A O Neville’s Evidence Part 8

State Records Office of Western Australia
Acc 2922/1-2
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] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] Continued…

Again I contend that a travelling medical man attached to the department could find out these things, and treatment would be provided as far as possible, and the work would be continuous. There should be hospitals with at least one trained nurse at all the native stations and missions. Needless to say additional accommodation of a similar nature is required in the South West. Government hospitals are few and far between.
They are more or less open to the natives, but maternity cases are not taken in. Committee hospitals will not take natives unless they can possibly help it. I dislike asking the medical department to insist on the admission of all to these hospitals, whether the patients be black, brown or brindle. Personally I do not wonder at the reluctance of the hospitals to take in native patients owing to the unsatisfactory condition in which those natives are at the present time. The only policy is to give them their own hospitals attached to the native settlements.

20. A matter that is bound to come before you in the course of your investigations is the question of medical treatment afforded by pastoralists and employers, mostly in the North; likewise the question of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Our own regulations provide that medicines and medical attendance where practicable and necessary, shall be provided. In working these regulations we generally allow a fortnightly limit. If a native becomes sick it is considered a fair thing for a station to look after that native for a fortnight or thereabouts. If it should be a case of pneumonia which means a long stay in hospital, we would probably make the period longer. Whenever a native station does what we consider a fair thing, we continue the treatment ourselves. Sometimes the patient is in hospital for a month, and in such circumstances we cannot expect the station to pay. All the same the department is called upon to pay in cases where we contend the stations should pay. As far as V. D. is concerned that is entirely a financial responsibility of the department, no matter where the trouble occurs, but we contend that the station might reasonably send the patient into hospital which they refuse

[End page 21]

to do in many cases. They simply notify us and we have to incur heavy expense in getting the cases in. Sometimes we find it is not V. D. at all. This particular question in a burning one as far as the stations are concerned, and we have been seeking a solution of it, not only for the sake of the stations but for the natives themselves. I recently suggested that we should adopt the new regulation framed under the Northern Territory Ordinance. A medical fund is established and to that fund all stations contribute. That enables the department to treat sick natives from time to time, and the stations are relieved of the responsibility. The payment of a hospital tax does not affect the question; it does not relieve the employers of any liability in regard to medical costs. As the native is not liable to make contributions, because he is only petting a small wage, somebody has to pay. The Act does not allow for free treatment. I put in File No. 72/32 dealing with the question of medical and hospital fees by pastoralists.(Exhibit 7)

21. Natives are workers within the meaning of the Compensation Act. That was ruled by Mr. Sayer some time ago. So far as I know only one claim has been paid to a native, and that was for the loss of an eye. The native got a small amount because the department went to law and proved its case. As a matter of fact we eventually compromised and accepted a smaller amount than that provided in the schedule of the Act. Apparently the framers of the Workers’ Compensation Act never thought of the natives and the position that might arise if they became workers within the meaning of the Act. A former Government instructed me not to take proceedings under that Act, but to take any action otherwise that I could. I prefer the Queensland system. It is that natives all being workers under the Workers’ Oomwnensation Act, the Chief Protector acts as their agent and any compensation payable is paid to him for the benefit of the natives. In that case I think there would have to be a special schedule dealing with accidents to natives. Most of
the stations, as far as I know, have insured their natives in accordance with the provisions of the Act. I submit Pile No.473/25 dealing with accident cases (Exhibit 8). In our proposed amending legislation there is a clause which will cover this. It will render an employer liable to pay expenses in the case of an accident.

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22. I take it that paragraph (e), dealing with native settlements, refers to all types of settlement which the dept controls, including cattle stations in the North, and reserves, but not native camps. In that part of the State below Geraldton and west of Merredin there is only one native settlement now. I refer to Moore River, eight wiles west of Mogumber and 80 miles from Perth on the Midland line. To this place orphans, indigents not otherwise provided for, and others for many reasons, have been sent from time to time. The place is not ideal. It only partly effects its purpose owing to the lack of accommodation. There are no facillties for vocational training, no accessories of any kind, and no workshops, but there is a sewing room where all the clothes for all the natives are made. The place is doing good work. It is turning a lot of raw material, particularly youngsters, into something a little better, and enabling them to earn their own living outside. Had these youngsters been left in the camps, they would never have reached the stage they have now reached. They are responding well. We had another settlement in the South known as Carolup, between Katanning and Kojonup. This was closed by order of the Minister in 1922 as a measure of economy. Carolup was opened in 1915 and Moore River in 1917. In my view it was false economy to close Carolup. I was away in the North at the time. When I was appointed Secretary for the North-West, the southern aborigines were removed from my control, and a Deputy Chief Protector was appointed. It was during that time that Carolup was closed. There was a deliberate policy underlying the establishment of these two stations. Moore River was intended to absorb the lndigents in the Midlands, and take in any youngsters from further north who required a drier and a warmer climate. Carolup was established further south to take the people between Perth and Albany, and those living eastward and south of the Greater Western railway towards the border. The stations were interchangeable in regard to staff and inmates. if an inmate became unruly in one place, a change to another would often have a beneficial effect.

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