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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1800

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - The Opposition Parties strongly support the real emphasis that has been given to Aboriginal advancement in this Budget. We also recognise that the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), has made a distinct personal contribution to the Aboriginal cause in Australia over a long period of time - not just during the period of his Ministry, which unfortunately was brought to an end by the Prime Miinster (Mr Whitlam) this week. 1 go on record as saying that there is no doubt as to his experience with and genuine concern for Australian Aborigines. Unfortunately the same comment cannot be made in respect of the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), a man with no experience and a man who has shown no evidence of any previous concern or interest. It is a matter of regret - I say this without making any party political point - that the honourable member for Wills is no longer in control of the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio.

This is an area in which there should be no major philosophical difference between political parties, even though there are and will be differences in particular policies. It is also an area in which the efficacy of Government policy depends on community acceptance and support. A high level of expenditure coupled with enlightened policies may even be counter-productive without a corresponding level of community commitment. There is no doubt that the future success of Government policies will be facilitated by a greater understanding of Aborigines, their history, their culture and their contemporary problems by all Australians. The present Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, in expressing the hope that a book published by Professor

Rowley would have a similar impact to such famous classics as the 'American Dilemma' by Gunnar Myrdal, said this:

I pray this not simply because of the transparent need of Aboriginal Australians for recognition and understanding but because of our inability to see the Aboriginal Australian as a blindness also towards ourselves. While it persists we are prisoners, trapped in an accepted history and a pattern of conventions the falsity of which we know at some acknowledged depth of our own consciousness. Until we break out of that trap and are prepared to accept the commitment to action which that action demands, we will remain ourselves half invisible to ourselves - with our own identity but partly realised.

Because I believe that the development of a greater understanding of Aborigines is important I would put the following suggestions for consideration by the Minister. The first is that in consultation with State governments and appropriate education authorities, suitable courses be made available covering Aboriginal history and culture. These courses could be made available in primary, secondary and tertiary education systems. The second is that similar courses be instituted in such institutions as police colleges and academies. The National Conference of Aboriginal Advisory Councillors passed 2 resolutions on this subject in 1972. Resolution 7 states:

That this Conference supports Black Studies programs and asks that Commonwealth finances be made available to set up programs in all universities.

Resolution 24 states:

That police academies introduce studies in social, cultural and economic problems that are particular to Aboriginal people.

I believe that the Government should move with a sense of real urgency to fulfil both of these resolutions and to assist in the introduction of similar studies into Australia's secondary education institutions. I believe that policies of this type can play an important role in the advancement of the Aboriginal people. The Government has foreshadowed an Act of Parliament to outlaw racial discrimination. There may be some advantage for Aborigines in legislation of this type where there is provision for the investigation of complaints and for conciliation procedures such as exist in the United Kingdom and New Zealand legislation. I do not intend to comment in detail on that proposition now. However, I am sure that the Minister would agree that laws alone cannot hope to eliminate racial discrimination although they can serve to prevent its most disturbing manifestations. Racism and racial discrimination are the products of ignorance and misconception. It has always been a matter of deep concern that our education system has chosen to ignore Aboriginal history and culture in favour of the more superficial aspects of Aboriginal life. Every Australian child is in fact familiar with the boomerang and the corroboree. Too few are familiar with the devastation of the traditional Aboriginal culture and life-style by successive generations of white Australians. Too few are really familiar with the contemporary problems of the urban Aborigine, divorced from his own traditional background and society and rejected by white Australian society.

The Opposition recognises the rights of individual Aborigines to effective choice about the degree to which, and the pace at which, they come to identify themselves with our society. For the urban Aborigine that choice has, in a sense, already been made. But the dilemma is that the urban Aborigine is in our society but not in fact of it. The dual policy which seeks to inculcate and maintain a pride in Aboriginal identity, tradition and culture while providing bridging assistance into Australian society such as legal and medical services, operates on Aborigines but not on the white Australian society. Clearly, if Aborigines are to be assisted towards accepting the values and social structures of our society there must be an equal emphasis on policies designed to create acceptance and understanding of this by white Australians. General public education programs designed to create higher levels of community objectivity and understanding towards minority groups have been implemented in many countries, including the United States. However, it is clear that because attitudes towards these groups tend to be formed at an early age, public education programs of this nature have a very limited achievement. It is eminently more rational to endeavour to create more objective attitudes through the medium of our education processes. I am not of course suggesting that a conscious education program be adopted to achieve certain 'desirable' attitudes. Propaganda is neither required nor desirable. What is required and desirable is an objective and honest portrayal of Aboriginal history, culture and contemporary life. Unless greater emphasis is directed towards the public understanding of Aborigines most of the increased financial assistance provided in the Budget will not have the most productive results.

I have referred generally to the availability of courses within our general system. But, as

I said at the outset, the Minister, in consultation with the State Governments, should give consideration to the desirability of special courses in such institutions as police academies and other public authorities which administer policies touching on the problems experienced by the Aboriginal community. I am aware that such courses already exist in certain institutions. However, I am sure that further consideration by the Minister would have beneficial results. In addition, the Minister might consider the success of 'good neighbour councils' in assisting, on a local basis, the problems faced by migrants. Many migrant groups experience substantially similar problems to Aborigines in our society. As a former Minister for Immigration, I am aware of the success which these councils have had in facilitating the integration of migrants. There is no reason to prevent the sponsorship of councils along similar lines for the benefit of both Aborigines and white Australians. I hope that the new Minister will give some thought to the ideas which I have put forward during this debate. I would urge him to consider appropriating some of the additional funds available this year for these purposes.

Because the former Minister is in charge of Government business in the debate on these estimates I comment again on what 1 believe to be the very able contribution made by him to the progress of the Aboriginal people in Australian society, not just during the term of his ministry but over a long period of time. He is a man who has shown a very great sense of dedication. No one can doubt the motives which, in fact, have led him in the pursuit of seeking to bring a better destiny to the Aboriginal people of Australia. In that sense I pay the warmest tribute to the honourable member for Wills and I am pleased that he is at the table at present.

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