Page:Aboriginal welfare 1937.djvu/19

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

aboriginal 5s. a week, despite the fact that, in many cases, an aboriginal employee is more worthy of his pay than is the type of white man who is willing to go to those far-distant localities for employment. After all, the labourer is worthy of his hire, and there is no reason why, because he has no vote and is ignorant, the aboriginal should be exploited by the white employer. Not only is it necessary to ensure that the natives receive adequate remuneration, it is also necessary to ensure that when they do receive their wages they are not defrauded of them, or inveigled into gambling games by white men.

Mr. HARKNESS.—Is it your experience that natives have a leaning towards gambling? That is our experience in New South Wales.

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—Yes. They are all infected with the gambling fever. We consider, however, that it is not fair to deal drastically with the gambling until we can offer them something better in the way of recreation.

Mr. HARKNESS.—What have you done in the provision of recreation halls?

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—Several have been provided, but we do not allow government money to he expended in that direction. The natives are encouraged to raise the funds themselves for that purpose, and they do so from sports and their share of the gate proceeds of football and cricket matches which are occasionally arranged against the teams of white men from the surrounding towns. Their sportsmanship in these encounters has often been much better than that of their white opponents. Recently when an aboriginal team played a game at one centre, 70 or 80 miles from their settlement, they were complimented on their conduct, which it was said, was in marked contrast to that of their white opponents.

Mr. PETTITT.—In Queensland, are these people living in shacks?

Mr. BLEAKLEY.—In the settlements, the aim is to induce them to adopt civilized living conditions. There are dormitories, schools and hospitals, supervised by resident or visiting medical officers. Whenever possible the hospitals are in charge of trained nurses with general midwifery certificates, the wardmaids and wardsmen being trained from the educated natives. The native girls are in dormitories controlled by a white matron, who also has charge of the boys and the infants in the baby clinics. A number of mothers take their children to the clinics. Not every child has to be handed over to the charge of the dormitory system. If a mother is able to take care of her children, she is allowed to do so. If she neglects them, we have the power to take them from her, and put them into dormitories.

The Conference may have inferred from my paper read this morning that we still segregate a number of half-castes in institutions. I should explain that they are the type which we are satisfied are incapable of holding their own in competition with whites outside. To show you that we are not out of sympathy with the views of Dr. Cook and Mr. Neville, I emphasize that, for about 25 years, we have had a system under which half-castes, either men or women, but mostly men, are given exemption from control. We are particularly careful about the women because, as the Conference knows, it is so easy for the women to drift into circumstances not good for them. Unfortunately, the result of the exemption system has not always been encouraging. Many of these men, after working for probably ten years or more in contact with and in competition with white labour, have saved a decent sum of money. We took the view at first that if these men were fit to be given exemption, it was only fair that they should be allowed to handle their own money. Accordingly, in a number of cases, half-castes who had saved as much as £150, which was to their credit in their bank accounts, had these balances handed over to them. In the majority of cases they squandered it all within six months. I mention that to show the need for benevolent supervision.

A year or two back I collected information from various States and from Ceylon and Noumea as to what was being done to help half-castes with a view to profiting by their experience. It will he admitted that a half-caste with 50 per cent. of European blood has the right to he given a chance to make good. A half-caste with 50 to 75 cent. of European blood, under a system of benevolent help, should be able to hold his own in a community; but, in order to do so, he would have to make a living, and thus would need to know a trade. The attempts made in South Australia to give such persons an opportunity to make good were, it will he admitted, not encouraging. Their failure was due mainly to four big handicaps under which they were living. First, there was the colour prejudice. A great many white people have a prejudice against employing, or having in their home, persons of coloured blood. Secondly, they suffered the handicap of an inferiority complex. They felt keenly their half-caste position, which made it difficult for them to hold their heads up. Thirdly, they were uneducated. No doubt they could read, write and count, but they were not educated in the matter of protecting themselves in business dealings. Fourthly, they had no technical equipment whatever.

Conference adjourned at 4.30 p.m.


The Conference resumed at 9.30 a.m.; the Honorable H. S. Bailey in the chair.


Mr. BLEAKLEY.—While I realize that Dr. Cook has had very long experience in the territory, and is qualified to express an opinion as an administrator, an anthropologist and a medical practitioner, I should like to have some more evidence, if it can he produced, to justify the pessimistic view that he expressed yesterday as to the menace of the absorption of the white race by the coloured race in the Northern Territory. At the time of my visit to the Northern Territory in 1928, the native population was estimated to be 21,000, including 800 half-castes. During the following nine years the numbers have decreased, for according to Dr. Cook, they are now under 20,000, including 900 half-castes. If the preponderance of the native population is in any way a menace to the white people in the territory, is this not more likely to be accentuated, if the aborigines are not to he controlled? It seems to me that control would be a safeguard. The commission that is at present studying the development of industries in the Northern Territory, and ways and means of encouraging white settlers there, may be expected to have some beneficial results, and it will, I presume, make recommendations to deal with any danger of the kind suggested by Dr. Cook. In the main, the policies in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are in accord with that of Queensland allowing for differences in local conditions. In Queensland we distinguish between cross-breeds of definite aboriginal leanings, and those of civilised leanings. All young half-castes and also aborigines are given education and, where possible, vocational training. For years past the policy has been to give the intelligent and ambitious adult half-castes the opportunity to secure their freedom and maintain themselves in a civilized community, but we have found them sorely at a disadvantage by reason of racial, educational, and temperamental disabilities. Investigations showed that