ABORIGINAL WELFARE.—INITIAL CONFERENCE OF COMMONWEALTH AND STATE ABORIGINAL AUTHORITIES, HELD AT CANBERRA, 21st TO 23rd APRIL, 1937.
The conference met at Parliament House, Canberra, on the 21st April, 1937, at 11 a.m. The Minister for the Interior (Honorable T. Paterson) delivered the opening address.
Mr. PATERSON.—I wish to welcome you to Canberra on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Some of you have come a long distance to attend this Conference, notably, Mr. A. O. Neville from Perth and Dr. C. E. Cook from Darwin.
As you are aware, this Conference has been called pursuant to a decision arrived at by the Premiers Conference held at Adelaide in August of last year.
For a number of years persons and associations interested in the welfare of the aborigines have made representations to the Commonwealth Government in regard to matters affecting aborigines. Many of the representations related to aborigines under the control of the States, as well as those coming within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Repeated requests were made that the Commonwealth should assume control of all the Aborigines in Australia; that a kind of national council should be set up to control matters affecting aborigines; and that these questions should he submitted for consideration at a Premiers Conference.
The Commonwealth Government, therefore, consulted the last Premiers Conference on the subject and it was decided that it was impracticable to hand over the control of all the aboriginal people in Australia to the Commonwealth, but that it would be advisable to have periodical conferences of Chief Protectors and Boards controlling aborigines in the States and the Northern Territory. You are assembled here today following upon that decision.
This Conference is an epoch-making event. It is the first conference of all the governmental authorities in Australia controlling natives. The public has taken the greatest interest in this meeting, and some decisions of a concrete nature are expected to result from your deliberations.
The welfare of the aboriginal people is a matter in which all the Governments of Australia are vitally interested, and into which politics do not enter. Although the political opinions of governments may differ materially on general questions of policy, there is only one consideration where aborigines are concerned and that is: What is best for their welfare? The problem calls for the earnest consideration of all Ministers and officers vested with the duty of controlling natives and ministering to their wants.
As Minister controlling the Northern Territory, I appreciate to the full the important task that is entrusted to you and the many difficulties that have to be surmounted. I also realise than the problems which confront one State may be totally different from those of another. Nevertheless, nothing but good can result from your meeting one another in friendly discussion and assisting one another with the experience gained in the performance of your duties in your respective States and Territories.
As you have a long agenda I shall now leave you to your deliberations. I feel sure that something constructive in the interests of the aborigines of Australia will he forthcoming from this meeting.
Mr. CARRODUS.—Our first duty is to elect a chairman of the Conference. We have one Minister of the crown present, the Honorable H. S. Bailey, Chief Secretary of Victoria. I think it would fitting for Mr. Bailey to take the chair.
That the Honorable H. S. Bailey, M.L.A., Victoria, be Chairman of the Conference.
Mr, BAILEY.—I am prepared to take the chair for some little time, at any rate. I am attending the Conference as chairman of the Aborigines' Protection Board of Victoria, of which the Chief Secretary of the State is ex officio chairman. Actually, however, the problems relating to aborigines are not acute in Victoria. We have, comparatively speaking, only a handful of full-blooded blacks in our State. We have a larger number of half-castes, about 500 altogether. The Government of Victoria has always made substantial provision for the aborigines within the State. I came here principally as an onlooker, Wishing to ascertain the views of the representatives of other States which are called upon to deal with aborigines. I appreciate the courtesy of the Conference in electing me chairman, and shall be glad to preside for some little time. Then, I think, it would be fitting for the Conference to appoint another chairman. Questions relating to the aborigines affect States like Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, more than Victoria, and probably New South Wales.
Mr. BAILEY.—The conference should now decide whether the press is to he admitted to the Conference.
Mr. CARRODUS.—I understand that the press is not particularly anxious to be present, but desires that reports be made available by the chairman or secretary at the luncheon and afternoon adjournments.
That the press be not admitted to the Conference, but that reports be prepared by the secretary and issued to the press.
Mr. CARRODUS.—The Conference should now determine in what manner votes shall he recorded. We have three delegates from one State, two from some others, and only one from others. I suggest that each State or Territory should record one vote.
Resolved—That each State or Territory be entitled to one vote.