Contemporary documents

Administration in the 1960s
Partnership towards Aboriginal Progress
Educational policy

Administration in the 1960s

From a paper by J.P.M. Long, The Administration and the Part-Aboriginals of the Northern Territory, read to the ANZAAS Conference, Hobart, in August 1965 when he was Research Officer with the Welfare Branch, Northern Territory Administration, Darwin, and Research Fellow with the Social Science Research Council’s Aborigines Project. A revised version was later published in Oceania , March 1967, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3

‘…The legislative and administrative changes made in 1953 entailed, in effect, a quite radical change in the values and assumptions underlying welfare administration: part-Aboriginals came to be seen as people whose needs could be met by the normal services of the community and by normal social work practice, rather than as people standing outside the ordinary community who needed special services and had to be subject to special controls. At the time it may have seemed to many of those concerned that nothing more was entailed than the extension of the system of “exemption”, but in retrospect the changes seem more fundamental. “Citizenship” was no longer to be a prize awarded to part-Aboriginals for progress in “assimilation”, for conformity to ill-defined and probably undefinable, standards of behaviour. It was assumed that part-Aboriginals were in fact like other Australians and it was certainly clear that they wanted to be treated like others. 1

‘If the labels “protection” and “assimilation” given to policies for the administration of Aboriginals in contact with whites in Australia, and so often contrasted, mean anything it must be as they describe methods rather than aims. The aim of policies towards those Aboriginals and part-Aboriginals in the area of settlement has from the beginning generally been that these people should be useful citizens of the Australian community. 2

'The characteristic methods of “protection” have been control, separation and provision of special services. A policy of “assimilation”, as the reverse of “protection”, would therefore be characterised, one might suppose, by the absence of special controls, of separation and of special services. The changes in the law affecting part-Aboriginals in the Northern Territory in 1953 should perhaps be regarded as marking the real beginning of the practice of “assimilation” as a method of administration in Aboriginal affairs and not merely a policy aim. These changes entailed none of the official pressures that are usually complained of when the “policy of assimilation” is criticized. Elsewhere in Australia the legal and administrative apparatus of “protection” in the shape of special controls and services for part-Aboriginals (as for Aboriginals) has persisted and the process of termination of these controls and services has proceeded more gradually and cautiously.'

1 Since all Australians are not exactly alike, the assumption could not be that part-Aboriginals are exactly like all Australians, but rather that they behave in much the same way as others in the same income and occupational groups and are enough like most Australians to be subject to the same laws.

2 Cf. D. Barwick, 1963, A little more than kin: regional affiliation and group identity among Aboriginal migrants in Melbourne , thesis, Australian National University, pp. 58-59, 190-91: ‘Supposedly new policies encouraging the assimilation of Aborigines with white Australian society have in reality a long history in Victoria and New South Wales…although eligibility for absorption was determined by degree of Aboriginal ancestry and fitness for employment.’

Partnership towards Aboriginal Progress

 From an article by H.C. Giese, Director of Social Welfare,  Focus 70 , Northern Territory News , March 1970

'The Northern Territory has seen significant changes in both social and economic development in the past ten years and Aboriginals have contributed to and in many ways benefited from these developments.

Their own changed social position, a movement to full equality with other members of the community, has been an important factor in their being drawn more fully into the general changes that have come to the Territory...

There has been an increasing rate of growth in the self-awareness of the Aboriginal people and their identity as a group in society with a voice of their own. There has come increasingly a demand for involvement in their own affairs and a willingness to take responsibility for aspects of community management on settlements and missions.

These developments are to be seen in a large number of Aboriginals, particularly in those under 30 years of age. Educational and social achievements in the older school-age and teenage people especially are worthy of note, but throughout the age groups there has been rapid adjustment to enable them to remain functional members of their own society and yet be active participants in the life of society outside their communities.

The removal of restrictive and protective provisions of legislation, full access to liquor, and the right to vote have been factors that have influenced the rate and character of change in these communities, particularly since 1964...

It is not only in individuals that these developments are readily seen but also in Aboriginal society itself. Social, economic, political and demographic pressures brought to bear on Aboriginals from elements and movements within their society, and as a result of their increasing contact with European society, have resulted in adaptations being made to traditional tribal life and practice.

For good or ill (certainly for survival against a dominant European culture and society), there has been a division of life into work and non-work areas. "Walkabout", ritual and ceremonial practices usually occur now in holiday periods and in some industries these have been made to coincide with seasonal demands.

Attitudes of Aboriginals towards both Aboriginal and general Australian society and the perception of their place in both have undergone substantial change and there is now an awareness that they have a right to make demands on society generally, consistent with their new responsibility to contribute.

The attitudes of other Australians appear also to have shifted in the Northern Territory. There is a greater readiness to accord Aboriginals an equal place in the economic, social and political life of the community...

Education is, of course, one of the major tools in the process...Major developments have taken place in education in the past ten years. These include the extension of the program into the pre-school and post-primary fields; the development of special curricula and teaching methods, particularly in relation to the teaching of English as a second language; the diversification of the program and methods of adult education; the training of teachers to work in Aboriginal schools; the training of Aboriginal teaching assistants; and the introduction of Aboriginal teachers of traditional arts and crafts into the schools...[There are] increases in the number of teachers employed and the number of children enrolled in the special schools [52 in 1956 and 291 in 1970]...children are now moving through the primary schools at about the same rate and standard of achievement as European children.

At the present time, there are 60 children attending a special transitional year at Kormilda College preparatory to moving into high school in 1971. Twenty-two children have moved into high school from Kormilda College this year to join 18 who are in second year and one who is in fourth year.

There are at present 608 children in multi-grade classes in the special schools who are matching young European Australians in age and rate of educational achievement,and who will be aspiring to undertake secondary education in the future.

By 1974, it is expected that there will be approximately 285 Aboriginal children preparing in Kormilda-type establishments scattered throughout the Territory to move into secondary schools.

In considering these figures, it must be realised that Aboriginal education has been operating as an organised program and with specially-trained teachers for only the last 17 years.

Settlements and missions , which have been developed most strongly in the last 10 years, are important instruments in the process of social change. Initially these were developed as contact and training centres for Aboriginals in respect of our culture and society; now they are taking on the character of rural communities still predominantly Aboriginal, some with an economic base providing the substance of their community existence, and with local communities showing a greater desire for involvement in decisions relating to the management of their own communities...

A fund deriving from royalties paid by companies operating mining ventures on Aboriginal reserves  has been in existence since 1953, but until the past three years the amount available in the fund has been too small to be of any importance in influencing Aboriginal development. The control of the fund is in the hands of the Minister for the Interior.

A substantial amount has built up in the fund, however, in the past three years and at the end of 1969 the government announced the establishment of a committee comprising a majority of Aboriginal representatives to advise the Minister on the allocation of funds. The committee has met on three occasions and a number of projects, including the establishment of a kiosk at Standley Chasm, assistance towards the establishment of a brickmaking plant at Yirrkala, purchase of a garbage truck at Angurugu, and a bus for the social club at Bamyili have been recommended by the committee and approved by the Minister.

Some parts of the money from the special fund will be used for the development of community facilities, such as council buildings, halls, etc., but it is expected that at least 50 per cent will be provided to various Aboriginal communities for the establishment of economic projects of various kinds put forward by individuals or groups.

Whilst at this time the majority of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory tend to see their future in their own communities (and this includes the pastoral property communities as well), there will be, as a result of education and training programs, an increasing tendency for young people to see their future  in the wider community...'


See Focus 70: boom goes the north, a pointer to the next decade, Northern Territory News special feature at

Educational policy

B.H. Watts and J.D. Gallacher, Report on an investigation into the curriculum and teaching methods used in Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory, to the Minister of State for Territories, Darwin, 1964. 

Access at State Library of Queensland,

Employment opportunities

E.P. Milliken and P.L. Wilson, Employment Arrangements for Aboriginals in Government Departments and on Settlements, Information Paper No. 11, Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration, 6 May 1966

reprinted by the Bennelong Society Historical Reprints, August 2008