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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1764

Mr HAND(5.49) —In the last 20 minutes we have heard comments from the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter). I think it is important to return to the estimates of the Department and to examine what this Government has, in fact, done for the Aboriginal community in this Budget. The Australian Labor Party has allocated a total of $ 207m to the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio for Aboriginal advancement in the years 1983-84. This is, in fact, a 27.7 per cent increase over last year's expenditure . We heard rantings and ravings from the shadow Minister, but no comments at all about what his Government did for the Aboriginal community.

I want to examine certain areas of expenditure. This year, the National Aboriginal Conference had its allocation almost doubled when compared with the figure given by the Liberals in the last Budget. It is now $7.3m which is a 93 per cent increase on the allocation provided by the Liberals. The NAC, as honourable members know, enables the Aboriginal communities to consult with one another and to bring forward their views to the Government. The Aboriginal Development Commission has been allocated $57.3m for its general fund. This is a 13.8 per cent increase on what the Liberals provided in 1982-83. In recognition of the important part played by Aboriginal Hostels Ltd in the provision of temporary accommodation for Aboriginal people the company has been allocated $ 13m this year, an inrease of 26.7 per cent over the Liberal's expenditure last year. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies has been allocated $3.2m to enable it to continue and expand its valuable work in researching, preserving and promoting Aboriginal culture. The allocation is a 13.5 per cent increase on the Liberal's expenditure last year.

I would have thought that the shadow Minister for Aboriginal affairs would have talked about the high unemployment rate among Aboriginals, given that he has been travelling around the country with me on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. However, we have not heard a word from him on what his Government did for the Aboriginal communities over the last seven years. He did not mention a word about the plight of their unemployed. In this year's Budget there is an 87.2 per cent increase over the Liberals expenditure last year. It is now $19.5m. The special work program will receive over $5m, an increase of 64.7 per cent over the Liberal Government's expenditure last year. Funds for the community development employment program have been almost doubled to $14.5m in 1983-84.

The Government gives a high priority to improving Aboriginal health, and this year has allocated $27.146m to health programs. This represents a 14 per cent increase over the Liberal Government's expenditure last year. Of the $27.146m allocated for Aboriginal health, $11.3m will be provided directly to Aboriginal controlled health services, an increase of 35.3 per cent on what the Liberals allocated last year. The balance of $15.8m will be provided to the States for a continuation of the programs they provide to Aboriginals. I hope this trend continues in the next two years, until we reach a point at which the Aboriginal people are completely controlling their own health services and the States hand over those rights to the Aboriginal communities. I hope that that is achieved by the end of the three-year term of this Government.

The community management services program, which supports essential and municipal-type services to Aboriginal communites, will receive a 41 per cent increase in funds this year, a 41 per cent increase on what the Liberals allocated last year. The town campers program is a new initiative to provide greater emphasis on addressing the problems of Aboriginal town campers. It is a response to the report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which has been tabled in this place. The allocation for that program is $3m. All of that money is expected to be spent by the Government.

The increase in legal aid funding was also made available as a result of the Standing Committee report. A total of $11.2m has been provided to the 17 independent Aboriginal legal services. This is an increase of 42 per cent on what the Liberals made available last year. A total of $14.3m has been allocated for education programs this financial year. This is an 18 per cent increase on expenditure allocated last year. Spending by the Government on social support programs will increase by 17.2 per cent over what the Liberals allocated last year. Honourable members can see that in every area this Government has increased dramatically the amount of money that is being made available to the Aboriginal community. Funds for Aboriginal training programs have been increased by just over 20 per cent on what the Liberal Party made available in its last Budget. Funds for culture and recreation total $2.9m, an increase of 66.2 per cent over the Liberal's expenditure last year.

I did plan to spend most of my ten minutes talking about land rights, but because of the reluctance of the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and honourable members on the other side to talk about the allocations in the Budget I had to mention what the Government was doing. Some $4.6m has been made available for the land program, which is a 143 per cent increase on what the Liberals made available last year for land rights. That is the commitment that this Government has. That money will be made available to organisations and land trusts that acquire an interest in land to enable their members to occupy it. Is the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) trying to suggest that we took money from other areas? What other area in this country needs more assistance than the Aboriginal people? The honourable member's attitude is typical of that of the National Party of Australia. For God's sake, listen! The Opposition is begrudging the Aboriginals an increase in their allocations. In the last hour we heard a double header from the Opposition spokesman on ethnic affairs and the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs. Both of their comments were off target about what such people require. Let me say a few words about land rights. To Aboriginal people in Australia, today whether they be from the urban dispossessed or the endangered tribe, the basic importance of spiritual and cultural ties to the land are, at best, ignored and, at worst, dismissed by Europeans.

Mr Hodgman —Ha, ha!

Mr HAND —The honourable member for Denison laughs at that. The denial of cultural and spiritual heritage and the lack of recognition-

Mr Hodgman —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is totally deceiving the House. I was engaged in a conversation with the shadow Minister. It is most unfair. He misleads the House. He is like Mr Dawkins.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Mr HAND —The denial of cultural and spiritual heritage and the lack of recognition of relationship to the land are the root cause of the loss of identity, the loss of health and the subsequent degradation. Restoration of the opportunity to determine the future for themselves, thus re-establishing their relationship with creation, is fundamental to the regeneration and good health of the individual, the family and the community. Aboriginal people view life in its entirety and resist categorisation, the breaking into parts, which seems to predominate European thinking about approaches to life. For this reason, in examining the question of the place of Aboriginal art and its relationship to the land and Aboriginal culture, it is essential to begin with the Aboriginal Dreamtime. The Aboriginal people say:

The Dreamtime is very important to the Aboriginal people. It is the basis of our culture.

Aboriginal Dreamtime is the explanation of their existence, indeed the existence of all creation. The vital significance of land becomes apparent when examining these beliefs which form the basis of the Aboriginal religion. Too often in the past-particularly in the last seven years-interpretations of Aboriginal life and culture have been foisted upon Aboriginals by non-Aboriginal people, causing misunderstanding and misrepresentation. I conclude by reciting the words of the South Eastern Land Council:

Return to me my Land

My Land weeps

Return to me my Spirit

My Spirit weeps!

Until we begin to think about Aboriginals and Aboriginal land issues in that way we are failing the Aboriginal people.