Page:Aboriginal welfare 1937.djvu/33

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Mr. NEVILLE.—There is also the difficulty that aboriginal women will usually not give information to a white man. The fact is that native women are regarded as the chattels of their men folk, who will not allow them to give information when it is sought. Such information can be obtained only from the men by a man.

While the use of women protectors or inspectors for the supervision of female natives in populated areas may in some places be desirable, the general appointment of women is not considered practicable, because of the very scattered nature of native camps, the difficulties of travel and the isolation.


Mr. NEVILLE.—A strong case can he made out in favour of the granting of financial assistance by the Commonwealth to the States for the maintenance of their Native Affairs Departments, and, in my opinion, this Conference should adopt a resolution recommending the Commonwealth Government to make such assistance available to the States in proportion to their requirements. In Western Australia, the annual expenditure on natives amounts to £1 10s. 2d. for each native within the confines of civilization. Since 1840 we have spent nearly £1,250,000 on the natives, including £115,000 on the Rottnest establishment which was a penal settlement for natives. The average annual expenditure over the ten year periods ending 1915, 1925 and 1935 has been, respectively, £24,819, £21,817 and £24,915. Thus it will be seen that the average yearly expenditure has been practically the same over the whole period, amounting roughly to £30,000. The reason that the figures I have quoted are somewhat below that amount is because the revenue derived from our cattle stations is set off against the expenditure. If we had sufficient capital to make those cattle stations more productive the demands upon the Treasury would be reduced as has happened in Queensland. It is impossible to do what this Conference suggests should be done on an expenditure of 30s. a hold for each native. All we can do is to maintain the existing services, and provide the indigent with a certain quantity of food and clothing. The food is neither sufficient nor of the right kind. It lacks the very things that the people need. The natives in our Sate exist on four articles, meat, tea, flour and sugar. For the most part they do not get much meat. I am not going to give the details of the ration because I am not proud of it. Over and over again, we have urged that more money should be made available, but the Treasury has told us that it cannot be done. Lately, I have been pressing for the establishment of additional settlements, and always I have received the answer: "Wait until we have been to the Loan Council". When the Ministers return from the Loan Council we are told that they were not able to get what they wanted. Since the presentation of the report of the recent Royal Commission, a little more money has been made available, but it has been devoted mostly to health services. In my State, all health services connected with the natives are under my department, with the single exception of measures devoted to the control of leprosy. Fortunately for us the country hospitals accept native cases. We are just about to establish a contributory medical fund into which all employers of native labour will pay a stipulated amount, according to the number of natives they employ, and from this fund we shall be able to provide medical attention and hospital service. We have four or five native hospitals in the north, which cost us a considerable amount of money, but the standard is not equal to that of white hospitals because we have not sufficient funds. We recognize that one of the main features of native administration must be the establishment of suitable settlements as clearing houses. At the present time, we have only one such settlement in Western Australia, but we need more. I think that Western Australia has done very well by its natives. Under the old Constitution, it was provided that a sum equal to one per cent of the revenue over and above £500,000 a year should be devoted to the natives. It was found as years went on that this provision was absurd, and it was varied to provide for the voting of £10,000 by Parliament each year. Eventually, this proved to be insufficient, and the amount was increased by sums provided annually in the Estimates. Had the original provision continued we should now be spending over £80,000 a year on the natives, and the total expenditure to date would have been over £2,000,000. After the report of the Royal Commission was received I estimated that, in order to carry out its recommendations, it would he necessary to provide an additional £15,000 for capital expenditure, and another £15,000 a year for maintenance. The Government could not provide this amount, however, and now, owing to bad seasons, &c., it is probable that we shall not be able to have the vote increased. As a result, the natives are suffering, and we are coming in for a good deal of criticism, some of which is justified. We cannot advance without more money. We have 5,000 children requiring training and education, but we have no money to provide it. In fact, we can barely keep them in food. The shining spot is the success of our cattle stations. They do not pay completely, but they contribute to the maintenance of the natives. The principal station has on it 18,000 head of cattle, as well as numerous other livestock. It costs between £700 and £800 a year, and makes a fair return to the Treasury. If we had additional properly equipped stations, we could do a great deal more work among the uncivilized natives and those who are becoming detribalized. On our principal station there is no adequate housing for children, and there is no provision for technical training of the half-castes at any of our institutions. We have in Western Australia a Lotteries Commission, which is a useful institution, and from which we get special grants. The commission has helped us to improve our settlements, and has given us money for hospitals and medical requirements; but because of its constitutional limitations, there are certain things which it cannot do. It has just furnished us with funds for technical training at the principle settlement, but that is only a trifle compared with our needs. If any State has claim for Commonwealth consideration in this matter, it is Western Australia. It has a good record in its treatment of the native population, which was estimated at 55,000 when white settlement began, and is now about 30,000. Because our white population is small, the cost to support the natives within the State is 15s. per capita. That is an unfair imposition on a small population. We consider that the whole of Australia should contribute towards the support of our native inhabitants. I gave evidence on this subject before the Royal Commission on the Constitution some years ago, when I urged that the whole of the people of Australia should be taxed equally for the upkeep of the native race. In Western Australia we have the greatest number of natives, and we should receive assistance to carry on. I therefore plead that this Conference urge the Commonwealth to help the most necessitous States in this matter. Unless the work of caring for the natives is greatly extended, Australia will be discredited. There is to-day a vast body of public opinion in other parts of the world contending