Some native stockmen back in the saddle. Recall the shame of the The Northern Territory Cattle Industry Case of 1965-66

Great front page story in The Weekend Australian about native stockmen getting off welfare and the grog to regain their pride and purpose after a generation in exile.

Never forget how the Commonwealth Industrial Commission ignored advice on the anticipated result of their decision and decided that the native stockmen could have welfare instead of work in the cattle industry.

Mr Justice Kirby, who presided in the Cattle Industry Case (113 CAR 651) told his biographer Blanche d’Alpuget that he believed that case would ‘be seen as the greatest contribution he and other members of the Commission made to Australian society’

The idea was to pay the native stockmen the same wages as the white employees but that decision ignored the very different conditions that the native stockmen enjoyed. They were effectively casuals, working on the musters and then going off about their own interests when they wished. Their families received rations from the station.

The Commonwealth was represented in the case by counsel and its most useful contribution, according to d’Alpuget, was a defeatist one: if numbers of aborigines were thrown out of work by the award of equal pay they would be given aid (i.e.’welfare’) on government settlements. (page 181)

The case was about full blood Northern Territory aborigines on the cattle stations, and not about part blood aborigines.

One of the central arguments of the pastoralists was to stress that the full blood aborigines on the cattle stations were very different indeed from the fringe dwellers, mainly half caste, living near some country towns in the south. The pastoralists argued that the full blood aborigines on the cattle stations, who were illiterate, uneducated, semi-tribal aborigines, should not be converted by unemployment into fringe dwellers of the kind to be seen in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and other places. They should be helped to continue to live ‘in their own country’, with employment in the cattle industry, with gradually improving education, experience and efficiency and enjoying growing economic reward.

They should not be cast into unemployment and made into pensioners in settlements as a step towards becoming fringe dwellers.

But that is what happened, courtesy of economic illiteracy and political correctness. It is a pity that the current move is not across the board, it just favours a few who are the beneficiaries of another piece of Commonwealth legislation.

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13 Responses to Some native stockmen back in the saddle. Recall the shame of the The Northern Territory Cattle Industry Case of 1965-66

  1. Cold-Hands

    All too often, “progressive” policies introduced on grounds of fairness or compassion result in unintended (but often easily foreseen) consequences that result in great harm. From the abandonment of successful Border Protection policy to this, the desire to be seen to be noble and progressive trumps the actual results achieved.

  2. Poor Old Rafe

    The point is to pay people for what they actually DO and consider the full suite of benefits in addition to the money wage. And let them decide what is a fair thing.

  3. You could and should argue that without reference to race, too. How about each individual get paid exactly what the payer deems them to be worth? There’s an idea.

  4. Poor Old Rafe

    Trade union insistence on paying everyone “the going rate” has always resulted in some people (and sometimes some groups of people) being driven out, especially those who lack education or skills or experience which they could pick up on the job if they are only allowed to start at the rate of pay that they are worth. Hence lower youth wages but in the best of worlds the rate would be more flexible so individual young people who work smart or hard could get paid more.

  5. Vicki

    I think it will take another generation before we are able to obtain a perspective on the tragedy of the policies of Nugget Coombes and others in respect to Aboriginal employment in the pastoral industry.
    Many of the old people look wistfully back to a time when young men had useful employment and still maintained their connection with country.

  6. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    I smile and smile and think back to how the wheel has turned full circle.

    ” “progressive” policies introduced on grounds of fairness or compassion result in … great harm”

    I had the great benefit of extensive accounts from my father back in the ’60s, listening as a teenager before he died. He’d spent his life “out west” as a famed horse breaker and stockman, working for the Kidmans, performing with Skuthorpe’s Rough Riders, picking up a quid in the boxing tents and so on.

    He spoke matter of factly of the boxing prowess of the Sands brothers and of the excellence of the native stockmen, particularly as trackers. I heard of the settlements near the home paddock with food, education and work for the women and girls supplied by the cocky, of family men proud of their status in productive employment. He spoke also of the great good done by the mission schools.

    This was all before

  7. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    Oooops – pressed the wrong button, I’m a goose! Start again …

    I smile and smile and think back to how the wheel has turned full circle.

    ” “progressive” policies introduced on grounds of fairness or compassion result in … great harm”

    I had the great benefit of extensive accounts from my father back in the ’60s, listening as a teenager before he died. He’d spent his life “out west” as a famed horse breaker and stockman, working for the Kidmans, performing with Skuthorpe’s Rough Riders, picking up a quid in the boxing tents and so on.

    He spoke matter of factly of the boxing prowess of the Sands brothers and of the excellence of the native stockmen, particularly as trackers. I heard of the settlements near the home paddock with food, education and work for the women and girls supplied by the cocky, of family men proud of their status in productive employment. He spoke also of the great good done by the mission schools.

    This was all before aboriginal conditions became topical, pre-Whitlam. I recall how the fables that were floated by the snarling racist Charlie Perkins and by the easily conned Moss Cass simply did not accord with what I had been taught by a man who was there.

    Now, 40 years later, some loon in government has decided it was a good idea after all. What a disgraceful waste of resources, time and effort these several decades have been, with no discernable benefit to the needy, managed by “experts”!

  8. Pingback: back in the saddle … | pindanpost

  9. Rebel with cause

    It wasn’t just cattle stations either. I know first-hand that Around places like Narrabri, Moree,Goondiwinidi etc that it was common practice to employ aboriginal work gangs. This was usually done by the farmer contracting with a senior member of the aboriginal community, with that fellow being the leader of the gang and the one responsible for ensuring the work got done. The relationship worked for the farmer, because he only had to deal with one bloke, rather than 15 or 20; and it worked for the Aboriginals too as it fitted in with their social structure.

    Most of the time the farmer would never even have had any idea what each member of the gang got paid – that was all sorted out amongst the Aboriginals themselves.

    That’s what often goes without acknowledgement here: it didn’t just become uneconomical to employ aboriginal labour on the minimum wage, it disempowered many aboriginal leaders who had previously been responsible for getting jobs for the young men in their communities and bringing in the money. What damage our meddling has wrecked!

  10. thefrollickingmole

    I have an excellent book “the road to the Murchison” about the station country through the midwest up to Willuna.
    In it one of the station owners describes the dislocation caused by removing “their” Aboriginals. He attended a confrence of all well meaning people, none of whom had a station background or any idea of the extent of family groups living on the land.

    It didnt cause the stations to lose anywhere near as much as the Aboriginals did.
    In many cases the station was educating, providing welfare and rations and being the paternal overseer of the family group.

    Welfare was, is, and will allways be poison in any community.

  11. Quadrant rarely does satire very well, but there was one very funny article years ago, purporting to be recently released cabinet papers from the late fifties describing the alarm that urban whites felt at the prospect of the indigenous moving to the city, becoming educated and living amongst them, and so proposing a host of policy measures to ensure that this wouldn’t happen. These measures were then set out and basically described everything that has happened – basically destroy their autonomy and ability to generate income and pay them to stay out back. A form of apartheid.

  12. Siltstone

    For those on the left it is essential to keep the “Indians on the revervation”. Put them on welfare, dependent on Government, teach them to vote for a living rather than work for a living. Pretend to give them land “rights” which are actually “rights” to everlasting economic dependency. The latest ruse is say the only job worth doing is a “land and sea ranger”. Not a job that generates wealth, just a position that keeps the “Indians on the reservation” and panders to city whitefella’s notions of what they think should happen in the remote bush. As the NT election shows though, some of those on the lefts’ reservations are working out that they have been used.

  13. jupes

    Pretend to give them land “rights” which are actually “rights” to everlasting economic dependency.

    The absolute worst way to live in the 21st century is as part of a tribe. Tribes are nothing more than mini totalitarian states.

    “Land rights” perpetuate tribes. The Mabo judgement was perhaps the worst decision the High Court ever made.

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