Page:Aboriginal welfare 1937.djvu/6

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Mr. BLEAKLEY.—I wish to submit the following matters on behalf of Queensland:—

(a) Uniform policy be adopted, broad enough to cover the different conditions in the various States, briefly on the following lines:—

(i) Protection of the nomadic tribes, their gradual development to self-dependence and restoration of racial pride and confidence;

(ii) Control, relief and protection of the detribalized;

(iii) Moral protection of females, check on miscegenation;

(iv) Upliftment of superior crossbreed;

(v) Health control, nutrition, medical care;

(vi) Sympathetic government—defence of primitive offenders.

(b) Uniform legislation for suppression of abuses, protection from exploitation, check traffic in drink, drugs, and prostitution.

(c) Co-operation between the State administrations be aimed at in the matter of controlling migrations, return of absconders, wife deserters and stranded natives.

(d) A definite sum be made available by the Commonwealth Government for capital expenditure on development of aboriginal institutions towards self-support.

I have prepared a memorandum on the matters mentioned, which reads as follows:—

In presenting the motion from Queensland for discussion, I feel that it will be generally agreed that the care of the aboriginal races should be considered from a nation-wide, rather than from the individual State point of view.

In recent years keen interest has been shown in countries overseas in the treatment of the aborigines of Australia, and it is unfortunate that the Commonwealth Government has had to suffer considerable annoyance and inconvenience because of garbled and often mischievous stories which have been circulated through the press, such stories often originating in the ignorance in the different States of the aim and operations of the others.

There is quite evidently a need for more co-operation and unity, as such attacks are directed at Australia as a nation, rather than at the particular States that might or might not be at fault. Local incidents have often been magnified into excuses for wholesale condemnation.

The Premiers Conference has already decided that centralized control is not practicable or desirable, a view entirely agreed to by the Government of Queensland. Conditions differ so in the northern as compared with the southern States; distances, say, from Canberra, are too great for many matters requiring prompt measures.

Each State can administer its own aboriginal problems more economically through its own machinery, while the establishment by a centralized government of the special machinery for such administration would prove far too costly. Moreover, each State is vitally interested in the conditions of its own aborigines because of the bearing those conditions must have upon the health, morals, and good order of the community.

In considering any united policy it will help to classify the types of aborigines to be dealt with as under:—

(a) The primitive nomads still free to live their own life and maintain themselves on game and bush foods, and whose country is still inviolate, or has been reserved for native use;

(b) Those still living a precarious existence on their own country, but whose lands have been selected for pastoral occupation, their maintenance by hunting restricted and often their able-bodied hunters absorbed into the pastoral industry;

(c) The detribalized, whose country has been usurped by settlement, their tribal life and natural means of subsistence destroyed, and who live a more or less mendicant life, dependent upon relief or casual employment, and are exposed to social abuses. They have lost the arts of hunting, and become accustomed to civilized foods, clothes, and amusements, their vagrant condition making them a menace to the health and morals of the community;

(d) The crossbreed. This type alone presents several different classes, each requiring special treatment—

1. Those with a preponderance of aboriginal blood and entirely aboriginal in character and leanings.

2. The cross with lower types of alien races such as Pacific Islanders, Malays, Africans.

3. The European-aboriginal cross or those with higher Asiatic types.

4. The quadroon and octoroon with preponderance of European blood.

Drawing upon our own experience in Queensland, it has been found necessary in protection of the (a) class, to reserve for their use sufficiently large tracts of their own country to ensure the undisturbed enjoyment of their own native life and means of subsistence and protection from abuses. This alone is not sufficient. The natives have to be protected, not only from the trespasser, but also from the temptation calling at the gate, once they have tasted alien vices.

In affording this protection certain things are essential. The first is power to enforce the inviolability of the reservations and the second is benevolent supervision with authority to exercise such power, while maintaining friendly contact and affording medical and other relief. Not the least important, in fact it might be called the main aim of such supervision, should be the gradual adaptation of these nomadic people to the inevitable change to the settled life, and the raising from the soil of the subsistence previously obtained from game and bush foods which supply is steadily being diminished through the encroachment of white settlement.

In Queensland over 6,000,000 acres or 8,500 square miles of country is reserved for aborigines with strict laws to prevent trespass. This country is chiefly on Cape York Peninsula, practically the only part of the State where the primitive nomads can be said to be living their own life in their own country, and the supervision is provided by a chain of mission stations on the coast from Mornington Island to Cape York and down to Cooktown. These mission stations are all in the charge of religious bodies, as it is found that such bodies with their volunteer officers who take up the work from missionary motives, thus ensuring continuity of policy, can carry it out must economically and successfully. The superintendents are also appointed protectors of aboriginals and protectors of fisheries, giving them necessary powers to protect their wards from imposition.

While the main object of the mission bodies is the spiritual care and instruction of the people, they willingly collaborate with the administration in carrying out the policy of gradual adaptation of the nomads to the settled life. Recognizing that any drastic change or forcible weaning of the old people from their tribal habits would be a hardship