Page:Aboriginal welfare 1937.djvu/25

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Dr, COOK.—The matter also affects Queensland and Western Australia. Importations of opium come mostly from the Malay States and Java. It is imported by persons who are opium addicts, and if they have more than they want for their own use, they can export it to other States.


That this Conference is of the opinion that, In order to prevent the smoking of opium dross by aborigines, the Commonwealth should give consideration to a scheme to place all opium addicts in Northern Australia, of whatever nationality, under strict medical supervision, in order to control the supply of the drug, with a view to effecting the cure of the individual, the reduction of the number of addicts in the future, and especially for the purpose of preventing the trade in opium dross.


Professor CLELAND.—I move—

That this Conference supports the suggestion that a socio-economic investigation of the half-caste people be commenced in South Australia, under the direction of the Department of Economics of the University, with the cooperation of the Protector, and recommends that Commonwealth financial assistance for approved purposes, not to exceed £2,000 spread over a period of two years, be made available to enable this survey to be made. A report should be submitted to a later Conference with a view to the extension of the work to other States.

Such a survey would enable us to assess the capacity of the half-castes to take their place in the ordinary, economic life of the white community. If it was found that valuable results followed from the investigation in South Australia, it might be extended to other States. At any rate, the information obtained in South Australia would probably be found to be applicable to other parts of the Commonwealth also.

Mr HARKNESS.—I believe that the more information that is collected in regard to this matter, the better. It cannot possibly do any harm, and it ought to do a great deal of good.

Dr. MORRIS.—Is it worth while spending such a lot of money? We already have a tremendous mass of information available; we know what ought to be done, but the difficulty is in getting it done. I fail to see what information that is not already in our possession can be obtained by an academic investigation.

Professor CLELAND.—A trained economist should be able to obtain information and arrive at conclusion which would be of value to us.

Mr. NEVILLE.—Experience has shown that royal commissions and similar investigating bodies do not, as a rule, obtain information that is not already in the possession of departmental heads, but their recommendations carry greater weight, and are usually acted upon, while those of departmental heads may be ignored.

Dr. MORRIS.—That may be so, but the recommendations of the authority which this motion envisages would not carry the same weight as those of a royal commission.

Mr. HARKNESS.—There is certainly a limit to the amount for which we can ask. Is it practicable to ask for £2,000 a year for this purpose, and then to come along to the Commonwealth and ask for further assistance?

Dr. MORRIS.—I consider that the money could be spent better in other directions.

Mr. BAILEY.—If money is obtained from the Commonwealth responsibility should rest on the States to spend it to the best advantage. I am not in favour of the motion.

Motion negatived.


Mr. BAILEY.—Another subject for the consideration of Conference is the desirability or otherwise of making a recommendation to the Government that the maternity allowance should be payable, not to the mothers, but to the authorities which control aborigines and provide the necessary hospitals and medical attention for mothers.

Mr. CHAPMAN.—Before dealing with that particular aspect, it might be desirable to discuss in general terms the Commonwealth assistance given to State aboriginal authorities. I make this suggestion because a strong argument could be advanced in favour of a proposal that the States should accept responsibility for the maintenance, housing and clothing of aborigines and the Commonwealth responsibility for their education. In my opinion, no useful service is performed by the payment of the maternity allowance on the present basis. It results in some persons being eligible for the allowance whilst their immediate neighbours are not. If the Commonwealth would grant a specific amount for assistance to State authorities, perhaps pensions and maternity allowance payments could be eliminated.

Mr. HARKNESS.—The question of the education of half-castes and of lighter-coloured natives should receive consideration. In New South Wales, in collaboration with the Education Department, we appoint to reserves teacher-managers, and endeavour to secure the services of a man whose wife is a trained nurse. Under this system, teaching is subordinated to managerial duties, with the result, that the standard of education is not high—about equal to that of a child of ten years of age. The potentialities of half-casts, however, is much greater than that, and should rise-with the progressive elimination of aboriginal blood. If it were decided to appoint a manager and a teacher as independent persons to each reserve the expenditure would be doubled, or increased by at least £10,000 a year. The money would have to come from the States or the Commonwealth. What I have in mind is a comprehensive scheme of finance in which the maternity allowance is only a minor matter. If the mother receives medical attention and baby clothes, and also gets child endowment which might amount to 30s. or £2 a week, that is all she should expect.

Mr. CARRODUS.—The Commissioner of Pensions is forced to abide by the pensions law. Unless it were amended he could not pay to State authorities either a pension or the maternity allowance which, at present, is payable direct to the person concerned. I think it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth would agree to a proposal which would render natives eligible for pensions or maternity allowances.

Mr. BAILEY.—The motion suggested by Mr. Chapman reads—

That all natives of less than full-blood be eligible to receive invalid or old-age pensions on the recommendation of State authorities, to whom the amount should be paid in trust for the individual.

That would necessitate an amendment of the law. The same objection applies to the suggested alteration of the method of paying the maternity allowance. It would, I think, be advisable for the Conference to hear the views of the Commissioner for Pensions on this matter.

Mr. McLEAN.—The maternity allowance is payable only to persons in whom black blood does not predominate. In our opinion this restriction results in injustices in some settlements where mothers with, say, five-eights aboriginal blood are denied the allowance, whilst those one-eighth whiter receive it although both are living under similar conditions. It was suggested to the Commonwealth Government that, in cases where it was certified by the State authorities that the claimants were capable of making proper use of the money, the allowance should be paid irrespective of the ratio of white to aboriginal blood. The reply of the Commonwealth Government was that full consideration had been given to the representations but that the Government regretted that it was unable to see its way to take steps to amend the relevant