State Records Office of Western Australia
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2
Aborigines Royal Commission
Tuesday, 13th March, 1934
H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner
AUBER [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
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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
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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.
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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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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
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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
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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.
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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…
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…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 so 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.
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67. Yesterday I explained the position in regard to accidents, and said that it was proposed to insert in the new Bill a clause to be numbered 33a, as follows:—
“If an aboriginal or half-caste in the service of an employer sustains personal injury arising out of or in the course of his employment, not attributable to his serious or wilful misconduct, and such employment was not of a casual nature, then any expense incurred or defrayed by the department for medical or surgical attendance or for hospital charges in connection with the treatment and maintenance of, or in the case of death the cost of interment of, such aboriginal or half-caste shall be payable by the employer to the Chief Protector and shall be recoverable by action at the suit of the Chief Protector.”
That provision would take the place of any reference to the aboriginal under any other Act of that nature.
68. You are really importing some of the ideas of the Workers’ Compensation Act? — Yes, but there is no compensation.
69. I think it is wise to limit the amount recoverable? — We have tried many times to induce employers to pay ordinary expenses in cases that we say are perfectly clear, and the employers have sometimes refused, simply because there is no power to compel them to pay.
70. Have you ever tried to bring in, as against the employer, the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act as they stand? — Only once, and we succeeded.
71. Was it a case of death? It was a case of a lost eye.
72. You have never taken action in the case of death on behalf of dependants? — No, but very often the dependants are handed over to our care.
73. I suppose in many cases the dependants continue to carry on where they have been up to the time of the death? — Yes. The stations continue to look after them, but on the other hand we have to look after them sometimes. Section 34 of the principal Act is also a very important provision, we propose to amend it so as to make it possible for us to take action which is very necessary. The section deals with the liability of a father in the case of an illegitimate native child. In the last paragraph…
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you will see these words —
“Provided that no man shall he taken to be the father of any such child upon the oath of the mother only.”
74. That is the proviso to paragraph 2? — Yes. Again and again we can get a certain amount of corroborative evidence, and the girl swears that such and such a person is the father of her child; but unless we can get an admission from the person himself, nine times out of ten it is quite hopeless to proceed under that section, and we are sometimes compelled to have recourse to the Child Welfare, which in some respects is not suitable. We propose to delete the proviso in question and insert the following:—
“Provided that no man shall he taken to be the father of any such child upon the evidence of the mother unless her evidence is corroborated in some material particular.”
I think you will find that is the provision in similar Acts here and elsewhere. That will give us a better chance, because there are so many illegitimate children by European fathers that it is necessary to sheet home the responsibility to somebody. The State is maintaining numbers of children that it has no right whatever to be maintaining at the present time. In many cases we know who the fathers are, but we can take no action. Incidentally, some of the fathers are married men, and some of the girls or women have more than one child by the same man. The father simply ignores any action which the department might wish to take, because he knows that it is impossible for us to take any action under that section. We do succeed sometimes by, perhaps, more or less bluffing men into admissions; and of course the married man is in an awkward position and does not want his wife to hear about these things, and so he admits paternity and pays up. It is the single young waster, without any responsibility at all, who simply seduces these girls at his pleasure. I shall have to refer to that matter again under Section 43.
75. Section 36 of the principal Act deals with persons entering places where natives and half-castes are camped. A small amendment is suggested, to substitute the word “aborigine” for the word “aborigine” in the fifth line; but that is only to bring…
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about consistency. The important amendment is to add after the word “camp” in the fifth line the words “living, resorting or staying”. It sometimes happens that a man will take a half-caste girl to a boarding house or hotel.
76. The word “camp” suggests camps only, and not other places? — Yes. “Camp” is not wide enough.
77. There will be a further consequential amendment in the second paragraph of that section. After the word “camp” in the third line of the paragraph to insert the words “or place”? — Yes. As regards Section 37, the word “aboriginal” should be substituted for “aborigine”. In Section 38 I propose the insertion of the words “or half-caste” after the word “aboriginal” whenever the same appears. That also is consequential. In Section 39 I propose another consequential amendment, “aboriginal” to take the place of “aborigine” whenever the latter word occurs. It is proposed to amend Section 40 by inserting the words “or female half-caste” after the word “aboriginal” in the first line. When this Act was framed it was thought only necessary to provide that an aboriginal woman should not be legally married to any other person without the consent of the Chief Protector. Again the framers of the Act forgot the half-caste altogether. Again and again we find unsuitable marriages proposed. We have had marriages with Asiatics suggested. We have had marriages between half-caste girls and unsuitable and low-classed unemployed whites. In fact, we have had all sorts of complications, some of which have been brought about by missionaries. For the last 25 years or so the missionaries have been seeking to marry their inmates to someone or other, and those marriages have not always been suitable or successful or desirable. It is contended that the Chief Protector should have power to prohiblt unsuitable marriages, particularly nowadays when such marriages are very much on the increase. In point of fact, I have induced a good many persons who are licensed to celebrate marriages to communicate with me before such proposed marriages take place. In some cases I have been able to prevent…
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alliances, while in others I have readily agreed, I consider it is absolutely necessary that the Chief Protector should have this power to prevent alliances which might lead to tragedy. As I said yesterday, the missionary does not always take cognisance of tribal laws, and breaches of these laws, or what seem breaches, to them do not appear to be breaches of any law. It is consequently necessary for someone with knowledge of the culture of the aborigines to safeguard these people in this way. It is a vital provision, and this matter has given us a vast deal sf trouble.
78. I do not know that you have yet mentioned the proposed amendment. I take it the amendment is to insert “female half-caste” after the word “aboriginal” in the first-line? — Yes, and presumably “any other person who may be covered by the Act in future”. In Section 42 I propose the insertion after the word “aboriginal” of the words” or half-caste”, and the omission of the words “other than an aboriginal” in the second line. I seek to control marriages between the natives themselves for the same reason, that the natives have broken down their own culture.
79. Any marriage of any native? — Yes, to anyone else. The natives are intermarrying at the present time in a way which is utterly undesirable. That is largely due, as I said previously, to missionary effort which tries to get people married under certain circumstances.
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I must go back to Section 40. I wish to insert the words “or female half-castes” after the word “aboriginal” in the first line. To be consistent this is necessary. The same thing
applies to section 41. It does not often occur, but it has occurred in recent years, that female half-castes are increasing in numbers accompany aborigines to the creeks in the pearling districts to meet Asiatics. Now we come to the bone of contention, Section 43. As you will see in the first line of that section there is no mention of half-castes at all; the whole section omits half-castes.
80. On the assumption, I suppose, by the draftsman that “half-castes” come within the definition of aborigines? — The section also contains the word “cohabit” in the third and eighth lines. In 1924 I found in the North-West a white man having intercourse with more than one female aboriginal on the station he was managing. On referring the matter to the Solicitor General, Mr. Sayer, he ruled that that man was not c0-habiting, he was merely having intercourse. Mr. Sayer referred me to Webster’s dictionary, which stated that “cohabit” meant “to live together as man and wife”. The effect of that ruling has been almost entirely to prevent me from taking action in numerous cases ever since. We know that men do have intercourse with native women. We are told again and again that such-and-such a man is doing so. we find that from evidence we may possess that that is so in certain cases and yet we can take no action under the section in question because the man is not living with the woman. She may visit him occasionally, or he may visit her, but according to Mr. Sayer’s ruling he is not cohabiting. Since that ruling was given we have had 26 cases of the kind in which we have taken action, but we have been able to get conviction in only five. People often wonder why the dept does not take action in certain cases. it is no use trying to explain to the public that we have no legal power to take action, but the fact remains that we have not that power to take action in certain cases. In the Far…
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North it is said to be more or less customary for men to live with the native women. It certainly is so in certain places but, as I have said, the dept cannot step in and take action beyond removing the woman, or perhaps prohibiting the man from employing natives. Such action is sometimes taken for the sake of the community generally, but I sometimes find that when I take away a man’s permit because, on very good grounds, I suspect him of doing wrong, there is a hullabulloo and his permit is soon restored to him. I shall hand in the file containing that ruling because I consider it of importance. The number of the file is
195/24. (Exhibit 21).
81. Has the draftsman put up a proposed amendment ? — Before I give you the amendment I wish to point out that “half-castes” are omitted from that section. That might have been all right when the Act was framed, but it is not all right today, as you know, there are hundreds of half-caste females now and a great many of them are not living with aborigines, while others are sent out by the dept to work. It is no offence for anyone to cohabit or have intercourse with these half-castes. The half-caste girl — very often a young girl — is utterly unsophisticated. She does not know right from wrong, very often; neither does she know the consequences of her action and she becomes a ready victim to the low-class — and not always the low-class — white man. We know that these men are constantly chasing the half-castes and yet we cannot protect the girls. A man will mark down one of these girls as his prey and hang on to her until he achieves his purpose. Yet we cannot interfere. We must allow these girls a certain amount of liberty, and these things take place in all sorts of ways. The offspring of the Europeans and half-caste girls or women are increasing in numbers and the State has to support them because there are no means by which we can make the father pay maintenance. Very often the girls themselves do not know who the fathers are. Perhaps a man is introduced or meets a girl in the evening and the…
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girl goes off with him then and there. A few examples in the court would soon put a stop to that sort of thing, but we have not any power to take action. Therefore, it is proposed to amend Section 43 in the following way:-
By deleting Subsection (1) and inserting in lieu thereof a new subsection as follows:-
“Any person except an aboriginal or half-caste who habitually lives with an aborigines or half-castes or with any aboriginal or half-caste not his wife or husband or who cohabits with or has sexual intercourse with any aboriginal or half-caste who is not his wife or her husband shall be guilty of an offence again at this Act.”
You will find a similar provision in the Northern Territory Ordinance, although in the older States of Australia this state of affairs has been more or less ignored with disastrous results.
“Every male person who is an aboriginal or half-caste and who without permission in writing from a Protector lives or resides with or travels accompanied by a female aboriginal or half-caste, or vice versa, shall be presumed in the absence of proof to the contrary to be cohabiting with her or him and it shall be presumed in the absence of proof to the contrary that she is not his wife or that he is not her husband.”
I am having a comprehensive statement of cases prepared for you extending over a number of years, showing incidents that have taken place and the action of the dept and the impossibility of doing anything to remedy matters. I take it that that statement will be regarded as confidential as it necessarily contains names and addresses.
82. The liquor section of the Act, as we call it, Section 45, has always caused confusion because it does not coincide with the liquor sections of the Licensing Act, or rather the sections in that Act which refer to aborigines and half-castes.
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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 interest of the aborigines.
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The late Mr. Justice Burnside remarked on one occasion with reference to a Criminal Court trial, “these tribunals are utterly unfitted for trying men who have the lowest form of human nature known, no moral intelligence comparable with our own and who are asked to abide by laws that they have no part in framing.” With reference to a case in which a native was tried for killing another native he said, “I do not propose to pass sentence of death on a native for doing what he has done almost from the commencement of the time he has been on earth and what he will continue to do during the time he is on earth.” In 1923, Mr. Justice Draper said, “The Government should bring in an Act to recognise tribal questions as a defence.” Time after time we find natives brought to justice for killing other natives. While we know perfectly well that the natives should not kill, and we point that out to them, according to their code some of the killings are perfectly justified. There is a case before the Court to-day, which a native killed another native for interfering with his wife, not once but many times. The native speared the offender, whether purposely I do not know. The fact remains that that case was brought before the Court here, as many similar cases have been brought, with witnesses available for the prosecution. There are no witnesses for the defence. The police go out and arrest the offender and bring him in together with what witnesses they require. Unfortunately the native who is in trouble has no witnesses on his behalf. Very often these cases come before the Court before we know anything about them. In the case that is now before the Court I received the depositions last week, which meant that there was no possibility whatever of obtaining any evidence for the defence, although the reason why the man was killed may have been quite right according to the native laws. That is a typical instance and there have been hundreds of similar cases. The State has spent thousands of pounds in bringing natives to justice for doing the very things that they consider it is their right to do. Very often the action taken by the native
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is intended to inflict mild punishment, but he may probably go too far and kill. Then again sometimes blood poisoning is set up and the victim dies a natural death as a result of a wound that would not have killed him in the ordinary course of events. We contend that the time has long since passed when special courts should have been set up for the trial of natives accused of such offences, so that all the circumstances surrounding the particular incident to be investigated can be taken into account. We do not propose for one moment to allow natives to go on killing each other; that is not the object. We propose that a new clause should be inserted in the Bill after Section 59b, reading as follows:—
“(a) (1) The Governor may by proclamation establish courts in any district to be specified in such proclamation for the trial of any offence committed by any aboriginal or half-caste against another aboriginal or half-caste; (2) Every such court shall be constituted by the resident or police magistrate who shall be chairman thereof, the Chief Protector of Aborigines or a protector who shall be nominated by the Chief Protector of Aborigines, some person to be nominated by the Minister, and the head man of the tribe to which the accused person belongs; (3) Every such court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in connection with the trial of any such offence and may in considering any charge made against any aboriginal or half-caste take into account any tribal custom which may be set up as the reason for the commission of the offence; (4) Where it appears that any aboriginal or half-caste has in pursuance of any tribal custom committed an offence against another, then the court may, in the case of a capital charge, sentence the offender to any term of imprisonment not less than ten years with hard labour. The proceedings in such court shall be final and without appeal; (5) The Governor may make regulations prescribing the procedure to be followed by such courts for the trial of such offenders.”
You will observe that under Subclause 1 of the proposed new clause no reference is made to offences against whites. Similar courts to those I have suggested have been set up nn New Guinea and Papua.
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88. Have you a copy of the New Guinea legislation dealing with native problems? — Not the whole of the legislation, but I have a copy of the provisions under which the native courts were constituted. I produce the departmental file 256/30 (Exhibit no. 24), relating to the establishment of native courts. The provision of such courts would not only save a lot of money but would enable the natives to have a hand in the administration of justice, which I consider very necessary. Half the time they do not understand what we are doing and why we do it. If we could do what I suggest in conjunction with one of the natives themselves, I think it would have an excellent effect amongst the aborigines and would enable them to appreciate what we were driving at, I feel sure that after a very few years the effect of the establishment of native courts would be the complete cessation of the vendetta system that prevails amongst the natives. The observance of the law of a life for a life has been going on ever since we have known the natives and it will continue until we do something more than we have so far done towards stopping it. We have to bring justice to the natives in their own way. Their own ideas of justice are pretty sound; if a man does wrong, they punish him. They may spear the offender in a certain way in a certain part of his body. Very often they go too far and that simply leads to another murder.
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They have punishments for almost anything a man may do wrong.
Another new clause is inserted to stand as 59D as follows:— “The Chief Protector may obtain letters of administration of the estate of any deceased aboriginal or half-caste.”
Hitherto the estates of deceased aborigines have had to be referred to the Curator of Intestate Estates. They have had to go through all the procedure and have been docked of the fees required by the State and the Curator. For many yours a lot of these estates were handled by the Chief Protector. Such an estate might consist of a few old clothes or a horse or an old buggy. Someone had to deal with them and it was my practice to refer them to the Curator and ask him if I could settle the matter. If he agreed, it was a simple procedure without legal obligation. Nowadays we have to refer all these estates to the Curator and have to go to endless trouble in settling some of them. The Govt knows the position, and some time ago ruled that the Chief Protector was to handle all these things in future. But the Curator, properly I suppose, pointed out it would be illegal for the Chief Protector to do that, and that while he had no objection he thought it was still his job as Curator. The upshot was that we had to revert to the original position and all such estates have to go to the Curator. We now seek to alter that by bringing it within the power of the Chief Protector to settle these matters. There is one vital reason for the change, namely that the Curator cannot recognise native marriages, and therefore, as to persons who may have been living together as man and wife for years, if the husband dies and leaves his estate to the wife she cannot receive it. The dept recognises these native marriages, and therefore would not act in that way.
Then there is another proposed new clause to stand as 59(e) as follows:—
(1) Any wages due to an aboriginal or half-caste absconding from service or deceased, and any wages due to an aboriginal or half-caste unclaimed for a period of one month after the same shall become due, and any estate or other moneys to which an aboriginal or half-caste is
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entitled either as beneficiary or otherwise shall forthwith be paid by the employer, trustee or debtor or other person liable to pay or deliver the same to the Chief Protector. Failure to do so shall be an offence against the Act.
(2). On receipt of such wages, estate or other moneys,the Chief Protector shall place the same to the credit of a trust account and for such purpose where any estate does not consist of money the Chief Protector shall, as soon as reasonably may be, convert the same into money.
(3). Subject to the provisions of this Act, the moneys placed to the credit of the said account as herein provided, may, after a period of three years be applied by the Chief Protector for the benefit of aborigines or half-castes.
That follows the lines of the Queensland system and enables the Chief Protector to deal entirely with estates and any money due to deceased natives, which I am afraid nowadays very often remains in the hands of the employers. My object is to ensure that any money which a native is possessed of at the time of his death, or which is unclaimed, shall go back to the natives themselves. Actually, we have started a system of this nature with certain trust funds which were too old to be dealt with in the ordinary way. We could not find the owners of the money and so we paid it all into a trust account and we use the interest on that money for the education of natives. We still have the principal and if those people turn up at any time they can get the money.
Section 60 of the principal Act deals with regulations. Paragraph (h) reads, “Regulate the payment of wages payable under agreement.” We want to add the words “with aborigines or half-castes or when employed under permit.” Then, after paragraph (k2), we wish to add paragraph (k3) as follows:— “For the establishment and regulation of mission stations and the issue of permits to mission workers.” Then we wish to add paragraph (m) aa follows:— “Prescribe the procedure to be followed in courts of native affairs”.
Section 62 of the existing Act deals with penalties for breaches of regulations. We propose to amend it by deleting the word “twenty”, in line 2, and inserting the word “fifty” in lieu thereof, and by deleting the word “one”, in line 3, and inserting in lieu thereof the word “six”; and by adding the words “or both” after “month” in the last line.
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That ends the clauses of the proposed amending Bill. I am putting in file 301/33 (exhibit 25) which is a typical instance indicating the necessity for having a clause providing that monetary transactions between natives and others shall be supervised by someone in authority. There is still one more clause which I proposed but which was struck out at the instance of the Under Treasurer. Section 5 of the existing Act prescribes that the Treasurer shall in every year place at the disposal of the department out of Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum of £10,000 and such further monies as may be provided by parliament to be applied to the purposes of the department. If in any year the whole of the said annual sum is not expended, the unexpended balance shall be retained by the department and expended in the performance of the duties thereof in any subsequent year. When the Act was passed the department was earning nothing. Since then fees have been imposed and there are receipts from other sources. Conflicting rulings have been given in respect to the adjustment of those receipts and a little time ago it was decided that the present system of crediting receipts to the trust fund should be continued until legislation could be introduced to put the matter right. It was contended otherwise they should be paid direct to the Treasury. I have referred to what section 5 of the Act prescribes. Although the receipts in some cases have been credited to the trust fund, the intention of the Act has not been given effect to, for any balance remaining at the end of the year is not carried forward into the succeeding year as provided in the section. It is contended that all monies earned from whatever source by the department should be paid to the credit of the trust fund for the department uses.
89. That is your proposed section?—— Yes, what we contend. I should have said that if there is a balance in our favour it is confiscated.
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90. Balance of what?——Balance of the trust fund at the end of the year; it is confiscated.
91. The existing section does not deal with a trust fund. As I understand it, they apportion £10,000 to your use and Parliament may grant you a further supply. In addition you from time to time receive monies which are paid into the Treasury?——Yes.
92. The sum total of all that is that if you have not spent it you say the balance should be handed over to you for the next year?——It is not handed over.
93. No, because the Act does not say anything about money your department earns. Suppose the Treasurer pays over £10,000 and Parliament grants you another £10,000, and you spend only £18,000, the remaining £2000 would be carried on till next year?——Yes, I follow that.
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Section 64 provides for the establishment of a trust fund. Section 5 gives the department the right to £10,000 and such other monies as parliament may provide.
94. But not the right to anything else?——suppose the department earned £10,000, it might be contended that that money should be paid to the Treasury and that we should not have the right to use it. What I wish to ensure is that the money earned by the department shall be available to the department, as it is in Queensland. A few years ago that system was in operation here, and sometimes, instead of asking parliament for a large sum of money, all I had to do was to ask for a small amount to make up the total required. We receive considerable revenues from our cattle stations.
95. Those revenues would not exceed your expenditure?——On occasion they have exceeded the expenditure, but usually they do not. We have considerable revenues and the money goes direct to the Treasury and we do not receive the benefit of it, although the Treasury has provided the money for the stations. The Auditor-General ruled that as the stations had been financed in the first place by loan moneys, the Treasury was entitled to the revenue. I wish to alter that. I wish to ensure that we receive all monies earned by the natives, or for the natives, and that we be entitled to expend the money, which would be placed in trust for us. I know that such a system would not please the Treasury because the Treasury is not in the habit of trusting departments to that extent. The Treasury officials think that departments will spend more if they are allowed to handle more. That is not my idea. If we have a proposition that is earning good money, we should be entitled to use some of the earnings to make it earn more. In other words, we cannot progress unless we are entitled to use some of our revenue, which we are not required to earn at all. We have earned those revenues in addition to carrying on other activities.
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Before 1911 not a penny of revenue was received by the department. I submit Treasury file 1954/1922 (Exhibit 26)
96. Have you a proposed amendment dealing with the receipts of the department?——No clause has been drafted.
97. I understand what you desire. Does that complete your evidence regarding laws relating to aborigines?——There is one other matter, the supply of poison. There is no provision to restrict the supply of poison to aborigines.
98. Would not the restrictions of the poisons act be sufficient?——No. I have sought advice and the Assistant Crown Solicitor has stated that he does not know of any law prohibiting an aboriginal or half caste from having the possession of poison. He added that such a law seemed desirable, and stated that some years ago there was a case in which an aboriginal had possession of strychnine for poisoning rabbits and took it into his head to give a dose to a policeman because he had a grudge against the policeman. I do not know whether that is correct. The policeman drink some water that had strychnine in it; presumably it had been put there by the native. My offices informed me that many natives are in possession of strychnine which has been given to them by station owners and others in order that they might poison dogs. Natives are very careless in the use of poison; they scatter it around and hang the baits in a tree when they have finished for the day. There is constant danger of other natives and of whites being poisoned. I have advice from one centre of a native, a bad character, who was in possession of poison, and who has actually threatened other people and is believed to have poisoned others. I consider the proposed restriction absolutely necessary. A simple provision will suffice, setting forth that no person shall give, sell or supply poison of any description to a native without the written authority of a protector. That would overcome the whole of the difficulty. I submit file 202/33.
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99. Further with regard to legislation, I want to ask that the venue of all cases of assault and worse to be transferred to the Supreme Court.
100. By “venue” you mean the place of hearing?——Place of trial. I suggest it should be Perth, or at least in the southern portion of the State. I have watched the process of trials in the North for many years, and I am quite satisfied that a jury in the North will not convict a white for an offence on a black, particularly in the Kimberleys. In the Kimberleys they boast about it and openly state that such and such a man will not be convicted. It is often the word of the black against the word of the white, and of course the white’s word is taken every time. In my view, there are not enough jurors in the North to constitute a panel which will be entirely unbiased. The panel may include men guilty of the same offence as the person accused is charged with. I am quite satisfied that we shall never get justice for the blacks so long as such cases are heard in the North. I limit my suggestion to cases of assault and worse because those are the only cases in which jurors are required.
101. A summary jurisdiction case of assault can be heard by the police magistrate, but an assault combined with an attempt to commit any other crime must go before a jury. The cases which you aim at are those which are trailerable before a jury?——Yes. There was an instance where a man was accused of having destroyed a certain number of natives. The evidence was not sufficient to bring a charge of murder or manslaughter against him; so he was merely accused of assaulting one native. There was, of course, a jury in that case. In another place there were cases where two whites were tried on the same day, one for an indecent assault on a native child, the other for wounding a black. In the latter case the black had had his head badly injured by the white. In both of these cases, which were to my opinion of those who know, clear cut issues, there was a verdict of not guilty.
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We came to the conclusion that it was hopeless to expect justice in such cases from juries. It would be infinitely preferable, to my thinking, if there were no juries and the cases were decided by magistrates, provided it was a magistrate and not a local bench, which I suppose it could not be in a case of that sort.
Now I come to the administration of the department. Anyone might think, from finding the administration placed amongst the terms of reference, that the department was on the carpet, so to speak; but those speaking on the motion in parliament, and particularly the mover, made it quite clear that they had no charge to bring against the department, or at least head of the department, unless it be implied, which I do not think it was, that matters in the field perhaps might be improved. Anyhow, it was not the intention of those who spoke on the motion, or of the mover, to castigate the department. The motion was carried, I understand, to enable the department to give an account of itself and to bring forward all those things which it thought necessary and the reforms for which it had been pleading so long. The charter under which we work is really contained in one section of the Aborigines Act, section 6. That section lays down the duty of the department—firstly, to apportion, distribute and apply as may seem most fit the moneys placed at its disposal; secondly, to distribute blankets, clothes and other relief to the aborigines at the discretion of the department; bradley, to provide for the custody, maintenance and education of the children of aborigines; fourthly, to provide as far as practicable for the supply of medical attendance, medicine, rations and shelter to the sick, aged and infirm aborigines; fifthly, to manage and regulate the use of all reserves set apart for the benefit of aborigines; sixthly, to exercise a general supervision and care over all matters affecting the interests and welfare of the aborigines, and to protect them against injustice, imposition and fraud.
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You will readily appreciate the fact that that is a very meagre amount of what the department has, and is expected, to do, particularly as half castes are scarcely mentioned in the section at all. It requires a very much wider application than appears in the section. Still, that is the foundation, and those duties are practically purely charitable. However, we have to go far beyond that because the department is something very much more than merely a charitable institution. In 1890, when self government was granted to Western Australia, a sum of £1,974 was spent on the aborigines. Now we spend roughly £28,000 per annum on them. Section 70 of the Constitution act, 1889, provided that £5,000 should be applied every year to the welfare of the natives from Consolidated Revenue, and that if and when the gross revenue exceeded £500,000 in any financial year and amount equal to one percent of such gross revenue should be substituted for the £5,000 before mentioned. Sixteen years later that provision was repealed, Section 5 of the existing Act taking its place. That is the Section we examined this morning, which says that £10,000 must be a first charge against the revenue of the country, and such other monies as Parliament should provide. If we had adhered to the original Constitution Act, we should now be spending £78,000 a year on the natives, and we should have spent to date £1,916,911. We actually have spent £1,127,013. If we include approximately £250,000 spent by the missions, we have a total of £1,377,013. This amount, plus certain expenditure by the Public Works Department on buildings, brings the total to £1,395,744. So we cannot be said to have done so very badly, although falling short of the amount originally contemplated. Of the amount so spent, £120,000 was used in maintaining what was known as the Rottnest Penal Establishment for natives, which has long since been abolished.
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I will hand in a statement showing the amount which in the different years would have been provided out of Consolidated Revenue if the old section of the Constitution had not been repealed. I will also put in a statement showing the expenditure to date year by year since 1906, and the total sum prior to that. I shall also put in a return showing that the revenue of the department, of which there was none prior to 1911, has reached £127,454. You can understand my anxiety to have the financial clauses of the Bill looked into. That money has been earned for the natives, and should be used for them. The expenditure year by year over a great many years has been more or less the same. It has generally kept in and around the sum of £22,000 or £23,000. There can be no parallel between the necessity then and the necessity now. Whilst the work of the department and its burden has been increasing year by year, there has been no increase to speak of in the annual expenditure, and in some years there has been a considerable dimunition. When I took over the duties of Chief Protector, in 1915, much against my will in that I first refused to accept the position, I found that the department was not in a very satisfactory condition, and that all the existing methods required to be revised. The first five or six years were spent in doing this and in making myself acquainted with the state and the districts where the natives were, and coming into contact with the natives themselves. I found there were thousands of natives employed without permits. We could not ascertain who was permitted to employ them and who was not. We had to revise the whole system. At that time a permit covered any number of natives for any number of years. The position was impossible. We therefore cancelled all existing permits and made them annual. They used to be no charge for a permit, but we imposed a charge of £2 for a general permit and 5s for a permit to cover one person or a married couple, these small charges being imposed to cover administrative expenses.
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The whole business of employment, which had been extremely unsatisfactory up to that point, was brought within the purview of the different protectors, who at that time were few and far between. A man was given a certificate that he was a protector, and he was a protector for life whether he did right or wrong. It was impossible to find out who the protectors were. We therefore cancelled all existing certificates. Only a few days ago one of the old permits came to light after all these years. The gentleman in question thought he was still a protector and I did not and deceive him. From having only a mere handful of protectors we now have a total of 103. Of these 16 are resident magistrates and magistrates, 53 are police officials, 14 are public servants, and 20 are private individuals including managers of missions and clergyman. These appointments are now made annually. If it is necessary to make an appointment in between, it holds good only until the end of the December following. The list is constantly being revised. Owing to the frequent changes in the location of police officials, it is necessary to make constant changes. Very little was known as to the position of the missions. All that information had to be obtained, mostly by personal investigation. A new subsidy system was initiated. Medical inspection, which had been very neglected, was taken in hand and considerably improved. There were no regulations except those governing the signature of vouchers. We introduced a set of regulations governing reservations, settlements, permits for gun licenses, and other matters. There were no trust funds to speak of. The natives had not been paid much in the way of wages and had not been encouraged to save money. A new system was started there. There was a complete revision of records. Instead of a few items being recorded on the files, a complete card system was inaugurated, including a personal card for every native with whom we had important dealings.
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That has been a most valuable asset to the department. We can trace back natives for nearly 20 years, and over and over again names crop up that we have not heard for years, but we can tell exactly who they represent and what sort of life the people concerned have led, etc. We started the settlement system, which we are now seeking to expand, and which has been successful so far as it has gone. The training and care of half caste girls has been attended to. We have established a home for these girls in Perth such as it is. It is the beginning of something better. It represents a home to which they can return after they have been out of employment, first going out from one of our settlements. Instead of being compelled to go back to a settlement, the girls can go to the Home for a fortnight or so, where they reside under the care of the matron appointed by the department. They are given encouragement to live good lives, and they have their enjoyment in town under proper supervision. The system has been very successful. Similar institutions exist in the other States. The system must be extended. The girls come to depend upon the department completely. They come round to us daily for this, that or the other. They bank their money and look upon the department as their guide and mentor. That is as it should be until they become old enough to be independent or marry. I have referred to the children, and the necessity for recovering many of these youngsters from where they are now. The idea is that all half caste children shall be educated and trained. We hope to do that at our settlements, and we are doing it to some extent fairly successfully. There are many in the bush who ought to come in and be similarly treated. Occasionally we place youngsters under 16 with some kindly disposed person, much on the boarding-out system. It has answered well in one or two cases, but it is not generally so successful as sending them out at a later age. The safest time to send out a half caste girl to work is from the age of 18 onwards.
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Under that they are not able to stand on their own feet and cannot with stand temptation. These places are very far from perfect. At Moore River the average cost of an inmate is £9.13s per annum, or 3s.6d per head per week. At the Old Men’s Home the cost per inmate is 1s10½ d per day. At the Fremantle Gaol the cost is £64.5s.10d a year, and at the Pardellup Prison it is £48.11s.9d. That leaves a lot to be desired in the expenditure on native children home we are trying to bring up in the ways of the whites and teach them to be as whites.
That brings me to the average price of the weekly rations on which hundreds of natives are now subsisting.
[End page 90]
The average contract price outside is 2s9d per head. Nobody can contend that we oversupply our natives. In 1921, the North-West Department was established, and there was a division of the Aborigines Department. I took the North and another official took the south. It was not a good idea and I said so at the time; but it was done. In 1929, when the North-West Department was abolished I assumed control of the natives throughout the state and it is since that time that our various financial difficulties have arisen. I said a little while ago I would hand in a statement of receipts and expenditure and what would have been the expenditure under the Constitution Act. I submit it now. (Exhibit 28). I also submit a list of the protectors of aborigines. (Exhibit 29). I shall hand in shortly a series of minutes I have written at different times between 1925 and 1933 pointing out the inadequacy of the funds placed at our disposal. They were nearly all written when presenting the Annual Estimates and after receiving instructions from the Treasury that not more than certain amounts were to be entered as our requirements. I have also referred to this matter in the reports, and you will find in the index I have given you the numbers of the pages on which those references appear. I have gone as far as I dare in this matter. I could not have put the position will strongly without endangering my position, not that that would have mattered; but I have stated the strict truth that there is not enough money to feed and clothe the natives other than from a purely charitable point of view, and that has been the position for the last 15 years. During the whole of my experience there has been constant pressure to reduce expenditure, and that has had to be done of course at the expense of the natives. I submit these minutes. (Exhibit 30). There are, of course, fluctuations in the amounts allowed us. We do little better in some years than in others, but the average amount has not been increased for a very long time.
[End page 91]
In fact, the average amount is less than it used to be. The expenditure on our cattle stations has been reduced to an absolute minimum; in fact, it has been reduced to a point beyond which it is not safe to go. Not for a long time has there been any money for development of any kind. One does not expect that, but we only want enough to do what is really necessary. I have pointed out that in certain places we could do very well if we had a little more money as capital and could make money, because it is my idea not that the natives should be simply the object of charity but that they should be made useful people. A native can and should be made to earn his living, and his labour should contribute to his own keep. We have proved that he can work and we have proved that he can be educated and taught to support himself, and until we extend that system we shall always be handing out charity to him.
I have pointed out in the list of protectors that there are a number of police offices as protectors, 53 altogether. There has been a great deal of discussion about police as protectors throughout Australia, not only in western Australia. There are people that have always objected to police as protectors and there are those that will always object. In principle there is no doubt about it, the thing is wrong. As far as my experience goes, the police have done very good work for the natives, and in most cases they have been the friends of the natives. My personal relations with the police have always been excellent, and I regard a number of the police offices throughout the State as my very good friends. Nevertheless that will not prevent me from saying that the system is wrong. I think the system is unfair to the police and unfair to the blacks and to the whites, particularly in the North. It is unfair to the police because they have to act as protectors to the very people they have to prosecute from time to time and arrest for offences and so on.
[End page 92]
It is unfair to the blacks because the police have to act as the suppliers of the charity, or rather the black has to depend upon the police for sustenance, and if a native misbehaves himself perhaps he will not get that sustenance. The system is used sometimes by the police as a means of intimidating the blacks and making them do his will. That, of course, is not general. The pastoralists and employers naturally consider that the police are there to protect them against the blacks, and altogether the thing goes around in a vicious circle and it’s unfair to all. There are additional reasons why it is wrong. There are constant changes in the police force, particularly in the North and North-West. Young constables are sent up to serve their time, young fresh men to the force, only just having had the police training, and knowing nothing about the blacks, and probably caring less. These young constables have to go into areas where there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of blacks, and they come up against forces of existence of which they never dreamt about. A year or two ago I suggested that when young police were being trained I would be prepared to give them instruction in their dealings with natives, what to expect and how it was intended that the Act should be administered. My suggestion was agreed to verbally but that was the last I heard of it. Still, these young fellows are going out ignorant of what they are to come up against. There is another aspect: they succeed a man who has learnt something by reason of his sojourn in that district. Moreover, police records are not kept there; they are kept at the head office. Any circulars or instructions may or may not still be there. At all events, the newcomer has to find out everything for himself all over again and he sees going on in that district things that he has an idea are not right according to the law, although he is not very sure about it; and because they were not corrected by his predecessor, he says they are not his concern, and so he lets them go on.
[End page 93]
He may know of a man who is living with a half caste girl, and that that is contrary to Section 21 of the Aborigines Act. Probably he would not say anything to me, because Smith or Jones, who was there before him, knew it was going on and said nothing. Again and again I have said to the Police Department, in effect, “Why has this gone on all these years without being reported?” Some of these matters are serious and should be attended to when they occur, but for these reasons and others they are neglected. Nowadays the police do not patrol unless they are obliged to do so. They have not done so for years, on the score of economy. The police officer is in town if anything happens at a station, or he may be a hundred miles from the actual place of happening and unless I pay all the expenses of transport, including a motorcar, no action is taken.
[End page 94]
As a policeman, of course, he will not go out; he will go out only if everything is made smooth for him by my department. In those circumstances many inquiries that ought to be undertaken do not take place. They are not undertaken because, in the first instance, I have not the money at my disposal to enable the police to undertake the journeys that are necessary and, secondly, the policeman is very often single-handed and cannot leave his centre, nor is he supposed to go on patrol. It is my considered opinion that the Aborigines Department should have, quite apart from the police or others who may be acting as protectors, a deputy commissioner in each district. That is to say, there should be a deputy commissioner in the Kimberley district, another in the North-West, and another in the Murchison, Gascoyne and goldfields district, although it would not be necessary to have one in the South-West. Those officers should be permanent officials of the Aborigines Department responsible only to the Chief Protector. In those circumstances anything that occurred in a district would come under the notice of a local deputy commissioner and he would take what action was necessary. Of course the ideal system would be to have subsidiary officers under them who would be protectors and not policemen. I do not know that it would be possible to have such a system under existing conditions. In fact I am not at all averse, on the ground of economy, to a continuance of the present system provided we have some adjunct to help us out and not merely allow us to continue as things are at present. Occasionally the police intimidate the natives and at least one policeman has asked that he be given the work of rationing the natives in his district so that he can control them. Of course most of the police officers do attend to the rationing work and it is quite possible for them to have a hold over an individual native by refusing to issue food when necessary, even to the point of starvation. In all such matters the police are able assisted by their black trackers who, amongst other things, have been known to extract confessions from alleged wrong-doers, such as I referred to this morning.
[End page 95]
From the native point of view, the evils of the system outweigh the good. But from a State point of view and under the existing financial circumstances I think these outweigh the susceptibilities of the natives. If we must have police as protectors in view of the special circumstances of the times, let the system be placed on a sound basis. But I would rather have no policemen acting as protectors if it were possible. It must be remembered that the police are not paid anything for these additional duties. Perhaps if they were paid a consideration in respect of their work on behalf of the Aborigines Department, it would make a difference. The police regulations governing contact between constables and natives are very sparse indeed, and give a young policeman very little idea of what he will be up against. I have one copy only of the police regulations, and I suggest that you get a copy from the Police Department.
There is another matter in connection with the Police Department with which we are not at one at the moment. I refer to the matter of communication. In years gone by it was customary for the Chief Protector to communicate with his protectors who are duly appointed under the Aborigines Act and to receive replies direct from them, just as it is the position with clerks of courts, Treasury paymasters, or electoral officers. All these officials communicate direct with their respective head offices. For some reason the Commissioner of Police who recently retired from that position, issued instructions that all communications regarding native matters were to go through him. Thus an impossible position was created. While we are trying to get away from the police system, this decision simply served to accentuate the police phase and made it ten times worse. There are often confidential matters in respect of which police action as such is not necessary. Under the new order those matters are forced through a channel that should not deal with such matters and the procedure is utterly unnecessary and wrong. Names of people I mentioned which should be known confidentially to the local officer and the Chief Protector only.
[End page 96]
I do not know why the altered instructions were issued; it may have been because of some incident in which possibly police officers were concerned, but officers of my department were not affected. However, the change was instituted and I protested vigourously against it and so did my Minister. Nevertheless, it is still going on and finally has been referred to the Commission.
Specifically or generally?——I think specifically.
I would like to see the file——I will leave it with you. The latest proposal was for a conference between the two Ministers concerned, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, and the Commissioner of Police. My Minister could not arrange the conference and so he handed the matter over to me to bring before the Commission.
It could well come within the scope of the inquiry, which requires me to investigate the administration of the department?——Yes, it is a big factor in the administration of the department. I want to be able to communicate directly with the protectors and direct them to take any action that is necessary. Where police action has to follow, as it has to frequently, I would refer the matter onto the police then with a view of requesting them to take the necessary action. I have always made a point, we are police action is necessary, to communicate with the Commissioner of Police, or with the district inspector, but where it is a matter of local interest only—there are thousands of little personal matters relating to the natives themselves, or respecting the employment of natives, that concern the native and the department alone—the police department as such is not concerned, and those matters should not be referred to that department. It would merely serve to complicate the business if all such matters were sent through that channel. Moreover, when we do receive replies through the channel of the police department, those replies are so stereotyped and brief that they are useless. I want to have the confidence of my protectors and I want to know what they are thinking, quite apart from what they send in their brief formal replies on paper. Time after time when I have been able to go round and talk to these men, I have been able to discuss matters fully with them and am able to secure their confidence in a way that would not be possible if I had to depend on mere paper correspondence.
[End page 97]
In getting their confidence the men secure an appreciation of what I want and act accordingly. The stereotyped replies that I get through the police department are often absolutely useless to us, and I can see no reason why that system should be adopted. The officers concerned are as much officers of my department as are those attached to the staff in the head office. On this particular subject I produced the Aborigines file 268/31, and the Police file 8793/31. (Exhibit 31).
Regarding the administration of the Aborigines Department, I do not know that there is very much for me to say regarding this particular phase. Most of the work that the Aborigines Department undertakes is disclosed in the annual reports. I have a permanent staff of 40 officers in the head office and in the field, and in addition there are 102 protectors, giving me a total staff of 142 officers. I submit a statement showing the distribution of the staff. (Exhibit 32). I trust that you will carefully peruse the annual reports of the department in order to gain some idea of our various activities, which are more in evidence in the country than at head office. For instance, there is the work undertaken at the hospitals at Port Hedland and Derby. Every year a medical man at Port Hedland, who is the district medical officer and his paid specially to attend the hospital there, gives us a brief outline of the work carried out and the conditions that obtain. It is a most informative report and the treatment available to the natives is in accordance with the latest developments of medical science, and has proved most effective. At the Derby Hospital the conditions are not so good, but the medical man there is thought very highly of by the natives who do not fear to submit themselves for treatment by him, and he is doing excellent work.
When speaking of homes and institutions yesterday, I forgot to mention that we have established at Buckland Hill a small home for quarter-caste children.
[End page 98]
It was really started at the instigation of Sister Kate who was formally in charge of the Home at Parkerville. She placed her services unreservedly at the disposal of the department for future work and I thought we could not do better than place her in charge of the few quarter-caste children then at Moore River. Obviously those children should be taken away from the vicinity of natives or half-castes. Sister Kate has 12 of the quarter-caste children at the Home at Buckland Hill. They are doing very well indeed. All the children except one attend the local State school and there has been no question of their admission. The colour question has not entered into it. They are not all true quarter-caste because some show a little more colour than I would like to see in children at that institution, but that could not be avoided. With regard to the system of employment, which I referred to previously, the number employed at present is much less than formerly, but we have detailed accounts at the head office of all those who have engagements. Where the permit is a general one, we have not always had the names of the natives in employment, but we now know where every native is employed, where his employer is situated, and how the employers treat their employees. The list is as complete as we can make it with our existing machinery. We keep records of offences committed by, and committed against, natives, and I am happy to say that the offences committed by natives are few and far between. I think you will find that the natives as a race are the most law-abiding people we have in Australia. Regarding offences against the natives, there are few records for the simple reason that we have not the legal power to take action when it seems necessary.
At our stations, which I hope you will see you later on, you will find good work being done in different ways amongst the natives. We treat them as natives, with no idea of making them anything else, except in the case of half-caste children who are kept apart as far as possible. Even then we have not all the facilities to do what we ought to do.
[End page 99]
Those stations, besides used for the benefit of the aborigines, are also object lessons to the community generally with reference to the breeding of stock. We have been most successful in disposing of stud bulls and so on to the community generally. The stations are more or less experimental. We started keeping sheep at Moola Bulla, although no one had kept sheep in those parts before. I think there was one man only in the East Kimberley district who had kept a few sheep prior to that. Many years ago the late Alex Forrest said that millions of sheep would be grazing in that part of the state, and yet it has always been considered cattle country. Our sheep have done extremely well, and we hope to do better. At Munja Station the conditions are different and we have gone in for tropical products. It needs the expenditure of only a little capital to make the place most successful. In fact we have been successful so far merely with the aid of station hands and without any additional assistance to speak of. The effect of these stations on the natives has been wonderful. That is beyond question. Although at first timid, gradually the natives came in until on one occasion we had at least 700 natives at Munja. It was largely our success at Munja that prompted my remarks about the desirability for the establishment of such stations along the northern coast of Australia, rather than have police expeditions. In the southern parts of the State it is a totally different proposition altogether; there are elements that make control extremely difficult. We have a lot of youngsters who are growing up and are anxious to go out into the world. To a certain extent they are resentful of instruction and training, but necessarily they must be trained in some direction before being allowed to go on their own. It is very trying work attempting to handle them. Then there are other elements that do not mix very well, and we have to endeavour to keep them apart. It is all very difficult.
[End page 100]
I have not yet mentioned that we should have another institution of a totally different type. In Queensland it is known as Palm Island, a home on an island off the coast for delinquent and criminally minded, chronically diseased blacks. We need something of the kind here, a small island or some isolated place where we could put incorrigibles and native suffering from chronic diseases who refuse to be treated. There are a number of them about at the present time. This proposal has been put forward at various times in past years but the question of finance has precluded it from being carried out. In some respects it might have been cheaper to have established such a place years ago. We find the feeding depot is very useful little institutions in certain remote places such as the tableland above Roebourne, La Grange Bay 90 miles below Broome, Eyre on the south coast, Wallal on the 90-Mile beach, and other places remote from civilisation. We find those little places extremely useful. We either have our own officer at each or some reputable station manager who agrees to do the work for us. The aged and decrepit are the only patients at those places because the younger and more vigourous people are employed; but those places bring to light cases of disease that otherwise would never be heard of. As far as we can we cook for those natives and ensure that the old people shall have something better to consume than the eternal damper which kills more people than it keeps alive. There is attached to every report a statement showing exactly how we spend our money, and also where our receipts come from. If you will examine those statements and compare them with similar statements of a few years ago you will see where the variation has taken place, and particularly where the reduction has been made. Administration has been brought down to a fine point and all superfluous expenditure has been eliminated. We have to conserve all our resources but the main item, which is known as relief of natives generally, which feeds them, cares for them medically and finally buries them.
[End page 101]
In order to do this, when the depression came about several of my offices in the field voluntarily reduced their own salaries rather than that the natives should go without. Also attached to each report you will find a statement regarding the expenditure on the stations. If you want full information it can be supplied because we keep the books of those stations as business undertakings, although we include only statements of receipts and expenditure in the report. I do not want to say much more about the department’s activities. Everything is open and above board; we have nothing to hide from you or from the public. The records are all open to you although it would not do to open them to the public for many reasons. I am not a sentimentalist; I have known things to happen in Western Australia which should have been impossible in any civilised country. The department has done its best and a very great difficulties to prevent these happenings and to remedy them when they have happened, but it cannot be expected to do much more than it is doing in existing circumstances, and with the lack of facilities, both financial and legislative. That is all under that clause.
The only remaining item is that relative to the ill-treatment of aborigines——I have no special reference to make under that.
I should like you to help me, to give me some lead as to the allegations that have been made. I have gone through that large book of press cuttings which you sent to me, and I see some suggestions of cruelty, but mostly out of this State. I do not know whether, when that was included in the reference, the draughtsman had in mind any specific cases of cruelty. It may be that during the hearing of further evidence we shall have some charges made. Those charges already investigated by any competent tribunal I shall have nothing to do with, but other allegations shall be investigated if possible. Do you know of any?——only those charges made through the press by individuals.
[End page 102]
So far as I know, we have kept all press cuttings and they are in that book. Whether they are right or wrong is another matter some we have answered and denied.
Those I chiefly remember in the book by largely based on hearsay?——I think they are all based on hearsay.
I do not propose to investigate any charges made from hearsay evidence. If people come here and make definite allegations of their own knowledge, I shall investigate them.——in the discussion in parliament certain references were made and certain journals were quoted as containing those references. You will find them all in the speeches of Mr Coverley and Mr Wise as reported in Hansard No. 7 of the first session of the present Parliament.
[End page 103]
The name of Mrs Bennett figures fairly prominently?——Reports of her remarks are to be found in the press cutting book.
I have read most of them but they seem to be based on hearsay?——The alternative is for her to appear before the Commission and give evidence.
References were made by Mr Coverley, reported in Hansard 1933, page 643, to statements by Mr Spencer of Kojonup?——Those statements have been dealt with by the department.
He refers to another statement, the author of which he does not mention, headed “Killing of Blacks”, “Clergyman’s Charges”, “They Boast of Atrocities”. All those matters are indefinite. Mr Coverley is going to give evidence and I hope he will go through his speech and where instances of alleged cruelty have been mentioned, will be able to give the author. I do not look for much help from you, except that I thought you could tell me something about the shipment of the leper patients in the “W. S. Rolland”?——I can give you some information about that. As I told you yesterday, the question of leprosy is a matter for the Health Department, but as Chief Protector I communicated with three missions—Beagle Bay, Sunday Island and Port George IV known as Kunmunya Mission—and ask each whether it could undertake to carry those lepers. Idea was that they might like to earn a little money; I knew that they possessed vessels capable of carrying the lepers. The only one that offered to do so was the Reverend J. R. B. Love of the Kunmunya Mission, the Presbyterian Mission, a mission that stands in the highest regard of the department. The Beagle Bay authorities said their boat was too small; the Sunday Island authorities said they could not do it but wished to refer me to someone else who used to be a missionary at Sunday Island. Mr Love, who is an outstanding man amongst the missionaries, and on his word I could rely, offered his vessel under certain conditions, and his offer was accepted.
[End page 104]
What was the name of his vessel?——The W. S. Rolland. I accepted his offer in good faith. Knowing the man, I was convinced that the vessel would be equipped for the purpose, as it eventually proved to be. He even had bunks in it, about which we did not know, and for which we did not ask. He made every possible arrangement within his power for those people. We were satisfied that the boat was capable of carrying them. It had been to see over and over again with its native crew and half cast skipper. The skipper was a Queensland half-caste, trained to the sea. He had been at sea all his life. We had no doubts at all. The doubt began when the Broome people objected to the boat going, or rather when comments appeared in the press stating that the conditions were unfit, etc. We satisfied ourselves that the conditions were not unfit. My officer at Moola Bulla was directed to investigate and he made a report that satisfied me. Other reports were made and they were equally satisfactory. No one contends that the conditions were ideal, but what could be done when we had a batch of lepers to be transported? They had to be sent somehow. No steamer would carry them; no schooner was available to take them. The only thing was to accept the best offer available, and that was done. As Chief Protector I was satisfied that the conditions were not adverse.
122. Have you read Mr Coverley’s speech and his reference to what Mr Henry Scott said?——Yes.
That shows a very different state of affairs?——Mr Henry Scott used to be employed at the Port George IV Mission. He had a disagreement with the mission authorities, and left. I think you will find that therein lies a good deal of the trouble. For some reason or other he did not want the boat belonging to the mission to do the work. I will give you the only evidence in my possession that is worth anything. It is a confidential letter sent to me by a total stranger, a gentleman named Balfour, of Melbourne.
[End page 105]
He happened to be travelling through Perth en route to Japan. He is a man of means and a prominent man in the Presbyterian Church, Melbourne. On his way north he proposed to call at Kunmunya Mission and he came to see me before leaving Perth. I did not discuss the question of the lepers with him; it had nothing to do with him. After he left Broome, he wrote to me and I submit his letter in confidence. I did not use the contents of the letter because I did not deem it advisable to do so, it being a confidential letter addressed to me personally. I wrote and told him of the fuss and asked whether I might use his letter in case of necessity. He went so far as to cable from Tokyo giving permission. I hand in that document. (Exhibit 33).
Has special reference to the W. S. Rolland?——Yes. Beyond that I prefer that the Health Department should deal with the matter.
The Health Department may deal with it from the point of view of the lepers, but other evidence will be necessary before we unravel the story of the W. S. Rolland?——I definitely made the arrangement with the mission, and clinched it.
Apart from that, I think many of the statements made by the mover and seconder of the motion in the House will require investigation outside of Perth?——Yes, undoubtedly. I might say there is a tendency on the part of missionaries to make statements that are not warranted.
I do not know that that is confined to missionaries?——I charged one of the missionaries with having made such statements, and ask the reason for his having made them. His reply was, “We have to draw attention to our work”.
Propaganda?——I said, “As a Christian man, do you think you are doing right in making wrong statements to draw attention to your work?” and he just laughed. I have one or two other matters to bring forward in that connection. Some of the worst charges against the State have not appeared in the local press at all.
[End page 106]
They are sometimes published in books abroad. I will leave you to gather what you can from the papers. These happenings are past, and while they reflect adversely on the department, they have been thoroughly investigated. A scientific worker, Ralph Piddington, son of Mr Piddington KC of Sydney, came to Western Australia.
Did he not go through the North by motor truck?——Yes, he has been here twice, and has been assisted by the department in every way. We facilitated him to such an extent as to allow him to camp on one of our reserves close to one of our depots. He and his wife were there for quite a long time. He became susceptible to certain influences, and when he returned from the North on the second occasion he made certain wild statements, not to me—he did not see me—but in the Eastern States. Those statements were repeated in London and brought quite a lot of communications to us, and quite a lot of discredit to the State. I took the matter in hand and dealt with it thoroughly. The Agent General was advised of all the circumstances. He wrote finally thanking us for what we had told him and pointing out that he had done his best to rectify the mischief. The charges were so utterly absurd and so utterly unfounded that one could hardly credit any man in his senses making such statements. Yet they were scattered abroad, particularly in London. I do not wish to besmirch the character of any man, but when you have read the file you will find the reason why that man fell from grace, as he did, and that his own conduct will not be investigation. That is one kind of thing we suffer from. I hand in file 133/30, report by Ralph Piddington. (Exhibit 34). There is another story connected with the visit to the state of two scientists, Dr S. D. Porteus of Honolulu, and Dr Withington, a medical man who at the time, I believe, was also a resident of Honolulu. Dr Porteus is an Australian and was professor of psychology at Hawaii. He has since written a rather good book on the psychology of the Western Australian natives. He came in company with Dr Withington and two or three assistants, including a member of the firm of Pathe Freres to take moving pictures.
[End page 107]
We deliberately made a hard-and-fast agreement with these people because for sometime past we had been averse to the taking of photographs of natives on reserves. We have a regulation prohibiting the taking of photographs on our reserves without permission, because of the manner in which the natives have been held up to ridicule. We have also prohibited the taking of nude pictures. We made a most careful agreement with these people before they went North. When they reached Derby Dr Porteus and Dr Withington separated. Dr Porteus finished his work and left, and Dr Withington went around the extreme North to the Northern Territory, where he contracted blood poisoning and became very ill. We heard no more of them until I discovered a reference in a Hollywood magazine to a picture entitled “Blond Captive” that was being made. That led me to communicate with the National Research Council, who had given carte blanche to these people to inquire about this. They said they knew nothing about it. We found that a moving picture was being made in America on a film taken along our North-West coast, portraying amongst other things a white woman who was living with the natives. It told a highfalutin story about something which never existed. It was a most extraordinary yarn. I got in touch with Dr Porteus who was then in Honolulu. He was in a great state about it and declared that Dr Withington had exceeded his powers, and that he was going to tell him he would prosecute him if this picture went on. By that time Dr Withington had deleted the reference. Dr Porteus was going to write the scenario, but refused to do so. They were going to make a legitimate picture until the introduction of this extraordinary denouement. Dr Porteus has cut off all communication with Dr Withington. Because the scene of the business was in America we could take no action, despite our agreement that all positives had to be submitted to us before publication.
[End page 108]
This extraordinary story is appearing in the form of a Talkie in America and the scene is laid in western Australia. Several references have been made to it in American magazines. The whole thing is a complete canard. It is an exhibition of bad taste on the part of the people concerned.130.
Colonel Edward Bailey wrote to me from California drawing my attention to an article in the Los Angeles Times headed “Australian Man-eaters”. It referred to cannibals in the north of Western Australia. The article says, “the natives are exceedingly dangerous. The heart goes to the strongest and is the first part of the body to be disposed of. Next the shoulders, arms and trunk are given to the men, while the legs go to the women. All this is systematically carried out. The flesh of the white man is looked upon as a dainty morsel.” Colonel Bailey said this was based on a report from the Reverend M. Alcade. I wrote to the Lord Abbott at New Norcia and asked him to ascertain whether Father Alcade had made such statements and what grounds he had for making them. In due course I received a letter from Father Alcade, who said he had got the information from natives. He added, “In my opinion no harm is done to the aborigines by spreading the truth regarding their primitive, low habits. By observing the highly noticeable change operating among the natives in the district since the establishment of the mission, it clearly appears that the natives are capable of civilisation, and also is visible the indefatigable labour of the missionaries and their success. Perhaps some philanthropist or geological society with means will move to help the mission.” In other words, these damaging statements are made to enlist the sympathy of people to send money to the missions. It may be that our natives were cannibals in the past, but they are not so now. I am certain they do not do the things that have been described by Father Alcade, who shows that he has had the information secondhand from the natives. I referred the matter to the government and was instructed to write to Colonel Bailey and have a contradiction published in the Californian press.
[End page 109]
I wrote again to Father Alcade, who supplied me with what he called fresh facts. Upon examination these facts proved to be a hearsay statement from a semi-civilised native who could not have known of the matter himself. The whole thing was based on supposition. I also received a reply from Colonel Bailey stating that a suitable contradiction had been made in the Californian press. In January last year the chairman of the Australian Board of Missions in Sydney informed me that he had just been reading the translation of a book written by an ex-rector of the Beagle Bay Mission, George Walter. The enclosed a quotation, which I will hand in. It charges us with granting a large annual sum to an Anglican mission at Forrest River, contrary to what we were doing with the Roman Catholic mission. It also charges me with bias and goes so far as to say I was the son of a Protestant clergyman. It is a despicable reference and utterly untrue. It appeared in a book published in Germany. I consulted the Crown Law authorities, and was informed that we had no recourse because the book was printed abroad. If the statement was repeated in Australia we might be able to do something. I did not know Father Walter. He was there before my time. He must have got his information from hearsay, because it is utterly incorrect as I have proved. This is the sort of thing the department has to put up with and go to no end of trouble to contradict. We cannot make the contradictions in print. We merely have to let those concerned know that the statements are false. It is propaganda and nothing else. Another missionary published in the “Stead’s Review” a letter in 1930 charging the State in respect to its support of a particular mission. The writer sought to bring about an entirely false impression, that the State was not doing what it ought to have done, and was in actual fact doing.
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On that occasion I was authorised to write to Stead’s Review contradict the writer. I did so, and my letter appeared in the review on the 2nd March. Those are some of the things that are not generally made public in the State. There are other references which come to light from time to time. In London there are one or two publications which are devoted entirely to the interests of the coloured people of the Empire, and there are constant references in those journals which are usually watched by my department and, where necessary, anything that is overstated is taken up and contradicted. But for these other matters which are purely local, I am afraid we have rather got into the way of taking no notice of them, for the simple reason that they are so absurd as to be almost beyond criticism. There is very little to criticise. There is always a certain amount of fire where there is smoke, and you can always find something in the charge which is approaching the truth. But the charges are frightfully exaggerated and overdone, and so they failed to achieve the very end to which they are designed. People become sceptical, and take no notice of them.
The Commission adjourned,
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