Royal Commissions

A O Neville Evidence Part 18

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
Acc 2922/1-2
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2

Aborigines Royal Commission  005-3

Tuesday, 13th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.

AUBUR [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, further 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] [Part 13] [Part 14] [Part 15] [Part 16] [Part 17] Continued…

I refer to Sections 118-120 of the Licensing Act, Section 45 of the Aborigines Act. The Licensing Act does not include half-castes, nor does it enable exempted aborigines or half-castes to obtain liquor. The object we have in view is to make it an offence to supply liquor, either to aborigines, half-castes or coloured persons, unless exempted, and to exclude those from licensed premises unless similarly exempted. In practice, most cases are taken under the Aborigines Act, as it has a wider application than these sections of the Licensing Act. It is proposed to insert a new section after Section 45 of the principal Act as follows: —
“45A.(1) Any person being the holder of a publican’s general license or wayside house license who shall permit or suffer any aboriginal or half-caste not exempt from the provisions of this Act to enter remain in or loiter about his licensed premises shall be guilty of an offence against this Act,
(2) Any aboriginal or half-caste not exempted from the provisions of this Act who enters or remains on or loiters about the premises in respect of which a publican’s general license or wayside house license under the provisions of the Licensing Act 1911-22 is held shall be guilty of an offence against this Act provided that this section shall not apply to any aboriginal or half-caste employed on the licensed premises under a permit granted by the Chief Protector.”
With regard to the first part, it has been ruled by the Crown Law Department that “aboriginal” means an aboriginal, defined under Section 2 of the Act and not under Section 3.

83. There is no definition under Section 2? — It says an original inhabitant of Australia; in other words, a half-caste is deemed to be an aboriginal is not included in the Section.

84. The definition in Section 2 is that of a half-caste. You have to read Section 3 to find out the definition of “aboriginal”? — I was thinking of the amendment we propose to make defining an aboriginal in that section.

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I have here a minute by the Assistant Crown Solicitor written in 1932 and dealing with the definition of “aboriginal”. I put in the Chief Secretary’s department file No. 302/32 (Exhibit 22). Our object is to prevent natives, half-castes or coloured parsons obtaining liquor unless they are definitely exempted. A considerable number of people are getting liquor. At Wagin the other day the suppliers claimed that some they supplied did not come under the Act, but the Protector won his case. The last proviso in the proposed new section covers the granting of a license by the Chief Protector to a publican who may wish to employ a native on his premises. We give permission to publicans in the North only to employ as a yardman a male native, but we do not allow any females on the premises. Under regulation, the Chief Protector has power to give a special permit for that purpose. Sections 47 to 52 deal with firearms. These sections should be restored, but I do not think that is likely to happen. I recognise the wisdom of having one authority only to deal with the issue of licenses for firearms.

85. Probably anything that is done in that direction should be done by amending the Firearms Act? — The Commissioner of Police should work in conjunction with the Protector in regard to licenses to natives, so that there may be no injustice done to them. If the matter is left in the hands of the police, very few natives, as we know, will be permitted to carry firearms. Section 58 of the Act deals with penalties, it is proposed to increase some of the penalties which, in our opinion, are insufficient. We propose to substitute the words “three years” for “six months” in the fourth line, and to substitute the words “one hundred” for “fifty”.

86. That is the maximum term of imprisonment ? — Yes. We also propose to add the words “or both” after “pounds” in the last line. In the North, men, particularly Asiatics,

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are constantly being brought up for supplying liquor to aborigines. They pay the fine of £50, but commit the same offence soon afterwards. The penalties are less than those provided in other ordinances in Australia. It would be a good check on wrongdoing if the penalties were increased. It is proposed to amend Section 59A. of the principal Act by inserting a new subsection as follows :—
“No admission of guilt or confession before trial shall be sought or obtained from any aboriginal or half-caste charged or suspected of any offence the punishment for which may involve loss of life or liberty except with the consent of the Chief Protector of Aborigines, and if any such admission or confession is obtained it shall not be received in evidence.”
Section 59A. of the Act provides that a native shall not plead guilty, shall not be allowed to plead guilty, can only plead guilty if the Protector does it for him, and is quite satisfied that he should plead guilty. In criminal court cases there is never a plea of guilty put in; it is always a plea of not guilty in order to give the native a chance. We find, however, that police officials extract confessions from natives and produce them in court as evidence. The two things are inconsistent. We bring a native to court and tell him we are going to give him a fair trial according to British law. In effect, he starts out as not guilty of the offence. Shortly after, the police trot out the confession. I invariably protest in court against such confessions being put in. The judge has remarked that the two things are not the same. The confessions have not always been accepted as evidence. Nevertheless, a man stands condemned in spite of the fact that he is not permitted to plead guilty. It is our duty to prove a man guilty, if he is guilty.

87. We are rather altering the law as it applies to others? — Some of the admission are definitely obtained by threats. A native does not understand what is required of him. He willingly says he is guilty, and tells the whole

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story with a certain amount of glee. In the case of a native murder, be may not see that he has done any wrong, and thinks he is a fine fellow. He thinks he is telling you something it was right for him to do from his point of view. He does not see why he should keep back the fact that he is guilty, and he spills it all out. The police go to him, and something of this kind occurs.

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The policeman says to the native, “you want to tell me all about the killing business”. He does that to extract an admission. The policeman, as he must do, also says, “Suppose you don’t want to tell me, all right.” The native does not see any harm in telling him and he replies, “I did it all right. Of course I did.” Then the native goes on to tell the policeman why he did it. I suggest that if a white man were to be spoken to by a policeman along those lines in such circumstances, he would naturally shut up like an oyster because he would know that he would have to stand his trial. A white man in those circumstances would not say a word unless there were certain circumstances that might compel him to do so. Natives should not be asked such questions by policemen.

It is our duty to show that the native committed the murder if he did so, and to prove the charge. Here is a case in point. A man named, we shall say, Barney, is arrested on a charge of murder. The policeman says to him, “What you want spear old fellow for?” The native answers the policeman giving the reason why he did it and explains how he did it. Of course he would do so because the native thought he was doing right according to tribal law. The contentions I have raised coincide with our idea that native courts should be established to deal with such cases. I consider the clauses proposed to be embodied in the new legislation are necessary for the protection of the natives in order to give them a fair unbiassed trial. I submit a copy of a minute I seat to my Minister last year dealing with matters I have been referring to including the establishment of native courts (Exhibit No. 23). In every dependency or country where there are natives and in some of the Australian States, special courts have been established to deal with native tribal cases. We propose that special oourts shall be established in Western Australia for a similar purpose. I was asked to give evidence on that subject before the Royal Commission on the Constitution of the Commonwealth in 1927. I did so and since then the matter has been taken up in different parts of Australia and I claim that I was the first to make that suggestion in the interstate of the aborigines.

[End of page 74]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 16

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
Acc 2922/1-2
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2

Aborigines Royal Commission  005-3

Tuesday, 13th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.

AUBUR [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, further 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] [Part 13] [Part 14] [Part 15]Continued…

007-3
Section 3 of the Act really provides which of those coloured persons is deemed to be an aboriginal, but it goes only a very little way, and so it is proposed to add after “Australia”, in paragraph (a), the words “of full blood or of not less than three-quarter blood of the aboriginal race of Australia”. You can have an octoroon aboriginal.

59. It involves quite a complex collection?—Yes, it is almost impossible. Then, by striking out paragraph (d), which refers to a half-caste child whose age apparently does not exceed 16 years, and by striking out all words after “express” in line 11.

60. That is the last paragraph of the section?—Yes. And we add instead “and includes any person of aboriginal blood in any degree deemed by the Minister to come within the meaning of this section”. The Minister can decide that any coloured person shall be deemed to be an aboriginal if he has aboriginal blood in him. That is the only provision which enables us to get over the whole of the coloured difficulty. That provision, I believe, has been made in the Northern Territory Ordinances. Section 4 is merely a consequential amendment, substituting the words “aboriginals and half-castes” for the word “aborigines”. It may be necessary to include the words “or persons subject to this Act” because I do not think the proposed words cover the coloured person entirely. Now the same applies to Section 6. Section 8 is very important. It defines who shall be wards of the Chief Protector. Under the old section every aboriginal and half-caste ohild were wards until 16 years of age. But “aboriginal” in that section, according to a ruling of the Crown
Law Dept, meant only “aboriginal” as defined in Section 2, not as defined in Section 3. It also excluded the rights of the mother of an illegitimate half-caste ohild, but did not exclude the rights of persons legally married, many of whom have no more idea of how to look after their ohildren than has the mother of an illegitimate child. Marriage, as we understand it, with the natives is

[End of page 57]

something new. When the Act was passed there was no such thing as legal marriage amongst the natives, and so it was thought there would not be any difficulty in taking away the children of persons legally married. It is necessary that such power should be given for the sake of the children, and so this section is amended by inserting before the word “until” in line 2, the words “notwithstanding that the child has a parent or other relative living”. We also substitute the words “twenty-one” for the word “sixteen”; in other words we raise the guardianship age to 21. It is 18 in the Child Welfare Act and 21 in the Northern Territory Ordinances. It is very necessary that it should be made 21. We train our youngsters and send them out to employment, and when they have attained the age of 16, except in the matter of permits, they can snap their fingers at us … and they do. A half-caste boy or girl of 16 is certainly not competent to look after himself or herself. Constant trouble is occurring through this, and all the years of work we have spent on some of these children is thrown away because the guardianship age ceases at 16. This is a vital provision. In Section 9 the alteration is simply consistent with the previous section; the words “twenty-one” are used instead of “sixteen” in the first paragraph. At present a half-caste boy over 16, who does not live as a native, is not subject to employment under permit at all. It is very difficult to draw the line there. Section 12 of the Act gives power for the Minister to remove any aboriginal from one district to another, or to keep him within the boundaries of a reserve, etc. “District” is mentioned and so it is important that a district be defined. That refers only to the aboriginal, whereas very often it is a half-caste that requires to be removed. Under that section there is no power for the Chief Protector to remove a native suffering from disease to a hospital if he refuses to go. There has been an amendment of the Health Act authorising a medical man, if requested by the Chief Protector, to visit such a native and order him to hospital, but there is

[End of page 58]

no power to compel that native to go. It is necessary that the department should have power to treat a native and convey him to hospital willy-nilly. So in that section we insert the words “or half-caste” after “aboriginal”. Presumably, after further consideration, it will include also the words “coloured persons generally”. Then, by inserting after “reserve”, in line 2, the words “settlement or other place, or to be removed to and kept in a hospital”. We have got over that difficulty a little by declaring the areas on which some of the hospitals are stationed to be reserves, but it is a very awkward method. Then we insert after “district” wherever it occurs in lines 3, 6 and 12, the words “or settlement or other place or hospital”. That is consequential.

61. “Settlement” is not used in the existing Act?—No, it was not thought of.

62. Then you had better tell them what “settlement” means?—Yes, it could be included under “Aboriginal institution”. It should include any institution conducted by the department or a mission. Of course it is provided that the Governor may proclaim any institution to come under the Act. Now it is proposed to insert a new section to stand as Section 13A as follows :— “The Chief Protector may appoint persons with authority to examine aborigines or half-castes suspected of being afflicted with disease, and to compel such aborigines or half-castes by such force as may be necessary to undergo examination or treatment accordingly”. There is at present no power to compel any native to submit himself or herself for examination. They frequently refuse to be examined. They run away from any person who they think is going to examine them, particularly if there is something the matter with them. A native never thinks he is sick until he has some pain. It is necessary that my officers should be in a position to examine natives when necessary. Frequently I have had to refuse to undertake examinations in various parts of the country because I had not this power.

[End of page 59]

Those two sections give us all the authority necesaary to examine natives and put them in hospital. Once they enter hospital they find that the conditions are not as bad as they expected , and usually they respond to the treatment very well. Section 15 should be amended by inserting after the word “aboriginal” wherever it occurs the words “or half-caste”. It is essential that half-castes should be included because so many of the inmates of reserves and settlements are half-castes. A further amendment to Section 15 is the addition of a new paragraph reading —
“Harbours, transports or otherwise assists an aboriginal or half-caste in or after his removal.”
Runaways from our settlements are often picked up by itinerant lorry drivers, and taken to Perth or other places, and such runaways are sometimes harboured and fed. That adds considerably to our difficulties in recovering them. We desire power to proceed against such persons.

63. Section 17 should be amended by substituting the words “twenty-one” for the word “fourteen” to be consistent with what has already been suggested. Section 18 should be amended by inserting the words “aboriginals or half-castes” instead of the word “aborigines” in line 10, and the words “or half-caste” after the word “aboriginal” in line 13. We are seeking to include half-castes in numerous sections where they are not now mentioned. The reasons for this have already been given. Section 21 should be amended by substituting the words “twenty-one” for the word “fourteen”.

64. In Section 22, the words “twenty-one” should be substituted for “sixteen”. It would be quite inconsistent to leave the section as it is and amend the guardianship age. In Section 27, a consequential amendment is necessary, “twenty-one” being substituted for “sixteen”.

65. Section 28 refers to the powers of protectors in respect

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of demanding permits; In other words, investigating the position between employer end employee, I wish to include after “police officer” in paragraphs 1 and 2 the words “or officer appointed by the Chief Protector.” We have a number of girls in service and a number of youngsters in different forms of employment, and I may desire to employ a woman officer, possibly one attached to head office now, who could trovel around and make the necessary inspections and inquiries. At present there is no power to do that.

66. Section 33 is very important because it covers matters connected with the general care and protection of the property of aborigines and half-castes, but it is deficient in certain necessary provisions. We propose the insertion of a new paragraph 3 as follows : —
“Require a statement of all monetary transactions between the aboriginal and half-caste and any other person for the preceding three years, and such other person shall supply such statement to the Chief Protector on demand.”
Now and again I am appealed to by aborigines and half-castes to assist them in claiming the wages due to them. Their claims are not always right; in fact, they are more often wrong than right, but at present we have not sufficient power to compel an employer to disclose the transactions between the native and himself. Sometimes we find that the native has been taken down considerably, and we are perhaps able to get the matter rectified. In the event of any employer refusing to supply a statement, we have no redress. Another part of this clause presents difficulties. The proviso reads —
“Provided that the powers conferred by this section shall not be exercised without the consent of the aboriginal or half-caste, etc.”
We propose to insert after “exercised” the words “except in the case of minors”. I have known of instances of young children having been left considerable amounts of money, and the department has had no power to safeguard the money and it has simply been squandered. In some instances, sums running into thousands of pounds have been involved. If the aboriginal or half-caste…

[End of page 61]

says he desires to look after his own affairs, we have no redress under that section, but we think we should have control in the case of minors. A further paragraph should be added as follows:-
“Any person who fails to supply a statement of account when required by the Chief Protector s0 to do and any person who wilfully makes any false statement in any such statement of account shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.”
Still another paragraph is desired —
“The Chief Protector may expend or apply any money in his possession or standing to the credit of any aboriginal or half-caste for his maintenance education advancement or benefit.”
Moneys in the way of wages and from other sources come into our possession. We hold those moneys for our charges, and expenditure is incurred in looking after them, boarding them, clothing them, etc. Though we actually do it through necessity, we have no power to withdraw money from their accounts and use it for those purposes without obtaining their consent on each occasion. To do that is not always possible because the individuals concerned may not be near us; they may be absent in the country.

[End of page 62]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 15

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
Acc 2922/1-2
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2

Aborigines Royal Commission  005-3

Tuesday, 13th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.

AUBUR [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, further examined:

55. BY THE COMMISSIONER: In continuing your evidence you were next to deal with the laws relating to aborigines and persons of aboriginal origin, and also to suggest amendments to existing legislation? — Yes. The Act we are operating under now, which is known as the Aborigines Act was passed in 1905, and since then there has been one small amendment to the Act, which was passed in 1911. The reason for the amendment in that year arose out of the findings of the Roth Commission. Practically all the findings of that Commission were given effect to long ago. The framers of the 1905 Act were naturally guided by the conditions that obtained then, but those conditions have entirely changed now. For instance, in those days it was presumed that the natives represented a people rapidly dying out. On the contrary it is now known that the natives are on the increase. There was a period when the number of aborigines in the State declined, but now they are undoubtedly on the increase. Even the full-blooded aborigines are showing signs of increase. The 1905 Act having been framed in the interests of those who were considered a dying people, naturally did not make provision for natives beyond the half-caste or the child of the half-caste, where such child was living as an aboriginal. Thus the aboriginal, the half-caste and the half-caste child were really the only people covered by the Act. Under conditions that exist today, that is manifestly absurd.

56. And the Act does not apply to all half-castes, but only to those who live with an aboriginal as wife or husband? — Under the Act those are considered to be aborigines. The definition of “half-caste” appears in Section 2 of the Act, and shows that it means any person being the offspring of an aboriginal

[End of page 52]

mother and other than an aboriginal father. Others who are dealt with in Section 3 are those who are deemed to be aborigines. That makes the quarter-caste child who is living as an aboriginal, an aboriginal under the provisions of the Act. That is the only way we can deal with the quarter-caste child. [crossed through] It will be noticed that even the half-caste who is over-age – we do not know what that age is exactly, but we take it to be 21 years – is not under the Act at all [end crossed through].

Yesterday I gave you some idea of the polyglot nature of the native population at the present juncture. While many of these people are living as natives in some respects under much worse conditions than the original natives did, legally they are not natives at all, and do not come under the provisions of the Act. We experience extreme difficulty in dealing with them. Time after time, while we know we have no legal power in the matter,
we have to take action in their own interests because we know it to be absolutely necessary for that course to be pursued. Because of that we have to bring many [crossed through] cases before the Childrens’ Court that otherwise would be dealt with under the provisions of the Aborigines Act. Some of the crosses are nearly aborigines, just sufficiently apart in blood from the aboriginal to place them beyond the pale of the Act. Ever since 1919 I have been endeavouring to have new legislation passed by Parliament. Time and again such proposals have reached Cabinet and as often have been rejected. One comprehensive Bill got as far as the Legislative Council in 1929 and was actually passed by that House. We were highly delighted when that happened, because where the aborigines are concerned, we might expect the Council to be the greater House of criticism. However, the Bill was thrown out in the Legislative Assembly, mainly, I believe, because it was near the end of the session and there was not sufficient time available for its provisions to be discussed. Since then an entirely new Bill has been prepared on modified lines, omitting a good deal of what was included in the original Bill. Those omissions were not altogether in accordance with my wishes, but were made simply in the expectation that it would enable the Bill

[End of page 53]

more easily to pass through Parliament. Certain very necessary provisions have been left out, but we may succeed in having then included later on.

57. When was the latest Bill framed? — It is ready now. In the original Bill that was framed to amend the parent Act, we made reference to some of the matters I mentioned yesterday, including the question of monetary transactions between natives and others, and also certain financial proposals that I will deal with later. I think there was also reference to the distribution of poison to natives. Those matters do not appear in the latest draft legislation. There was also the question of native customs which I proposed to include in the latest Bill, but which was not judged suitable by the Government and left out. I feel sure that if Ministers knew the position as I know it, they would not have left that phase out of the legislation. I submit the departmental file 100/25 (Exhibit No. 20) for the perusal of the Commission. It is voluminous and I do not expect you, Mr. Commissioner, to read through the whole of it, but there are certain minutes of mine that deal with the matters I have been discussing. On Page 177 you will find the amendments showing the proported revised legislation. That brings me to the consideration of the latest proposed Bill, which was prepared last year. It was drafted very carefully with the idea of eliminating anything that could be considered redundant and anything not absolutely necessary.

58. Section 2 of the original Act of 1905 defines certain things.For instance, it defines an aboriginal institution as one that is subsidised by the State. We proposed to alter that because some of the missions are not subsidised, and therefore, we suggest the insertion of the words “declared by the Governor to be an aboriginal institution for the purposes of this Act”. The definition of “district” sets out that it means a magisterial district. Magisterial districts have been so altered in the last 30 years and have been so enlarged that the definition is not suitable now.

[End of page 54]

They are not co-terminous with the police districts and the position is extremely awkward sometimes when proclamations are issued. We propose to alter that definition by providing that it shall also include any other area declared by proclamation to be a district under the act. We may desire to do certain things in a certain district. We might desire to make a certain area a small district in order to deal with some particular phase such as the elimination of tribal practises. Then we come to the definition of a half-
caste, which I have already indicated sets out that a half-caste is the offspring of an aboriginal mother and other than an aboriginal father. That in itself presents an avenue of considerable difficulty, because it is not necessary for the father to be a white man or even a European. He can be a person of half-colour, in which case the offspring, according to the definition in the act, will be a half-caste. As the definition stands now it is so involved that it is simply impossible to define a half-caste. Then again the definition in Section 2 does not altogether synchronise with the reference to a half-oaste in Section 3. We propose to delete the definition half-caste in the Act with a view to substituting the following: “Half-caste” means (a) any person being the offspring of aboriginal parents on either side and (b) half-blood descendants of such persons and any child one of whose parents is a half-caste as herein defined and which child is a female of any age or a male under the age of 21 years”. The half-caste, as defined by the Act was simply meant to be the progeny of the first union of white and black. There are hundreds of the second generation and hundreds of the third generation as well. Yet none of them, according to the definition, is a half-caste. But they are actually half-caste in blood, and can defy us and do defy us. A ruling was given in the Carnarvon Court some years ago when a half-caste in blood was charged with supplying liquor to natives or with receiving—I am not sure which—and he claimed he was not a half-caste within the meaning of the Act. The magistrate upheld his contention. The matter was referred to the

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Crown Law Department and the Department upheld the view taken by the magistrate. Ever since then we have experienced great reluctance in launching proceedings under such circumstances, but not withstanding that we have had to take action time and again in the interests of the half-castes themselves. Evan now I doubt if the interpretation that we have embodied in the latest proposed Bill covers the coloured people I refer to. Personally, I do not think it does and it may be subject to further amendment.

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A O Neville’s Evidence Part 14

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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] [Part 13] Continued…

Many of the natives are quite capable of handling guns, and recognise the danger of having one about. Until the Firearms Act came into force certain provisions of the Aborigines Act covered the supply of guns to aborigines. That Act came into force on the 1st Jan, 1932, and repealed certain sections of the Aborigines Act, namely sections 47 to 51. I knew nothing about this until the Act became law. I then pointed out that an injustice was likely to be done to the natives by reason of the change, and this eventually led to a conference between the Commissioner of Police, or his representative, the Undersecretary and myself. The result of that conference is set out on page 15 of file No. 12/32 (Exhibit 17). Under the agreement arrived at, no native was to be refused a license because he was a native, or that he could not pay the fee, that the Chief Protector was to be advised of all applications received from natives, that if there was a refusal the reason was to be given to him, and that no licenses were to be issued in the Kimberleys. The date of the conference was the 28th Jan, 1932. I am sorry to say that the Police Dept have not carried out one clause of that agreement, except that the natives are being granted licenses free. I find from inquiry that the natives have lost half their licenses.

45. In what way do you mean?—Whereas under the Aborigines Act, 65 licenses were held in the previous year, the number dropped to 35 after the Commissioner of Police took charge.

46. Have these people applied for licenses and been refused?—Yes. I have a number of letters from natives, and I am constantly being appealed to, but cannot get the applications even considered. On principle, the police believe the native should not have a gun. Consequently, all sorts of excuses are made to prevent it. I have plenty of verbal evidence on the subject. I have no personal grievance over this, but point out that the unfortunate natives have lost another of their few privileges. The whole thing is confused, because in certain districts outside the limits of the…

[End of page 47]

Firearms Act a native may carry a gun if he wishes to, but under the Aborigines Act that was not possible. In the Kimberleys any native nay carry a gun if he wishes, whereas he could not do so before. The Act is so worded that it is intended to apply to whites only. The natives were never thought of. The latest proposal is to classify them as the Asians and Chinese in
Broome are classified, but it would be better to bring them back under the Aborigines Act. I agree that in principle only one authority should issue these licenses.

47. Is there any appeal from the refusal of the Commissioner to grant a license?—-I believe so. I have appealed departmentally in one or two cases.

48. Is there any constitutional authority to hear such an appeal?—To my knowledge, that has not yet been invoked. The adverse report of the police officer of the district is sufficient cause for refusing a license. I know of natives who have held a license for years, but they cannot get one now because the recommendation of the local constable is against it.

49. I wish now to deal with tribal customs. I desired to introduce a section into the amending Aborigines Act which will enable us to exercise some control over tribal oustoms. That would be done by districts. A tribal custom that is not objectionable in the Kimberleys would be very objectionable in the South-West. It is important that the dept should have power to prevent certain tribal customs in certain districts. Some of the natives in the South-West still have two wives, and this leads to all kinds of complications and trouble. Years ago, in the time of Lord Forrest, there was a proposal forcibly to prevent certain tribal customs. Lord Forrest said that it would not do to enforce anything of that kind then, but he approved of circulars being sent to all concerned asking them to use their influence with the natives to prevent these things from happening.

[End of page 48]

Unfortunately, the circular did not go out, and the file stops there. It is time we took a hand in some districts where these practices have gone to extremes. One practice which has the worst effect of all is that of promising infant girls as wives to elders. They are even promised before they are born. This leads to some old fellow getting for a wife a girl who has just reached the age of puberty. Possibly he already has two other wives, one old and the other middle-aged. You can trace practically every native murder to that cause. We have spent thousands of pounds in an endeavour to bring natives to justice for doing things which no one could cavil at. A young man comes along looking for a wife, and finds her attached to a hoary ancient and runs away with her. Then the trouble starts. There is a case before the Supreme Court to-day on that subject. In certain districts where the natives are civilised, or becoming civilised, we should have power to stop what is known as the practice of having a plurality of wives and the promising of infants as wives. This has had more to do with the decimation of the native races than anything else. Missionaries are up against it now. They find that some of their best girls are being filched away by some hoary ancient in the bush. I do not suggest we should interfere much with the practices of the bush natives in respect to their man-making ceremonies. At the same time, some of these things lead to blood poisoning and death, and we might suggest to the natives that we can carry out the operations far better than they can. If they want the operation of circumcision performed, we would be quite willing that it should be done by the nearest medical man. That would save untold agony to boys and obtain the same object. In course of tine it will be necessary to prevent natives from carrying out a certain operation known as Sturt’s terrible rite. This has very little effect…

[End of page 49]

…on the procreation of the species, because there are numbers of families on our stations where the fathers have been operated on, and children are being born year after year. Child marriages should be stopped. Very often the infant girl is taken away when too young. She becomes old at 20 and is past child-bearing when very little older. We should do what has been done in India by the British, prohibit child marriages. Young bloods of the South-West are imitating their fore-bears in this respect by trying to get hold of girls who are little more than children. I only ask that we should be given power in certain districts if possible to regulate this matter.

50. An absolute prohibition would be difficult, if not impossible, to get ?—Yes, and it would be unwise because the natives would be the first to resent it. In some districts they agree that it is time the thing petered out. There are young men on stations who have been born there and strenuously object to being operated on. They have to submit themselves to it, but dislike it intensely, and it is quite unnecessary in their case. I have had to prevent half-caste boys from being stolen away by aborigines for this business. We should have authority to stop it. With regard to exemptions, Section 63 of the Aborigines Act gives the Minister power to grant them. Some of the exemptions are too easily obtained. I would not exempt anyone in certain areas.

[End of page 50]

51. Is that section ever used?—Very often.

52. For what reason?—To exempt. We have quite a number exempted.

53. For what reason would they be exempted?—Because it is considered that they are able to live as a white lives. That is the only object of the exemption. The object of the aborigines is to be enabled to enter hotels, as a matter of fact, and obtain drink.

54. Have you ever known an exemption in the case of a full-grown aboriginal?—I have known of one or two cases. I think aborigines stand up to it better than half-castes do. My point is that in the Kimberleys exemptions should be prohibited until we can straighten out the matter of legislation and the classes of people. There is a considerable danger in exemption natives in the far North and in places like Broome. While there are some people who constantly support the natives in this respect and try to obtain exemptions for them, I think it is quite a mistake. I agree that when we have got the Act straightened out and the people concerned are, shall I say, made amenable to legislation, as they should be, then, if any of them can prove that they can live as a white, they should be exempted, but not before. Take a half-caste in the Kimberleys, and there are quite a number of adult half-castes in the Kimberleys doing stock work. Suppose a half-caste is exempted and placed with 20 or 30 native stock boys. His temptations are too great. He abuses the women, and lords it over the male aborigines. That position, in my opinion, will only lead to trouble. I prefer the exemption to be a highly prized privilege obtainable only when a native or half-caste can prove beyond doubt that he is capable of living up to it. I am handing in two volumes of reports by the Chief Protector (Exhibit 18), also the report of the Chief Protector for 1933 (Exhibit 19).

THE COMMISSION ADJOURNED. 12-3.34.

[End of page 51]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 13

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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.

[End of page 42]

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…

[End of page 43]

…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.

[End of page 46]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 12

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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] Continued…

We have 173 of these accounts in operation carrying a balance of over £2,300, and I have invested on behalf of those youngsters something like £2,400. They are quite capable of saying their money and knowing what to do with it, provided there is someone to guide then in their earlier years. That is just the nucleus of what I hope will be done as time goes on.

33. Before lunch, you asked for Dr. Cook’s report.
I have not the original but I have a copy which the Commonwealth authorities sent to us. It begins on page 235 of Medical and Public Health file 1765/23 (Exhibit 13).

34. That brings us to G, the question of missions.
In every annual report issued by me there is a statement showing the number of missions, something of what they are doing, and where they are situated. Altogether there are 11 places where missionaries work. There are six organised missions in the North, five of which are subsidised. There are four in the South, not subsidised but two of which are used at ration stations by the dept. In years gone by there used to be terrific confusion in regard to the subsidies of missions, and for years my predecessor tried to find a settlement of the difficulty. However he did not succeed and when I came I found that some missions were receiving inordinate amounts, while others, carrying out practically the same work, were receiving very little. So I sought to get the thing on a proper basis. We did that in time by first of all deciding the amount it took to keep an inmate in a mission. That amount is based on the accepted standard in the North which is £10 and in the South £14. But that implied that the mission, being a philanthropic institution, would assist upon keeping those people. Moreover, some missions were settled on very large native reserves and were run as cattle stations, in addition to their other activities. It was considered that those missions were in a better position to help themselves than others which had no land. So it was arranged that the subsidy which the State…

[End of page 37]

…should pay to a mission which had a large area of land granted by the State should be £5 per head per annum, the mission to pay the other £5; and in respeot of those missions which had no land to speak of the amount was fixed at £7. That is the existing system. In order to get at this, it was necessary that every mission should be inspected, so that the dept should be satisfied that the inmates and children at the mission were proper subjects for Govt relief. Those missions as far as possible were inspected and it was quite evident that a number of the inmates should not be receiving Govt relief at all; in other words, they were able-bodied and quite capable of getting work. Inspections were made and the inmates were all listed, and each mission was provided with a subsidy on the monetary basis I have mentioned, in accordance with the inmates it was looking after who otherwise would be the care of the Govt. Naturally, that created considerable divergence in respect of the grants being made; it amounted to this, that the greatest pleaders got the most. However they have not been able to do that since the system was altered. I put in a return which shows what the missions have had from the State since 1898. It begins in Mr. Princep’s time and comes down to 1933 (Exhibit 14). In that time the protestant missions, numerically stronger than the Roman Catholic, have received £29,986 or 53.98 per cent of the money, while the Roman Catholic missions have received £25,569, or 46.02 of the money. I mention that because I have been accused of partiality, a defect I have studiously avoided. The figures speak for themselves.

[End of page 38]

As in other matters, we are awaiting amendments to the Act in order to frame regulations designed to assist us in respect to the work of the missions. There are no such regulations at present. While the Chief Protector considers Inmates of missions to be subject to his care, as are natives elsewhere, he has no authority to demand to be supplied with information or to insist upon reforms and alterations. Missions should be subject to departmental supervision. They should submit annual reports. The Minister should have power to issue a permit or permits to persons desiring to embark on missionary work, either individually or as institutions. Trouble arises from the fact that missionaries are unsuitable and entirely ignorant of the natives or of what they may expect to find in the mission field, and consequently they fail. In the event of a mission not doing good work, the only remedy is for the department to take it over, if it is willing, or to cancel the reserve on whicb it operates. Neither of these courses has so far been adopted, though we have temporarily managed missions at the request of the authorities.

36. I consider that Government stations and settlements are preferable to missions because, and mainly because, Government authority is recognised above all things by the natives. I have no objection whatever to missionary effort at settlements and stations under departmental regulations. The mission authorities are so hampered by their efforts to get money and do the practical work that there in not much time left for the spiritual side. Still, in view of our own ineptitude, I do not wish to cast stones at the missions. The department has so far been unable to afford a fitting example of what a settlement should be as a guide to the missions.

37. I do not agree with all that the missions do, such as curtailing the liberty of the subject, interfering with tribal customs, marrying against tbs wishes of the people, or consummating unsuitable marriages. Some of those matters we propose…

[End of page 39]

…to regulate by law. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the missions are doing splendid work of a charitable kind, much of which the State should have been doing. Much improvement is needed from the medical point of view. Personally I do not oppose the teaching of the ethics of Christianity. I consider that youngsters who are to go out to work amongst us — we profess to be a Christian nation — should also be taught something of the same Christianity in which we profess to believe in order that there may be some sort of similarity between their ideas and ours, quite apart from the moral side, which is very important.

38. The multiplicity of denominations confuses the religious issue in the mind of the native. There are seven or eight denominations doing missionary work here and the position might be improved by adopting a standard method of imparting the tenets of the Christian faith as approved by the State, and using that standard throughout. I believe that some of the religious instruction might be definitely harmful, because it is misunderstood. I understand that the missionaries in India and elsewhere are coming to the same conclusion. The mere making of grants to missions is useless. Some missions are doing good work in full harmony with the department and the department’s wishes. Others adopt the attitude that the less the department knows about their doings, the better. I only wish to add that in my opinion missionary workers should be married people and that husband and wife should be living happily together. The psychology of the native mind demands this. We have discovered it on our own stations and all our managers, and generally those second in charge, are married men living with their wives. I submit File 52/29, Regulations for the control of Missions, pages 29 – 31 (Exhibit 15).

39. Sub-paragraph (h) “Trial of aboriginal offenders” will be dealt with when the subject of legislation is considered.

[End of page 40]

40. Speaking generally on paragraph 1, I have mentioned the necessity for a medical inspector. Years ago, before my time, there were two inspectors in the department who were constantly visiting the stations to ensure that the native people were being looked after properly and were not abused in any way. Those inspectors were dispensed with and for years we had no one at all until I succeeded in getting one man appointed. He was with us for a year or two and then his services had to be dispensed with because there was no money with which to pay him. Obviously, the Chief Protector cannot be traversing the State all the time. He can make only a few journeys in the year, and it is quite impossible for him personally to know what is going on on the hundreds of stations and in the many places where natives are employed. His protectors are mostly in the towns and do not supply him with the information he most needs. The only way to overcome the difficulty is to have travelling Inspectors always going around. In addition to the medical man for whom I have asked, there should be another man in the North, and a man for the north-western districts and, if necessary, the goldfields. The south I can manage myself. At considerable expense of time and effort I have traversed the State from Wyndham to Eucla more than once. While I am away, things happen at head office that one is not in a position to rectify. Too much time is occupied in travelling. Some people have argued that the Chief Protector should live in the North. The absurdity of that contention is demonstrated by the distribution of the natives. There are 9,000 odd in the Kimberleys, nearly 4,000 in the North-West and Murchison, and over 5,500 on the goldfields snd in the South-West, so they are fairly evenly distributed. The ideal would be to have a deputy in the north — the Act makes provision for deputies — or adopt my plan to alter the name of the department and the Chief Protector, and have district commissioners and, under them, assistant district commissioners, and so on, as they have in other British colonies and dependencies.

[End of page 41]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 11

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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] Continued…

30, Will you next deal with Paragraph (f) of the terms of reference, which refers to the employment of aborigines and persons of aboriginal origin? — Every aboriginal who is a full-blooded aboriginal or who is a half-caste deemed to be an aboriginal under the Act, is required to be employed under permit or under permit and agreement. There are at present 4,054 natives so employed and the number of permits is 552. The figures are less by nearly 2,000 than is customary, this being mainly because of unemployment in the southern portions of the state. There are still a large number employed in the North but not quite so many as in normal times, mainly owing to the condition of the cattle industry. Employers on cattle and sheep stations secure the services of quite a number of natives who are usually engaged under what is known as a general permit, which stipulates that the individual holding the permit may employ so many natives, the number being fixed by the protector.

31. Without limit? — Yes, to the number he may require. Some protectors insist upon the names of the natives being supplied as well, but that is not compulsory. A permit may contain conditions at the discretion of a protector. Likewise the protector may refuse a permit if he does not think the prospective employer is a suitable person. Some difficulty is experienced regarding permits owing to the fact that there are so many unclassified natives in the country areas at present. We have half-castes in blood who claim that they do not come under the Act, yet they consort with natives. They run with the hare and hunt with the hounds as they please.
No one can stop them. Then we have the young lads who are beyond guardianship age who snap their fingers at the department in the same way. Natives who are not employed under permits — in using the term “natives”, I include all under that heading — very often get into trouble and when that happens we are called upon to get them out of their difficulty. Had they been engaged legally under permit they would probably have been all right. Pending his complete emancipation and absorption into the community on equal terms, the native, whether he likes it or not, needs some agency to guide him,

[End of page 32]

safeguard his interests and encourage him to be thrifty. From time to time the question of payment of wages crops up. In practice no monetary wages are paid in some districts, mainly in the far North, but natives receive wages in kind, food, clothes, medical attendance, and so on. Further south in the North, some of the men get good wages and when we get to the south-west of the State no native there will work unless he gets some sort of a wage, whatever it nay he. Some are working on contract. The whole position as it stands is unsatisfactory from the wages standpoint. You nay have a native on one station receiving £4 a week. That may be a rather exaggerated instance, although I know of that being done. I will put it at £3 a week and point out that the native on the next station who may he doing exactly the same work gets £1 a week. Similarly on a station still further away a native may he getting 10s. a week for similar work. As a result of that system, the highest bidder gets the best native. I am sometimes appealed to in order to prevent one individual from persuading the natives employed by his neighbour to work for him. Of course it is an offence under the act to entice a native from his legal employment. We have been awaiting the amendment of the Act for some time to enable us to adopt a satisfactory method that will stabilise the position. Again I favour the Queensland system. In that State the authorities have had more experience than we have had in these matters. Although I think their system could be improved upon in some respects, the basis of it is sound. Briefly, it is this: There is an Arbitration award for natives providing a minimum wage. I think it is 10s. a week. There are certain conditions laid down regarding housing, food and so on. naturally all employers have to pay the wage specified. Whether that wage is too high, I do not know; that is not the point. It is contended that the wages demanded for natives in Queensland are too high and consequently there are more out of employment in that State than there are in Western Australia on a proportionate basis. Certainly it is a fact that in Western Australia there are proportionately more…

[End of page 33]

natives employed than are employed in Queensland. More are at work and fewer are in receipt of charity than in normal times. It is not merely a system of arbitration wages; there are certain principles laid down. Arrangements are made through local protectors and the native is obliged by law to bank his money, and to have a small percentage debited up against his account and paid into a fund from which large sums are drawn to subsidise various activities of the department. Under that system, the natives themselves, whether they like it or not, are helping those who are not in as satisfactory a position as they are. In Queensland they call it a provident fund. The natives in Queensland have over £250,000 to their credit in the savings bank at the present time, and the amount that has been paid into Government funds on
account of the natives has been, so I judge, something of an embarrassment. I do not know definitely but I believe that is so. It may mean that the natives do not require all the wages paid to them and the chances are that they could have done with less. At the same time, the department in Queensland is in a position to finance the requirements of the natives with their own money in a manner more satisfactory than is possible in this State. Queensland spends three times as much as we do on our natives and at the same time has not to spend so much State money because the money already available is making money all the time. Many of the natives in Queensland are engaged in private enterprise. For instance, they go in for pearling and some own their own boats. There is a lot of co-operative work in that respect. I submit a copy of the latest report of the department in Queensland (Exhibit No. 11), which speaks for itself. It shows that the balance standing to the credit of natives in Queensland at the end of 1932 was £258,000, in round figures; the amount to the credit of the provident fund was £10,000 odd. That money is apart from that included in what is known as the Aborigines Property Protection Account, to which estates of deceased natives are credited, grants made and so on, and that account represented…

[End of page 34]

…£17,000 odd. I am quite sure that we should adopt some such system in this state, but before that can be done the Act must be amended to enable us to proceed along those lines. I introduced this subject years ago, and I submit to you File No. 451/1933 of the Aborigines Department (Exhibit No. 12) in support of my statement. On Page 11 you will find the first minute I submitted in which I suggested that we should go in for some such system.

[End of page 35]

It is imperative that we should have a system, whether this or something else, because it is highly unsatisfactory at present.

I am not advocating the payment of wages to natives throughout the State because in some districts it would be a mistake; they are quite happy, provided they have enough of the ordinary material things of life; still, as we come south in the State they must become accustomed to money and the use of money. Any such system naturally throws a good deal of work on the local protectors, who as they exist are not in a position to do this work. During the last 10 years or so the whole matter of the natives has become an individual one. Instead of dealing with them in bulk as we used to do, we are dealing with individuals, and they are continually appealing to us for this or that. Also the question of a native receiving or not receiving what is due to him is continually cropping up and we are asked to interfere. I have certain powers under Section 33 of the Act which assist me to deal justly between the employer and the native. Trouble comes about through ignorance on the part of the native who very often cannot read or write, and who doesn’t know that he is being taken down. I have known five 10s. notes being handed to a native in payment for a £10 contract. We should have in the Act a section making it compulsory for any financial dealing between a native and anybody else to be subject to review by or witnessed by a protector.

38. Perhaps you will bring that up again in Paragraph 2?— Yes. At head office we have a number of trust accounts most of which have been opened in comparatively recent times. We encourage natives to save, and we bank part of their savings for them. This applies particularly to those youngsters we send out from our own settlement or stations. We act as custodians of their funds and when they want anything they write or come to the office and get orders on various firms for what they want, and generally we prevent them from wasting their money, although we do not restrict any legitimate desire.

[End of page 36]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 10

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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] Continued…

I personally did discover, in years gone by, the names of dead natives still on the list as being fed, or being paid for. We hold, particularly in the far North, a number of large reserves. Some of these are held for stations, and others for the future use of natives. The reason for the establishment of cattle stations was, briefly, the fact that in years gone by the natives killed the settlers’ cattle to a large extent, and that the authorities were at their wit’s end to know what to do to prevent this. They used to gaol the aborigines, and the police were always out chasing cattle killers. Moola Bulla was established in 1911. Prior to that the State was spending about £10,000 a year in bringing natives to justice and keeping them in gaol. In 1903 there were 314 natives in gaol, and in 1909 there were 369. As soon as the native stations were established, the killing began to decline. Wherever the stations have influence today, there is no cattle killing at all. There may be an odd case, once or twice in a year; but the killing has practically ceased, and the cost now is infinitely less than it was in those days.
24. The stations, of course, are not expected to pay, and in fact do not pay; but they are run at a very limited cost and earn quite a lot of money, which goes into the Treasury. The average annual cost of a station like Moola Bulla is about £800, whereas the average annual cost of a place like Moore River is about £4,000. The cattle stations are a very cheap means of settling the native difficulty. Those stations are sanctuaries to which all the natives repair whenever they want to. They sit down for a few weeks, enjoy as much meat as they can eat, and then go off again. But always the principle is adopted that the natives have to do some work before they are fed. The question of native stations is very important to the North. They extend along the whole coastline…

[End of page 27]
…of our State, and practically to Queensland.

25. There has been poaching by aliens along that coast for many years, and the aliens have been in contact with the natives. They have introduced Asiatic diseases, and altogether their association with natives has been most undesirable. Huge reserves for aborigines are quite useless unless adequately protected, and they cannot be protected by regulation alone. There must be somebody there in authority to safeguard them. There are always men of an adventurous turn of mind travelling around the coast, both foreign and British, ever indifferent to the risk of their lives. They treat lightly any possible danger from natives. Unfortunately it is these men that have done the harm, harm which is aggravated by the further necessity for police intervention. A spirit of antagonism has been raised up between the natives on the one part and the gospel of putting in the boot on the other. This mutual antagonism will remain wherever natives are numerous, and probably it will become more serious unless steps are taken to improve the position. I foresee constant friction and probably a repetition of some of those regrettable incidents which we have read about lately, and which discredit the name of Australia abroad. It is too late to shut the door after the horse has gone out. We have even had the occupation of these reserves of ours by whites within recent years, without any knowledge of the authorities whatever. There is nothing to prevent persons from landing and establishing themselves in freelance fashion on the reserves, possibly to the ultimate embarrassment of the department end the Government.

26. The one authority which the natives readily recognise is the Government, not as exemplified by the police, whom they classify as something apart, but as exemplified by the agencies established by the department, specially created for the natives. The Aborigines Department have to bridge the gulf between the two factions, and there is not any other agency…

[End of page 28]

…which can do it equally well or gain the confidence of the natives to the same extent. It is my view that on every reserve of any magnitude there should be a Government native station such as those we possess in the North. Some of these stations should be large, some just big enough to suit local requirements, and others mere depots. The managers of these stations are picked men, married, living with their wives; and so far as we are concerned the sites for these places are co-terminous with the tribal districts. These managers are trusted by the natives, and respected by them. They do their duty without fear or favour, and are of a type mostly found in the North — virile, capable, resourceful. At Munja Station on the west the natives will carry the sick 200 miles so that the manager may tend them.

27. You mean their own sick people ? — Yes. Should that manager require to admonish a native for wrong-doing, he simply sends a message to the man to come in and the man comes in and submits to his punishment. The oldest-established native customs, such as the promising of children of tender years to old men already possessed of wives, are giving way under our system, and family life is being restored on those stations and children arc increasing there. My point is that if the department concerned with the welfare and protection of the natives gets in first and establishes its relations with the natives, that is the proper and indeed the only way to be adopted for policing those large areas, or rather I should say caring for the natives in those unsettled areas. We should get in first, so to speak. We have to pave the way for white settlers, and in the process we have to see that a fair deal is given to the natives. The money that is spent on the apprehension of wrong-doers, on the search for missing whites, and on maintenance of remote police stations might be better spent on the provision and upkeep of these outposts.

[End of page 29]

26. Coastal stations should have a vessel attached to them, provided with auxiliary power and with a wireless receiving or transmitting set. Since the native stations were established in the Kimberleys and the method of dealing with cattle killers was altered, a number of police stations have been closed there, and thus there has been some reduction in the police force stationed in the Kimberleys. Before Munja was established there had been a number of murders of whites, and probably of blacks too, but mostly of whites so far as we know, in the area north of Munja. Since the station was established, there has been nothing of the kind, and the natives are rapidly becoming accustomed to whites; in fact, settlement is increasing. Before that the few isolated settlers had to get out. Now you can go anywhere in that country with comparative safety. The native station is better than the police station, so far as the North is concerned. However, I do not deprecate the wonderful work the police have done. They have been only obeying orders and using traditional methods. I think those methods should give place to others which do not create hostility in the native mind and which in the end succeed in bringing about order and goodwill, and even-handed justice to white and black alike. I do not want to reflect upon the missionaries in what I have said. The missionary is doing good work, and the department can use him as its agent. But, generally speaking, this work is beyond the means and facilities of missionary endeavour, and is the Government ‘s job.

29. What I want to emphasise is that the voice of authority is the only voice which the natives will regard. These northern stations of ours have not got the institutional character of the southern settlements. The natives on the northern stations have an unrestricted life, and the stations are very popular with them. Whether the institutional element will have to come in at a later date I do not know.

[End of page 30]

I fancy it will, because we have the half-caste children brought in from other stations, and those children have to be cared for and educated. The life on those northern stations is the life which the natives themselves understand.

[End of page 31]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 9

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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] Continued…

Both places were established on the original corroborree grounds of the natives of these larger tribal districts. The natives were delighted that these sites had been chosen. It was not economy to close Carolup. In the South-West we are spending nearly £3,500 in rationing, medical supplies, burials, etc. Shortly after Carolup was established there was no rationing in the South-west outside the settlement. In any case the settlement should not be a matter of cost; the benefit to the natives must first be considered. Taking it by and large we can run a settlement as economically as we can ration the natives outside. Supplies consumed at the settlements are bought at contract prices, and we are generally able to provide then at a more reasonable rate than by means of contracts in the districts themselves. In my opinion Carolup should be re-established. One has to consider the prejudices of the natives in a matter of settlement. When Carolup was closed a number of people were removed to Moore River. That was a great mistake. The older people continually complained, and many died there. These natives regarded it as a foreign country. An outstanding trait amongst the natives is that they prefer their home country, and will not go out of it if they can avoid it. There should be one or two smaller subsidiary places; one to the eastward south of Merredin, and the other to the westward nearer the coast. The main idea is to have these places situated in the main tribal districts. The functions of these institutions are to provide homes for the aged, the orphans, the workless, training places for the youngsters, medical supervision and hospital attendance, nursing, education, and religious instruction. They are the places that will succeed above all else in bridging the gulf between the black and the white. They teach discipline, and imbue the natives with the self-respect that is rapidly being lost. The people themselves know it. They realise that the settlements are their salvation.

[End page 24]

I am continually being asked by natives in the South-West when Carolup is to be restored. There are enough half-caste children on stations and elsewhere to fill a large institution. I put in the Carolup file No. 65/29. I want you to see how a place, the restoration of which has been approved by the Government and the money promised, can be thrown back by reason of outside interference. No matter where you establish a native settlement, there is bound to be someone who will raise objections. We have to consider the greatest good of the community in general. We have natives squatting around the different towns in the South-West. We have to consider whether it is not better to disregard the imaginary sufferings of a few farmers, and establish these places whether they like them or not. The institutions have been of no detriment to any district in which they have been established. On the contrary, to some extent they have been sources of revenue. It is not proposed that the settlements should be regarded as prisons; the natives come and go, the workers leave their families and their children remain at school. We are able to find work for those who want it and send them out to it. For a long time past I have been unable to supply the demand for young boys and girls for farms and stations. If I had 20 ready to go out from Moore River tomorrow, I could place them all. You cannot take the material in the camps  and send it out to work because the youngsters are not fit for work. It has been very hard for us to watch institutions for the whites progressing and at the same time to be losing part of what little we had managed to acquire for the aborigines. All the buildings at Carolup are ready to be occupied, as they were. They are constructed mainly of granite, and were built in the course of a few years, mostly by native labour under the supervision of white men. Failing the provision of such settlements, the condition of the boys and girls in the camps will be pitiable in the extreme. The children are under-fed and ill-fed.

[End page 25]

I shudder to think what their future will be if they are not taken in hand. I put in an interesting reporte (Exhibit 10) written by Dr. Cilento, who has been in charge of the Commonwealth Tropical Diseases Laboratory in North Queensland, and who was recently loaned to the Queensland Govt to make a survey of the native people. I received this report a week ago. Dr. Cilento says precisely what I have been saying for years. It is most extraordinary how his recommendations and mine dovetail. I do not know whether the report is public property as yet, but I have seen references to it in London journals.

23. In the North we have three cattle stations, Moola Bulla, Munja and Violet Valley. Violet Valley is a small place, but it is of importance to the natives because it reaches out to the interior and to those beyond the Durack Ranges. We have 15 bulk supply depots, eight under Govt officers, and seven cared for by station managers or owners who are kindly assisting us. To these places we send bulk supplies. Years ago there was a system by which station managers were paid 6d. per head per day for rationing Indigent natives. That system was so much abused that it had to be done away with.

[End page 26]

A O Neville’s Evidence Part 8

State Records Office of Western Australia
Microfilm
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.

[End page 22]

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.

[End of page 23]