PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5687


Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 10/11/1981

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5687

It gives me great pleasure to offer to you, Mr Chairman,
my congratulations on your election, and to welcome the
' new National Aboriginal Conference as the major body to
advise the Commonwealth Government on Aboriginal views.
While I have not yet met many'of your new members, the
work of the N. A. C. needs no introduction to me or to the
community at large. In the four years since its first elections,
the N. A. C. has proved to be a particularly valuable forum for
discussion of Aboriginal views, and a channel by which these
views are communicated to government.
The standing and significance of the N. A. C. amongst the
Aboriginal community is indicated by the recent elections.
There were 251 candidates, and more than 34,000 electors voted.
The new N. A. C. will be taking on a significantly expanded
role as it assumes the functions of the former Council for
Aboriginal Development. The energy and dedication of the
N. A. C. in promoting the interests of Aboriginal people has
taken on new dimensions with its increasingly wide involvements.
In particular, the Third Asserbly of the World Council of
Indigenous People, which was hosted by the was one
of the particularly significant international events held
in Australia during the course of the year.
You and your executive especially will have a great deal
of contact with the Minister and, as you know, there is a
commitment for myself and Cabinet Ministers to meet with your
executive. The Government, and particularly the Minister,.
value the advice which we receive from the our task
in achieving the objective of promoting the' well-being of
the Aboriginal people, an objective the N. A. C. has supported
so strongly, would be so much more difficult without your
Against that background of common objective, I can say we
have not always agreed on every issue in the past and we will
not always agree in the future. This is to be expected, and
it is healthy. You would be failing in your duty if you were
not to be pointing out the shortcomings in policy and pressing
us to do more. Nevertheless, there is much common ground between
us and many tasks which ve do and must share. / 2

It is about what we have in common that I would like to talk
today. Much has been said of the problems. The Government has
been accused by some people of ignoring them. Let me say
quite categorically that the Government is fully aware of the
problems and that our policies are designed to overcome
disadvantage. It would, however, be short-sighted not to
learn from, and build on the more positive experiences of
recent years with the aim of overcoming disadvantage.
At the outset, I should state our objectives in Aboriginal
affairs objectives which I think you will generally accept.
The Commonwealth believes that Aboriginals and Torres Strait-
Islanders should have the same opportunity as other Australians
to determine their own varied lifestyles and be able to live
as independent,, self-sustaining citizens. The Commonwealth
believes that Aboriginals should have the same access to
Government services as do other Australian citizens, and
that additional services appropriate to their state of
disadvantage should also be provided. As recognition of the
) past dispossession and dispersal of the Aboriginal people
the-Commonwealth seeks to promote their development, selfmanagement
and self-sufficiency. The Commonwealth believes
Aborigina'l culture is an intrinsic part of Australian heritage,
something of value to all Australians arad that Aboriginals
and Torres Strait Islanders should be able to retain and
develop their traditions, language and culture wherever
this is their wish..
I believe the Government's record clearly demonstrates
our commitment to these objectives, a commitment which I am
sure is being supported by the community at large. The very
act of establishing the N. A. C. is clear recognition that
Aboriginals should have greater control over their lives
and over policies affecting them. In similar vein, the Government
last year established the Aboriginal Development Commission,
a body which-has taken on a fundamental role in promoting
Aboriginal management. We made the Aboriginal Land Rights
( Northern Territory) Act a reality, and since* 1976 some
27% of the Northern Territory has come under Aboriginal
freehold ownership.
In a general atmosphere of budgetary restraint the Budget
allocation * for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has,
this financial year, been increased by some 16%. to $ 147 million2.
Th ' e aggregate of spending by all Government Departments on
programmes specifically for Aboriginals. will be some $ 228 million
in 1981/ 82.%
In the key area of health, grants to Aboriginal organisations
for health services have doubled in real terms since 1976.
We have committed $ 50 million over the next five years to
projects to improve public health facilities to Aboriginal
communities, and our Aboriginal medical services have been the
subject of much international interest. / 3

This year, some $ 78 million will be provice(-d for Aboriginal
housing, and $ 72 million will be provided for education,
employment and training. With regard to the question of
self-management, the Aboriginal Development Commission
has $ 50 million available to it this year. 75% of the
funds available to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs
for Aboriginal advancement progjrammes will be allocated
to direct grants to Aboriginal-managed organisations.
From the objectives which we share arise a number of tasks
on which it is. essential that we work together. Perhaps
the most fundamental is the continued development of
measures to assist Aboriginal people which are effective
and capable of implementation. Understandably, Aboriginal
expectations for change are high. The Government too would
like to abolish the disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginals.
However, the experience of recent years shows that al. though
significant progress can be made there is no single or quick
solution no matter how much money is spent. The neglect of
almost two centuries cannot be undone immediately. To say
otherwise, would be to underestimate the nature and extent
of the problems.
In addition, the Commonwealth, Government is not the only body
which provides assistance to , Aboriginals or which affects their
interests. State Governments have primary responsibility
in areas such as land, health, and education and the services
and activities of local governments and private agencies
and interests also affect Aboriginal people in many ways.
It is essential then that the approach to the task should
be on a co-operative basis if best advantage is to be made
of the resources available.
The Commonwealth when necessary has presented Aboriginal
views to State Governments, and has also been involved
with private enterprise, through, for example, promotion
of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. Let me
add that the N. A. C. itself can play an important role in
putting forward views a-id in helping to establish the dialogue
needed in areas for which the Commonwealth is not primarily
responsible. A further joint task to which I think all political
parties and the N. A. C. must give attention is increasing the
awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture and lifestyles.
The community in general recognises the overwhelming disadvantage
experienced by many Aboriginals and the need for special assistance.
However, there is a continuing need to educate the community
to explain our policies and the reasons for them. In this context,'
I feel I should make the point that little purpose is served
in bandying around generalised allegations about t he Australian
people or various governments. Not by abuse and hostility
will we win the support of people who have failed to give due!
regard to Aboriginal concerns and interests, but by persuasion
and education because your cause is just. / 4

The third major task on which I think we are in agreement
is the need to be aware-of what Aboriginal people, individual
Aboriginals think. We have encouraged self-management because
we believe that Aboriginal people know their own priorities
and needs better than government, and we are concerned that
our policies should be responsive to Aboriginal
wishes. We established the N. A. C. because it was recognised that
for a number of reasons Aboriginal people have found it
difficult to put their views to government. We look to the
N. A. C. to tell us what people at the grass-roots are thinking
and saying. Representing all Aboriginals, many of whom would
otherwise in practice have no voice on such matters, is a
most important task of the N. A. C.
In discussing Aboriginal affairs we necessarily conce ntrate
on the problems but far too seldom is recognition given
to the successes. For example, those Aborigines who have
achieved prominence and distinction in various fields, the
Aboriginal students in tertiary education, and successful
AboriginAl enterprises.
I hope the N. A. C. will help to raise awareness of the
achievements and successes of Aboriginals to show the
community that when Aboriginals are given equal opportunities
they take them, that our programmes for Aboriginal advancement
represent money Well spent.
I think a fitting note to conclude on is the subject of the
Makarrata " a coming together after a period of hostilities".
I know that it is something to which you attach considerable
significance the Government too regards the concept as
an important development. I should like to think that such a
coming together is being achieved now. We do not know at this
stage what form the Makarrata will finally take-and there is
clearly a great deal of work still to be-done.
Nevertheless, the concept is a valuable one which we would like
to continue to pursue. I hope what I have said may contribute
in some small way to this. Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,
you have a very important and in many ways a difficult task
confronting you.
The Government will stand with you, sharing with you as it does
the objective of promoting the well-being and seif-realisation
of the Aboriginal people. On behalf of th6 Government, I wish
you and everyone associated with the N. A. C. every success with
your endeavours. 000---

Transcript 5687