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Aboriginal Senator explains DSS payments

DSS began making their information more accessible for Aboriginal people in the 1980s. An early example is this video featuring Neville Bonner, the first Aboriginal person in federal Parliament.

You’ve been listening to our people who work in Social Security ... follow all of those steps that our people here have been telling you this morning.

Senator Neville Bonner, 1982
About the artefact

In the 1980s, the Department of Social Security (DSS) was making their communication materials more accessible to Aboriginal customers. 

This excerpt from a 1982 video forms part of the effort. The video is for an Aboriginal audience and explains how to get and maintain payments.


The information is presented by Senator Neville Bonner, the first Aboriginal Senator for Queensland. The full version of the video includes role play scenarios and also a panel of Queensland-based Aboriginal staff explaining payments. However, a shortened version is used here as not all people who appeared in the video were able to give permissions. 

The full video explains the importance of keeping your address up to date to ensure people got their payment. 

Still image from 'A message from the Department' video, showing a title card reading 'A message from the Department of Social Security' alongside a Department of Social Security logo. The font is white on a plain blue background.
A message from the Department of Social Security title card

The video is an early example of DSS designing communication materials specifically for an Aboriginal audience. The advice is practical and presented in a simple way. 

Source details

Neville Bonner, descended from Jagera and Ugarapul people, was born in 1922 and grew up around the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales and southern Queensland. Bonner worked as a stockman and in seasonal jobs and raised a family on Palm Island. He became more involved in politics during the 1960s and joined the Queensland Liberal Party. By August 1971, Bonner was sworn into the Senate, serving for 12 years.  

The year this video was made is approximate and corresponds to information contained in the Department of Social Security’s Annual report 1981–82.

This video was edited to a short excerpt to only show people who gave their permission for its use. The full video and original VHS are held in the Department of Social Services Library. 


Permission to include this video clip was granted by Narelle Anderson on behalf of Senator Neville Bonner’s son, Uncle Alfred (Tiny) Bonner.


Department of Social Security (1982) A message from the department [video], Department of Social Security, Brisbane.