[PN: A little over a year after the Commonwealth Games Protests of 1982 the Qld Government made extensive changes to what was known as the Queensland Acts which had kept a kind of apartheid in place in Queensland since the 1890s – here is a report from state archives of those changes using newly released Cabinet Minutes as their source. The report although written in abstract terms demonstrates the Cabinet’s desire to refuse Aboriginal people access to ward wages and conditions and their determination to keep pastoral and mining land free from land rights claims – Ian Curr, 5 Jan 2015]
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
Grants totalling $1.5m for religious organisations running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were approved by Cabinet members, with $1m allocated to the Lutheran Church (for Hopevale and Wujal Wujal) and $115,000 for the Brethren Church at Doomadgee (Dec. 42170, Dec. 42302, Dec. 44383). New community services legislation, to provide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, was approved (Dec. 42644, Dec. 42821, Dec. 44013). Provisions for liquor sales and other administrative functions were included.
Members considered the issue of award wages for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at several meetings (Dec. 43963, Dec. 44014). The Premier [Bjelke-Petersen] advised that increasing wages would be ‘contrary to existing Cabinet policy’, and if award wages were to be paid ‘the number of employed would have to be reduced’.
Parliament approved Deeds of Grant in Trust for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in 1982. Secret Decisions in two meetings in October 1984 considered ‘Aboriginal Land Arrangements’ (Dec. 44293, 44302). Minister Katter told Cabinet that new legislation for services in Indigenous communities was now in place, and clauses now needed to be approved that would regulate and control land holdings.
Members approved an amending Bill which would give residents lease-like titles ‘with no provision for freeholding’.
The adoption and fostering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were considered in February, with members of Cabinet accepting Minister Muntz’s recommendation to oppose Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legislation while seeking Commonwealth funds for adoption and fostering services (Dec. 42298). Families who ‘shared the child’s ethnic, indigenous or cultural background’ were preferred, but adoption by people living in defacto relationships or customary law marriages was not supported.
Members approved the collection and publishing of statistics by the Department of Childrens’ Services ‘because of the special circumstances involved’. The Commonwealth would be informed that ‘Queensland is opposed to naming Aboriginals and Islanders in its child welfare legislation’.
The Premier presented a submission to Cabinet in February, which was endorsed, for a Queensland proposal with regard to a Commonwealth Inquiry into the Aboriginal Development Commission (Dec. 42416, Dec. 43300).
He said the activities of the Aboriginal Development Corporation ‘had been of concern to the Queensland Government for some time’ and ‘drew attention to the “separatist” philosophy of the Commission’. Aboriginal Development Corporation acquisitions also drew Cabinet’s attention (Dec. 43980, Dec. 44015). Members noted a submission abouta register of archaeologists and anthropologists from National Parks Minister McKechnie in February (Dec. 42449).
The Minister said there were less than 30 professional anthropologists in the state and legislating would ‘give unwarranted publicity to the whole question’, and provoke academic and international protest. Cabinet felt they had to control ‘certain members of these professions’.
Cabinet asked McKechnie to ‘investigate the possibility of establishing a register with a view to exercising some control over the activities of certain members of those professions, particularly in relation to Aboriginal Reserves and Aborigines in general’. Ministers seemed to believe that these scholars were unduly influencing Aboriginal people and undermining state authority.
Evidence of this attitude can be seen in the Queensland response to a proposed Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill 1984(Dec 43080).
See also Courier-Mail story (2/6/1984:8) ‘Aboriginal remains now locked away’. Cabinet members also decided in March to send a submission to a Commonwealth Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs (Dec. 42508). In his submission, Education Minister Powell explained that Queensland ‘had not been receiving a fair share of funding for Aboriginal education’, probably (he thought) because of the state’s ‘willingness to spend its own funds’.
A second decision in March covered the appointment of an additional member to the Aboriginal and Islander Health Advisory Council, bringing the total number of Ministerially-appointed Board members to eight (Dec. 42529). Cabinet agreed in April to participate in the Commonwealth Grants Programme for Aboriginal schools (Dec. 42944).
In April, the Minister for Health, Brian Austin, presented a submission to Cabinet, noting that $9.3m of Commonwealth funding was needed for the transfer of health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs to the Health Department (Dec. 42904). Members of Cabinet approved Queensland’s ‘total opposition’ to the proposed Commonwealth legislation for a new Aboriginal and Islander Heritage Bill at a meeting in May (Dec. 43080).
Minister Katter said the legislation, intended to protect sacred sites and other places of significance, was ‘socially divisive’, ‘simplistic’, would ‘freeze development’ and gave too much power to the Commonwealth. Detailed responses from each government department were shown to support this view. A submission to repeal the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act was withdrawn in October (Dec. 44456).
The proposed Bill was designed, ‘unlike the Commonwealth Heritage Act which was discriminatory and divisive’, to unite all Queenslanders in a shared relationship with the land.
If approved, overall authority with regard to Aboriginal cultural heritage would rest with the Minister, and not with public servants.