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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1834

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - I have mentioned previously when I have been speaking that the implementation of the Government's policy to assist our Aboriginal and island people does not appear to be clearly defined. 1 repeat this again. There does not appear to be any clearly defined policy, or should I say clearly defined method of applying the Government's policy of assistance to the Aborigines. The only way that people can gain information as to what the Government is doing in the field of welfare for the coloured people is by reading the newspapers, and one reads that so much money has been allocated for this purpose and so much for that purpose. It appears to be a piecemeal type of administration, and I think one could be forgiven for asking for a clear definition of the method by which the Government intends to implement its policy. We could say that the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was leaning towards having a clear definition of policy, but unfortunately time was against him in the 10 months he occupied that office. However we could see this happening. It must be done first. This is the first step in administration; otherwise, as I mentioned, it becomes piecemeal.

I understand that last night Senator Georges outlined certain matters quite clearly. If the information he gave to the Senate is correct he is to be commended for doing so. Where the responsibility in the situation he raised lies 1 do not know. All I hope is that this situation will cease. Again in trying to follow the policy of the Government over the last few months in this matter one could be forgiven for asking whether the previous Minister - we hope that the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will - really sat down and analysed the Aboriginal people themselves and their background prior to any decision -being made to allocate finance in the different areas affecting the coloured people. For instance, does he realise - I hope the present Minister will; in fact he will have to - that they are very different from ourselves as far as present and future needs are concerned. I have worked with them and lived among them for many years and know this to be a fact. We place an emphasis on saving for security in the future and we are concerned with our future needs. The coloured people's concept of saving is not the same. They are concerned with the present and the past, and future requirements very seldom enter into their thinking. Our emphasis is placed on the individual, individual competition and personal effort. The coloured people's emphasis is on group goals and very seldom on the individual. Co-operation is their main theme for living, where competition is stressed in ours. Their efforts are directed towards communal activities, with special emphasis on the welfare of their children and their aged. Their idea of group co-operation instead of individual effort is one which should be considered most seriously when thinking in terms of education and trade training.

Will the new Minister consider the child at school who by instinct tends to progress along with the group, and yet may have the ability if he used personal individual effort to learn faster than the others? These are matters which I feel are most important when thinking in terms of assistance to our coloured people. The primary aim of any government is to assist these people, but in my opinion the methods employed to do so must be clearly denned in every area of welfare. We read a lot about malnutrition and how this is caused through lack of utilising the proper foods available and in the method of preparation, and in fact a lack of knowledge of the foods that are available to assist in rearing strong and healthy children. Our reports in this same area tell us that there is a definite lack of knowledge regarding proper hygiene and matters of health.

For all the money that has been spent over the years on these matters by having our white people move amongst these coloured people to instruct them in the proper use of foods and matters of health and hygiene, this problem still persists - and therefore, to my way of thinking, it is not being tackled correctly. If after these years there has been very little improvement, then there must be something wrong with the method employed. In this regard I would like to see this finance directed towards the training of coloured people chosen from all the areas in which they live, so that after their training is completed they could move among their own people and be readily understood, to teach them this desirable know ledge on matters of malnutrition, health and hygiene. I realise that this would not be done overnight, but I am sure there would be many coloured people willing to undertake such training in order that they could pass this knowledge on to their own particular tribe or group. They would listen and absorb this knowledge passed on to them by one of their own people, in preference to being instructed by our white people, because there still exists that area of suspicion and distrust towards the white people's intentions.

The field of education needs particular study. We know that all degrees of education are available to coloured students, but we also know that not many of them - very few in fact - avail themselves of these opportunities. This could possibly be tied up with what I have mentioned previously regarding their inherent belief in group co-operation. It is generally recognised that the coloured people in Australia progress quite well until they reach the age of 12 or 13, and then the desire for knowledge, especially in the males, appears to wane, and they lose interest in their education. The scheme that was introduced of allocating finance to a coloured family for every child that attended a secondary school offset this to some extent, but I know that in some instances the child only attends secondary school in order that the family gets the benefit of the finance, and not because of any desire to further his education. This outlook could stem from the Aboriginal's outlook towards work, which is different from ours. We regard work as a necessity, which must be done. The Aboriginal regards work as just an activity of living and not as a necessity. And again their idea of group living does not lend itself to the child making an individual effort, and he cannot be blamed for this, but this certainly is one matter which must be looked at when thinking in terms of education for our coloured children.

I have given a great deal of thought to methods of overcoming this problem of a desire to work in groups instead of working as individuals as far as education is concerned, and I have advocated previously the establishment of trade training centres for coloured children only. There is no doubt that they make excellent tradesmen when they put their minds to it, but we seldom find the young coloured person taking advantage of trade training in technical schools - possibly again because of their thoughts on individual effort. I am sure that trade training centres established to train coloured youngsters only in the various trades such as motor mechanics, plumbing, carpentry and the like, would be successful. It has been particularly noted that they prefer to play sport together, and, as a completely coloured team, co-operate with each other and do extremely well in competition with other teams, and therefore I think one could safely assume that if they do their trade training together this also would pay off. It would give the young person the confidence needed to compete on the labour market with other white tradesmen. I am positive, too, that there would be no problem in obtaining adequate staff to train these young people, both male and female, in the particular trades they want to follow. It would also give them some goal to work for instead of being confined, as they are now, to labouring jobs only. Australia will need as many tradesmen as it can get for quite a number of years yet, and this is one area of assistance which could prove valuable for them in the future. They would also feel they were part of their country's development and share in it.

Another area which could be explored to assist the coloured people is the establishment of community centres, complete with trained welfare staff, again comprising coloured people, who would run these centres and be available for advice on matters dealing with health, hygiene, social welfare and job opportunities. These community centres could provide relaxation and recreation, meeting places, special classes for the production of native artifacts, and kindergartens. In fact they could be the hub of their communal life. My time has almost expired but I have a few more ideas on this matter. I hope that the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will give my suggestions the same attention as did the previous Minister, Mr Bryant.

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