Page:Aboriginal welfare 1937.djvu/35

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


country the aboriginal native is regarded with contemptuous tolerance. But when he has has been elevated to a position almost equal to that of a white conflict may be expected unless that stage is reached only after enlightened development. I move—

Realizing that the pursuit of this policy and its ultimate realization, unless subject to enlightened guidance, may result in racial conflict, disastrous to the happiness and welfare of the coloured people, this conference is of opinion that the Commonwealth should take such steps as seem desirable to obtain full information upon racial problems in America and South Africa for submission to a further conference of Chief Protectors to he held within two years.

Mr. NEVILLE.—I second the motion, although I do not think that Dr. Cook's fears will be realized. In Western Australia there has not been much trouble of the kind mentioned, and in the cases which have arisen the persons concerned were severely punished. If we adopt the policy agreed to at this Conference, the danger referred to by Dr. Cook should not arise, because the absorption of the natives into the white race will take place before trouble is likely to occur.

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—Dr. Cook may be needlessly apprehensive, but as conditions in the Northern Territory are different from those in Queensland, I support the motion. I know of very few instances of alarming molestation of white women by aborigines, or of native uprisings.

Motion agreed to.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

Mr. CARRODUS.—The subject of the infliction of corporal punishment on natives has been before the Commonwealth Governninnt on several occasions, particularly in connection with the administration of New Guinea. In the opinion of a Judge of that Territory, it is ridiculous to bring a native before the court three months after an offence has been committed and then punish him. He recommended the passing of an ordinance authorising responsible officers to inflict whippings under certain conditions immediately after the offence has been committed. The New Guinea Act prohibits the flogging of natives, as does also the Covenant of the League of Nations, although whipping and other minor forms of corporal punishment are allowed; Our legislation prohibits whipping, although in Kenya, another British possession, whipping is permitted. In every case the punishment may be inflicted only by a responsible officer who must report the happening. A native is capable of understanding the meaning of punishment given on the spot; and if it is given in the prescence of other natives, and he is made to appear ridiculous, it is much more effective than placing him in gaol, where he gets s taste of the white man's food and probably causes more trouble later. I should like an expression of opinion on this subject.

Professor CLELAND.—There is much to be said for inflicting some form of corporal punishment, on the spot, but, in my opinion, it should be administered only after consultation with the old men of the tribe, and should actually be administered by them or under their direction. It need not necessarily be done by a white person at all, although under his supervision.

Mr. BAILEY.—I do not think any Protector should be authorised to indict corporal punishment in the way suggested. We have approved of the establishment of native courts, and we should not agree to punishment without trial.

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—I do not like the idea of an officer having authority to inflict corporal punishment on natives without some form of trial, although I realize that summary punishment is likely to have more effect than punishment which is delayed. Not only is the power liable to abuse, but reports of such happenings are also likely to be greatly exaggerated.

Mr. BAILEY.—I do not think that punishment should be inflicted without an order of the court. We might however, agree to a court ordering adequate punishment.

Mr.NEVILLE.—In the past corporal punishment, even to the extent unmerciful flogging, was allowed; but the act now in force in Western Australia does not permit natives to be whipped (although it provides, by regulation, for the caning of minors). Adult bush natives, who are generally quiet and peaceful, are just as likely to misunderstand a whipping as detention in gaol. A native who acts in accordance with tribal law does not understand why he is punished for his action. A black man seldom kills a white man, unless he is provoked. My State does not favour the corporal punishment of adult natives, but it agrees that minors living in settlements should he punishable.

Dr. COOK.—Normal aboriginal customs sometimes cause excruciating agony to the young people, but they tolerate it without complaint. One of our most experienced officers advises that a mild form of corporal punishment inflicted by a white may defeat its own object, in that, while not really hurting the offender, it may cause him to regard the white man with contempt, and himself as a hero.

Professor CLELAND.—Punishment inflicted by, or under the direction of, the old men of the tribe would probably be effective.

Dr. COOK.—The officer to whom I have referred suggests that, instead of being designed to inflict pain, punishment should be directed towards making the offender look ridiculous in the eyes of the other natives.

Mr. BAILEY.— No white man is punished except by an order of a court, and we should require an order of the court before punishing a native. I see danger in allowing a Protector of Aborigines to inflict corporal punishment. If it is permitted, he will soon cease to be regarded as a protector.

Resolved

That this Conference is not seized, of the necessity for corporal punishment.

ABORIGINAL WOMEN

Mr. CARRODUS.—The Commonwealth Aboriginals Ordinance contains very stringent provisions in regard to immoral intercourse with native women. The provisions themselves seem complete, but in applying them great difficulty is experienced. Unless he is caught redhanded, there is little chance of convicting an offender, because in most instances the lubra, even if see has not solicited intercourse, will not give evidence. Can the Conference suggest more workable provisions?

Professor CLELAND.—It may be that, although convictions are dificult to obtain, the ordinance prevents a great deal of illicit intercourse.

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—The Queensland law also provides for the punishment of persons having illicit intercourse with native women. It is a defence if the man can prove that he is lawfully married, under tribal laws; to the woman. The provisions of section 9 of the Aboriginals Protection Act, 1934, which covers consorting with, or procuring or inducing native females for illegal intercourse or trading such women in prostitution have proved effective. During the last two years there have been six or eight successful prosecutions and these have had a deterrent effect. The law provides that no man shall he convicted of being the father of an illegitimate child born of an aboriginal or half-caste woman on the word of the mother alone.