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:
Medical attendance is provided by the department as far as possible and we pay for it where it is necessary to pay. The old system of D.M.Os. has disappeared and we now hare subsidised medical men, or independent medical men. Where a man is subsidised he is expected to attend to indigent natives, and where he is not we have to pay him for it. As for hospital accommodation, there is practically none for natives in the South. We have a hospital at the Moore River settlement which does a good deal of work for the Midlands. South of the Eastern Goldfields line there is no hospital for natives at all. There are only a few Government hospitals left, they are nearly all committee hospitals subsidised by the Medical Dept. [who] now take maternity oases. These committee hospitals are loth to accept native cases and it is, in fact, impossible to find accommodation for a maternity case.
There are in the country certain good women, matrons and nurses, who are willing to, and who do, go out into native camps and look after those oases. The native of today is not the native of 50 years ago and some of the native women suffer intensely in childbirth. They have lost all the old stamina of the black and they have considerable difficulty in bringing children into the world, possibly because of their mixed blood. Camp life as it exists is bringing them lower and lower. They hardly bother to put up any shelter nowadays, perhaps only a few branches thrown together, and they live like that year in and year out, gambling and, where possible, drinking, and doing many other things they ought not to. Immorality is growing, the old tribal laws have broken down, and there is nothing to check the young men and young women. Girls of tender years arc being seduced. These young men and girls are unemployed all day and are rapidly becoming unemployable. Unsuitable alliances are being contracted, incest is about and youthful depravity is general. It is impossible to use this material to send out to employment even when employment is offered. Only the other day I brought two young men to Perth from a camp in the South-West, but when I told them where I wanted them to go
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to be employed, they point-blank refused, saying they preferred to stay in camp. There is a certain amount of prostitution in the South-West, but not a great deal and a certain amount of drinking which is growing. There is a lot of fighting between different factions. The people are forming themselves into tribes again, families are becoming tribal, and one faction will readily attack another. I have dealt with these matters in my report for 1931-32. I have brought with me two volumes of reports and also an index which I will hand in to you directly. We are suffering now from the consequences of failure to carry out the department’s plans and recommendations of the past. Had we had a free hand, these things would not be taking place today.
Measures for amelioration include improved and increased diet, more clothing and blankets, more departmental control of individuals, provision to enable the appointment of inspectors, the establishment of further settlements and stations, and the amendment of the Aborigines Act, increasing the powers of the Chief Protector in regard to guardianship and other measures. The mover of the resolution which brought about this Commission said the department had not a policy. Actually, the department has had a very complete policy for years, but it has been impossible to carry out that policy.
12. Your reports from time to time will show the policy of the department, and, presumably, that it has not been able to carry out the policy has been referred to in those reports?—-Yes.
13. Probably you have been hampered by lack of funds?
Yes, and by lack of legislation. The matter of education is very important. Only very few coloured children are permitted to attend a State school and then probably only because that school needs those children to maintain its numbers so that it can remain in existence. There has been a lot of trouble lately about the Wagin school in particular, references to which have been published in the Press. I am going to hand in the file (Exhibit 1-2), which will give the history of that. Only about 10 per cent of the native children
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in the State are being educated at present. Recently I made inquiries in the Eastern States,to find out what was being done there. You will see a report by the Inspector and a summary on page 50 of File 231/33 (Exhibit 1-3). The conclusions I have drawn are that not nearly so many native children are being educated throughout Australia as there should be. Schools for native children are desirable, and the education of natives should be vested in the department primarily concerned for their welfare. We have a school at the Moore River settlement which has over 100 children and we have at Moola Bulla a school where there are 40 children and there are schools at the various missions. There are no other schools for natives. Many people think the natives should not be educated. Whatever may be thought about the full-blooded aboriginal, there can be no question about the necessity for educating coloured people. If you send a youngster out to work, he should be able to read sufficiently well to read letters sent to him and to read his engagement with his employer, and he should be able to reply to letters and to count his wages. If we can bring these youngsters up to the third or fourth standard, we are satisfied. I have had very little experience of white schools, but I can say there is little difference between educating one of these coloured people and a white child; some are bright and some are dull. Some at the age of 14 get the wanderlust, and it is no use g keeping them at school any longer. But education is an absolute necessity if those children are to hold their own in life at all. There is a strong objection in the South-West to native children going to school with white children. The only solution is the establishment of native schools, preferably at native settlements. The whole psychology of the native child differs from that of a white child, and only those accustomed to handling natives understand that difference. The native as a child cannot hold his own amongst a lot of white children. His inferiority complex is too self-evident and he suffers in consequence. But when he reaches 21 years of age that disappears.
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