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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1040

Senator BYRNE (Queensland) - In the dying stages of this debate there are one or two comments I should like to make. From this very unfortunate series of events there may be at this stage some lesson we can learn, and I say that for those who have taken a position on one side or the other. The whole of our attitude !o Aborigines in this country has moved from a position of initial hostility and oppression and even cruelty in the early days of Australian settlement through a period to one of paternalism from which we are now resiling. Our paternalism of course is the treatment accorded by a superior to an inferior and derives from the word 'father' it involved first of all a degree of indulgence and tolerance, a degree of being prepared to allow things which are not accorded in other circumstances. In our desire to try to give social justice to the Aboriginal people we moved at one stage to a position of paternalism, and that nas now been discovered to be an approach which is highly undesirable. The idea nf w in modern terms, and the anthropologists and the social psychologists all agree, is that the proper method is to try to integrate the Aboriginal people into modern society until we can create a totally homogeneous society and until the stream of their lives and culture can merge into the streams of the traditional Australian life and culture.

That involves the abandonment of the element of paternalism, for if paternalism is that exercise of understanding and tolerance which is accorded by a superior to an inferior, it is an understanding and tolerance which has certain implications. If we want the Aborigines to integrate with our society in the fullest sense of the term, then they must be prepared to integrate, and it is what we should want on the basis of both duty and entitlement. Once you put them in a different position, whether a position of discrimination adverse to them or in a position of discrimination favourable to them, you are perpetuating the system of paternalism and at the same time destroying or moving away from the new concept which we are all trying to adopt, that is, of integration into our community. That goes to the question of movement within the law. The moment you put the Aborigines in a different position in relation to respect for law and order, you are immediately demonstrating to them a tolerance which is not accorded to other members of the community. The moment you do that you abandon your whole plan and programme. Therefore those people, particularly members of the Australian Labor Party Opposition, who saw the problem differently should, I think, at this stage recognise the final conclusions and implications that may arise from their attitude.

This type of conduct must by its nature be an affront to the dignity of the Aboriginal people. It must still in the concept of the white people in our community and in their thinking put them in an inferior position, which is the very thing that we do not want and that they do not want - the thing which we are not entitled to infer and which they are not entitled to receive and which they do not want to receive. The Aborigines want a position of equality to which they are entitled, and integration in our society. Therefore to those who have suggested that in this form of protest they should be accorded a solicitude and a tolerance which is denied to other sections of the community who similarly want to protest on issues which are relevant to their interests in life, I say that once they do that they are putting the Aborigines in a position different from that of the rest of the community; they are contradicting the whole of their thesis on racial integration, they are contradicting the whole of their thesis on toleration and the whole of their thesis on the ultimate integration of the Aboriginal people with the white culture.

Therefore I say in these last few minutes that those who have supported the Aborigines in this programme and in this type of protest should have second thoughts about it, to see if by doing that they have not in fact done a great deal of harm to the campaign of these people and to the campaign of the Australian community for the ultimate total absorption of our indigenous people in our culture without any distinctions or differences. If we can at least learn that lesson from the whole of this unfortunate incident then I believe we will have made a big advance towards the final acceptance of what is the best method, the best technique and the best programme for achieving the purpose we have in mind. At least if those who saw differently learn that lesson from the whole of this series of situations something worth while will have emerged and our advance towards the final solution of this very very difficult problem will be much closer to accomplishment.

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