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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3962

Mr WALLIS (Grey) - I would like to add my contribution to the debate on this

I certainly do not want to take up a great deal of the time of the House. Somebody else may want to speak tonight. But I want to make some comments about the allocation of $32.25m this year, compared with the allocation of $22m last year - an increase of 46 per cent - -and to refer to its effect on South Australia and on my electorate in particular. The figures available to us indicate the increases that have taken place this year. I appreciate that, although the total increase is large, the amount spent on Aborigines was growing year by year even under the previous Government. However, this year we certainly have tried to allocate sufficient money to come to grips with some of the problems that we have to face. South Australia has received an amount of $4.699m, compared with $il.740m last year. Of this year's amount, $ 1.926m has been allocated for housing, compared with $690,000 last year; on community amenities $51,000 this year, compared with $86,000 last year - a small drop in that case; on health, an increase to $920,000 from $274,000 last year; and on education $1.3 15m this year, compared with $421,000 last year.

When we talk about education in South Australia, particularly in the area I represent, we are dealing probably with some of the last people to come in contact with European society. I refer to the area in the north-west corner of South Australia which is tied in with the south-west corner of the Northern Territory and the mid-eastern part of Western Australia. In this area the South Australian Government certainly has done a particularly good job. It is probably the most advanced in the use of the vernacular in the education field. The South Australian Government has been able to appoint full-time Aboriginal teachers to assist in this field of education.

One other matter that received a considerable increase was community and regional projects - an amount of $384,000 compared with $22,000 last year. This is a pretty big increase. Earlier I mentioned housing. In the Bill there is an allocation of an amount for the provision of 41 houses in South Australia. This may not seem a great number of houses, and it certainly would not be if they were the only houses to be provided for Aborigines. But the South Australian Housing Trust certainly fills a great part of the gap in this field, because whenever the Housing Trust builds homes in an area where Aborigines live an allocation of houses is made to Aborigines. In many of the larger towns a considerable number of Aborigines have been allocated houses and have moved into the town.

I should like to mention a few of the community and regional projects. I think the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) was highly critical of the way some of the amounts have been spent. He questioned quite a number of projects. One he questioned was the provision of legal aid. I think legal aid is an area in which Aborigines have been at a grave disadvantage in the past. Anyone who lives in towns where these people are knows that it is only in the last 4 or 5 years that any compassion has been shown towards them and any consideration has been given to their problems. They have possibly been the victims of persecution. They may have been picked up for various offences. Only on rare occasions have they had the right to be represented by any legal person. If a white person was picked up he would engage a lawyer and possibly get off the charge, but of course this did not apply to Aborigines. I know of many occasions when they have been raided because a party has been going on. About 30 have been picked up in one hit, taken to the police station and all charged with being drunk. It would be interesting to go through the crowd and find how many were drunk and how many were not. As everybody knows, in most cases, to save trouble the Aborigines plead guilty. I feel that the provision of money for legal aid is something that is worth while.

I can clearly remember about 18 months ago an Aborigine coming to see me when he was in strife. He bought a television set, but did not take out a licence. He apparently received a letter from the PostmasterGen.eral's Department. He ignored the letter. The reason he ignored the letter was that he could not read. I remember being called down to the local gaol to speak to him because he had not paid the fine. He had not turned up at the court because he could not read, he was fined and the next thing he was in gaol. Here was a case where there was certainly need for legal assistance for this man. The provision of legal aid is one matter I do not think anyone should quibble about.

The honourable member for Herbert said that a few projects were wasteful. Let me mention a few projects within my electorate of which I have a little knowledge. I have seen some of the preliminary work that has been done. The money is certainly not being wasted. For example, there is an allocation of $25,000 for the construction of a new medical centre at Indulkana. Indulkana is in a pretty remote area of South Australia. The hospital used to be a 9 foot by 9 foot galvanised iron shed. I remember the nursing sister saying to me one day that she could be treating somebody for something on the bed and an Aboriginal woman would be having a child on the floor. Under this Bill $25,000 is allocated for the construction of a new medical centre. Provision is also made for the provision of family centres at the same place. These will assist the Aboriginal people and will also take them further along the way to being able to protect themselves in health matters.

At Ernabella a garage workshop is to be provided for adult education. In quite a number of the remote places - Ernabella is one - there are ti few motor cars that Aborigines have probably purchased in Alice Springs, Adelaide or elsewhere. In the past it has been a very big job to try to keep these vehicles on the road. Most Aborigines are now mobile with motor cars. They use them to go out hunting and so forth. It was found that with the facilities that were available, particularly at Ernabella, it was impossible for the garage that was part of the establishment to maintain these vehicles. This has been a pet project of mine for a while. These people should be instructed in the normal maintenance of a motor car so that when something goes wrong they have somewhere to go to get assistance and so that they will be in a position where they can possibly do the job themselves and keep their motor car running.

At Yalata further out on the west coast a craft block is to be built at the secondary school at a cost of $42,000. Again this is an area which is pretty isolated. It is about 180 miles along the Eyre Highway past Ceduna. Certainly that craft block will be put to a great amount of use. I see one further item: Highways Department training scheme*. I know that this was something which with the people of Indulkana we discussed with the Minister on a visit to the area quite recently.

The Stuart Highway runs north and south from Port Augusta to Alice Springs and it goes within 5 miles of Indulkana. This is a dirt road which gets a lot of knocking about. It has had a pretty rough time this year with all the rain and it has to be maintained. It was suggested that the Highways Department of South Australia take a number of Aborigines, train them in the operation of earthmoving equipment and let them have the contract for looking after the road. I certainly hope that something like this can be done. In this area, about which I have spoken before, no other work is available. The people are in an enclosed 12 square miles reserve with a fence around it. There is no employment for them. We feel that if the Aboriginal people could be given this task it would be something for them to do and something which would be well worth while. If we go through the list we find - I certainly do not intend to mention all the grants - that quite an amount of money has been given to local councils. These councils have done a good job, particularly with the rural unemployment relief scheme, in providing work for Aborigines. Quite a few of these councils are mentioned. Many of them are now receiving a grant which will enable them to carry on with Aboriginal projects.

One other item which is mentioned here, and on which I feel I should comment, concerns the establishment of an Aboriginal social club at Port Augusta. What happened in this particular case is that the Federal Government provided finance for the purchase of an old house. I know that when this house was purchased in the centre of the town I received a few complaints about what would happen. But to the credit of the people involved the whole project has been carried out by Aboriginal labour. They have been able to renovate this place. They have put decent fences around it and they hope to plant lawns and so forth. They have established television rooms for old people. They are trying to start a scheme to provide a hot meal daily for the children attending the local high school. This project is well worthy of commendation. It is something which we hope will keep going and which will grow. It is something which I certainly hope the Commonwealth Government will continue to support.

Also mentioned in the list of various projects are allocations to various housing societies. Much has been said tonight about housing for Aborigines. I mention Ernabella where there is a housing society. These housing societies are established in a number of places. But I know that at Ernabella the Aborigines themselves have been building under the supervision of a tradesman carpenter. Not only have they been able to build quite a number of houses but they have also played a fair part in building their new store, in making the bricks and so forth. They have actually played a big part in the whole turnout.

Another special project which gets a mention at Ernabella is the trickle feed irrigation project. As honourable members know Ernabella is in a very dry part of Australia. I think that its rainfall would be in the vicinity of 5 inches a year. At Ernabella a trickle feed irrigation scheme has been worked out. It is something which has received the support not only of this Government but also of the previous Government. Last time I was in that area it was quite pleasing to see the quantity of vegetables growing in an area which one would reckon would not grow a thing. All these are projects which I think are worthy of support. The previous speaker criticised a number of projects which are in this list. I am sure that all of those I have mentioned are worthy of support. I hope that in years to come further assistance will be given to these projects. That is all I wish to say. In closing I express my support for the provisions of the Bill.

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