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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2717

Senator CAVANAGH - I wish to correct a misapprehension that may have arisen as a result of wrong information which I may have given to the Senate. In the debate on the States Grants (Aboriginal Affairs) Bill, Senator Lawrie raised the question of the hire of aircraft to bring delegates to the meeting I held with Aboriginals at Weipa. Senator Rae also raised the question on 2 1 November.

I replied that, to my knowledge, no aircraft were hired to bring delegates to the meeting I held with the Aboriginals at Weipa. At that time I stated I would make further inquiries into the matter and am now able to give honourable senators some information and correct any confusion my previous answer may have caused.

I find that the Secretary of my Department, acting within the powers I have delegated to him, approved of the availability of funds for a total of 5 charter flights to take a total of 36 people from various areas around Weipa to participate in the meeting. The total cost of these charters was of the order of $4,600. The actual flights were as follows:


As honourable senators will know, travel is very difficult in the peninsula area and often the use of charter aircraft is the only means available. On this occasion it was considered important that the real representatives of the Old Mapoon people should be present. The circumstances were that those who had moved back to Old Mapoon were seeking urgent financial assistance from the Australian Government for the improvement of their camp circumstances. I discussed the matter with the Secretary of the Department on two or three occasions and finally concluded that rather than make such assistance available without investigaion, I should first meet the people to make sure that there was a genuine desire by some of them to return to Old Mapoon and that the traditional owners of the land were prepared for those who had returned to occupy it. From this point of view the meeting was a real success. The actual arrangements for the travel of people to the meeting were of course made by the Department.

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