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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1455

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - This Bill comes before us by reason of an amendment made to the Constitution in 1967. Let me say at the outset that I consider it regrettable that in those days, as now, the citizens of the Northern Territory had no right to vote in such a referendum. As I said strongly then and I say again today, citizens of the Northern Territory should have the right to vote in such a referendum. The people to whom I refer on a percentage basis, are the most concerned in Aboriginal affairs. I will continue to urge upon the Government that something be done about this anomaly.

I refer now to the Bill itself. In accordance with the referendum of 1967, the Commonwealth Government is to assume the ultimate responsibility for Aborigines. In many cases I think it is better for people to deal with State authorities. There is better liaison, very often, between State departments when the matter being dealt with concerns the health, education or housing of Aborigines. Although the overall finance and organisation must come from the Commonwealth there is a far better chance of understanding at the grass roots level. An example of this is the turtle farm fiasco in Queensland. As one of the previous speakers mentioned this matter, I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant): How many turtles did Dr Bustard muster on his 5 farms? Were there sufficient turtles in fact to stock all the farms, Was some sort of sleight of hand going on between the turtles and the farms? Some very strange things are going on, and I would welcome the Minister's advice as to what that story was all about. Once again it is an instance of the Common: wealth scrutiny.

Mr Hansen - You would need a boundary rider.

Mr CALDER - Yes, a boundary rider would be needed. Perhaps the turtles need to be earmarked, too.

I mention now the abduction case concerning a young Aboriginal girl named Nola. This matter was referred to very ably by my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). I support his demand that a full inquiry be made into this matter. I will not discuss the circumstances of the case. I think the Minister is sympathetic and upset. He is sincere and genuine in things of this nature and I am certain that he will go to great lengths to try to get to the bottom of it and to see that the child Nola receives the best possible deal.

Mr Duthie - Have there ever been any similar cases?

Mr CALDER - There have been many cases of foster children, and this case has probably damaged the whole concept of the foster children scheme. Many people in the Northern Territory and no doubt in other parts of Australia were influenced to take children away from the circumstances which applied in this case. I think that when the investigation is carried out it will be found that the health situation of the child and the actual feelings of the parents for the child at the time were discussed between the foster parents and the Welfare Branch as it then was, of the Northern Territory Administration. This Branch decided where children were placed and what they did. Its authority will be undermined. It is a pity if, after an Aboriginal child grows up with a white family, its parents, for some reason or other, say that they want the child returned to them. I think the Aborigines are missing a chance for their children to get a better start in life, especially if they do not wish to care for them in their early years. The opportunity is there for their children to be well looked after and reared. These children can be used as bridgeheads into the European society to assist the Aboriginal cause. Quite often over weekends, Aboriginal children would stay at my home in Alice Springs. They came from the Aboriginal hostel in Alice Springs to my home and played with my children. We treated them as we treated our own children. It will be a pity if the present case breaks down this sort of feeling between Aborigines and Europeans.

I return to my original line of thought. Quite often the centralist approach is out of touch with the grassroots feelings. I mention another example which has not come before the House and has not received any publicity. The case concerns a glaring lack of understanding with regard to a land auction sale at Borroloola. This was a sale of various house blocks. Two of the blocks were supposed to be for fisheries branch purposes. The nub of the matter that I raise concerns the sale of a service station site and a caravan park site. Buyers came from hundreds of miles to attend this sale. Borroloola is some 600 miles or 700 miles from Alice Springs. People came also from Tennant Creek and Katherine. Many travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles to bid at this land sale at Borroloola. A virtually unknown man appeared at the land sale and, apparently on advice from Canberra - a central control - he outbid others who were interested in bidding for that land. He reluctantly admitted later that he was bidding on behalf of the Borroloola Social Club.

At the conclusion of the sale the members of the Borroloola Social Club, who are Aborigines, had to be instructed on what had occurred. They did not know that this man had come with instructions from afar - I do not know whether he came on the instructions of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or some other authority - apparently with an open cheque book to bid for 2 sites at Booroloola. The Aborigines did not know what was going on; they were told later. Local people and those who had travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles to attend the sale did not know what was going on either. They found later that no ceiling had been placed on the amount that this man could pay by cheque for these sites. I say that this was a major blunder. Some pretty fierce talk occurred at Booroloola over this incident. I was there quite by accident on the day of the sale. If either the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) had been there either on that day or within the next week, I can tell the House that they would have received a pretty hot time.

I make this point: If this land was required for Aboriginal enterprise - by all means let the sites be used for that purpose; I am all for such projects - why on earth was it ever allowed to go to public auction which in the event meant that people bid against a man sent from the centralist control in Canberra with an open cheque book to buy that land? Such action ignores the grass roots approach. The Commonwealth Government or the central control does not have the knowledge and very often the understanding of the grass roots approach, lt does not have the ability to get down to the level of the common people. This case is an instance of my argument.

In his second reading speech, the Minister stated that some confusion existed among Australian Aborigines as to whom they should approach. The Interim National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which he established earlier, is in some doubt. I ask the Minister: How is that Council progressing? Is it truly representative of all Aborigines across the nation? What is happening with regard to the election which Aborigines are supposed to be holding to put Aboriginal members on to that Council? What thoughts has the Minister about the complaint from many Aborigines in the outback areas of Western Australia, Queensland or the Northern Territory - I say this reservedly - that they are being bulldozed into accepting the decisions which come from this Council and which purports to represent them? These Aborigines say that they are being bulldozed into agreement by the better educated part-coloured city slickers, as it were, who come into their areas and are used as mouthpieces. Is that what is happening with the Interim Aboriginal Consultative Committee? Do Aborigines really understand what is meant by transferring authority from the States to the Commonwealth? I believe that many of them do not understand this aspect.

From the point of view of the Northern Territory, I would say that the Commonwealth has already taken over the responsibilities proposed in this Bill as all the necessary planning and co-ordination work are taking place. I point to the fact that an ex-director of Aboriginal Affairs of 20 years to 25 years' experience has been stood down; other men of similar experience are being brushed aside. Who is taking over from these people? Someone must advise the Aborigines. I know that a policy of self-determination has swept into this sphere. A Fabian-Socialist and those under him have embarked on a policy of what appears to many others and me as a policy of separatism. Separatism in South Africa is called apartheid, although I would say that that policy might be working in reverse in Australia. The policy being espoused in Australia for Aborigines is quite separate and distinct from that followed with respect to European Australians. Whether this is being done consciously or unconsciously, I do not know. Looking at the instances that I have quoted of what has happened, I think that this is occurring unconsciously rather than consciously.

By all means let us work towards assisting Aborigines to take their place in our society. This Bill is another step towards that end. Let Aborigines participate in the fruits of the development of this tremendous country. Let them be with us and us with them. What has been achieved has not been reached without great effort. Is the Government embarked on a course which will bring Aborigines to that desirable state? Are Aborigines and the Government working together to achieve that end? I say that work is the basis of many of the problems which have arisen. Who is working some of the places that have been acquired by the previous Government and this Government? Who is working Everard Park which consists of $200,000 worth of cattle country? Who is working the $300,000 Yugul Cattle Co. project? Who is working the $300,000 Willowra station? Who is working the Kildurk station, a $890,000 cattle property in the Kimberleys? These are very considerable undertakings. Who will work the $lm Finniss River station if it is acquired by the Government? I do not know whether it will be taken over. It is of no use continuously to buy these places and have people just sitting down on them doing nothing. Unless something is done the whole onward movement of Aborigines towards involvement in their own enterprises will go down the drain.

I have constantly urged these people to their faces to see that work is the answer to many of their problems. I wonder whether by allowing them to own these places without running them economically we will make them into a race of parasites. I hope not. Over the weekend I heard in my home town about the purchase of an immense hotel and business block combined. Who will work them if the purchase ever comes about? It is all very well to own these properties but something has to be done about working them. There is also the 5,000- square mile property at Haasts Bluff. I do not know for sure that I understand that the other day some experts went and had a look at it. What is happening in regard to the Daly RiverPort Keats area, the Finniss River proposal and so on? The time has not yet arrived when success for these people will be achieved by self-determination.

I think the Aborigine must have assistance in the things he is doing. I think he recognises that this assistance is important. I am certain that the Aborigine just does not want money poured down the drain without getting out any results. As I said, this Bill is a move towards achieving results. But I say to the Minister: Do not turn your back on those who can assist you and the Aborigines. Do not make the Aboriginal community a parasitical community. We must realise that they live in this country just as we do and that they have to work for it the same as we work for it. If they are to have any self-respect and the respect of other Australians then surely they must be prepared to work to the best of their ability and be prepared to be trained to the best of their ability to prepare themselves to take part in some of these private enterprise properties which are being taken over by this centralist Government, I know that the Minister is very sympathetic and thoughtful in regard to this matter. But I feel that on occasions he can get carried away. I say to him: Use the resources that you have before you squander your money on things that you just like the look of and probably do not know anything about and which you have not anyone to work.

The Government should be training men and women who can assist the Aborigines themselves to develop their own skills and to develop their own determination to work for themselves in order to enable them to own and operate a considerable part of this country. We must help them to do this. It will be a matter of co-operation. It will be a matter of lining up the people with the experience and trying to teach the Aborigines until they have reached the stage where they can cope for themselves.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Thehonourable member's time has expired.

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