State Records Office of Western Australia
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2
Aborigines Royal Commission 005-3
Monday, 12th March, 1934
H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.
AUBUR [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, sworn and examined:
[Part 1 here] Continued…
2. There are growing up in the native camps and on stations a considerable class of people who are too white to be regarded as aborigines at all, and who ought to have the benefit of white education and training, with complete separation from the natives after they reach mature years, say 21. That is to say, the department should be able to take these white children from the camps and other native surroundings, and bring them up in special institutions for their kind. We already have one small institution of this nature, and it is going along very successfully. If we do not do this, we shall simply be breeding a race of white natives. Wherever you go in the camps, you will find these white
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children, particularly on stations in the North-West and on the Murchison. On many stations there are half-caste offspring of white and black bearing children again to white employees, and yet those children still live under the old conditions. There are adult quarter-castes still living in native camps and mating with the other coloured people. I think the quarter-castes should not be treated as natives at all, but should be compelled to dissociate themselves from the natives altogether; that is, after they reach adult years; and once declared not a native, such a person should be penalised for associating with natives. The Commission in the course of its peregrinations will learn how numerous these cross-breds are, particularly in the South-West and in the coastal towns of the North.
3. I want to give you a few instances of what you will find. There are half-castes married to aborigines, with their progeny. There are three-quarter blacks married to other aborigines, or half-castes, or quarter-castes, and their progeny. There is the offspring of a white woman by a half-caste father, and he is living with a half-caste woman. There is the union of a full-blooded aboriginal with a white woman, and their offspring. There is an Asiatic and Afghan and negro mixture, complicating matters generally. There are half-caste negroes living with half-caste aborigines, and their offspring. The negro and the Asiatic should be kept strictly apart if the race is destined to be absorbed in the whites, as I believe it is, and as is the natural course of events. Ethnologically the aborigines are of Caucasian derivation, and when you introduce coloured blood of a race which is negroid you perpetuate the strain of colour instead of eliminating it. In a few years’ time it will be quite impossible to say, in the South-West particularly, what the people are at all. They will simply be
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coloured people if things go on as they are going now, and then there are of course hundreds of half-caste children—I mean the children of the offspring of black and white, and not included in the existing Aborigines Act unless they are living as aborigines. There are quarter-caste aborigines without any white blood in their veins at all, owing to the introduction of other racial elements. Again and again we have been prevented from taking necessary action in individual cases because, owing to the admixture of blood, many of these people are not covered by existing legislation at all. We have had to act in some cases for the good of the individuals, whether they like it or not. Legally the position is simply that we ought not to act. Still, I shall deal with that latar on. It is quite certain that a position has grown up which was never contemplated when the Act was passed.
4. Paragraph (b) deals with the proximity of native camps to towns. In order that I may deal with this paragraph, I want to show the position as it was a few years ago, compared with what it is today. Seventeen years ago, in 1916, and I take that year because it is my first complete year as Chief Protector, there were said to be just under 1,000 natives in the South-West. That is the district from Geraldton to Albany westward in a straight line between Mullewa and Ravensthorpe. By 1920 the population had grown to a little over 2,000 in the same area. Today, as I have said, it is over 3,000 within that area. This question of the proximity of native camps to town does not affect the North at all. It is a south-western problem, and to some extent a goldfields and also a trans-line problem. Within the area I have referred to there were in 1916 only 200 indigents. Today there are over 1,100. Eighteen years ago the natives mostly camped on farms, with the farmers for whom they were working, or were living in the bush
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where there was plenty of vacant land and game and water supply. Today the natives are forced to seek refuge near the main centres of population, because the land is all taken up and few farmers want them. In addition, the natives have learned to enjoy certain amenities of life, and they want to be near centres of civilisation for that reason. Mostly their health has deteriorated very much. There is nowhere else for them to camp. There are over 50 places in the South-West where natives are camped at present, and small reserves have been declared adjacent to nearly every town, many of these reserves lack water supplies, and that is a constant difficulty. We are not in a position to install such supplies on acoount of the financial position. We have done our best. In some of the areas we are even carting water to camps. Sanitation is another difficulty. We have had certain structures erected, but very often the natives do not use them, and they are few and far between.
5. From the departmental point of view it is of course advisable to have the natives near a town in order to avoid cost of transport of supplies when we have to feed them, and to ensure proper oontrol by the local protector, or to enable medical attendance to be supplied if possible, to arrange for care of expectant mothers, and in fact to keep a general oversight. In additon to that we have to bury all deceased natives. That is mostly done by contract. The position is accentuated somewhat by the missionary element. Certain good people are desirous of helping the natives, and they have obtained permission to frequent native camps with the idea of teaching the people. The natives are very keen on education and they naturally follow the missionaries to a certain extent.
6. During the last four or five years, when work has
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been practically negligible for these aborigines, the position has become very much accentuated indeed, and protests have been received from all over the South-West. I wish to mention some of the places from which protests have come, because we are dealing with that matter under this paragraph.