State Records Office of Western Australia
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2
Aborigines Royal Commission 005-3
Monday, 12th March, 1934
H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.
AUBUR [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, sworn and examined:
1. BY THE COMMISSIONER: You expressed a desire to give evidence at this stage of the preceedings. Will you now do so? —I have been Chief Protector of Aborigines since early in 1915. As shown in the last annual report of the department, there are 29,021 natives within this State. Of these approximately 15,134 represent full-bloods, 3,891 are of mixed colour, and a large number of the latter are half-castes. The conditions vary according to the part of the State in which the people reside. The rest of the State cannot be judged by the South-West, nor can the South-West be judged by the position in the North. The problem has many facets. A wide knowledge of the conditions is required to enable anyone to formulate a proper judgment of the situation. The conditions in the extreme North are in most respects fairly good. In the lower Kimberleys, and in the North-West the conditions are passable, but in the Gascoyne and the Murchison they are not so good. Deterioration has already set in. On the goldfields and in the South-West deterioration and demoralisation have long since set in and are becoming acute. The process of demoralisation started 100 years ago in the South-West. It has continued steadily up to the present time. It reached the North somewhere in the seventies or the early eighties. It has not taken much hold beyond the Leopold Ranges, where the people are
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in practically the same wild state in which they originally existed, because there has been no white settlement to speak of in that area. These are a free and independent people, living in the wilds, and closely safeguarded by tribal inhibitions and prohibitions. A little further south we have a number of useful natives, still restricted by their tribal bounds and culture, but a number who have been born in servitude are beginning to forget their own culture to adopt that of the whites.
On the coast and further south we meet the coloured element. On reaching the South-West we find only 500 or 600 true aborigines left. There we have a nameless, unclassified outcast race, increasing in numbers but decreasing in vitality and stamina, and largely unemployable. The fathers are better men than the sons, and the grandfathers better than either. It is my firm conviction that as things are in the South so they will become in the North unless preventive measures are taken. Under present conditions the splendid virile men of the North will become like the useless coloured people in the South.
We hope as a department to tell you what we think is wrong, what remedies we suggest, and what we have dared to attempt with the means available to us. In 1905, when the Aborigines Act was proclaimed, there were with very few exceptions only aborigines and half-castes. There were not more than 900 half-castes in the State. Today there are still aborigines and half-castes but there are two or three generations of half-castes, and numerous cross-breeds, making the total coloured population, which is not purely aboriginal, 3891, excluding numerous Asiatic crosses at Broome and along the coast, who are quite unclassifiable. In all probability there are nearer 5,000 people of colour in Western Australia. In 1905 there were only 50 half-castes between Geraldton and Albany; today there are some 3,000. A large number of these people are not covered by existing legislation, yet they are living exactly as their forebears did. Indeed their conditions in most respects are inferior to the conditions of the pure-blooded aborigine.
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They have very little in the way of education, but some of then have just enough to enable then to become defiant and unrestrained. Our difficulties as a department are, therefore, constantly increasing. They have abandoned all the good found in the tribal culture of their ancestors, except when they choose to use it as a means to an end. In the South at all events we have reached a stage where decisions must be made concerning the future welfare of these people who are at the parting of the ways. We have to decide whether we shall make them a good, law-abiding, self-respecting people, or leave them as an outcast race, rapidly increasing in number and constituting an incubus and danger to the community. These people in the South have suffered somewhat from the sympathy and pity of the community. They have been spoilt in many ways. They have suffered the good-humoured toleration of the whites, and have been allowed to live their own lives to their own detriment. Like other crossbred races, they have a dislike for institutionalism or authority.Yet above all things they have to be protected against themselves and can not be allowed to remain as they are. The sore spot must be out out for the good of the community as well as of the patient, and probably against will of the patient.
Paragraph (a) of the Commission refers to the different classes that should be excluded from the native camps. There are people who advocate separate legislation for half-castes and aborigines. I do not agree with that. The half-caste is bound up with the aboriginal; he is living the life of an aboriginal and it would be impossible to separate the two at present. In our own Act a certain amount of differentiation is shown with regard to the half-caste.
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The half-caste dislikes extremely to be thought an aboriginal, though he does not mind being classed as a native. He objects to what be calls the “Dog Act”, and being placed thereunder; that is, the Aborigines Act. I do not blame him for that. Many of the half-castes should not be called aborigines. They are above that, quite. They have passed along the road to a certain extent, and they naturally object. My view is that the name of the Department should be entirely changed. It should not be the Aborigines Department at all, but the Department of Native Affairs, and the Chief Protector should be styled Commissioner or some such title. Then the whole objection of the half-caste would disappear, and it is a very considerable objection. In some cases it prevents us from handling the half-castes at all, whatever right we may have in the matter. The term “native” of course would include all coloured persons deemed by law to be such. The effect of the proposed change would be excellent. There is nothing adverse in it, and it could not adversely affect anyone. We shall be dealing with Clause (a) again later, when we come to legislation. I do not want to say too much about it just now.
2. There are growing up in the native camps and on stations a considerable class of people who are too white to be regarded as aborigines at all, and who ought to have the benefit of white education and training, with complete separation from the natives after they reach mature years, say 21. That is to say, the department should be able to take these white children from the camps and other native surroundings, and bring them up in special institutions for their kind. We already have one small institution of this nature, and it is going along very successfully. If we do not do this, we shall simply be breeding a race of white natives. Wherever you go in the camps, you will find these white
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children, particularly on stations in the North-West and on the Murchison. On many stations there are half-caste offspring of white and black bearing children again to white employees, and yet those children still live under the old conditions. There are adult quarter-castes still living in native camps and mating with the other coloured people. I think the quarter-castes should not be treated as natives at all, but should be compelled to dissociate themselves from the natives altogether; that is, after they reach adult years; and once declared not a native, such a person should be penalised for associating with natives. The Commission in the course of its peregrinations will learn how numerous these cross-breds are, particularly in the South-West and in the coastal towns of the North.
3. I want to give you a few instances of what you will find. There are half-castes married to aborigines, with their progeny. There are three-quarter blacks married to other aborigines, or half-castes, or quarter-castes, and their progeny. There is the offspring of a white woman by a half-caste father, and he is living with a half-caste woman. There is the union of a full-blooded aboriginal with a white woman, and their offspring. There is an Asiatic and Afghan and negro mixture, complicating matters generally. There are half-caste negroes living with half-caste aborigines, and their offspring. The negro and the Asiatic should be kept strictly apart if the race is destined to be absorbed in the whites, as I believe it is, and as is the natural course of events. Ethnologically the aborigines are of Caucasian derivation, and when you introduce coloured blood of a race which is negroid you perpetuate the strain of colour instead of eliminating it. In a few years’ time it will be quite impossible to say, in the South-West particularly, what the people are at all. They will simply be
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coloured people if things go on as they are going now, and then there are of course hundreds of half-caste children—I mean the children of the offspring of black and white, and not included in the existing Aborigines Act unless they are living as aborigines. There are quarter-caste aborigines without any white blood in their veins at all, owing to the introduction of other racial elements. Again and again we have been prevented from taking necessary action in individual cases because, owing to the admixture of blood, many of these people are not covered by existing legislation at all. We have had to act in some cases for the good of the individuals, whether they like it or not. Legally the position is simply that we ought not to act. Still, I shall deal with that later on. It is quite certain that a position has grown up which was never contemplated when the Act was passed.
4. Paragraph (b) deals with the proximity of native camps to towns. In order that I may deal with this paragraph, I want to show the position as it was a few years ago, compared with what it is today. Seventeen years ago, in 1916, and I take that year because it is my first complete year as Chief Protector, there were said to be just under 1,000 natives in the South-West. That is the district from Geraldton to Albany westward in a straight line between Mullewa and Ravensthorpe. By 1920 the population had grown to a little over 2,000 in the same area. Today, as I have said, it is over 3,000 within that area. This question of the proximity of native camps to town does not affect the North at all. It is a south-western problem, and to some extent a goldfields and also a trans-line problem. Within the area I have referred to there were in 1916 only 200 indigents. Today there are over 1,100. Eighteen years ago the natives mostly camped on farms, with the farmers for whom they were working, or were living in the bush
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where there was plenty of vacant land and game and water supply. Today the natives are forced to seek refuge near the main centres of population, because the land is all taken up and few farmers want them. In addition, the natives have learned to enjoy certain amenities of life, and they want to be near centres of civilisation for that reason. Mostly their health has deteriorated very much. There is nowhere else for them to camp. There are over 50 places in the South-West where natives are camped at present, and small reserves have been declared adjacent to nearly every town, many of these reserves lack water supplies, and that is a constant difficulty. We are not in a position to install such supplies on account of the financial position. We have done our best. In some of the areas we are even carting water to camps. Sanitation is another difficulty. We have had certain structures erected, but very often the natives do not use them, and they are few and far between.
5. From the departmental point of view it is of course advisable to have the natives near a town in order to avoid cost of transport of supplies when we have to feed them, and to ensure proper control by the local protector, or to enable medical attendance to be supplied if possible, to arrange for care of expectant mothers, and in fact to keep a general oversight. In addition to that we have to bury all deceased natives. That is mostly done by contract. The position is accentuated somewhat by the missionary element. Certain good people are desirous of helping the natives, and they have obtained permission to frequent native camps with the idea of teaching the people. The natives are very keen on education and they naturally follow the missionaries to a certain extent.
6. During the last four or five years, when work has
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been practically negligible for these aborigines, the position has become very much accentuated indeed, and protests have been received from all over the South-West. I wish to mention some of the places from which protests have come, because we are dealing with that matter under this paragraph.
7. What was the subject of the complaints that you are referring to now? —The natives being a nuisance near the town. The first complaint was from Moora. We had the Moore River settlement open at the time, and we moved the bulk of the natives from there. But I want to show you that to move them from the towns is not always a success. In that instance a number of them did not go to the settlement, but went out 20 or 30 miles away from Moora, where we could not get at them very well. They became a complete nuisance to everyone in the district. They are there still. It is one of those places where one hardly knows what to do with them; a sort of out-of-sight out-of-mind place. Northam in 1932 made a complaint, and again we moved 80 odd natives to Moore River. Narrogin Municipality has complained, and so have the Sussex Road Board, the Busselton Citizens’ Association, the Quairading Road Board, the Quairading Hospital Committee, Wagin Municipality, the Williams Road Board, the Gnowangerup Road Board, and the Katanning Municipality. While we have moved natives from Guildford two or three times, the local bench asked us again to move them only a week ago. Finally there was a complaint from the Geraldton Municipality. The wonder to me is that in the circumstances we have not had more complaints of this nature. I consider that the townspeople have been very long-suffering, in view of the general condition surrounding native camps. We have nowhere to send these people, and so the department are
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powerless to act except as regards the settlement on Moore River, to which we cannot send aborigines south of the eastern goldfields line, and which moreover as already full.
8. It is sometimes desirable that bodies of natives be moved from one district to another; say the natives on the trans-line; but we have nowhere to put them, and so cannot effect the removal. Merely to shift natives from one district to another, to continue living in similar surroundings, is only adding insult to injury from the point of view of the white residents. The remedy in this case lies in the provision of native settlements.
9. Certain districts are anticipating visits from you. Probably they have written to you on the subject. They have written to me, and I have advised them to write to you. However, I would like to say here that if you contemplate visiting any native camps to see conditions for yourself, those camps should not be advised of your coming, because otherwise they will certainly be readied up for the occasion.
10. Referring to paragraph (c), dealing with physical fitness, I am afraid I have to paint rather a gloomy picture. In the North, except where introduced diseases are in evidence, the bush natives are a healthy, virile people. Their condition varies, according to whether the seasons are good or bad.
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On stations where the natives are employed the conditions are, generally speaking, good. Frequently the natives are well-fed, but not always suitably so. The relatives of those people are likewise fed by the station people and they have sufficient too. That applies to a majority of the stations. In all instances of natives in employment and dependent upon them for supplies the staple diet consists of meat, bread, tea, sugar and tobacco. At least one medical man in the North has informed me that the majority of the natives in his district, which is a very large one, are suffering from malnutrition, and that is naturally due to the sameness of the diet. We experience great difficulty in getting natives to eat foods apart from those supplied to them. We have difficulty in inducing then to eat cooked vegetables. When in employment they do not look for native foods as they were formerly accustomed to do, except when they are on holidays. Their natural food would be no doubt a better balanced ration than that which they get now. We do not insist upon any compulsory food diet scale so long as the natives receive supplies that are good and sufficient. Many of the station owners supply the natives with cooked food. Others provide the ingredients and the natives do their own cooking. So far I have been speaking of the conditions that apply in the North.
11. Referring now to the southern portions of the State and the Goldfields areas, we find that most of the aborigines are reduced to dependence upon Government rations as their sole-support. Throughout the State, police officers and one or two others are entrusted with the duty of rationing indigent natives. We have our own officers here and there at depots. There are about 74 places where rations are issued by the department, including native stations and settlements but not including missions. Naturally, on our own settlements the diet is on an improved basis because we rear stock for the benefit of the natives, vegetables are grown and the food is cooked. I produce a circular
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issued by the department regarding the rationing of Indigent natives (Exhibit No 1), which will explain the method of rationing the natives and disclose what they get. The actual extent of the weekly rationing is as follows: 1½ lbs. meat; 10 lbs. flour; 1½ lbs. sugar; 4 ozs. tea. In addition a stick of tobacco is issued to those accustomed to its use—that would mean to all if we let them have it. That rationing was merely intended as a standby in cases of necessity. It was never meant to be what it has become, namely, the staple food of the people. They might have been able to put up with it for 12 months but they have been getting it for a good deal longer than that now. Meat which it the main-stay of the natives, used to be supplied on a much more liberal scale than the rate of 1½ lbs. per week as now. In 1926-27 we were given sufficient money for the specific purpose of issuing additional meat to the natives and we were able to give them ¾ lbs. meat daily; that was, to all indigent natives. I mention that point specially because meat is so important to the natives. With the increased numbers we have had to provide for, we had to reduce the amount of meat available to ¾ lbs. three times a week, and in 1930-31 a further reduction had to be made due to the departmental vote being decreased, and thereafter we had to give 1½ lbs. of meat weekly to the most deserving cases only. Naturally, when the number of people to be rationed increased from 300 to 400 to over 1,000, and we had less money for that purpose, we had to cut down somewhere, and that was the only way it could be done. Other measures were taken. Certain officers were dispensed with. Certain reductions were made and expenditure reduced to an absolute minimum, beyond which we could not go. In consequence, the natives had to suffer and that is the position now. Undoubtedly the scale of rations is insufficient, especially for the young, and it is not entirely suitable. I am quite safe in saying that the natives throughout the south-western and goldfields areas are suffering from malnutrition and weakness brought about through lack of food
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and their power of resistance to diseases has decreased very considerably. If you visit the Moore River Settlement, you will find the natives in very good condition, not because they get much more to eat but because they have a properly balanced diet. Even there they do not get what they should receive. In addition to the lack of food there is an insufficiency of clothing and blankets. Formerly natives used to clothe themselves as a result of their earnings. Today they depend largely upon the garments provided by the department. Those requirements are supplied once a year only, and they consist of a shirt and pants for men and a dress and singlet—they call them flannel undershirts—for the women. Those clothes have to last the natives for 12 months. The blankets with which they are supplied are good and large, and one blanket should possibly last a native for two or three years. But throughout the whole State we have about 750 nearly 2000 blankets only annually for distribution. In consequence, the children, particularly in the southern areas, are suffering from the effects of cold and sickness, probably brought about by the lack of clothing and comforts that they need. This has the effect of making a whole family huddle together in a small 8 ft. by 6 ft. or 8 ft. by 10 ft. structure with probably every crevice closed up, their heads under the blanket and in those conditions the whole family are breathing in filth and germs all the time. This is done in an endeavour to keep warm or dry.
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Medical attendance is provided by the department as far as possible and we pay for it where it is necessary to pay. The old system of D.M.Os. has disappeared and we now hare subsidised medical men, or independent medical men. Where a man is subsidised he is expected to attend to indigent natives, and where he is not we have to pay him for it. As for hospital accommodation, there is practically none for natives in the South. We have a hospital at the Moore River settlement which does a good deal of work for the Midlands. South of the Eastern Goldfields line there is no hospital for natives at all. There are only a few Government hospitals left, they are nearly all committee hospitals subsidised by the Medical Dept. [who] now take maternity oases. These committee hospitals are loth to accept native cases and it is, in fact, impossible to find accommodation for a maternity case.
There are in the country certain good women, matrons and nurses, who are willing to, and who do, go out into native camps and look after those oases. The native of today is not the native of 50 years ago and some of the native women suffer intensely in childbirth. They have lost all the old stamina of the black and they have considerable difficulty in bringing children into the world, possibly because of their mixed blood. Camp life as it exists is bringing them lower and lower. They hardly bother to put up any shelter nowadays, perhaps only a few branches thrown together, and they live like that year in and year out, gambling and, where possible, drinking, and doing many other things they ought not to. Immorality is growing, the old tribal laws have broken down, and there is nothing to check the young men and young women. Girls of tender years arc being seduced. These young men and girls are unemployed all day and are rapidly becoming unemployable. Unsuitable alliances are being contracted, incest is about and youthful depravity is general. It is impossible to use this material to send out to employment even when employment is offered. Only the other day I brought two young men to Perth from a camp in the South-West, but when I told them where I wanted them to go
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to be employed, they point-blank refused, saying they preferred to stay in camp. There is a certain amount of prostitution in the South-West, but not a great deal and a certain amount of drinking which is growing. There is a lot of fighting between different factions. The people are forming themselves into tribes again, families are becoming tribal, and one faction will readily attack another. I have dealt with these matters in my report for 1931-32. I have brought with me two volumes of reports and also an index which I will hand in to you directly. We are suffering now from the consequences of failure to carry out the department’s plans and recommendations of the past. Had we had a free hand, these things would not be taking place today.
Measures for amelioration include improved and increased diet, more clothing and blankets, more departmental control of individuals, provision to enable the appointment of inspectors, the establishment of further settlements and stations, and the amendment of the Aborigines Act, increasing the powers of the Chief Protector in regard to guardianship and other measures. The mover of the resolution which brought about this Commission said the department had not a policy. Actually, the department has had a very complete policy for years, but it has been impossible to carry out that policy.
12. Your reports from time to time will show the policy of the department, and, presumably, that it has not been able to carry out the policy has been referred to in those reports?—-Yes.
13. Probably you have been hampered by lack of funds?
Yes, and by lack of legislation. The matter of education is very important. Only very few coloured children are permitted to attend a State school and then probably only because that school needs those children to maintain its numbers so that it can remain in existence. There has been a lot of trouble lately about the Wagin school in particular, references to which have been published in the Press. I am going to hand in the file (Exhibit 1-2), which will give the history of that. Only about 10 per cent of the native children
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in the State are being educated at present. Recently I made inquiries in the Eastern States,to find out what was being done there. You will see a report by the Inspector and a summary on page 50 of File 231/33 (Exhibit 1-3). The conclusions I have drawn are that not nearly so many native children are being educated throughout Australia as there should be. Schools for native children are desirable, and the education of natives should be vested in the department primarily concerned for their welfare. We have a school at the Moore River settlement which has over 100 children and we have at Moola Bulla a school where there are 40 children and there are schools at the various missions. There are no other schools for natives. Many people think the natives should not be educated. Whatever may be thought about the full-blooded aboriginal, there can be no question about the necessity for educating coloured people. If you send a youngster out to work, he should be able to read sufficiently well to read letters sent to him and to read his engagement with his employer, and he should be able to reply to letters and to count his wages. If we can bring these youngsters up to the third or fourth standard, we are satisfied. I have had very little experience of white schools, but I can say there is little difference between educating one of these coloured people and a white child; some are bright and some are dull. Some at the age of 14 get the wanderlust, and it is no use g keeping them at school any longer. But education is an absolute necessity if those children are to hold their own in life at all. There is a strong objection in the South-West to native children going to school with white children. The only solution is the establishment of native schools, preferably at native settlements. The whole psychology of the native child differs from that of a white child, and only those accustomed to handling natives understand that difference. The native as a child cannot hold his own amongst a lot of white children. His inferiority complex is too self-evident and he suffers in consequence. But when he reaches 21 years of age that disappears
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[Handwritten insert] Coming to Paragraph (d) of the Commission “Disease amongst aborigines and measures for their treatment”
When I became Chief Protector, I found there was an impression, particularly in the North, that the natives were very much afflicted with venereal disease. There were hospitals on Bernier and Dorre Islands capable of treating 480 patients annually. Actually while those hospitals were in existence, for nine or 10 years, 600 patients in all were treated at an annual cost of over £70 per head, which is enormous. That did not include the cost of collection and transport. There were never more than 100 patients at a time on the islands, usually between 50 and 60. Fear of the sea was one of the causes which prevented diseased natives from being discovered, for no doubt they used to hide. There was then an officer who used to travel about collecting diseased natives. The journeys to which I am about to refer took place between 1913 and 1917. On his first trip this officer went, it was thought he would secure about 200 patients. Actually he got only 47. On another expedition, in 1915, he got only 13 patients, and on his final trip he found only 32 bad enough to be sent to the islands.
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After very carefully surveying the position, I recommended that the Government should close those hospitals—they were simply wasting money—and that in their stead hospitals should be erected on the mainland and the natives encouraged to enter them. One hospital was established at Port Hedland and another at Derby. At that time there was very little talk of leprosy. Only 13 cases were discovered between 1909 and 1917. From 1920 to 1923 11 more cases were discovered, including one white, and from 1924 to 1929, 27 cases were found. I mention this specifically to show that most of the leprosy discovered has been within the last three or four years. As regards venereal disease, hospitals on the islands seemed to have cleaned up the existing cases so far as they could be found, but those cases never included patients from the country beyond the usual confines of civilisation. The department has made every effort to convey to the hospitals any native afflicted with venereal disease. Protectors have been enjoined to report every case discovered, and they have to make an annual statement of the conditions in their districts. In 1917 I sought the permission of the Commissioner of Public Health to enable certain of my officers and one or two missionaries to administer a certain form of treatment for cases of venereal disease and he agreed. Throughout the North there are now some 12 officers entitled to do that. They reside in places beyond the reach of ordinary medical aid. There has never been discovered amongst natives the amount of venereal disease alleged to exist. On many occasions we have asked medical officers to visit certain areas and the result has always been more or less the same, namely that they could not find the cases said to exist.
14. In recent years the incidence of the disease has become more apparent. In 1922 I pointed out that venereal disease was increasing and that natives were suffering from other forms of disease. I myself had been through the Kimberleys and I urged the advisableness of a medical inspection right through the North in order to ascertain the prevalence of venereal disease,
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leprosy, and other complaints. In 1923, I repeated that suggestion. We had an outbreak of hookworm in 1921, but owing to prompt measures taken by the Rockefeller survey party under Dr. Baldwin, that appears to have been eliminated, as a result of those representations. Dr Cecil Cook, a Commonwealth officer, was loaned to us in 1924. He went through the North and made a survey. He was an expert in tropical diseases. He visited practically every station in the Kimberleys and in the North-West as far south as Roebourne. He examined in all 2,432 natives and found four cases of leprosy in natives and 84 natives suffering from granuloma venereum. It in important to explain the difference between venereal diseases. There are three forms from which the natives seem to suffer. Granuloma venereum is an Asiatic disease, which was evidently introduced by Asiatics years ago. So far as I can judge, it is the most easily cured of the lot. It does not seem to afflict whites or it has not afflicted whites here, although I believe it can do so. There is also ordinary syphilis from which the natives have not suffered to any great extent, and lastly there is gonorrhoea which is the commonest form, and the form that is increasing, it being so easily conveyed from one to another. It is the early stage of venereal disease and can easily be cleaned up. We have been administering special treatment for granuloma at our own hospitals and have turned out hundreds of natives apparently cured. It is not a long treatment; the natives are in hospital as a rule for only three or four weeks. Some natives have returned re-infected and have been discharged again cured. Dr Cook made several important recommendations.
15. Have you a copy of his report ? — Yes, I will supply it. One of his recommendations was that there should be an itinerant officer in the Kimberleys to be entrusted with the matter of inspecting and treating natives between Derby and Wyndham, his headquarters to be in Hall’s Creek. After Dr Cook’s visit, two or three conferences were held between…
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the Ministers and the officers concerned, and it was finally agreed that leprosy should be a matter for the Medical Department and that I should continue to control the incidence of venereal disease amongst natives. Consequently I am not able to give much evidence regarding leprosy that will be obtainable from the Medical Department. It was suggested that native leper cases should be transferred to a leprosarium at Darwin. In company with the Minister, I visited the Federal health authorities in Melbourne with a view to getting that suggestion put into effect. It was not done then, but it was brought about more recently and lepers are supposed to be sent to Darwin. In 1925 I again pointed out that in the Kimberleys I had cone across a number of revolting cases of disease. All the district medical officers were not then administering the treatment we had adopted at our hospitals. As a result of my representations they were asked to do so in order that they might treat local cases. I also recommended that the district medical officer at Derby should be relieved of his duties for 12 months so that he could travel up and down the coast and administer the proper treatment. That was not agreed to. I further pointed out that a suitable policy to control the increase of the disease would be the gradual establishment of small native stations or depots in order that we might get in touch with the natives and eventually effect the cure of those needing attention. We had plenty of rumours regarding the incidence of the disease in different parts of the north but could not get anything tangible on which to act. On the contrary, our own stations advised that there were no general signs of disease existing in the far North, and in that statement at least one missioner concurred.
16. The district from which most of the lepers came recently was one of those traversed by Dr Cook and found by him to be comparatively clean. One road board — I think it was Broome — suggested an annual inspection of natives on the same lines as those followed in the expedition conducted by Dr Cook, but owing to the high cost, the suggestion was not given serious consideration.
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In 1927 I pointed out that it would be just as cheap to appoint a permanent travelling medical officer who would be always on the job to do the work. Since then I have repeatedly urged the appointment of inspectors, at least one of whom should be a medical man. I submit file 126/33 (Exhibit 4). I pointed out that district medical officers could not be expected to visit the interior and that as a matter of fact they did not do so unless something special transpired. Consequently they could not know or seek out the condition of the natives.
17. Natives in remote districts disguise their condition. If they know that anyone is going to visit them, ten to one they will clear out until that person has left. I contend that only an officer of the Aborigines Department — a medical man or otherwise — travelling and repeating his visits can be expected to ascertain the real condition of those people. There have been short visits by medical men and recently the medical officer at Derby has done excellent work in discovering lepers; but had my recommendation been adopted in the first place, we would not have had the condition that prevails today. We would have been very much further advanced in the matter of the treatment of venereal disease. Because those people have simply been left alone for so long and because no one has understood their condition and because the diseased ones have not been actually located, the present
rather bad state of affairs has resulted.
18. In 1928, I recommended the establishment of a native hospital just from that district outside Wyndham. We had had several medical reports from that district notifying the presence of venereal disease, and are still getting them. The reason we know so much about those things — we are not given details — is that whites are contracting venereal disease and they allege they get it from the natives. Whether that is so, I am unable to say. However, Wyndham has forwarded quite n number of complaints during the last two or three years.
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No money wag available for such hospital, and I could not go on with it. The position is the same today. I put In File 184/28 (Exhibit 5).
19. Another difficulty cropped up some years ago when lock hospitals were in existence. The difficulty was that shipping companies refused to carry veneral cases. Now and again we were able to get one on board, largely on sufferance, but in the last year or two it has been impossible to convey natives in that way. At intervals during the past ten years I have suggested that we should have a boat of our own. Then the North-West Department was in existence we tried to arrange with the Commonwealth for a vessel for the use of the Fisheries Department, the Aborigines Department and the Customs Dept, but negotiations failed. Lately I have continued to urge that we should have a boat and that that boat should be established at Munja Station. Possibly something will come of that recommendation in the near future. It is essential that we should have a boat of our own to carry natives and to transport our goods and produce to Broome. There are difficulties experienced in approaching Derby by a small boat. Vessels prefer to go to Broome. Again there is the question of transporting lepers to Darwin and about this there has been considerable difficulty. If we had our own boat it would be a simple matter to take them there. Such a vessel would have to be an auxiliary boat. Also there would be saved the cost to us of certain services. It would cost no more, probably less, than we are spending today in certain directions. Further, with regard to the question of venereal disease on the stations in Kimberley, and particularly East Kimberley, I recently arranged for a visit of the district medical officer at Wyndham to our Moola Bulla Station. Moola Bulla is probably one of the best conducted stations in the North, as indeed a Government station should be, and you would expect to find no more adverse conditions there than anywhere else. I am going to submit a copy of the doctor’s report which I received about the end of last year. It is on Page 50 of File No.120/26 (Exhibit 6). It is safe to say that the natives on the other stations are in no better condition than are those at Moola Bulla.
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Again I contend that a travelling medical man attached to the department could find out these things, and treatment would be provided as far as possible, and the work would be continuous. There should be hospitals with at least one trained nurse at all the native stations and missions. Needless to say additional accommodation of a similar nature is required in the South West. Government hospitals are few and far between.
They are more or less open to the natives, but maternity cases are not taken in. Committee hospitals will not take natives unless they can possibly help it. I dislike asking the medical department to insist on the admission of all to these hospitals, whether the patients be black, brown or brindle. Personally I do not wonder at the reluctance of the hospitals to take in native patients owing to the unsatisfactory condition in which those natives are at the present time. The only policy is to give them their own hospitals attached to the native settlements.
20. A matter that is bound to come before you in the course of your investigations is the question of medical treatment afforded by pastoralists and employers, mostly in the North; likewise the question of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Our own regulations provide that medicines and medical attendance where practicable and necessary, shall be provided. In working these regulations we generally allow a fortnightly limit. If a native becomes sick it is considered a fair thing for a station to look after that native for a fortnight or thereabouts. If it should be a case of pneumonia which means a long stay in hospital, we would probably make the period longer. Whenever a native station does what we consider a fair thing, we continue the treatment ourselves. Sometimes the patient is in hospital for a month, and in such circumstances we cannot expect the station to pay. All the same the department is called upon to pay in cases where we contend the stations should pay. As far as V. D. is concerned that is entirely a financial responsibility of the department, no matter where the trouble occurs, but we contend that the station might reasonably send the patient into hospital which they refuse
[End page 21]
to do in many cases. They simply notify us and we have to incur heavy expense in getting the cases in. Sometimes we find it is not V. D. at all. This particular question in a burning one as far as the stations are concerned, and we have been seeking a solution of it, not only for the sake of the stations but for the natives themselves. I recently suggested that we should adopt the new regulation framed under the Northern Territory Ordinance. A medical fund is established and to that fund all stations contribute. That enables the department to treat sick natives from time to time, and the stations are relieved of the responsibility. The payment of a hospital tax does not affect the question; it does not relieve the employers of any liability in regard to medical costs. As the native is not liable to make contributions, because he is only petting a small wage, somebody has to pay. The Act does not allow for free treatment. I put in File No. 72/32 dealing with the question of medical and hospital fees by pastoralists.(Exhibit 7)
21. Natives are workers within the meaning of the Compensation Act. That was ruled by Mr. Sayer some time ago. So far as I know only one claim has been paid to a native, and that was for the loss of an eye. The native got a small amount because the department went to law and proved its case. As a matter of fact we eventually compromised and accepted a smaller amount than that provided in the schedule of the Act. Apparently the framers of the Workers’ Compensation Act never thought of the natives and the position that might arise if they became workers within the meaning of the Act. A former Government instructed me not to take proceedings under that Act, but to take any action otherwise that I could. I prefer the Queensland system. It is that natives all being workers under the Workers’ Oomwnensation Act, the Chief Protector acts as their agent and any compensation payable is paid to him for the benefit of the natives. In that case I think there would have to be a special schedule dealing with accidents to natives. Most of
the stations, as far as I know, have insured their natives in accordance with the provisions of the Act. I submit Pile No.473/25 dealing with accident cases (Exhibit 8). In our proposed amending legislation there is a clause which will cover this. It will render an employer liable to pay expenses in the case of an accident.
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22. I take it that paragraph (e), dealing with native settlements, refers to all types of settlement which the dept controls, including cattle stations in the North, and reserves, but not native camps. In that part of the State below Geraldton and west of Merredin there is only one native settlement now. I refer to Moore River, eight wiles west of Mogumber and 80 miles from Perth on the Midland line. To this place orphans, indigents not otherwise provided for, and others for many reasons, have been sent from time to time. The place is not ideal. It only partly effects its purpose owing to the lack of accommodation. There are no facillties for vocational training, no accessories of any kind, and no workshops, but there is a sewing room where all the clothes for all the natives are made. The place is doing good work. It is turning a lot of raw material, particularly youngsters, into something a little better, and enabling them to earn their own living outside. Had these youngsters been left in the camps, they would never have reached the stage they have now reached. They are responding well. We had another settlement in the South known as Carolup, between Katanning and Kojonup. This was closed by order of the Minister in 1922 as a measure of economy. Carolup was opened in 1915 and Moore River in 1917. In my view it was false economy to close Carolup. I was away in the North at the time. When I was appointed Secretary for the North-West, the southern aborigines were removed from my control, and a Deputy Chief Protector was appointed. It was during that time that Carolup was closed. There was a deliberate policy underlying the establishment of these two stations. Moore River was intended to absorb the lndigents in the Midlands, and take in any youngsters from further north who required a drier and a warmer climate. Carolup was established further south to take the people between Perth and Albany, and those living eastward and south of the Greater Western railway towards the border. The stations were interchangeable in regard to staff and inmates. if an inmate became unruly in one place, a change to another would often have a beneficial effect.
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Both places were established on the original corroborree grounds of the natives of these larger tribal districts. The natives were delighted that these sites had been chosen. It was not economy to close Carolup. In the South-West we are spending nearly £3,500 in rationing, medical supplies, burials, etc. Shortly after Carolup was established there was no rationing in the South-west outside the settlement. In any case the settlement should not be a matter of cost; the benefit to the natives must first be considered. Taking it by and large we can run a settlement as economically as we can ration the natives outside. Supplies consumed at the settlements are bought at contract prices, and we are generally able to provide then at a more reasonable rate than by means of contracts in the districts themselves. In my opinion Carolup should be re-established. One has to consider the prejudices of the natives in a matter of settlement. When Carolup was closed a number of people were removed to Moore River. That was a great mistake. The older people continually complained, and many died there. These natives regarded it as a foreign country. An outstanding trait amongst the natives is that they prefer their home country, and will not go out of it if they can avoid it. There should be one or two smaller subsidiary places; one to the eastward south of Merredin, and the other to the westward nearer the coast. The main idea is to have these places situated in the main tribal districts. The functions of these institutions are to provide homes for the aged, the orphans, the workless, training places for the youngsters, medical supervision and hospital attendance, nursing, education, and religious instruction. They are the places that will succeed above all else in bridging the gulf between the black and the white. They teach discipline, and imbue the natives with the self-respect that is rapidly being lost. The people themselves know it. They realise that the settlements are their salvation.
[End page 24]
I am continually being asked by natives in the South-West when Carolup is to be restored. There are enough half-caste children on stations and elsewhere to fill a large institution. I put in the Carolup file No. 65/29. I want you to see how a place, the restoration of which has been approved by the Government and the money promised, can be thrown back by reason of outside interference. No matter where you establish a native settlement, there is bound to be someone who will raise objections. We have to consider the greatest good of the community in general. We have natives squatting around the different towns in the South-West. We have to consider whether it is not better to disregard the imaginary sufferings of a few farmers, and establish these places whether they like them or not. The institutions have been of no detriment to any district in which they have been established. On the contrary, to some extent they have been sources of revenue. It is not proposed that the settlements should be regarded as prisons; the natives come and go, the workers leave their families and their children remain at school. We are able to find work for those who want it and send them out to it. For a long time past I have been unable to supply the demand for young boys and girls for farms and stations. If I had 20 ready to go out from Moore River tomorrow, I could place them all. You cannot take the material in the camps and send it out to work because the youngsters are not fit for work. It has been very hard for us to watch institutions for the whites progressing and at the same time to be losing part of what little we had managed to acquire for the aborigines. All the buildings at Carolup are ready to be occupied, as they were. They are constructed mainly of granite, and were built in the course of a few years, mostly by native labour under the supervision of white men. Failing the provision of such settlements, the condition of the boys and girls in the camps will be pitiable in the extreme. The children are under-fed and ill-fed.
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I shudder to think what their future will be if they are not taken in hand. I put in an interesting reporte (Exhibit 10) written by Dr. Cilento, who has been in charge of the Commonwealth Tropical Diseases Laboratory in North Queensland, and who was recently loaned to the Queensland Govt to make a survey of the native people. I received this report a week ago. Dr. Cilento says precisely what I have been saying for years. It is most extraordinary how his recommendations and mine dovetail. I do not know whether the report is public property as yet, but I have seen references to it in London journals.
23. In the North we have three cattle stations, Moola Bulla, Munja and Violet Valley. Violet Valley is a small place, but it is of importance to the natives because it reaches out to the interior and to those beyond the Durack Ranges. We have 15 bulk supply depots, eight under Govt officers, and seven cared for by station managers or owners who are kindly assisting us. To these places we send bulk supplies. Years ago there was a system by which station managers were paid 6d. per head per day for rationing Indigent natives. That system was so much abused that it had to be done away with.
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I personally did discover, in years gone by, the names of dead natives still on the list as being fed, or being paid for. We hold, particularly in the far North, a number of large reserves. Some of these are held for stations, and others for the future use of natives. The reason for the establishment of cattle stations was, briefly, the fact that in years gone by the natives killed the settlers’ cattle to a large extent, and that the authorities were at their wit’s end to know what to do to prevent this. They used to gaol the aborigines, and the police were always out chasing cattle killers. Moola Bulla was established in 1911. Prior to that the State was spending about £10,000 a year in bringing natives to justice and keeping them in gaol. In 1903 there were 314 natives in gaol, and in 1909 there were 369. As soon as the native stations were established, the killing began to decline. Wherever the stations have influence today, there is no cattle killing at all. There may be an odd case, once or twice in a year; but the killing has practically ceased, and the cost now is infinitely less than it was in those days.
24. The stations, of course, are not expected to pay, and in fact do not pay; but they are run at a very limited cost and earn quite a lot of money, which goes into the Treasury. The average annual cost of a station like Moola Bulla is about £800, whereas the average annual cost of a place like Moore River is about £4,000. The cattle stations are a very cheap means of settling the native difficulty. Those stations are sanctuaries to which all the natives repair whenever they want to. They sit down for a few weeks, enjoy as much meat as they can eat, and then go off again. But always the principle is adopted that the natives have to do some work before they are fed. The question of native stations is very important to the North. They extend along the whole coastline…
[End of page 27]
…of our State, and practically to Queensland.
25. There has been poaching by aliens along that coast for many years, and the aliens have been in contact with the natives. They have introduced Asiatic diseases, and altogether their association with natives has been most undesirable. Huge reserves for aborigines are quite useless unless adequately protected, and they cannot be protected by regulation alone. There must be somebody there in authority to safeguard them. There are always men of an adventurous turn of mind travelling around the coast, both foreign and British, ever indifferent to the risk of their lives. They treat lightly any possible danger from natives. Unfortunately it is these men that have done the harm, harm which is aggravated by the further necessity for police intervention. A spirit of antagonism has been raised up between the natives on the one part and the gospel of putting in the boot on the other. This mutual antagonism will remain wherever natives are numerous, and probably it will become more serious unless steps are taken to improve the position. I foresee constant friction and probably a repetition of some of those regrettable incidents which we have read about lately, and which discredit the name of Australia abroad. It is too late to shut the door after the horse has gone out. We have even had the occupation of these reserves of ours by whites within recent years, without any knowledge of the authorities whatever. There is nothing to prevent persons from landing and establishing themselves in freelance fashion on the reserves, possibly to the ultimate embarrassment of the department end the Government.
26. The one authority which the natives readily recognise is the Government, not as exemplified by the police, whom they classify as something apart, but as exemplified by the agencies established by the department, specially created for the natives. The Aborigines Department have to bridge the gulf between the two factions, and there is not any other agency…
[End of page 28]
…which can do it equally well or gain the confidence of the natives to the same extent. It is my view that on every reserve of any magnitude there should be a Government native station such as those we possess in the North. Some of these stations should be large, some just big enough to suit local requirements, and others mere depots. The managers of these stations are picked men, married, living with their wives; and so far as we are concerned the sites for these places are co-terminous with the tribal districts. These managers are trusted by the natives, and respected by them. They do their duty without fear or favour, and are of a type mostly found in the North — virile, capable, resourceful. At Munja Station on the west the natives will carry the sick 200 miles so that the manager may tend them.
27. You mean their own sick people ? — Yes. Should that manager require to admonish a native for wrong-doing, he simply sends a message to the man to come in and the man comes in and submits to his punishment. The oldest-established native customs, such as the promising of children of tender years to old men already possessed of wives, are giving way under our system, and family life is being restored on those stations and children arc increasing there. My point is that if the department concerned with the welfare and protection of the natives gets in first and establishes its relations with the natives, that is the proper and indeed the only way to be adopted for policing those large areas, or rather I should say caring for the natives in those unsettled areas. We should get in first, so to speak. We have to pave the way for white settlers, and in the process we have to see that a fair deal is given to the natives. The money that is spent on the apprehension of wrong-doers, on the search for missing whites, and on maintenance of remote police stations might be better spent on the provision and upkeep of these outposts.
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26. Coastal stations should have a vessel attached to them, provided with auxiliary power and with a wireless receiving or transmitting set. Since the native stations were established in the Kimberleys and the method of dealing with cattle killers was altered, a number of police stations have been closed there, and thus there has been some reduction in the police force stationed in the Kimberleys. Before Munja was established there had been a number of murders of whites, and probably of blacks too, but mostly of whites so far as we know, in the area north of Munja. Since the station was established, there has been nothing of the kind, and the natives are rapidly becoming accustomed to whites; in fact, settlement is increasing. Before that the few isolated settlers had to get out. Now you can go anywhere in that country with comparative safety. The native station is better than the police station, so far as the North is concerned. However, I do not deprecate the wonderful work the police have done. They have been only obeying orders and using traditional methods. I think those methods should give place to others which do not create hostility in the native mind and which in the end succeed in bringing about order and goodwill, and even-handed justice to white and black alike. I do not want to reflect upon the missionaries in what I have said. The missionary is doing good work, and the department can use him as its agent. But, generally speaking, this work is beyond the means and facilities of missionary endeavour, and is the Government ‘s job.
29. What I want to emphasise is that the voice of authority is the only voice which the natives will regard. These northern stations of ours have not got the institutional character of the southern settlements. The natives on the northern stations have an unrestricted life, and the stations are very popular with them. Whether the institutional element will have to come in at a later date I do not know.
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I fancy it will, because we have the half-caste children brought in from other stations, and those children have to be cared for and educated. The life on those northern stations is the life which the natives themselves understand.
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30. Will you next deal with Paragraph (f) of the terms of reference, which refers to the employment of aborigines and persons of aboriginal origin? — Every aboriginal who is a full-blooded aboriginal or who is a half-caste deemed to be an aboriginal under the Act, is required to be employed under permit or under permit and agreement. There are at present 4,054 natives so employed and the number of permits is 552. The figures are less by nearly 2,000 than is customary, this being mainly because of unemployment in the southern portions of the state. There are still a large number employed in the North but not quite so many as in normal times, mainly owing to the condition of the cattle industry. Employers on cattle and sheep stations secure the services of quite a number of natives who are usually engaged under what is known as a general permit, which stipulates that the individual holding the permit may employ so many natives, the number being fixed by the protector.
31. Without limit? — Yes, to the number he may require. Some protectors insist upon the names of the natives being supplied as well, but that is not compulsory. A permit may contain conditions at the discretion of a protector. Likewise the protector may refuse a permit if he does not think the prospective employer is a suitable person. Some difficulty is experienced regarding permits owing to the fact that there are so many unclassified natives in the country areas at present. We have half-castes in blood who claim that they do not come under the Act, yet they consort with natives. They run with the hare and hunt with the hounds as they please. No one can stop them. Then we have the young lads who are beyond guardianship age who snap their fingers at the department in the same way. Natives who are not employed under permits — in using the term “natives”, I include all under that heading — very often get into trouble and when that happens we are called upon to get them out of their difficulty. Had they been engaged legally under permit they would probably have been all right. Pending his complete emancipation and absorption into the community on equal terms, the native, whether he likes it or not, needs some agency to guide him,
[End of page 32]
safeguard his interests and encourage him to be thrifty. From time to time the question of payment of wages crops up. In practice no monetary wages are paid in some districts, mainly in the far North, but natives receive wages in kind, food, clothes, medical attendance, and so on. Further south in the North, some of the men get good wages and when we get to the south-west of the State no native there will work unless he gets some sort of a wage, whatever it nay he. Some are working on contract. The whole position as it stands is unsatisfactory from the wages standpoint. You nay have a native on one station receiving £4 a week. That may be a rather exaggerated instance, although I know of that being done. I will put it at £3 a week and point out that the native on the next station who may he doing exactly the same work gets £1 a week. Similarly on a station still further away a native may he getting 10s. a week for similar work. As a result of that system, the highest bidder gets the best native. I am sometimes appealed to in order to prevent one individual from persuading the natives employed by his neighbour to work for him. Of course it is an offence under the act to entice a native from his legal employment. We have been awaiting the amendment of the Act for some time to enable us to adopt a satisfactory method that will stabilise the position. Again I favour the Queensland system. In that State the authorities have had more experience than we have had in these matters. Although I think their system could be improved upon in some respects, the basis of it is sound. Briefly, it is this: There is an Arbitration award for natives providing a minimum wage. I think it is 10s. a week. There are certain conditions laid down regarding housing, food and so on. naturally all employers have to pay the wage specified. Whether that wage is too high, I do not know; that is not the point. It is contended that the wages demanded for natives in Queensland are too high and consequently there are more out of employment in that State than there are in Western Australia on a proportionate basis. Certainly it is a fact that in Western Australia there are proportionately more…
[End of page 33]
natives employed than are employed in Queensland. More are at work and fewer are in receipt of charity than in normal times. It is not merely a system of arbitration wages; there are certain principles laid down. Arrangements are made through local protectors and the native is obliged by law to bank his money, and to have a small percentage debited up against his account and paid into a fund from which large sums are drawn to subsidise various activities of the department. Under that system, the natives themselves, whether they like it or not, are helping those who are not in as satisfactory a position as they are. In Queensland they call it a provident fund. The natives in Queensland have over £250,000 to their credit in the savings bank at the present time, and the amount that has been paid into Government funds on account of the natives has been, so I judge, something of an embarrassment. I do not know definitely but I believe that is so. It may mean that the natives do not require all the wages paid to them and the chances are that they could have done with less. At the same time, the department in Queensland is in a position to finance the requirements of the natives with their own money in a manner more satisfactory than is possible in this State. Queensland spends three times as much as we do on our natives and at the same time has not to spend so much State money because the money already available is making money all the time. Many of the natives in Queensland are engaged in private enterprise. For instance, they go in for pearling and some own their own boats. There is a lot of co-operative work in that respect. I submit a copy of the latest report of the department in Queensland (Exhibit No. 11), which speaks for itself. It shows that the balance standing to the credit of natives in Queensland at the end of 1932 was £258,000, in round figures; the amount to the credit of the provident fund was £10,000 odd. That money is apart from that included in what is known as the Aborigines Property Protection Account, to which estates of deceased natives are credited, grants made and so on, and that account represented…
[End of page 34]
…£17,000 odd. I am quite sure that we should adopt some such system in this state, but before that can be done the Act must be amended to enable us to proceed along those lines. I introduced this subject years ago, and I submit to you File No. 451/1933 of the Aborigines Department (Exhibit No. 12) in support of my statement. On Page 11 you will find the first minute I submitted in which I suggested that we should go in for some such system.
[End of page 35]
It is imperative that we should have a system, whether this or something else, because it is highly unsatisfactory at present. I am not advocating the payment of wages to natives throughout the State because in some districts it would be a mistake; they are quite happy, provided they have enough of the ordinary material things of life; still, as we come south in the State they must become accustomed to money and the use of money. Any such system naturally throws a good deal of work on the local protectors, who as they exist are not in a position to do this work. During the last 10 years or so the whole matter of the natives has become an individual one. Instead of dealing with them in bulk as we used to do, we are dealing with individuals, and they are continually appealing to us for this or that. Also the question of a native receiving or not receiving what is due to him is continually cropping up and we are asked to interfere. I have certain powers under Section 33 of the Act which assist me to deal justly between the employer and the native. Trouble comes about through ignorance on the part of the native who very often cannot read or write, and who doesn’t know that he is being taken down. I have known five 10s. notes being handed to a native in payment for a £10 contract. We should have in the Act a section making it compulsory for any financial dealing between a native and anybody else to be subject to review by or witnessed by a protector.
38. Perhaps you will bring that up again in Paragraph 2?— Yes. At head office we have a number of trust accounts most of which have been opened in comparatively recent times. We encourage natives to save, and we bank part of their savings for them. This applies particularly to those youngsters we send out from our own settlement or stations. We act as custodians of their funds and when they want anything they write or come to the office and get orders on various firms for what they want, and generally we prevent them from wasting their money, although we do not restrict any legitimate desire.
[End of page 36]
We have 173 of these accounts in operation carrying a balance of over £2,300, and I have invested on behalf of those youngsters something like £2,400. They are quite capable of saying their money and knowing what to do with it, provided there is someone to guide then in their earlier years. That is just the nucleus of what I hope will be done as time goes on.
33. Before lunch, you asked for Dr. Cook’s report.
I have not the original but I have a copy which the Commonwealth authorities sent to us. It begins on page 235 of Medical and Public Health file 1765/23 (Exhibit 13).
34. That brings us to G, the question of missions.
In every annual report issued by me there is a statement showing the number of missions, something of what they are doing, and where they are situated. Altogether there are 11 places where missionaries work. There are six organised missions in the North, five of which are subsidised. There are four in the South, not subsidised but two of which are used at ration stations by the dept. In years gone by there used to be terrific confusion in regard to the subsidies of missions, and for years my predecessor tried to find a settlement of the difficulty. However he did not succeed and when I came I found that some missions were receiving inordinate amounts, while others, carrying out practically the same work, were receiving very little. So I sought to get the thing on a proper basis. We did that in time by first of all deciding the amount it took to keep an inmate in a mission. That amount is based on the accepted standard in the North which is £10 and in the South £14. But that implied that the mission, being a philanthropic institution, would assist upon keeping those people. Moreover, some missions were settled on very large native reserves and were run as cattle stations, in addition to their other activities. It was considered that those missions were in a better position to help themselves than others which had no land. So it was arranged that the subsidy which the State…
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…should pay to a mission which had a large area of land granted by the State should be £5 per head per annum, the mission to pay the other £5; and in respeot of those missions which had no land to speak of the amount was fixed at £7. That is the existing system. In order to get at this, it was necessary that every mission should be inspected, so that the dept should be satisfied that the inmates and children at the mission were proper subjects for Govt relief. Those missions as far as possible were inspected and it was quite evident that a number of the inmates should not be receiving Govt relief at all; in other words, they were able-bodied and quite capable of getting work. Inspections were made and the inmates were all listed, and each mission was provided with a subsidy on the monetary basis I have mentioned, in accordance with the inmates it was looking after who otherwise would be the care of the Govt. Naturally, that created considerable divergence in respect of the grants being made; it amounted to this, that the greatest pleaders got the most. However they have not been able to do that since the system was altered. I put in a return which shows what the missions have had from the State since 1898. It begins in Mr. Princep’s time and comes down to 1933 (Exhibit 14). In that time the protestant missions, numerically stronger than the Roman Catholic, have received £29,986 or 53.98 per cent of the money, while the Roman Catholic missions have received £25,569, or 46.02 of the money. I mention that because I have been accused of partiality, a defect I have studiously avoided. The figures speak for themselves.
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As in other matters, we are awaiting amendments to the Act in order to frame regulations designed to assist us in respect to the work of the missions. There are no such regulations at present. While the Chief Protector considers Inmates of missions to be subject to his care, as are natives elsewhere, he has no authority to demand to be supplied with information or to insist upon reforms and alterations. Missions should be subject to departmental supervision. They should submit annual reports. The Minister should have power to issue a permit or permits to persons desiring to embark on missionary work, either individually or as institutions. Trouble arises from the fact that missionaries are unsuitable and entirely ignorant of the natives or of what they may expect to find in the mission field, and consequently they fail. In the event of a mission not doing good work, the only remedy is for the department to take it over, if it is willing, or to cancel the reserve on whicb it operates. Neither of these courses has so far been adopted, though we have temporarily managed missions at the request of the authorities.
36. I consider that Government stations and settlements are preferable to missions because, and mainly because, Government authority is recognised above all things by the natives. I have no objection whatever to missionary effort at settlements and stations under departmental regulations. The mission authorities are so hampered by their efforts to get money and do the practical work that there in not much time left for the spiritual side. Still, in view of our own ineptitude, I do not wish to cast stones at the missions. The department has so far been unable to afford a fitting example of what a settlement should be as a guide to the missions.
37. I do not agree with all that the missions do, such as curtailing the liberty of the subject, interfering with tribal customs, marrying against tbs wishes of the people, or consummating unsuitable marriages. Some of those matters we propose…
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…to regulate by law. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the missions are doing splendid work of a charitable kind, much of which the State should have been doing. Much improvement is needed from the medical point of view. Personally I do not oppose the teaching of the ethics of Christianity. I consider that youngsters who are to go out to work amongst us — we profess to be a Christian nation — should also be taught something of the same Christianity in which we profess to believe in order that there may be some sort of similarity between their ideas and ours, quite apart from the moral side, which is very important.
38. The multiplicity of denominations confuses the religious issue in the mind of the native. There are seven or eight denominations doing missionary work here and the position might be improved by adopting a standard method of imparting the tenets of the Christian faith as approved by the State, and using that standard throughout. I believe that some of the religious instruction might be definitely harmful, because it is misunderstood. I understand that the missionaries in India and elsewhere are coming to the same conclusion. The mere making of grants to missions is useless. Some missions are doing good work in full harmony with the department and the department’s wishes. Others adopt the attitude that the less the department knows about their doings, the better. I only wish to add that in my opinion missionary workers should be married people and that husband and wife should be living happily together. The psychology of the native mind demands this. We have discovered it on our own stations and all our managers, and generally those second in charge, are married men living with their wives. I submit File 52/29, Regulations for the control of Missions, pages 29 – 31 (Exhibit 15).
39. Sub-paragraph (h) “Trial of aboriginal offenders” will be dealt with when the subject of legislation is considered.
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40. Speaking generally on paragraph 1, I have mentioned the necessity for a medical inspector. Years ago, before my time, there were two inspectors in the department who were constantly visiting the stations to ensure that the native people were being looked after properly and were not abused in any way. Those inspectors were dispensed with and for years we had no one at all until I succeeded in getting one man appointed. He was with us for a year or two and then his services had to be dispensed with because there was no money with which to pay him. Obviously, the Chief Protector cannot be traversing the State all the time. He can make only a few journeys in the year, and it is quite impossible for him personally to know what is going on on the hundreds of stations and in the many places where natives are employed. His protectors are mostly in the towns and do not supply him with the information he most needs. The only way to overcome the difficulty is to have travelling Inspectors always going around. In addition to the medical man for whom I have asked, there should be another man in the North, and a man for the north-western districts and, if necessary, the goldfields. The south I can manage myself. At considerable expense of time and effort I have traversed the State from Wyndham to Eucla more than once. While I am away, things happen at head office that one is not in a position to rectify. Too much time is occupied in travelling. Some people have argued that the Chief Protector should live in the North. The absurdity of that contention is demonstrated by the distribution of the natives. There are 9,000 odd in the Kimberleys, nearly 4,000 in the North-West and Murchison, and over 5,500 on the goldfields snd in the South-West, so they are fairly evenly distributed. The ideal would be to have a deputy in the north — the Act makes provision for deputies — or adopt my plan to alter the name of the department and the Chief Protector, and have district commissioners and, under them, assistant district commissioners, and so on, as they have in other British colonies and dependencies.
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41. I shall refer to the system of protectors when dealing with the administration of the department. I emphasise the absolute necessity for Inspectors over and above any protectors we may have. If we had sufficient settlements, we should need only two inspectors — a medical man in the North and another man in the lower part of the State. The cost of an inspector and his car would be about £1,000 a year, but a medical man would cost £1,200 to £1,500.
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We employ managers on our own stations on inspection work and their duties are too important to enable them to go very far afield. There is nothing more important than the question of inspectors. It is only by appointing inspectors that we can find out how natives are being treated and if they are being abused in any particular place or station. Natives have become friendly with inspectors. They will often open the eyes of an inspector to the things that are happening. This they would never do for the ordinary protector, especially if that protector happened to be a policeman. The few years that I had a travelling inspector made a very great difference in the cleaning up of things which had been wrong for many years. There is a lot of hearsay in this business and there in also a certain amount of ill-will, perhaps a disgruntled or a dismissed employee will say all kinds of things against his employer, but one cannot possibly accept these ex-parte statements; you have to go to the spot to hold an inquiry.
42. In the matter of reserves, I have supplied you with a map showing where they are situated. The reserves total 24,153,016 acres, but it is only fair to say that one of those reserves, on the boundary of South Australia and Western Australia is over 44,000,000 acres in itself. That still leaves over 10,000,000 acres of other reserves which in itself amounts to a considerable slice of country. Most of the reserves are in the far North. It has been stated more than once lately that there are no reserves elsewhere. That is entirely incorrect; these reserves are all over the State. In the South, naturally they are smaller than in the N0rth. There are large areas lying idle at the present time because we have no use for them at the moment. There are large areas held in the Kimberleys for future development, and I think they will be used at no distant date. We have provided a chain of reserves in the far North, recognising the tribal boundaries of the people. After obtaining the advice of our local officers, scientists, missionaries, and anyone capable of giving advice, these reserves have been deliberately placed in particular tribal areas. It is possible that some of them are bigger than they…
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…need be, but that can be remedied later. In my opinion, at least two settlements in addition to those we now have will be required in the Kimberleys, particularly in the area beyond the Leopold,Ranges. Some year or two ago I asked the Government to have certain of those reserves classified as Class A, but Cabinet refused.
43. Have you any Class A reserves? — I am not sure about Moola Bulla; I believe that is a Class A reserve. My object, of course, was to reserve certain areas for natives for all time. In the absence of such a provision, we never know when these reserves may be taken away from us. Already I have had considerable difficulty in safeguarding at least one of them. Settlement has taken place and after a vigorous assault on the position I succeeded in having it cancelled. Settlement — promiscuous and unwarranted — is liable to take place on any of the reserves and unless they can be made Class A reserves, I fear for their future. The Commonwealth Government recognised this position in the Northern Territory. One in particular has been found capable of producing gold and everybody has been warned off it. The reserve has been made inviolable. I do not claim that all these reserves should be Class A, but certain of the areas chould definitely be Class A, and I am going to put in a file showing which areas should be so reserved. The file in No. 133/26, page 33 (Exhibit No. l6). Rather than forbid people to enter upon a reserve it is possible that natives could be excluded from entering what was originally intended to be their own reserve . Take for example the reserve on the border, that is, the reserve to which expeditions have penetrated lately in search of gold—Lasseter’s Reef, and so forth. All who have gone there have been obliged to get permits from us, and we have also compelled them to enter into a bond that they would observe certain conditions laid down by us. If there should be payable gold in that area on leases acquired by whites, it would be far better to exclude the native from it altogether rather than let him hand around the diggings. A permanent reserve should be definitely proved before it is made a reserve. We know enough about the particular areas that we…
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…want to have made Class A, to enable us to say that they will not be wanted for anything else except pastoral or agricultural settlement. Another fallacy is that any sort of land will do for a native reserve. Any sort of land will not do for this purpose. If a native is to be made self-supporting, how are you going to bring that about if you have no land which they can work. The land must be capable of producing the natives’ requirements. Therefore, the department is entitled to ask for good land in order to show the natives what can be done with it. Some people have suggested that we should put the southern natives in all sorts of undesirable positions such as Bremer Bay or other places on the coast where there is not good land or anything else. In such circumstances we cannot be expected to turn out decent citizens; it is quite impossible to do so. I urge that the reserves in the far North be made Class A as soon as possible. In that particular area there are between 7,000 and 10,000 natives, probably nearer the 7,000 or less. There are quite enough uncivilized natives left there to make a sanctuary for them absolutely necessary. If that area should ever become
settled by a chartered company, then unless the department gets in ahead and pacifies the natives by arranging settlements for them, the state of that area will be infinitely worse than it has ever been in the past from the point of view of trouble between the whites and the natives. The natives up there are not like the cowed people of the south; they are fine upstanding warriors and they will show fight to protect their interests.
44. I now desire to allude to the question of firearms. The natives throughout, particularly from Kimberley southwards, have always been allowed to carry guns—that is the well-behaved natives, and they have always had a large number of dogs. Their having both firearms and dogs has been objected to by the polios all along the line. The natives in the South now find themselves without dogs, not that the dogs are much good in any way because there is not such brush kangaroo in the South West for then to go after,
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but if they have a rifle, and they are good shots, they can generally manage to get something to add to their meat supply. I do not think we have ever had a tragedy as a result of a native carrying a gun, that is to say, a tragedy between a black and a white. There was one unfortunate youth who went mad and shot his brother. But that is another story altogether.
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Many of the natives are quite capable of handling guns, and recognise the danger of having one about. Until the Firearms Act came into force certain provisions of the Aborigines Act covered the supply of guns to aborigines. That Act came into force on the 1st Jan, 1932, and repealed certain sections of the Aborigines Act, namely sections 47 to 51. I knew nothing about this until the Act became law. I then pointed out that an injustice was likely to be done to the natives by reason of the change, and this eventually led to a conference between the Commissioner of Police, or his representative, the Undersecretary and myself. The result of that conference is set out on page 15 of file No. 12/32 (Exhibit 17). Under the agreement arrived at, no native was to be refused a license because he was a native, or that he could not pay the fee, that the Chief Protector was to be advised of all applications received from natives, that if there was a refusal the reason was to be given to him, and that no licenses were to be issued in the Kimberleys. The date of the conference was the 28th Jan, 1932. I am sorry to say that the Police Dept have not carried out one clause of that agreement, except that the natives are being granted licenses free. I find from inquiry that the natives have lost half their licenses.
45. In what way do you mean?—Whereas under the Aborigines Act, 65 licenses were held in the previous year, the number dropped to 35 after the Commissioner of Police took charge.
46. Have these people applied for licenses and been refused?—Yes. I have a number of letters from natives, and I am constantly being appealed to, but cannot get the applications even considered. On principle, the police believe the native should not have a gun. Consequently, all sorts of excuses are made to prevent it. I have plenty of verbal evidence on the subject. I have no personal grievance over this, but point out that the unfortunate natives have lost another of their few privileges. The whole thing is confused, because in certain districts outside the limits of the…
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Firearms Act a native may carry a gun if he wishes to, but under the Aborigines Act that was not possible. In the Kimberleys any native nay carry a gun if he wishes, whereas he could not do so before. The Act is so worded that it is intended to apply to whites only. The natives were never thought of. The latest proposal is to classify them as the Asians and Chinese in
Broome are classified, but it would be better to bring them back under the Aborigines Act. I agree that in principle only one authority should issue these licenses.
47. Is there any appeal from the refusal of the Commissioner to grant a license?—-I believe so. I have appealed departmentally in one or two cases.
48. Is there any constitutional authority to hear such an appeal?—To my knowledge, that has not yet been invoked. The adverse report of the police officer of the district is sufficient cause for refusing a license. I know of natives who have held a license for years, but they cannot get one now because the recommendation of the local constable is against it.
49. I wish now to deal with tribal customs. I desired to introduce a section into the amending Aborigines Act which will enable us to exercise some control over tribal oustoms. That would be done by districts. A tribal custom that is not objectionable in the Kimberleys would be very objectionable in the South-West. It is important that the dept should have power to prevent certain tribal customs in certain districts. Some of the natives in the South-West still have two wives, and this leads to all kinds of complications and trouble. Years ago, in the time of Lord Forrest, there was a proposal forcibly to prevent certain tribal customs. Lord Forrest said that it would not do to enforce anything of that kind then, but he approved of circulars being sent to all concerned asking them to use their influence with the natives to prevent these things from happening.
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Unfortunately, the circular did not go out, and the file stops there. It is time we took a hand in some districts where these practices have gone to extremes. One practice which has the worst effect of all is that of promising infant girls as wives to elders. They are even promised before they are born. This leads to some old fellow getting for a wife a girl who has just reached the age of puberty. Possibly he already has two other wives, one old and the other middle-aged. You can trace practically every native murder to that cause. We have spent thousands of pounds in an endeavour to bring natives to justice for doing things which no one could cavil at. A young man comes along looking for a wife, and finds her attached to a hoary ancient and runs away with her. Then the trouble starts. There is a case before the Supreme Court to-day on that subject. In certain districts where the natives are civilised, or becoming civilised, we should have power to stop what is known as the practice of having a plurality of wives and the promising of infants as wives. This has had more to do with the decimation of the native races than anything else. Missionaries are up against it now. They find that some of their best girls are being filched away by some hoary ancient in the bush. I do not suggest we should interfere much with the practices of the bush natives in respect to their man-making ceremonies. At the same time, some of these things lead to blood poisoning and death, and we might suggest to the natives that we can carry out the operations far better than they can. If they want the operation of circumcision performed, we would be quite willing that it should be done by the nearest medical man. That would save untold agony to boys and obtain the same object. In course of tine it will be necessary to prevent natives from carrying out a certain operation known as Sturt’s terrible rite. This has very little effect…
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…on the procreation of the species, because there are numbers of families on our stations where the fathers have been operated on, and children are being born year after year. Child marriages should be stopped. Very often the infant girl is taken away when too young. She becomes old at 20 and is past child-bearing when very little older. We should do what has been done in India by the British, prohibit child marriages. Young bloods of the South-West are imitating their fore-bears in this respect by trying to get hold of girls who are little more than children. I only ask that we should be given power in certain districts if possible to regulate this matter.
50. An absolute prohibition would be difficult, if not impossible, to get ?—Yes, and it would be unwise because the natives would be the first to resent it. In some districts they agree that it is time the thing petered out. There are young men on stations who have been born there and strenuously object to being operated on. They have to submit themselves to it, but dislike it intensely, and it is quite unnecessary in their case. I have had to prevent half-caste boys from being stolen away by aborigines for this business. We should have authority to stop it. With regard to exemptions, Section 63 of the Aborigines Act gives the Minister power to grant them. Some of the exemptions are too easily obtained. I would not exempt anyone in certain areas.
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51. Is that section ever used?—Very often.
52. For what reason?—To exempt. We have quite a number exempted.
53. For what reason would they be exempted?—Because it is considered that they are able to live as a white lives. That is the only object of the exemption. The object of the aborigines is to be enabled to enter hotels, as a matter of fact, and obtain drink.
54. Have you ever known an exemption in the case of a full-grown aboriginal?—I have known of one or two cases. I think aborigines stand up to it better than half-castes do. My point is that in the Kimberleys exemptions should be prohibited until we can straighten out the matter of legislation and the classes of people. There is a considerable danger in exemption natives in the far North and in places like Broome. While there are some people who constantly support the natives in this respect and try to obtain exemptions for them, I think it is quite a mistake. I agree that when we have got the Act straightened out and the people concerned are, shall I say, made amenable to legislation, as they should be, then, if any of them can prove that they can live as a white, they should be exempted, but not before. Take a half-caste in the Kimberleys, and there are quite a number of adult half-castes in the Kimberleys doing stock work. Suppose a half-caste is exempted and placed with 20 or 30 native stock boys. His temptations are too great. He abuses the women, and lords it over the male aborigines. That position, in my opinion, will only lead to trouble. I prefer the exemption to be a highly prized privilege obtainable only when a native or half-caste can prove beyond doubt that he is capable of living up to it. I am handing in two volumes of reports by the Chief Protector (Exhibit 18), also the report of the Chief Protector for 1933 (Exhibit 19).
THE COMMISSION ADJOURNED. 12.3.34.
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