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Aboriginal Reserves in Australia

    Naturevolume 135page177 (1935) | Download Citation



    THE attention of the public in Australia has again been directed to the urgent problem of the aborigines and their reserves. On this occasion the method employed to secure its consideration has been unique. According to a dispatch from the Melbourne correspondent of The Times, which appeared in the issue of January 24, a deputation of ten full-blooded aborigines waited upon Mr. Paterson, the Minister of the Interior, to urge, among other matters, the establishment of a Federal Department of Native Affairs, under a sympathetic administrator such as Sir Hubert Murray, the present Lieut.-Governor of Papua, and the institution of an advisory council, which would include social, anthropological, medical and educational experts. The spokesman of the deputation directed attention to the serious economic situation now arising among the aborigines. He pointed out that they are being driven into barren wastes in which it is impossible for them to live. He also pledged the aborigines as Commonwealth citizens, believing that the British Empire stands for justice, order and freedom, to maintain their heritage handed down to them by the Creator, but suggesting in what followed that present conditions were not favourable to that end. This is a somewhat surprising, but none the less significant, indication of recent developments in the movement for the improvement of the lot of the aborigines. It is probable, and, in fact, certain that the Australian public generally is not very fully informed of conditions of life among the aborigines. The mere size of the reserves has tended to obscure the relation to the area requisite for subsistence to the mode of subsistence. It is not realised that a considerable range of land is needed for the support of even small groups of food gatherers such as those found among the Australian aborigines. The formation of a Department of Aboriginal Affairs, of which the consideration is promised by Mr. Paterson at the next conference of Premiers, would ensure a more carefully reasoned control of aboriginal territory in relation to their needs and mode of life.

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