Government discusses impacts of payments on Aboriginal people
In response to questions about whether the government should further control payments for Aboriginal people, the Minister for Social Security discussed his concerns about the impacts payments were having, particularly on remote Aboriginal communities.
I expressed some scepticism ... about the effects of the payments of these benefits to Aborigines ... there is a tendency for these to be exaggerated and dramatised for public effect
Questions arose around whether government payments were impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people negatively after they began to get payments directly in the 1970s.
This excerpt from Hansard records government officials discussing the issue following newspaper reports that alleged that Aboriginal people in Western Australia had been using their government payments on taxis and alcohol.
In this excerpt, Labor representative Adrian Bennett from Swan in Western Australia asked about these newspaper reports.
Minister for Social Security, William Hayden, responded that there was a tendency for reports like these to be ‘exaggerated and dramatised for public effect’.
Instead of responding about the reports, Hayden commented on the broader impacts of payments on remote areas. He said Aboriginal people in remote communities were going through a ‘rather severe cultural jolt’ after getting access to government payments directly.
When asked how to fix this, Hayden suggested the government look into the matter further before acting. He said there would be more problems if the government tried to control how Aboriginal people spent their payments. He spoke about how the payments had already caused issues and suffering in some families and communities.
These concerns led to ministers visiting Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia to investigate the impact of payments. Senior public servant and Arrernte man Charles Perkins, was publicly critical of this scrutiny (Perkins 1974).
You can read the Hansard excerpt of this discussion on the Parliament of Australia’s ParlInfo website.
Australian House of Representatives (22 October 1973) Debates, HR43:2407.