A O Neville’s Evidence Part 13

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] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11] [Part 12] Continued…

41. I shall refer to the system of protectors when dealing with the administration of the department. I emphasise the absolute necessity for Inspectors over and above any protectors we may have. If we had sufficient settlements, we should need only two inspectors — a medical man in the North and another man in the lower part of the State. The cost of an inspector and his car would be about £1,000 a year, but a medical man would cost £1,200 to £1,500.

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We employ managers on our own stations on inspection work and their duties are too important to enable them to go very far afield. There is nothing more important than the question of inspectors. It is only by appointing inspectors that we can find out how natives are being treated and if they are being abused in any particular place or station. Natives have become friendly with inspectors. They will often open the eyes of an inspector to the things that are happening. This they would never do for the ordinary protector, especially if that protector happened to be a policeman. The few years that I had a travelling inspector made a very great difference in the cleaning up of things which had been wrong for many years. There is a lot of hearsay in this business and there in also a certain amount of ill-will, perhaps a disgruntled or a dismissed employee will say all kinds of things against his employer, but one cannot possibly accept these ex-parte statements; you have to go to the spot to hold an inquiry.

42. In the matter of reserves, I have supplied you with a map showing where they are situated. The reserves total 24,153,016 acres, but it is only fair to say that one of those reserves, on the boundary of South Australia and Western Australia is over 44,000,000 acres in itself. That still leaves over 10,000,000 acres of other reserves which in itself amounts to a considerable slice of country. Most of the reserves are in the far North. It has been stated more than once lately that there are no reserves elsewhere. That is entirely incorrect; these reserves are all over the State. In the South, naturally they are smaller than in the N0rth. There are large areas lying idle at the present time because we have no use for them at the moment. There are large areas held in the Kimberleys for future development, and I think they will be used at no distant date. We have provided a chain of reserves in the far North, recognising the tribal boundaries of the people. After obtaining the advice of our local officers, scientists, missionaries, and anyone capable of giving advice, these reserves have been deliberately placed in particular tribal areas. It is possible that some of them are bigger than they…

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…need be, but that can be remedied later. In my opinion, at least two settlements in addition to those we now have will be required in the Kimberleys, particularly in the area beyond the Leopold,Ranges. Some year or two ago I asked the Government to have certain of those reserves classified as Class A, but Cabinet refused.

43. Have you any Class A reserves? — I am not sure about Moola Bulla; I believe that is a Class A reserve. My object, of course, was to reserve certain areas for natives for all time. In the absence of such a provision, we never know when these reserves may be taken away from us. Already I have had considerable difficulty in safeguarding at least one of them. Settlement has taken place and after a vigorous assault on the position I succeeded in having it cancelled. Settlement — promiscuous and unwarranted — is liable to take place on any of the reserves and unless they can be made Class A reserves, I fear for their future. The Commonwealth Government recognised this position in the Northern Territory. One in particular has been found capable of producing gold and everybody has been warned off it. The reserve has been made inviolable. I do not claim that all these reserves should be Class A, but certain of the areas chould definitely be Class A, and I am going to put in a file showing which areas should be so reserved. The file in No. 133/26, page 33 (Exhibit No. l6). Rather than forbid people to enter upon a reserve it is possible that natives could be excluded from entering what was originally intended to be their own reserve . Take for example the reserve on the border, that is, the reserve to which expeditions have penetrated lately in search of gold—Lasseter’s Reef, and so forth. All who have gone there have been obliged to get permits from us, and we have also compelled them to enter into a bond that they would observe certain conditions laid down by us. If there should be payable gold in that area on leases acquired by whites, it would be far better to exclude the native from it altogether rather than let him hand around the diggings. A permanent reserve should be definitely proved before it is made a reserve. We know enough about the particular areas that we…

[End of page 44]

…want to have made Class A, to enable us to say that they will not be wanted for anything else except pastoral or agricultural settlement. Another fallacy is that any sort of land will do for a native reserve. Any sort of land will not do for this purpose. If a native is to be made self-supporting, how are you going to bring that about if you have no land which they can work. The land must be capable of producing the natives’ requirements. Therefore, the department is entitled to ask for good land in order to show the natives what can be done with it. Some people have suggested that we should put the southern natives in all sorts of undesirable positions such as Bremer Bay or other places on the coast where there is not good land or anything else. In such circumstances we cannot be expected to turn out decent citizens; it is quite impossible to do so. I urge that the reserves in the far North be made Class A as soon as possible. In that particular area there are between 7,000 and 10,000 natives, probably nearer the 7,000 or less. There are quite enough uncivilized natives left there to make a sanctuary for them absolutely necessary. If that area should ever become
settled by a chartered company, then unless the department gets in ahead and pacifies the natives by arranging settlements for them, the state of that area will be infinitely worse than it has ever been in the past from the point of view of trouble between the whites and the natives. The natives up there are not like the cowed people of the south; they are fine upstanding warriors and they will show fight to protect their interests.

44. I now desire to allude to the question of firearms. The natives throughout, particularly from Kimberley southwards, have always been allowed to carry guns—that is the well-behaved natives, and they have always had a large number of dogs. Their having both firearms and dogs has been objected to by the polios all along the line. The natives in the South now find themselves without dogs, not that the dogs are much good in any way because there is not such brush kangaroo in the South West for then to go after,

[End of page 45]

but if they have a rifle, and they are good shots, they can generally manage to get something to add to their meat supply. I do not think we have ever had a tragedy as a result of a native carrying a gun, that is to say, a tragedy between a black and a white. There was one unfortunate youth who went mad and shot his brother. But that is another story altogether.

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