support from

the Aboriginal people, as evidenced by the number who enrolled

to vote. Enrolments totalled 36,742 of a total eligible

population of approximately 53,000 (i.e. about 70%). It was

felt by many that the Committee would give the Aboriginal

people a united voice which was urgently needed.

The role that the Labor Government proposed for the

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee was outlined by

the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator the Honourable

J.L. Cavanagh, on 5 November 1973:

The Government considered that the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee would provide a forum for the expression of Aboriginal opinion on all matters and a channel through which the Government might receive representative advice on the direction in which the Aboriginal people wished to move in matters specifically affecting them.2

The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee on the other

hand saw its role as encompassing a far wider field - as that

of an executive body with powers to direct funds rather than

that of an advisory body. It has adopted in principle a

constitution drafted for a proposed National Aboriginal Congress,

which would replace it.

2. Statement by Senator the Honourable J.L. Cavanagh, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, 5 November 1973.

262

Darwin 1

263

The NACC accepts for working purposes the statement of

functions in that constitution:

The Congress has the following main objectives powers and functions including all such rights and powers as are necessary, incidental or conducive to the attainment and exercise thereof, viz:

(a) To seek to formulate and express National Aboriginal policy,

264

(b) To seek to provide a single representative forum for the expression of Aboriginal desires and for discussion of Aboriginal problems,

(c) To develop promote and preserve Aboriginal languages and cultures,

(d) To advise the Australian Government and State Governments on all matters relating to Aborigines

(e) To secure and control Aboriginal National and Regional Assets referred to the Congress and to decide and implement decisions as to the use of those assets,

(f) To negotiate for and seek to obtain from Governments full and proper compensation to the Aborigines and grants for their development,

(g) To control, and distribute as necessary assets including moneys appropriated received or accumulated by the Congress from any source for the benefit or use of Aborigines,

(h) To promote the economic advancement and physical cultural and spiritual well being of the Aborigines,

(i) To consult and liaise with, and seek advice and assistance from, Australian State and Local Governments and other bodies concerned with or interested in Aboriginal affairs,

(j) To seek generally to influence Australian State and Local Government authorities for the betterment of the Aboriginal people,

265

(k) To establish, provide continuous liaison with and financial support for, Local Community Groups Regional Assemblies and State Assemblies,

(l) To establish own and control a National Aboriginal Centre,

(m) To maintain continuous contact with Aborigines and protect their local as well as their national interests, including their land rights,

(n) To incorporate, promote, establish, participate in, and encourage the development of, any statutory corporations, other corporate bodies, trusts, Associations, agreements and arrangements of any kind whatsoever

intended or designed for the purpose of being beneficial to Aborigines,

(o) To make by-laws regulations rules and directions for the purpose hereof,

(p) To raise or borrow money upon such terms and security and in such manner as it thinks fit, for the purpose of achieving its objects.

The Labor Government felt that some of these proposed functions

would exceed the powers that it intended for the National

Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Cabinet therefore refused

to accept the Constitution.3 The new Minister for Aboriginal

Affairs, the Honourable R.I. Viner, expressed as follows the

present Government's position with regard to the constitution

3. Statement by Senator the Hon. J.L. Cavanagh, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, 3 July 1974.

266

which has been drafted:

... the constitution which has been developed by the existing National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is not acceptable to the Government in the context of an advisory organisation. Further the idea of a national body which [is|placed between the Government and

the Aboriginal people with an open-ended arrangement to control and use public funds is unacceptable to our Parliamentary system and to the principles established in our policy on Aboriginal Affairs.^

Although neither Government accepted the terms of this

constitution, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

uses it as a working document. It believes that because

it is an independent organisation it is entitled to have

its own constitution whether or not the Government accepts

the document.

An Aboriginal View of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

Our Committee requested information from the National

Aboriginal Consultative Committee concerning its operations.

In response a personal opinion on the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee written by Mr Bruce McGuinness was

forwarded to us. Mr McGuinness wrote the paper in November

1975 when he was the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee's

Executive Member for Information and Communications. This

4. Speech to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee on 5 March 1976.

24451/ 76— 11

267

paper indicates that it is not only the Government which is

concerned at the direction the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee is taking. Using the description 'N.A.C.1 for the

NACC, Mr McGuinness wrote:

The N.A.C. though is pretty much a head without a body and we felt that decisions that we were making, or could be making at the top were not really representative of what people in the particular communities wanted. We felt that direction for policy and budget matters

ought to come from the local community groups.^

He then suggested a way in which the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee could be made more representative of

general Aboriginal opinion:

One way of achieving this would be to divide the States into regional assemblies. In Victoria, there would be three (3) such assemblies; in Queensland nine (9). Let us take Melbourne as an example of one Assembly - there are to be eight (8) local community groups. The idea of this is that the local community groups select or elect a representative from each local community to make up a regional assembly. There might be one representative from each local community group, there would be a total of 8 elected people plus one appointed officer, who would act as a secretary. They would in this particular instance, decide on policy

regarding health, education, employment, housing, for their community. They would decide how much money they would require for the programs and projects that they would have going in their areas. They would have

the assistance of legal services, and other services who would make their expertise available for those people to

5. Bruce McGuinness, 'National Aboriginal Congress' (November 1975), p. 22. Private paper held by the NACC.

268

be able to determine budget and policy. From there it goes to the regional assembly where you would have a representative from each of the local community groups, and they would meet at least four (4) times a year and

would formulate policy for the whole area, and similarly it would be going on in the Western District and the Goulburn Valley, Gippsland area and of course simultaneously it would be going on in the 41 electorates of Australia. In the future of course, the representatives will not be decided upon by the national body, they will be decided on from the grass roots

level. We believe that these people should decide who their representatives ought to be. What happens then for the whole state? The one representative for each regional assembly is appointed to the State Assembly. The role of that assembly would be to formulate policy

for the State. The budget and the policy is decided upon at State level and it is drawn up into proposal form and then taken up to the N.A.C. to make sure that

everything is in order and then put into proper proposal form by the Secretariat (D.A.A.), - it goes back to the N.A.C. and then to the Minister. Hopefully he will 1 rubber stamp1 them, they will come back to the N.A.C.

then through to the local community group.^

Present Government's View of National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

In his speech to the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee on 5 March 1976, Mr Viner commented on its history:

I am keenly aware of the unhappy history of the N.A.C.C. I suspect that neither you nor the former Government have known the direction the N.A.C.C. should have taken or how it could or should achieve its stated aims. I have become aware of the frustrations which you as members suffer in trying to achieve an impossible task

6. 'National Aboriginal Congress', p. 23.

269

and I sense the disillusionment of Aboriginal people throughout Australia as to where the N.A.C.C. fits in to the processes and programmes of Government which should aim to streamline communication on one hand and to improve the situation of Aboriginal people on the other.

I have by no means met all of you but I am

sufficiently aware of the views which have been expressed about its composition and role to say that we must find another way. The new way, which [is] not to imply abolition of N.A.C.C., should be built around Aboriginal

involvement, a proper process of consultation and a purposeful link with Government.

It is fair to say that the same sort of concern about the existing body which |hasj been drawn to my notice by Aboriginal people is shared equally by my parliamentary colleagues in Opposition and now in Government and by people who are concerned not only with the administration of Aboriginal Affairs but who

share a common interest for the welfare of Aboriginal Australians.

Mr Viner then announced to the members that there would be

an inquiry into the role and structure of the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee:

We will appoint a committee of four people, at least three of whom will be Aboriginals. The Chairman of the inquiry will be a person familiar with the traditional organisation of Aboriginal society.

The terms of reference to the Committee are:

1 To examine and report to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the role and structure of the NACC with a view to:

(i) advising on its role in relation to Government;

(ii) assessing the effectiveness with which the NACC has represented Aboriginal opinions to

270

Government and provided advice to Government on policies and programmes in Aboriginal affairs;

(iii) recommending changes in the composition, structure and functions of the NACC or suggesting other forms of Aboriginal body or bodies with the object of ensuring that Aboriginals can play a significant role at a national level in:

(a) setting long term goals and objectives which the Government should pursue and the programmes it should adopt in Aboriginal affairs;

(b) setting priorities for expenditure on Aboriginal affairs within the context of overall budget allocations;

and

(c) evaluating existing programs, and formulating new ones;

(iv) recommending ways in which costs might be reduced in particular by changes in its structure, the methods of selection or election of members and the funding of its activities, without detracting from its effectiveness.'

The inquiry should take account in particular of existing or developing arrangements for the involvement of Aboriginals at local, regional, State and national levels in the management of their own affairs, the setting of their own goals, the shaping of programmes and the

determination of priorities for expenditure and should seek to identify ways in which a national advisory body might relate to systems of consultation and advice established at other levels and for special purposes.

271

Conclusions

The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee until now

has not been a success. The NACC and the Government

cannot agree on even a basic constitution and there is

continuing disagreement on the proper role of the National

Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This atmosphere of

disharmony makes it very difficult for the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee to be an effective advisory body.

Overall we feel that the Consultative Committee has had a

minimal effect on government policy in Aboriginal affairs.

The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee has not

lived up to its own expectations. It is not the 'single

representative forum for the expression of Aboriginal desires

and for discussion of Aboriginal problems' envisaged in the

constitution quoted above. Our Committee requested a

comprehensive submission from the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee on 17 March 1975 and until the date of

completion of this report we had not received a paper

outlining its official views and opinions on any matter.

Mr David Anderson, Executive Member for Information and

Communications, has sent us letters on various topics on which

information had been requested. However, the Committee has

had some difficulty in differentiating between Mr Anderson's

personal opinions and the official policy of the National

Aboriginal Consultative Committee.

As stated by Mr Bruce McGuinness, the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee is not truly expressing the consensus

272

of Aboriginal opinion. This is due partly to the fact that

the proposed Regional Assemblies outlined above have not been

officially established, although some members were able to

form Regional Assemblies in their electorates through their

own efforts. Most members of the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee, therefore, have no official adviser

to keep them adequately informed of opinion at the local

level. We were told that this situation is made worse by

the limited support and communication facilities offered to

members. These facilities are vital in keeping them in

touch with their electors.

These criticisms do not imply that our Committee considers

the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to be a failure.

It has been operating only since late 1973 and is therefore

still in the embryonic stage. The Consultative Committee

could still fulfil an important purpose but it is necessary

first to resolve the confusion about its role and to

determine whether it is to be advisory only or an executive

body with power to direct funds. We RECOMMEND that the

Government resolve this issue without delay on a basis

acceptable to all parties.

The existence of the National Aboriginal Consultative

Committee has brought some benefits to Aboriginal society.

Because of their office, many of the individual members have

been able to do a great deal of good work within their local

communities. Most important, the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee has increased Aborigines' awareness

of their national standing. They now take even more pride

273

in their identity as Aborigines and many now realise that

as a race they can form an effective pressure group which can

influence government policy.

At this stage our Committee does not wish to make further

detailed recommendations as we do not want to pre-empt the

inquiry into the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

currently being undertaken. The persons undertaking that

inquiry will be better able to make workable recommendations

than we are, as they will be studying the issue in depth and

taking the opinions of the Aboriginal population. However, we

do wish to stress the need for better representation of

general Aboriginal opinion on the National Aboriginal

Consultative Committee. We therefore RECOMMEND restructuring

of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and clear

definition of its goals to ensure that general Aboriginal

opinion is heard. This restructuring should be done in close

consultation with National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

members. We also RECOMMEND that the Government effectively

support the restructured body by providing funds, staff,

communication facilities and other resources to enable the

objective of better representation of Aboriginal opinion

to be achieved.

274

FINAL STATEMENT

In 1837 a Select Committee on Aborigines (British

Settlements) reported to the House of Commons:

The inhabitants of New Holland, in their original condition, have been described by travellers as the most degraded of the human race; but it is to be feared that intercourse with Europeans has cast over

their original debasement a yet deeper shade of wretchedness.

These people, unoffending as they were towards us, have, as might have been expected, suffered in an aggravated degree from the planting amongst them of our penal settlements. In the formation of these

settlements it does not appear that the territorial rights of the natives were considered, and very little care has since been taken to protect them from the violence or the contamination of the dregs of our

countrymen.

The effects have consequently been dreadful beyond example, both in the diminution of their numbers and in their demoralization.1

The Aborigines are now complaining and protesting

effectively, and have been doing so increasingly for a number

of years. They are in struggle with us, and we with them, 2

even if we do not see it, admit it or want it to be so. The

tension cannot find its relief outwards as in the liberation

of millions of non-European people from colonial rule after

1. House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee on Aborigines (Britis~h Settlements) (1837), pi 10. 2. W.E.H. Stanner, After the Dreaming - Whither? (address to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Canberra,

28 October 1972), p. 10.

275

1945. The tension in Australia must find its relief inward.3

The Aborigines' voicing of their grievances cannot be

allowed to pass without due attention, as in the past. It

must give all Australians cause for serious, soul-searching

thought. There have always been significant numbers of

individual Australians whose consciences could not accept

things as they were. The numbers have increased enormously

in the last 10 to 15 years, and steadily grow. The churches

also, through their missions in all States and the Northern

Territory, have over the years given practical form to the

stirrings of the conscience. They compensated, at least

partly, for the early poverty of government health and

educational services.

Only now, however, are Australians mounting a national

effort. It must be sustained by a firm resolve that, in the

midst of a world where so many suffer so much deprivation,

whatever effort we are capable of making will be made to

bring to equality of status and opportunity the deprived

Aboriginal society for which we are responsible. Non-Aboriginal

Australians were responsible for its having been reduced to

its present state and we in the present are now responsible

for policies and programs of improvement.

3. After the Dreaming - Whither?, p.14.

276

The Committee trusts that the recommendations made

throughout this report will help to promote the effectiveness

of those policies and programs.

NEVILLE T. BONNER Chairman

The Senate, Canberra. August 1976.

277

APPENDIXES

k

APPENDIX I MEMBERS OF THE SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

(at the expiry of the Committee on 11 November 1975)

Senator J.B.

Senator P.E.

Senator N.T.

Senator G.S.

Senator J.I.

Senator J.A.

Keeffe (Queensland), Chairman

Baume (New South Wales)

Bonner (Queensland)

Davidson (South Australia)

Melzer (Victoria)

Mulvihill (New South Wales)

Former members of the Committee who served during the inquiry

Senator G. Georges (Queensland)(15 March 1973 to 11 April 1974)

Senator C.L. Laucke (South Australia)(Chairman - to 26 February 1973)

Senator J.A. Little (Victoria)(to 11 April 1974)

Senator J.J. Webster (Victoria)(to 26 February 1973)

Secretary

R.G. Thomson, The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra

281

·. ί

APPENDIX II WITNESSES

Formal oral evidence was presented by the following individuals and organisations, in most instances after presentation of a written submission:

Individuals

Anderson, Mr D.R.

Assan, Mr A.M. bin H., Member for Queensland District 6, National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

Bouvier, Dr F.N.

Boyd, Mr S., Snr.

Brown, Mr C.A.

Brown, Miss H.

Bryant, The Hon. G.M., M.P., Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Commonwealth)

Cairns, Mrs S.

Cawte, Professor J.E.

Chilly, Miss S.

Clay, Miss E.M.

Clay, Mrs I.M.

Davey, Mr S.F.

Dobbin, Dr M.D.H.

Duncan, Mr A.T.

Eggleston, Dr E.M.

Fulford, Mr N.

Gilbert, Mr K.J.

24451/ 76— 12

283

Harvey, Mr G.G.

Henderson, Mrs M.H.

Hetzel, Professor B.S.

Hinrichsen, Mr K.W.

Holmes, Mr C.W.

Hunter, Mrs V.I.

Kalokerinos, Dr A.

Klossterman, Mr N.

Lippmann, Mrs L.

McNally, Mr W.

Myers, Mr P.W.B.

Nettheim, Professor R.G.

Nicholls, Pastor Sir Douglas R.

Passi, Mr D.A.

Pearson, Reverend G.A.

Penrith, Mr H.J.

Perkins, Mr C.N.

Peterson, Dr N.

Pittock, Dr A.B.

Puttaburra, Mr E.

Richardson, Miss J.

Rowley, Professor C.D.

284

Simpson, Mrs P.J.

Smith, Mr B.W.

Sommerlad, Dr E .A.

Stephen, Dr R.L.

Stevens, Dr F.S.

Tatz, Professor C.M.

Tomlinson, Mr H.G.H.

Tomlinson, Mr J.R.

Trainor, Mrs D.E.

Urban, Dr E.A.

Watson, Mr L.J.

Watts, Professor B.H.

Winder, Mr K.G., National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

Windt, Mr U.M.

Organisations

Aboriginal Advancement Council of Western Australia (Inc.) - Mr D. Farmer Mrs E. Isaacs

Aboriginal Affairs, Department of - Mr F .H . Moy

Aboriginal Affairs, Ministry of (Vic.) - Mr M.R. Worthy

285

Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority (W.A.) - Mr F.E. Gare

Aboriginal Information Service (Tas.) - Mrs R.F. Langford

Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia - Mr S .R . Chapkhana Mr G.L. McDonald Mr B.J. Wyatt Mr I . Yarran

Aboriginal Medical Service, Sydney - Dr R.I. Laing Mrs N.R. Mayers

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Advancement League, Thursday Island Branch - Mr T.G. Loban

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Qld) -Ms C.I. Brock Mr R. Finney

Mr A. I11in Mr E.D. Kyle Mr H.J. Penrith Mr D. Walker Mr L. White

Abschol -Mr A.L. Doobov Mr A.J. Lawson

Aputula (Finke) Community - Miss M.S. Bain Reverend J.H. Downing Mr J.A. McNeil Mr J.F. Moloney Mr T. Williams

Australia Council, Aboriginal Arts Board - Dr J. Battersby Mr R. Edwards Mr C.D. Fondum Mr T.C. Widders

286

Australian Association of Social Workers, Victorian Branch - Mr D.K. Irons

Australian Copyright Council - Mr G.C. O'Donnell

Australian Council of Churches - Mrs L. Thompson Mr T.J. Widders

Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies - Dr L.R. Hiatt Professor N.W.G. Macintosh Mr F.D. McCarthy

Professor D.J. Mulvaney

Australian Institute of Welfare Officers, Western Australian Branch - Mr E.G. Levitt Mr J.E. Newland

Australian Mining Industry Council - Mr K.F. Paterson Mr D.L. Whitrow

Bernard Van Leer Foundation - Mr A . Grey

Carpentaria Aerial Mission - Canon A.F.H. Matthews Mrs V.J. Matthews

Catholic Missions in the Northern Territory - Reverend Father J.C. O'Bryan

Community Welfare, Department for (W.A.) - Mr G. Aves Mr P.N. Gorton

Congregational Union of Australia - Reverend J.H. Downing

287

Council for Aboriginal Affairs - Dr H.C. Coombs Mr B.G. Dexter Emeritus Professor W.E.H. Stanner

Education, Department of (Qld) - Mr L.J. Dwyer Mr K.P. Robertson

Education, Department of (W.A.) Mr S.W. Woods

Education and Science, Department of - Mr H.K. Goughian Mr Η .E . Hughe s Mr J.W. Mather

Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, Department of Mr B .C . Byrne Mr B.G. Dexter Mr J.P.M. Long Mr K.C. Martin Mr B.K. Thomas

Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders - Miss F.H. Lovejoy Mr J.F. Mallie

Finke River Mission, Lutheran Church of Australia - Reverend P.G.E. Albrecht Reverend L.H. Leske

Health, Department of - Dr D.S.M. Graham Dr W.A. Langsford

Hope Vale Mission Board - Mr D.M. Pietsch Pastor I.L. Roennfeldt

Institute for Aboriginal Development - Reverend J.H. Downing

288

Interior, Department of the - Mr H.M. Ford Mr E.E. Payne

Kanangra Society -Mr A.L. Doobov Mr C.G. Chandler Mr N.J. Griffin

Mrs R.E. Horwood

Labour and National Service, Department of - Mr A.D. Fogarty Mr M. Kangan, O.B.E. Miss A.M. Stephen

National Council of Aboriginal and Island Women Mrs H. Maris Mrs P.J. Simpson

New Era Aboriginal Fellowship Inc. - Dr M.P. Alpers Mrs G. Brennan Mr K. Colbung Mrs E. Hansen Mr R.F. Moriand

Mrs M.L. O'Brien

Northern Territory, Department of the - Mr J.C.D. McDonnell

O.P.A.L. -Mrs C.L. Archer Mr O.M. Fletcher Mrs 0. Murphy Mrs E. Rallah

Reverend J.R. Sweet

Palm Island Community Council - Mr F.J. Clay Mr W. Congoo Mrs E. Lenoy

Paulian Association - Miss A .T . Breen Reverend Dr E.D. Stockton

289

Police, Department of (Tas.) - Mr E.V. Knowles

Police, Department of (VI.A.) - Mr R .J . Court

Presbyterian Church of Australia, Board of Ecumenical Mission and Relations - Reverend R.J. Denham Mr S.G. Edenborough

Public Health, Department of (W.A.) - Dr A.S. Ellis Dr L.J. Holman

Public Service Board (Commonwealth) - Mr J.C. Conway Mr W.J. Harris Mr B.G. McCallum Mr D.R. Scott

Re d f e m Aboriginal Housing Committee - Mrs K.D. Bellear Mr R.K. Phillips

Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Aboriginal Housing Panel - Mr M. Heppell Mr A.M. Griggs

Save the Children Fund - Mrs P.M. Barrington Mrs I.E. Lea Sister P.C. Young

Social Security, Department of - Dr K. O'Flaherty Mr I . Prowse

South Sydney Community Aid - Tenants' Rights Project Mr R .C . Mowbray Mr R.J. Pacey Mrs S.C. Smith

290

State Housing Commission (W.A.) - Mr R.B. MacKenzie

Townsville Hospitals Board - Dr D.P. Bowler

Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia Mr P.L. Troy-

United Church in North Australia - Reverend G.J. Symons, M.B.E.

Western Australian Museum - Dr I.M. Crawford

West Gippsland Hospital - Mr H.A. Hewson, M.P.

291

APPENDIX III SUBMISSIONS

Written submissions only were presented by the following individuals and organisations:

Individuals

Ah Choo, Mr B .

Beaver, Mr R.J.

Bemdt, Professor R.M.

Bourke, Mrs L.W.

Buck, Mr. N.

Burden, Miss J.K.

Burden., ■ Miss R .

Carroll, Mr P.J.

Chaloupka, Mr G.

Edward s, Mr R .

Fields, Mr E.R.

Griffin , Mr B.M.

Hicks, Mr & Mrs I.L.

Iceton, Dr E.A.

Isaac, Mr A.

Jones, Professor F.L.

Lawton, Mr C .R .

Loos, Mr N.

Lovejoy, Miss F.H.

293

McCarthy, Mr F.D.

McConnel, Dr F.M.

McLeod, Mr D.W.

Meura, Mr A.

Miller, Mr A.N.

Miller, Mrs H.C.

Paterson, Mr R.

Pullen, Miss C.

Rioli, Mr C.

Roche, Mr H.H.

Strehlow, Professor T.G.H.

Stuart, Mrs K.

Urban, Dr A.

Wesley-Smith, Mr R.N.

Whyte, The Hon. A.

Organisations

Aboriginal Advancement League Inc., S.A.

Aboriginal Advancement League of Victoria

Aboriginal Affairs

Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Pty Ltd

Aboriginal Educational Committee

Aborigines' Affairs Association, Swan Hill

2 9 4

Aborigines National Tribal Council

Adult Training Foundation of Australia

Alice Springs Cross Culture Group

Association for the Cultural Education of the Children of the Peninsula

Australian Association of Social Workers, Queensland Branch

Australian Chambers of Commerce

Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd

Church Missionary Society of Australia

Darwin Reconstruction Commission

George, C. Denis & Sons

Griffith Aborigines Advancement Association

Gurindji Tribe

Marshall, Martens Pty Ltd

Methodist Homes for Children

Mirima Council

Mount Isa Aboriginal Child Health Association

Mugarinya Group Pty Ltd

Murray District Aboriginal Association

National Council of Women of Australia

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Board

New South Wales Government

295

New South Wales Teachers' Federation

Northern Territory Cattle Producers Council

Police and Customs, Department of

Police Department, New South Wales

Police Department, South Australia

Police Department, Victoria

Premier's Department, Tasmania

Seventh Day Adventist Church, Western Australia Tasmanian Government United Nations Association of Australia

Workshop for Racial Harmony (C.A.R.R.D.)

296

APPENDIX IV ABORIGINAL COUNCILS AND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS CONSULTED

New South Wales

Aboriginal Advisory Council A m i dale Association for Aborigines Bakandji Ltd (Mr J. Whyman, President) Baryulgil Progress Association (Mr Neil Walker, President)

Lower Macleay Aborigines Association Moree Aboriginal Advancement Association (Mr R. Draper, President) Moree Housing Co. Ltd (Mrs P. Briggs, President)

Purfleet Aboriginal Advancement League (Mrs A. Briggs, Secretary) Thungutti Association (Mrs M. Duroux, Secretary) Walgett Progress Association Widjeri Housing Co-operative (Mr W. Byers, Chairman) Wilcannia Advancement Association (Mrs G. King, President) Woodenbong Aborigines Progress Association

Northern Territory

Advisory Council on Northern Territory Aboriginal Affairs (Mr George Wuniwidj, Chairman) Amoonguna Council (Mr Henry Foster, President) Bagot Council (Mr G. Woodroffe, President) Bathurst Island Village Council

Docker River Council (Mr Max Brumby, President) Groote Eylandt Trust (Mr Nandjiwarra Amagula, President) Haasts Bluff Council (Mr Tim Jugadai, Chairman)

Hermannsburg Village Council (Mr Percy Tucker, President) Iwupataka Council (Mr Bill O'Kai, President) Maningrida Village Council (Mr T. Yibberal, Chairman) Papunya Village Council (Mr Paddy Peripatj, President) Roper River Village Council (Mr Douglas Daniels, President) Umbakumba Council (Mr N. Marmarika, President) Wattie Creek Council (Mr Vincent Lingiari, Chairman) Wave Hill Council (Mr Billy Bunter, Chairman)

Yirrkala Council (Mr R. Marika, M.B.E., President) Yuendumu Village Council (Mr Jimidja Jungarai, President)

297

Queensland

Aurukun Community Council (Mr Richard Kelinda, Chairman) Bamaga Aboriginal Council (Mr Adikian Adidi, Chairman) Bynoe Housing and Development Association (Mrs Burnett, Chairman) Cherbourg Aboriginal Council (Mr Les Stewart, Chairman) Cowal Creek Aboriginal Council (Mr Jomen Tamwoy, Chairman) Da m l e y Island Council (Mr Selly Thaiday, Chairman) Dauan Island Council (Mr Tabipa Mau, Chairman) Doomadgee Aboriginal Council (Mr David Brookdale, Chairman) Hope Vale Aboriginal Council (Mr H. McLean, Chairman) Hammond Island Council (Mr Joseph Sabatino, Chairman) Kubin Village Council (Mr Wees Nawia, Chairman) Lockhart River Aboriginal Council (Mr Isaac Hobson,

Chairman)

Mitakoodi Housing Association Momington Island Community Council (Mr Nelson Gavemor, Chairman) Murray Island Council (Mr Sam Passi, Chairman) New Mapoon Aboriginal Council (Mr Henry Quin, Chairman) Palm Island Community Council (Mr F.J. Clay, Chairman) Saibai Island Council (Mr Wagea Waia, Chairman) St Pauls Mission Council (Mr Wilson Kris, Chairman) Umagico Aboriginal Council (Mr Billy Brown, Chairman) Wasaga Community Advancement Co-operative (Mr Saila Misken,

Chairman)

Weipa Aboriginal Council (Mr Joe Callope, Chairman) Woorabinda Aboriginal Council (Mrs Violet Abbington, Chairman) Yam Island Council (Mr Getano Lui, Chairman) Yorke Island Council (Mr Joe Mosby, Chairman)

South Australia

Aboriginal Social Club of Port Augusta Inc. (Mr W.B. Butler, Manager) Amata Community Council (Mr Wilson Foster, Chairman) Davenport Aboriginal Council Far West Aboriginal Progress Association (Mr Milton

Dunnett, President)

298

South Australia (continued)

Koonibba Community Council (Mr William Coleman, Chairman) Lower Murray Nungas Club (Mr Les Kropinyeri, President) Point McLeay Community Council (Mr Henry Rankine, Chairman) Oodnadatta Aboriginal Housing Society (Mr Douglas Walker,

Chairman)

Yalata Community Council (Mr Denny Chuna, Chairman)

Tasmania

Aboriginal Information Service (Mr Michael Mansell, State President) Cape Barren Islanders Community Incorporated (Mrs Annette Mansell, Chairman) Flinders Island Community Co-operative Association (Mr D.O.

Roughley, President)

Victoria

East Gippsland Aboriginal Women's Group (Mrs Nessie Skuta, President) Framlingham Aboriginal Lands Trust (Mr Len Clarke, Chairman) Lake Tyers Aboriginal Lands Trust (Mr Murray Bull, Chairman) Two Rivers Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd (Mrs Florence

Brabham, Administrator)

Western Australia

Central Midlands Aboriginal Advancement Council (Mr Ned Mippy, Chairman) Eastern Goldfields Aboriginal Advancement Council (Mr T. Annear, President) Jigalong Community Council (Mr Billy Sailor, Chairman) Minima Council (Mr Bungeldoon Palmir, Senior Elder) Moora Aboriginal Community Association (Mr Peter Yarran,

Secretary)

Mugarinya Group (Mr Peter Coffin, B.E.M., Tribal Leader) Murray Districts Aboriginal Association Inc. (Mr Oscar Little, President)

299

Western Australia (continued)

Oombulgurri Association (Mr Alan Meehan, President) Warburton Community Council Wongada Wonganara Association (Mr T. Murray, Chairman of Directors).

300

APPENDIX V LOCALITIES VISITED BY THE COMMITTEE

New South Wales

Armidale Baryulgil Bourke Cabbage Tree Island Reserve

Coraki Dareton Kempsey district Moree Quirindi district

Sydney and environs Walgett Wentworth Wilcannia Woodenbong Reserve

Northern Territory

Alice Springs Amoonguna Bathurst Island Darwin

Docker River Gove Groote Eylandt

Haasts Bluff Hermannsburg Iwupataka Maningrida Ngukurr (Roper River)

Papunya Victoria River Downs Wattie Creek Wave Hill

Yuendumu

301

Queensland

Aurukun Bamaga Brisbane and environs Burketown

Charters Towers Cherbourg Cloncurry Cooktown Cunnamulla Doomadgee Hope Vale Laura Lockhart River Momington Island Mount Isa Normanton Palm Island

St George Torres Strait Islands - Badu Damley

Dauan Hammond Horn Moa Murray

Saibai Thursday Yam Yorke

Townsville and environs Weipa Woorabinda

South Australia

Adelaide and environs Amata Ceduna Emabella Koonibba

SO 2

South Australia (continued)

Murray Bridge Oodnadatta Point McLeay Port Augusta district Yalata

Tasmania

Cape Barren Island Devonport Flinders Island Hobart Launceston

Victoria

Baimsdale Bruthen F ramiingham Lakes Entrance

Lake Tyers Melbourne and environs Mildura Morwell

Nowa Nowa Warrnambool Warragul

Western Australia

Barton Mill Prison Broome Cundeelee Derby

Esperance Gnowangerup Halls Creek Jigalong

Kalgoorlie

303

Western Australia (continued)

Kalumburu Kununurra district Laverton district Mo ora Murray River district Norseman Northam Perth and environs Port Hedland district Warburton Wiluna district Wyndham

304

APPENDIX VI TORRES STRAIT ISLANDS

The Torres Strait Islands, as listed in the Schedule to the Queensland Torres Strait Islands Act 1971, are:

EASTERN GROUP

Murray Islands (Her, Dauar, Waier) Darnley Island (Erub) Stephen Island (Ugar) Campbell Island (Zapker) Nepean Island (Edgor) Merad Cay

Bramble Cay East Cay Raine Island

CENTRAL GROUP

Yorke Island (Massig) Cap Island (Mukar) Yam Island (Turtle Backed) Coconut Island (Parremar)

Sue Island (Warraber) Bet Island (Burrar) Poll Island (Guijar) Two Brothers Island (Gabar)

Rennel Island (Mauar) Aureed Island (Aurid) Halfway Island Layoak Island Bourke Island Kebiken Island

Auken Island Momay Island Keats Island (Homogar) Saddle Island (Ulu)

Dungeness Island (Jeaka) Long Island (Sassie) Village Island (Yarpar) Dalrymple Island (Damuth)

Marsden Island (Egabu)

305

WESTERN GROUP

Mulgrave Island (Badu) Banks Island (Moa) Jervis Island (Mabuiag) Saibai Island Talbot Island (Boigu) Cornwallis Island (Dauan) Mount Ernest Island (Naghir) Red Island Albany Island (Pabaju) Bamaga Community Portlock Island (Kulbi) Pole Island (Getullai) Mount Adolphus Island (Mori) North Brother Island ) Manar Mid Brother Island ) croUp

South Brother Island ) Green Island (Elap) High Island Clarke Island Barney Island Brown Island Quoin Rock Burke Island (Suaraji) Tree Island (Tuwin) Hawkesbury Island Tuesday Island Yoran Island Takupai Island Matu Island Maitak Island Kanig Island West Island Nur Island Bond Island (Sarbi) Possession Island (Bisinti) Zurat Island Kulbai-Kulbai Island Sanswit Island Deliverance Island Kiss Island Turn Again (Buru) Barn Island Dayman Island

306

APPENDIX VII ESTIMATES OF ABORIGINAL HOUSING NEEDS IN SELECTED TOWNS AND AREAS THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA

AT JULY 1976

Note: As these statistics were compiled according to " differing criteria, they give only an approximate indication of housing need in the towns and areas selected. When more than one estimate was received for one town, an

upper and lower estimate has been quoted.

New South Wales Albury 3 Merriwagga 2

Armidale 20-30 Moree 75-135

Ashford 1 Mungindi 10-15

Bairanald 6 Murrin Bridge

Barraba 2 (Lake Cargelligo) 10-51

Baryulgil 15 Namina 23

Boggabilla 15-30 Narrabri 15

Bourke 50-52 Narrandera 6-18

Bowraville 13 Newcastle 23

Box Ridge 12 Nowra 28

Brewarrina 40 Orange 4

Cabbage Tree Island 15 Pilliga 4

Caroona 20 Quirindi 5

Coffs Harbour 19-20 Sydney/Mt Druitt 210

Collarenebri 9 Tabulam 13

Condobolin 16-45 Tamworth 5-9

Dareton 33 Taree 10-13

Darlington Point 6-10 Tenterfield 1

Deniliquin 10 Tingha 18-20

Dubbo 25 Toomelah 30

Enngonia 16 Tweed Heads 10

Glen Innes 4 Uralla 5

Goodooga 44 Wagga Wagga 1

Grafton 15 Walcha 3

Griffith 10-20 Walgett 26

Guyra 3 Wallaga Lake 18

Hay 5 Warialda 2

Hillston 6 Wee Waa 10-14

Inverell 12-13 Weilmoringle 15-20

Kempsey 12-21 Wellington 7

Leeton 4 Wilcannia 63

Lismore 4-27 Wollongong 3-3

Maclean 10 Woodenbong 10

Menindee 14

307

Northern Territory

A survey of Aboriginal housing made in March 1971 by the

Welfare Division, Northern Territory Administration, found

that, of 4,200 families identified, 304 were living in

standard housing, 315 were living in houses allowing for

divided living but without full facilities, while the

remaining 3,581 were living in substandard and makeshift

dwellings.

Queensland

Atherton 20 Ingham 32

Aurukun 60 Ipswich 10

Ayr 7 Machine Beach 10

Bardoo Island 39 Mareeba 27

Beaudesert 10 Maryborough 8

Bowen 10 Mo s sman 36

Brisbane 200 Mornington Island 71

Bundaberg 38 Mount Isa 100

Cardwell 40 Normanton 39

Charters Towers 12 Rockhampton 200

Cloncurry 60 Roma 10

Dajarra 20 St George 10

Eidsvold 10 Toowoomba 13

Gladstone 35 Townsville 70

Hughenden 10

Innisfail 130

South Australia

Adelaide 265 Port Lincoln 16

Ceduna 5 Riverland 10

Mount Gambier 13 Yorke Peninsula 9

Murray Bridge 22 Small country

North Flinders 10 areas 9

Port Augusta 57

308

Tasmania Victoria

Furneaux Islands 15 Bairnsdale 28

Other 50 Dandenong 10

Melbourne 25

Morwell 10

Swan Hill 13

Other 81

;rn Australia

Albany 14-17 Moora 17

Beverley 1 Morawa 3

Boulder 24 Mount Barker 2-8

Brookton 4-5 Mount Magnet 5-7

Broome 21 Mullewa 19-21

Brunswick 2-3 Narrogin 7-9

Bunbury 16-26 Norseman 3

Busselton 1-6 Northam 25

Carnarvon 66-81 Northampton 6

Collie 6-21 Nullagine 15

Coolgardie 1 Perth Metropolitan

Cue 5-9 area 180

Cunderdin 3 Pingelly 11

Derby 26 Pinjarra 5-7

Esperance 15 Quairading 10

Geraldton 44-51 South Hedland 30

Gnowangerup 15-19 Tambellup 4-5

Halls Creek 8 Wag in 3

Kalgoorlie 12 Waroona 5

Katanning 17 Wickepin 1-2

Re llerberrin 14 Williams 7

Kununurra 17 Wyndham 8

Laverton 10-12 Yalgoo 2

Leonora 2 York 1

Meekatharra 28-33

Mingenew 2-4

309

Western Australia (continued)

The number of households in dire need could be drawn from

the following information relating to populations in isolated

communities:

Balgo 400 Mowanjum 200+

Beagle Bay 150 Mugarinya/

Bidyadanga 200 Yandeyarra 150

Dunham River 80 Ngangganawi1i 400

Guda Guda 70 Nomads unknown

Jigalong 400 Noualla 100

Kadjina 120 Oombulgurri 300

K alumburu 200 Pandanus Park 40

Lombadina 200 Turkey Creek 85

Mirima 100 Warburton 250

Mt Margaret 75 Wongatha Wonganara 200

Source: The above information was compiled from figures

supplied through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the

Aboriginal Health Section of the Health Commission of

New South Wales, and the Aboriginal Housing Board of the

South Australian Housing Trust.

310

APPENDIX VIII AREAS OF LAND IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY ".... WHICH THE ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS COMMISSION

RECOMMENDED SHOULD 3E TREATED IN THE SAME WAY AS ABORIGINAL RESERVES

Delissaville Cobourg Peninsula Wildlife Sanctuary Tanami Desert Wildlife Sanctuary Kildurk Willowra

Hermannsburg Santa Teresa Daly River Mission Leases

311

.'···

1

APPENDIX IX AREAS OF VACANT CROWN LAND IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY WHICH THE ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS COMMISSION RECOMMENDED s h o u l d n o t BE ALIENATED t o NON-ABORIGINES BEFORE 1976

The Large area west of Tennant Creek across to the Western Australian border and north from the Lake Mackay Reserve and the Tanami Desert Wildlife Sanctuary up to Wave Hill and Murranji pastoral leases in the north;

The area of land situated immediately south of Mount Doreen and having on its eastern boundary the Yuendumu Reserve and along the western and most southerly boundary the Lake Mackay and Haasts Bluff Reserves;

An area of land being immediately south of Tempe Downs and being bordered on the western side by the Petermann Reserve and proceeding south as far as Mulga Park and having on its easterly boundaries Curtin Springs;

The Simpson Desert area in the south-eastern corner of the Northern Territory;

The Area of land east and south-east of Tennant Creek and extending as far as Georgina Downs;

Borroloola area;

Daly River Agricultural Area, surrounded by Tipperary pastoral lease;

Area between Woolner and Point Stuart pastoral leases ;

Area between Point Stuart pastoral lease and the South Alligator River extending south to Gimbat pastoral lease;

Area north of Munmarlary and Mudginberri, pastoral leases;

313

Field Is. and Endyalgout Is. in Van Diemen Gulf;

Nicholson River Area, adjoining Queensland border;

Area between St.Vidgeon pastoral lease and the Gulf;

Area to the south-east of Tipperary pastoral lease, on either side of Dorisvale pastoral lease;

Area west of the Stuart Highway north of Katherine;

Area east of the Stuart Highway north of Katherine;

Area north of Anthony Lagoon pastoral lease;

Kidman Springs area, south-east of Fitzroy;

Barkly Tableland District area south of Newcastle Waters and Muckaty pastoral leases;

Area adjoining Wagait reserves north of Stapleton pastoral lease and west of Adelaide River;

Area north of Mount Bundy pastoral lease and east of Adelaide River.

314