4. Special consideration to the uplifting of the living conditions of station-bred aboriginals, half-castes and quadroons and provision of educational facilities.
I think it is generally recognized that the care of the aboriginal, no matter what the breed, is, to a large degree, a health problem. The prevention of disease amongst these people is of vital importance to the welfare of the white community as well as a duty that may be owed to the natives themselves who are often victims of our own social vices.
As the native's own natural food resources are becoming exhausted so he is forced to substitute the artificial foods of civilized life of whose nutriment value, in his ignorance, he has no knowledge. Thus we find him often subsisting on polished rice, refined white flour, tea and sugar, instead of the game, roots and fruits of the bush which in his wild days provided him with a balanced diet.
The question of proper nutrition is an important, and at times a difficult one, for it is one thing to order a balanced ration for your native, but quite another thing to make him eat it. Another result of the change to civilized food is the increasing need for dental attention. Probably half of the civilised natives, especially half-breeds, have at an early age to be provided with artificial teeth or fillings.
In imposing the laws of the white man's government upon the native, too little consideration has in the past been given to the degree which the influence of his native code may have had upon his actions. The need for a special court for natives, on the lines of the Children's Court, in which the Bench can be assisted by officers or persons experienced in native customs and laws, has more than once been emphasized. Already in some States, legislation provides for defence of primitive offenders and the safe-guarding of such prisoners from ignorant pleas of guilty.
In the event of a uniform policy being adopted it will greatly facilitate administration throughout the various States if uniform legislation can also be framed for the suppression of abuses, protection from exploitation, and check of the traffic in drink and drugs.
If, similarly, the various State administrations can co-operate for mutual assistance in such matters as controlling the migrations of indigent natives, the return of absconders from settlements, the tracing of wife deserters and stranded natives, it will materially assist in the effective care of these people. I am able to acknowledge with gratitude much useful help in the past from the aborigines departments of neighbouring States in the above direction.
Like other social questions, the effectiveness of the measures for the betterment of the races is largely dependent upon finance. Unfortunately, the aboriginal has no vote, and in the past the work has been often discouragingly retarded because of the State government's inability to spare the necessary funds. Queensland has probably been more generously treated by its government in the matter of financial provision than some other States, but the dependence of the department upon the political and financial position has often been an obstacle to progress in the work of ameliorating the conditions of the distressed.
As already stated, the inevitable depletion of the natural food resources makes it essential that the new nomadic natives should be steadily taught to develop for themselves a settled community life in conditions and with such practical assistance as will enable them to attain a measure of self-dependence.
Experience has shown that this help should not be confined to supplying their physical needs, but rather should be in directions to enable them to become self-supporting. Help in cash is of course essential, especially in the early development stages, to pay for cost of management, but practical help is also needed in the way of material, plant, machinery and stock to enable the productive industries to be developed as fully as possible towards self-support and the upliftment of the people on improved native lines by their own efforts.
The suggestion is, therefore, offered to this Conference that the Commonwealth Government, which is the parent government of this continent, and the one looked to by the people overseas as responsible for the proper treatment of the aboriginal races, might consider the question of assisting the development of the existing and future aboriginal communities by making available an adequate annual grant to he devoted to purely capital expenditure in a approved directions towards development towards self-support.
Summary of Past Aboriginal Policy.
In reviewing the conditions 30 years ago and the progress made since that time, it is shown that the results could not have been achieved without an objective.
Summarized, the policy in the past has been—
(a) To keep the few primitive natives who are still living the nomadic life under benevolent supervision by affording medical and other relief, to win their confidence and through the children gradually induce them to adapt themselves to the inevitable change to the settled industrious life.
(b) Recognizing that with the encroachment of civilisation on their hunting grounds it is only a question of time when the nomadic life will be impossible, the aim has been to establish them in time, without undue wrench from their old environment, in self-contained villages under a simple form of self-government helped by benevolent instruction in husbandry.
(c) To secure for the semi-civilized natives of Torres Strait the opportunity to develop to a higher social life and self-dependence on improved native lines, avoiding Europeanization as far as possible, and to protect them from contamination and exploitation.
(d) To afford the detribalized, that is, the wandering natives whose country has already been usurped, effective protection from abuses and exploitation in their contact with civilisation.
(e) To provide accessible machinery for medical treatment and relief, to take measures for the discovery, prevention, isolation and treatment of disease, and for the promotion of better health conditions in the interests of the European as well as aboriginal community.
(f) To assist troublesome, degraded and destitute aborigines and half-castes to rehabilitate themselves in Government controlled institutions of a semi-penitentiary nature, and develop to social and industrial self-dependence.
(g) To assist the crossbreeds of superior breed and inclinations to overcome their social handicaps and fit themselves by education