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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3014

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is considered to be a money Bill and a second reading speech has been delivered on it in the other place. I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

This Bill is the second in a series of four which the Government will bring down in order to ensure that Aboriginal communities will be able to obtain land and, among other things, develop the economic potential of that land as they wish. The first measure in this series is the Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill which was recently debated here. It establishes the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund and the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund.

The Aboriginal Land Fund Bill, the seco nd major piece of legislation in this series, will establish an Aboriginal Land Fund and formalise arrangements the Government has made since coming into office to provide land for Aboriginal communities. Where appropriate and desired by them, the communities will be able to develop the land with loan assistance from the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund, as well as with grants.

The third measure will be a Bill to provide for the incorporation of Aboriginal councils and associations. This will simplify and adapt incorporation requirements to make it easier for groups and communities to set up legal entities which can receive and use grants and other funds from Australian Government and other sources and can act corporately for a variety of purposes.

The fourth measure, the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill, will vest reserve and certain other lands in the Northern Territory in Aboriginal trusts and will establish an Aboriginal Land Commission.

Honourable senators will be aware that the Labor Government recognises Aboriginal rights in land, and moved early in 1973 to set up an Aboriginal Land Rights Commission to inquire into and report on appropriate means to recognise and establish Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory in the first instance. Mr Justice A. E. Woodward presented his second report in May of this year, and the Government accepted its recommendations in principle. In addition to recommending that Aboriginal reserves and certain other lands in the Northern Territory should be vested in Aboriginals, and that machinery should be set up to enable Aboriginal claims to other lands to be considered, the report recommended that a fund or funds should be set up from which additional lands could be purchased for Aboriginals.

Lands purchased with these funds should include pastoral leases or substantial parts of such leases for social purposes, as economic ventures or as both, and land in town for residential and camping purposes. Mr Justice Woodward suggested that such funds should be seen as providing compensation in the form of useful land to those Aboriginals who have lost their lands. Although the recommendations of the report apply to the Northern Territory the recommendations for a land fund are, of course, equally relevant in the States. This Bill will establish a national land fund.

Arrangements proposed in the Bill will formalise existing Government policy and practice in respect of acquisition of land by Aboriginals. Although the former Government did not recognise Aboriginal rights in land, it did recognise the need of many Aboriginals living outside reserves for land to use and develop for economic and social purposes. On 26 January 1972 the then Prime Minister announced that the Government would appropriate a sum of $5m to purchase land outside reserves for Aboriginal communities, and would contemplate providing a further $2m in each year for the ensuing 4 years for this purpose. This Government has endorsed and extended this approach by undertaking to establish an Aboriginal land fund to purchase or acquire land for significant continuing Aboriginal communities, and to appropriate $5m each year to this fund for the next 10 years.

Funds for the purchase of land by Aboriginals have to date been made available within the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. A number of properties have already been acquired for Aboriginal groups throughout Australia, including several sheep and cattle stations in Western Australia, Willowra and Kildurk in the Northern Territory, Everard Park, now known as Mimili, in South Australia and land adjacent to the Cummeragunga Reserve in New South Wales. The balance of funds already appropriated by the Government for the acquistion of land for Aboriginals will be paid into the land fund.

The Aboriginal Land Fund Bill provides for the establishment of a Commission, appointed by the Governor General and responsible to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, to administer the funds. The Commission will comprise a chairman and 4 members, at least 2 of whom shall be Aboriginals. Although the Commission will be small and its members will be part-time, it will have full statutory powers. Staff to assist the Commission will be employed under the Public Service Act, within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Land acquired with moneys from the land Fund will not be able to be sold under writ of execution or like attachment. This provision is included to ensure that land vested in Aboriginal corporations cannot be alienated without Government approval. I commend the Aboriginal Land Fund Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.

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