Project Canterbury

Acceptance: The Next Step Forward

By Frank W. Coaldrake

Sydney: Australian Board of Missions, 1967

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2012


A new policy for Aborigines adopted by the AUSTRALIAN BOARD OF MISSIONS
October 1967

This booklet contains the text of a report of the Chairman of the Australian Board of Mission, the Revd Canon Frank W. Coaldrake, M.A., to the meeting of the Board held in October 1967, entitled A New Policy for Aborigines. The Board adopted the report as its next step forward in the promotion of missionary work amongst the Australian Aborigines.

Acceptance is what Aborigines feel the need. Acceptance—without a demand for alteration and conformity—is an idea which the European people in the community will need to accept.
--from the Statement of Board policy

All Australian Governments, while maintaining their separate Aboriginal Welfare Administrations, have adopted the policy of assimilation in the following terms:

The policy of assimilation seeks that all persons of Aboriginal descent will choose to attain a similar manner and standard of living to that of other Australians and live as members of a single Australian community—enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, and influenced by the same hopes and loyalties as other Australians. Any special measures taken are regarded as temporary measures, not based on race, but intended to meet their need for special care and assistance and to make the transition from one stage to another in such a way as will be favourable to their social, economic and political advancement.

The Australian Board of Missions believes that much can be done by the Ministers' Welfare Council as a regular conference of ministers concerned with Aboriginal welfare in all States and the Northern Territory and offers its co-operation with the Ministers and their Departments in advancing the Aborigines. This is extended to the Commonwealth Co-ordinator appointed by the Prime Minister.

National Aborigines Day

The Board believes that such advancement requires improved understanding and acceptance of Aborigines by European Australians and that such improvement will be brought about by continuing a vigorous annual National Aborigines Day.

The Board reaffirms its support for the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee at Federal and State levels but in doing so expresses the hope that the Committees work in each State, which is already community-based, will attract increasing participation by influential community organisations and leaders.

The Board records its appreciation of the assistance given by the Department of Territories in the annual National Observance and believes that the Department should continue and if possible, increase, its participation in the programme.

The Board believes that the initiative taken by the National Missionary Council of Australia and maintained by its successor, the Division of Mission of the Australian Council of Churches, has played a vital part in the annual National Observance and reaffirms its support of the Division of Mission in this programme.

The Board believes that attention should now be given to those places in Australia in which the annual Observance has not developed because of the presence of a high proportion of Aborigines in the population. It is at these places that acceptance is most difficult and therefore most significant.

Refinement of Policy Statement

The Board asks the Ministers' Welfare Council to maintain a continual reconsideration of the stated policy of assimilation. We welcome the modifications made since 1961 and believe that they reflect a growing appreciation of what assimilation involves for the Aborigines. We hope that it will prove possible to restate the phrase "A Single Australian Community" so that it will express the hope for mutual acceptance by European and Aboriginal without seeming to deny the possibility of pluralism ethnically and culturally. It seems to be inseparable from a fundamental respect for the Aboriginal people that all shall take care not to enforce a uniform attitude in respect of important matters of human behaviour and values.

ABM's Past Policies

In the earliest stages of the Board's programme for Aborigines it declared its hope in terms of converting and civilising the natives.

By the end of the 19th Century it was struggling to protect and ameliorate the lot of the remnant of a disappearing people. By the middle of this century it was trying to teach nomads to live a settlement life. In the middle years of this century Government support for settlement programmes reached significant proportions and the settlements which the Board had sponsored and supported began to reap the benefit of the new Government policies.

The point has now been reached where Government Departments manage and maintain those settlements leaving only the pastoral care of the people to the church. In respect of the spiritual ministry in those settlements the Board expects to confine itself to assisting the Anglican diocese concerned by finding Chaplains and contributing to their support. The Board expects also to continue to provide the church's share of the cost of St. Mary's Hostel, Alice Springs and to find at least some of the staff of the hostel. The Board will continue to send its assistance for the hostel to the Anglican Diocese in which the hostel is situated.

The Board has always limited itself to work for Aborigines who were outside the boundaries of parishes. In recent years the number of Aborigines living within the boundaries of parishes in townships and cities has been increasing rapidly with many consequent problems for church and community as well as for the Aboriginal people themselves. The Board has been aware of these problems and has often given advice but has not been able to undertake any programmes of continuing work in those situations.

The Board's position in relation to these areas is now altered. General Synod added to the Board's Constitution in September 1966 the responsibility for work anywhere in Australia. It so happens that this alteration in the Board's Constitution has come at almost the same time as the Board has reached the end of its programmes of Settlement management. The Board therefore finds itself at this time freed of an old policy restriction and freed of a burden which has strained its resources. The Board has in 1967 reached a new stage in its programme for Aboriginal people.

The Board's Present Undertakings

As the Board considers the future it recognises that it is carrying responsibilities which have continued through many years and are still a commitment.

Transfer of settlement management to Government was effected in 1959 for Yarrabah and in 1967 for Mitchell River Mission, Edward River Mission and Lockhart River Mission. The transfer was made in each case by the diocese in which the missions were situated. The Board concurred in the transfer. The Church retained only the responsibility for a pastoral ministry by a Chaplain at each community. Prior to the transfer the Board's responsibility had been retracted until it was trying to find all staff but meeting the costs of only the management and the pastoral ministry, that is of Superintendents and Chaplains. The Board is now committed only to help the bishops find Chaplains and provide the salaries or part of the expense of some of them.

The complete list of ministries in which the Board is involved now is as follows:

Carpentaria Diocese

Mitchell River Community, Edward River Community, Lockhart River Community: Church finds Chaplain and salary; Government provides working expenses.

North Queensland Diocese

Yarrabah Community: Church finds Chaplain; Government provides salary and working expenses.

Palm Island Community: Church finds Chaplain and salary.

Rockhampton Diocese

Woorabinda Community: Church finds part-time Chaplain and salary and working expenses.

Gippsland Diocese

Lake Tyers Settlement: Church finds Welfare Officer, and salary and working expenses.

Adelaide Diocese

Point Pierce Settlement: Churches find Welfare Officer, and salary and working expenses.

Scholarships are granted to Aboriginal students at "Tranby Co-operative Training College", Sydney and Bursaries from the income of a legacy provided for selected individual Aborigines in South Australia.

North-West Australia Diocese

Forrest River Mission: the Anglican Missionary Council of Western Australia accepted responsibility for Forrest River Mission in 1959, when the Board agreed that the work in Western Australia would be handed over to the Council. The Council finds some of the staff and some of the working expenses.

Need for a New Policy

The Board's "General Policy on Aborigines" was adopted in 1959 after it had been drafted by the National Missionary Council of Australia. A new General Policy should eventually be acceptable to the successor of the National Missionary Council of Australia that is the Division of Mission of the Australian Council of Churches, but the Board might well start by declaring its own mind, because it is the only member Board without settlement responsibilities.

There is a new opportunity for advancement of Aborigines. The Federal Government might be persuaded to make special provision for Aborigines following on the Referendum in May 1967. One such special provision might cover education.

The Aborigines are on the threshold of great development in ways not yet specifically clear. Among them there is for the first time, real Aboriginal leadership, recognised, self-conscious, becoming expert and organised. There is a developing pride of race and a self-consciousness on a national scale. There is a promise of increase in numbers, a pluralism in our society seems to be unavoidable. Immense problems in the assimilation of Aborigines are being clarified for the first time by churchmen, anthropologists, politicians and administrators with much help from interested citizens. The difficulties and the opportunities are being seen with increasing clarity.

The new situation is bringing new problems for the Aborigines and for the community. The word "Acceptance" seems to strike the keynote of the new problem.

Will the general community accept the Aborigines as such or only on condition, that their Aboriginal characteristics do not intrude?

Will the Aborigines accept a place in European society if it is offered to them on European terms or alternatively if they are encouraged to make their own terms and conditions, will they want to do so?

Will the new emerging Aboriginal leaders be accepted by the European Community even if those leaders are aggressive and by ordinary standards rough and radical?

Acceptance is what Aborigines feel they need and acceptance without a demand for alteration and conformity is an idea which the European people in the community will need to accept.

A Policy of Acceptance

The Board's new policy therefore concentrates on acceptance. Under the policy ABM will

provide assistance to Aborigines in any way which will help them win acceptance in the community as Aborigines;

provide assistance for the Church and her members at any level and in any place which will help them win acceptance by the Aborigines;

provide assistance for any corporate body in the community which is trying to bring the Aboriginal and European members of our nation together.

1. The Board will continue its financial support of chaplaincies and welfare work on settlements at Yarrabah, Palm Island, Mitchell River, Edward River, Lockhart River, Woorabinda, Lake Tyers and Point Pierce. It will also try to find the required chaplains and welfare workers and provide training for them as needed.

In this programme the Board will work through the Anglican diocese in which the settlement is situated. The Board will accept, as far as it is able, further commitments of this nature as requested by dioceses.

In all such settlement work the Board will want the mutual acceptance of Aboriginal and European people to be an acknowledged intention.

2. The Board will continue to co-operate with the diocese of Northern Territory and the Welfare Department of the Northern Territory in the conduct of St. Mary's Hostel, Alice Springs. The church's proportion of costs would be met by the Board. As far as possible the Board will find and train the required staff.

The policy of acceptance in this institution will mean that the Board wants the hostel to prepare the children for acceptance as Aborigines in the community and as communicants in the church.

3. The Board will continue its assistance to Aboriginal Co-operatives. The Budget Grant to provide scholarships at "Tranby Co-operative Training College" will be divided so that a stated amount will be reserved for Aborigines and the balance will be for Torres Strait Islanders or Pacific Islanders.

4. The Board will continue to allocate available income from certain legacies to provide bursaries for individual Aborigines but in future awards of these bursaries the Board will want its assistance to help the Aborigines to win acceptance in the community as an Aborigine.

5. The Board will allocate other funds as available for bursaries to assist individual Aborigines of any age undertake courses which will help them win acceptance in the community as Aborigines. Such courses may be short or long term and in any recognised educational institution or in any place or conditions outside an institution which in the opinion of the Board will serve the general aim of acceptance.

6. The Board will add to its staff a full-time officer for Aboriginal Advancement, helping him to gain experience and training as necessary and making him available, if necessary at the Board's expense, to assist the Aborigines, the Community or the Church, in promoting the advancement of Aborigines and fostering the mutual acceptance of Aboriginal and European peoples. (Note: the Board has not yet decided to make this appointment.)

7. The Board will offer as a bursary the full cost of a Theological College course of any Aboriginal who is accepted by a Bishop as a postulant for Holy Orders.

8. The Board will co-operate with other churches in their programmes of Aboriginal advancement and in particular will continue active participation in the Aboriginal Affairs Programme of the Division of Mission of the Australian Council of Churches. The Board will hope to find the Division of Mission interested in developing in its own way a policy of acceptance.

The Board is aware of the problem of Aboriginal land rights and will continue to study the issues involved in the light of a policy of acceptance.

The Board believes that the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord by an Aborigine is to be our hope and our prayers. The Board believes that our programmes and policy should make such acceptance more likely.

Expenditure planned by ABM for work among the Aborigines in 1968

Carpentaria Diocese

Lockhart River   $1500
Mitchell River   $1500
Edward River   $1500
Carpentaria Aerial Mission   $5000

North Queensland Diocese

Palm Island   $2300

Rockhampton Diocese

Woorabinda   $800

Gippsland Diocese

Lake Tyers Settlement   $350

Northern Territory Diocese

St. Mary's Hostel, Alice Springs   $4000

[Total]   $16950

Australian Board of Missions

Project Canterbury