PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2416


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 06/05/1971

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 2416

FOR PRESS: PM No. 51/ 1971
Statement bythe Prime Minister, Mr. William McMahon
In my statement to the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers
responsible for Aboriginal Affairs in Cairns on 23rd April 1971 1 said that I wou. ld
establish within the Commonwealth a Ministerial Committee to assist the Minister
responsible for Aboriginal Affairs to develop and co-ordinate policies for Aboriginal
advancement and to prepare material dealing with these policies for Government
decision. The Committee, which will commence work as soon as possible, will
comprise: The Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs;
The Treasurer;
The Minister for Foreign Affairs;
The Attorney-General;
The Minister for the Interior;
The Pcstmaster-General;
The Minister for Social Services.
Other Ministers including the Ministers for Health, Housing, Education and Science,
and Labour and National Service, will join the Committee when matters for which
they are responsible are under review. The Comm-ittee will be assisted by the Council
and Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
The Committee will take into account the policies and programmes in
operation in the Northern Territory which are comprehensive and impressive and
which it is important should be more generally known.
The Committee will review urgently Commonwealth programmes for the
advancement of Aboriginal citizens. These programmes will include those which are
carried out by the Commonwealth on an Australia-wide basis or in the Northern
Territory as well as Commonwealth financial support for State programmes. The
Committee will report to the Government progressively.
There are some aspects of this question on which it would be inappropriate
for me to comment until the question of a possible appeal in the Yirrkala Land Case
is determined. In the meantime the Government has decided that if an appeal is made
it will meet the legal costs of the appellants.
In the Northern Territory areas totalling 94, 000 square miles are reserved
for Aborigines. Special legislative provision has been made for pastoral and
agricultural leases within these Reserves for Aborigines only and a considerable
number of applications for these and other purposes has been received. They will be
considered by a specially constituted Land Board with Aboriginal members appropriate
to the localities concerned.

Financial assistance is also available to help Aborigines in agricultural or
pastoral activities and business ventures such as timber, fisheries and various
commercial projects. The work of delineating areas of ceremonial or traditional
interest to Aborigines is proceeding and a number of these places will shortly be
declared for protection under law. Consideration is also being given to setting
aside certain areas associated with hunting, foraging or recreation e. g. at Gove and
Groote Eylandt. It is impossible to summarise adequately the range of policies
and action taken and I have asked the Minister for the Interior to elaborate on them
in a statement he will issue shortly.
The Committee has. been asked to consider whether changes in or
developments of policy in the Northern Territory are desirable in relation to
protection of lands reserved for the use and benefit of Aborigines and
within such lands
ensuring continuing groups of Aborigines
the use of land for ceremonial, religious or
recreational purposes
( it) making available on appropriate tenure to
individual Aborigines and groups of
Aborigines land necessary for the conduct
of commercial enterprises.
setting up an Aboriginal Land Fund to acquire land coming
on the market in the Northern Territory which can be made
available on appropriate tenure to Aboriginal groups for
commercial enterprises and other purposes.
ensuring that subject to the requirements of national development
Aborigines on lands reserved for their use and benefit will be
given reasonable preference in mineral
prospecting and exploration and
( it) the opportunity to participate effectively in
mining and related developments.
supporting commercial enterprises which have reasonable
prospects of success on land held by Aboriginal communities
( particularly where they are isolated and without alternative
opportunities) by grants from the Aboriginal Advancement
Trust Account as well as by loans from the Capital Fund for
Aboriginal Enterprises.
I do not wish to anticipate the recommendations of the Ministerial Committee
or decisions in relation to them but I repeat what I said at Cairns that it is my
Government's intention to build effectively upon existing programmes both in its own
fields of responsibility and in collaboration with the States so as-to achieve a
breakthrough to a new level of achievement in the advancement of Aboriginal citizens.
6 May 1971

Transcript 2416