A O Neville’s Evidence Part 3

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

Aborigines Royal Commission  005-3

Monday, 12th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner.

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

[Part 1] [Part 2] Continued…

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.