LETTERS News Weekly
, March 28, 2015
In his recent article “The folly of Australia’s public intellectuals” (News Weekly, February 28, 2015), Dr Hal G.P. Colebatch comments on the absence in these intellectuals’ deliberations of figures indicating the numbers of Aboriginals who, before the advent of the Aboriginal Rights Movement in the 1960s, “successfully completed a Western education and secured employment”.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures for the Aboriginal population across the 20th century give some notion of what that might have been.
The Act of Parliament setting up the Census provided that census forms be delivered to and collected from every door, and be completed by the occupants. Moreover, it made compliance compulsory, relying on the high level of literacy of the settled population. Clearly, this expectation was unfulfillable by and for Aborigines still living in tribal conditions, and for this reason the legal obligation was waived in their case.
Instead, the ABS Year Book reports variously estimated and enumerated figures for “full-blood” and “half-caste” Aboriginals, and sometimes referred to unrecorded numbers of persons “outside the influence of Europeans”.
Despite this uncertainty, the totals remain fairly steady, fluctuating between 70,000 and 80,000, up till the 1960s when Aboriginals were formally included in the Census.
Thereafter, the distinction between “full-blood” and “half-caste” was abolished, and further, persons of primarily non-indigenous descent could register as Aboriginal. Registration as Aboriginal depended purely on self-nomination.
In 1961 the Aboriginal population recorded in the ABS Year Book numbered 79,000. In 1971, it had risen to 100,000; in 1981, to 140,000; and in 1991, to 265,000.
Clearly, this was not natural increase, but must to a major extent reflect persons who had previously assimilated sufficiently into the Australian community to have participated in the Census under the prevailing conditions.
If “full-blood” and “half-caste” Aboriginals maintained the stable numbers of the previous seven decades, we can surmise (allowing for births and deaths) that at least 196,000 Aboriginals had received an Australian education, were normally employed, and conformed to the social mores of the time.
If, as is likely, not all Australians with Aboriginal ancestry chose to self-nominate, the number would be far greater.
I would like to congratulate Terri Kelleher for her perceptive article on institutional childcare (News Weekly, March 14, 2015).
Australia spends $9 billion a year on child subsidies at an average of $7,000 per child, and yet only one in four children is cared for in institutions. Three out of four are cared for by mum, dad, grandparents and friends.
The childcare industry’s drive to entice mothers into paid employment began with Harold Holt, when he was Minister for Labour and National Service in the 1960s.
Half a century on, after all this time and expense, only 25 per cent of children are cared for by the state!
I worked in Canberra in a senior position in the Office of Child Care, so I know that the large subsidies generally only cater for the 20 per cent of mothers who are career-orientated.
The 20 per cent who wish to nurture their own children are only given Family Tax B, which was recently reduced. The 60 per cent of mothers who wish to have part-time jobs receive less support.