Reproduced with kind permission of Mr Hans Pearson

A Historical Overview of Aboriginal Trust Accounts in Queensland

Pre 1939

…when the history of Queensland comes to be written the one black spot in it will be the manner in which the blacks have been dealt with in years past…I have always advocated that the greatest possible assistance should be given to the race from whom we have taken this territory, and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for the splendid possession we have.

Home Secretary, Queensland Government, 15.11.1897 [1]

1. In Queensland’s first year as a colony in 1859, the government expenditure on the Aboriginal inhabitants was less than 10 per cent of the allocation to maintain the native mounted police, a force described by contemporary historian George Rusden as ‘a mere machine for murder’. [2] By mid 1895 government outlays for relief and rations for Aboriginals amounted to £1638. A further £11,400 had been expended over the years towards mission endeavours, but permanent inmates on the six surviving ventures numbered less than 100 people.[3] Government claims in 1897 that this level of support was in accordance with ‘its pecuniary means’ were denounced in parliament as ‘a disgrace’, given annual profits since 1885 of around £500,000 per annum from ‘territorial revenue from a country which really belongs to them’. [4]

2. In 1897 the Home Secretary introduced legislation so that government expenditure ‘can be put to much better use’ to provide protection at ‘very little further expense’.[5] The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 [6] applied to every ‘Aboriginal’ on the mainland, defined as someone who lived as or associated with Aboriginals, or their spouse or child. ‘Aboriginals’ could now be relocated and confined on a government settlement or mission under the control of a superintendent appointed under the Act, including any missionaries who were willing to ‘undertake the duty’, since ‘The whole question was one of expense’. [7] It became an offence to supply opium to an Aboriginal person (opium was a legal drug bringing the colony around £24,000 annually in revenue until it was outlawed in 1906 by the federal government).

Wages, controlled savings

3. The 1897 Protection Act intended minimal intrusion in the widespread use of Aboriginal labour. During debates it was argued that a compulsory work agreement ‘securing them in some suitable employment’ would have ‘not a single word in it attempting to interfere with the rate of wages’ or the mode of payment, although it was agreed that distant stations of up to 7000 square miles currently worked by ‘a couple of white men and a crowd of Aboriginals’ should provide some sort of food or payment. The 1897 Act allowed for any worker exploited as cheap labour to be removed and confined on a reserve.[8]

4. In 1899 Amendments were debated to extend these protections to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the maritime trades around Cape York where exploitation remained common. In the absence of a provision to sue for unpaid wages unofficial measures were already operating. On Thursday Island police attended when Aboriginal crew were paid off: ‘They took his money and went with him to see that he got value for it at the store, or that he got what he wanted to buy at a fair price.’ Even so, Aboriginal workers were routinely fleeced of remaining earnings during the trip back to the Gulf missions, and ‘always arrived at his destination empty handed’. To circumvent this, contracts for boat workers from Yarrabah stipulated:[9]

… that the whole of the wages should be paid to the superintendent of the mission. The superintendent then paid half of those wages to the man who earned them, and the other half went to the funds of the mission, and the scheme worked excellently… Last year £180 was received for wages, and that sum was distributed among the old and infirm on the station and in providing a new suit of clothes for everybody. The men were very proud of being the means of earning that money.

5. From Mapoon mission Rev Hey organised for Thursday Island police to give disembarking maritime workers around half of their wage to spend, and the balance ‘is banked to the credit of the Mapoon Natives’ Store Account’ for ‘their separate use’. During 1901 this brought the mission £254 ‘of which Mr Hey expended £214.14.3’ giving each returning worker tobacco, flour, a tomahawk and clothing as required, and as a contributor to the ‘common fund’ the worker could ‘draw from the store’ any goods within reason for his needs, including, when he married, iron sheeting for his house. This common fund also provided daily flour for the elderly, and clothing for visitors at christmas.[10]

6. In the southern half of the colony routine underpayment or non-payment of wages to Aboriginal pastoral workers continued despite provisions of the 1897 Act, a practice described as ‘unfortunate’ by the southern protector, although as station dependents ‘the State was saved the cost of feeding them’. Station workers who were paid generally ‘gave away nearly the whole of their wages’ to help support families in the camps. Notwithstanding recognition that many Aboriginal workers were used ‘practically as slaves’, [11] there was heated opposition to the intention to introduce a minimum wage in a proposed Amendment Act: there was currently no minimum wage for white labour, and it was said that the proposed one-eighth wage parity would constitute unfair competition.

7. The long-debated 1901 Amendment Act [12] defined all boats as premises under the 1897 Protection Act, thereby extending its protections to maritime employment. It set a minimum wage of 10 shillings a month [about $45 today] for maritime workers and half that for mainland workers, which protectors ‘may direct’ to be paid directly to himself ‘or some other officer of the police’ who must expend it ‘solely on behalf’ of the worker and ‘keep an account of such expenditure’ (S12). This discretionary power concerned one parliamentarian: [13]

I should like to know how you are going to convey to a blackfellow that his wages have been paid to the protector or to a police officer … [who] might be fifty miles away. Would he have to travel that distance to collect the money? It strikes me as most unreasonable… If you insist that the blackfellow’s wages shall be paid to a protector, you will never get him to understand that he has been paid at all.

8. S13 of the 1901 Amendment Act gave the protector powers to manage the property of ‘all Aboriginals’ in his district, including to ‘retain, sell or dispose of’ any property with consent of the owner, except where unilateral action was necessary to preserve the property. In keeping ‘proper records and accounts of all moneys and other property’ thus dealt with, a protector was deemed to be ‘a public accountant’ under the 1874 Audit Act.

9. By late 1902, for the 60-70 girls and women contracted to domestic work around Brisbane an unofficial ‘pocket money’ procedure was already in place whereby workers were allowed ‘a little of their wage to spend and the balance is banked to their credit’ in a Government Savings Bank account. [14] Since accumulated savings, then totalling £323, were available when a girl left work to marry or to live on a government reserve, their upkeep was said to ‘cost the State nothing whatever’. [15]

10. Regulations under the 1901 Amendment Act gazetted in March 1904 [16] combined the northern and southern protector’s districts under a single office of chief protector of Aboriginals. Female wage rates were set between 1/3 to 2/3 weekly, or greater at the protector’s discretion (S11). Apart from ‘the odd threepence’ paid as ‘pocket-money’ the wage was paid to the protector ‘every three or six months as may be arranged’ and ‘deposited in the name of such Aboriginals or half-castes’ in the Government Savings Bank ‘with himself as trustee’. The protector could expend this money on behalf of the worker, keeping proper accounts (S12). Male wages could now also be controlled at the discretion of protectors.

11. By December 1904 trust accounts totalling almost £1400 were held by 11 protectors, including the protectress at Brisbane controlling local domestic employment, with the highest balances at Normanton and Cairns, and at Brisbane where the total was £372. [17] After several Brisbane domestics complained to their local member of parliament of wrongful deductions on their accounts, a subsequent audit found protectress Mrs Frew guilty of ‘dereliction of duty’: she kept no proper record of wages paid and failed to get receipts for payments of £402, claiming most girls couldn’t read or write and witnesses were not available at the time. She was forced to resign in 1905. The chief protector also admitted that 90% of the domestics contracted from Brisbane were in fact ‘really free from the operations of the Act’ being ‘half caste and quadroon’ workers and thereby outside the legal definition of ‘Aboriginal’. [18] In 1905 charges were brought against the superintendent at the government’s Barambah settlement for not paying workers their wages, for selling stores, and for buying diseased meat for sale to inmates. [19]

12. By 1909 the 17 protectors, including at Brisbane and Barambah, controlled wages in 1513 accounts totalling £7112 which the chief protector characterised as ‘a sort of provident fund’ and a ‘settled thing’ by both worker and employer.[20] But many workers were reportedly so distrustful about the security of their savings and suspicious that part might be diverted by the government to support the missions, that some refused ‘point blank’ to sign work agreements.[21] Audit checks showed that several protectors were defrauding the savings accounts – at Cooktown in 1908 (wages not credited, signatures forged), Charleville in 1910 (wages not credited), Cloncurry (misappropriation on 12 accounts) and Cairns (altered withdrawal forms) in 1915, Croydon (wages not credited) and Hughenden (stealing cash) in 1917. [22] Noting that ‘a number of policemen’ had already been discharged for swindling Aboriginal wages, one member of parliament condemned ‘the opening here for graft’. [23]

13. By late 1913 the government controlled 3849 bank accounts with a total credit balance of £34,078. Permitted withdrawals were less than 48 per cent of earnings but nonetheless represented ‘a large saving to the department in the need for relief’ which it would otherwise have to provide. [24] A ‘substantial increase’ in the amount of money held in trust during 1914 followed the introduction of a graduated minimum wages scale, bringing government holdings to £44,380 in 4529 accounts, including inmates of the new government settlements at Taroom (started in 1911) and Hull River (started in 1916). In considering how best to use the funds ‘for the benefit, if not always for the pleasure, of the owners’ [25] the chief protector suggested that the ‘large sums of money’ lying ‘idle’ in savings accounts could be used to support ‘the helpless and indigent’, currently costing the government between £1500 and £1600 per annum for ‘the minimum allowance necessary’ to sustain life. He proposed a fund be created through a 10 per cent ‘compulsory banking deduction’ which would yield around £2500 per annum for general relief ‘to contributors in distress’ so the department did not have to ‘bear the burden’. This would mirror similar provident funds already operating: in the Torres Strait Islands since 1913 (a 7.5 per cent levy), and on the government settlements (a 20 per cent levy). [26]

14. The compulsory levy was introduced in new Regulations gazetted in 1919 (R1:l)[27] At this time the government controlled 6145 accounts with a credit balance of £131,415 generating £3327 in interest: withdrawals ‘for clothing and other needs’ were £39,444.[28] The 1919 regulations also addressed increases in pastoral wages under the 1918 McCawley Station Hands Award, from which the government had lobbied to exclude around 4000 Aboriginal pastoral workers. Instead a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ was negotiated with the Australian Workers’ Union for ‘a reasonable rate of wages’, assessed at a two-thirds parity for Aboriginal pastoral workers considering ‘the earning value of white to black’. [29]

15. Minimum wage rates and conditions were now set for all categories of male and female labour, including a maximum pocket money component to be paid during employment varying between 20 per cent for boys under 18 years to 77 per cent for married men without dependents ‘according to circumstances’ (S1 (k)). Pocket money was to be paid regularly and recorded in a pocket money book in which the employee acknowledgement required for each payment or deduction must be witnessed by a disinterested third party. This book, and copies of vouchers against loca stores, were to be sent half-yearly to the local protector for inspection.

16. The remainder of the wage was payable directly to the local protector. Between 1918 and 1921 the total amount of savings controlled by the government jumped almost 76 per cent from £107,729 to £189,840, in 6472 workers’ accounts.

17. Annual audits detected frauds by protectors in Tumoulin in 1919 (lack of receipts and wages not accounted for), Taroom settlement in 1920 (wage agreements not recorded, frauds by assistant superintendent and by storekeeper), Burketown (fictitious withdrawals with £100 taken across 32 accounts by officers simply cross-witnessing their own thumbprints) and Cooktown in 1921 (wages not collected), Ravenshoe in 1922 (no receipts for alleged payments to Aboriginals), and Barambah settlement in 1929 (cash shortage through falsified accounts). [30]

18. By 1932 the 95 local protectors were in control of 3954 accounts totalling £273,774.[31] A Report by the Public Service Commissioner found pilfering from these savings accounts to be common, generally by altering receipts for small amounts over numerous withdrawals. Given workers were unable to check their earnings and spendings, in their view ‘the opportunity for fraud existed to a greater extent than with any other governmental accounts’ (p24), yet current oversight by the chief protector’s office was ‘totally inadequate’ despite measures to have all payments witnessed by a third disinterested party ‘as far as possible’. Annual audit inspections were unsatisfactory regarding requirements to have head office approval for withdrawals other than relief, clothing or pocket money, and to have the bank notify head office of any large withdrawals by protectors (p24). There was no system to check pocket money books because there was no requirement for their return to head office for inspection, and it was ‘reasonably assumed that in many cases’ workers were not paid the stipulated amount (p9).

19. While urging ‘closer supervision and control’ of the protectors (p24), the Commissioner recommended a total restructuring of the savings accounts (pp25, 26), including:

· all the savings bank accounts held by the 95 protectors, including the Brisbane accounts, should be transferred to a single common fund in Brisbane, leaving sufficient with each protector for one month’s potential withdrawals;

· separate ledger cards be generated for each worker and held in batches per district;

· all wages by remitted monthly to head office by each protector.

20. The recommendation to combine all savings accounts in a single trust fund was implemented from 1933, as was with the suggestion that workers ‘should make some contribution from his funds’ through a charge of 2.5 per cent ‘for keeping them’. [32] Since this was the current bank interest component it would also save ‘considerable clerical work annually’ in cancelling its allocation to accounts (p27). Between 1933 and 1941 over £50,000 was ‘appropriated from the Aboriginals concerned.’ [33]

21. From the combined savings accounts in the new Queensland Aboriginals Account (QAA) S2127 in Brisbane, £200,000 was invested in 1933 in the Commonwealth Conversion Loan at 4 per cent, leaving a residue of £57,000, the investment interest accruing to the government to reduce ‘expenditure on Aboriginals’ in Queensland. In approving the investment, under secretary William Gall noted ‘This will go a long way to minimise fraud by members of the Police Force who are Protectors.’ [34]

22. A Public Service Inspection of the department in 1941 [35] found ‘innumerable incidents of negligence’ and ‘chaos and confusion’ (p37) going back many years in the chief protector’s failure in the execution of his duties to protect the Aboriginals brought under his control (p3). In one case the chief protector had authorised money be taken from one worker’s account without his knowledge or consent to cover a bad debt of his brother, a procedure the Inspectors said was little different than stealing: ‘an ordinary trustee who did this would probably be prosecuted for such an offence’ (pp43,44).

23. The pool of Aboriginal savings remained vulnerable to departmental incompetence. The Inspector found only about one-third of fingerprints and signatures on withdrawals were checked at head office, by someone with no training or experience, a procedure which did not necessarily secure the authenticity of withdrawals. Further, ‘comparatively large sums’ had also been lost over the years because head office neglected to direct protectors to freeze contracts to non-paying employers. [36]

Settlement wage accounting procedures

24. Procedures for settlement accounts were summarised in the 1923 Report on the Sub-Department of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals .[37]

25. Settlement superintendents were responsible for all property of inmates, and their earnings including collections and banking. Workers’ earnings remitted direct to settlement superintendents were paid into the savings bank account opened for each settlement, and not to the individual savings bank accounts of each worker (p12). A monthly statement listing wages received was sent from each superintendent to the chief protector via the Home department. There were thus two sets of card accounts for each individual, one at the Home department and one on the settlement (p17).

26. Incoming wages were allocated in part as pocket money, part for settlement maintenance, and the balance credited to each account by entry on individual cards. These cards were debited for any cash advanced, or for goods purchased from the settlement store via an order on the store issued by the superintendent for presentation to the store by the account holder. Store goods were purchased by the settlement from the Government Storekeeper and charged against a special Standing Account (established in 1917 to handle the proceeds and expenses of settlement enterprises): the goods were sold to inmates with a 25 per cent profit loading (pp15,16). The storekeeper provided a fortnightly list of inmates to whom store orders were issued and the relevant value of goods, sending a copy to Brisbane for debiting against the individual inmates’ accounts, with a copy at the settlement to debit against the individual cards.

Settlement maintenance

27. From 1907, in order to teach ‘thrift, providence and self-help’, workers contracted from Barambah settlement had to ‘contribute a small percentage of their wages to the up-keep of the settlement’. Sums of one shilling or more were also deducted from the wages by employers and sent directly to the superintendent to be deposited in individual bank accounts, although many workers were initially ‘averse to the arrangement’. [38] Around £370 from ‘wages earned by Aboriginals’ and a further £130 raised from the settlement sales was expended on unemployed settlement inmates, supplementing the £1200 listed in Treasury allocation for provisions, and prompting criticism from auditors: ‘This practice of utilising for the maintenance of the Settlement, collections received, instead of paying the same to the Treasury, is not only contrary to the Audit Act, but is also misleading as to the actual expenditure of the Settlement.’ [39]

28. In 1908 the £609 from Barambah workers’ wages ‘subscribed towards the upkeep of the settlement’, covered all running costs apart from officers’ salaries. The wage account ledger on the settlement was now replaced by a card system, and an account was opened at the National Bank at Wondai to secure the ‘large sums of money’. In 1909, to support Barambah’s newly opened settlement store, the deduction from workers’ wages was increased to two shillings.[40] In 1911, ‘at the request of the inmates’ at Barambah, their combined bank interest of over £29 was not credited among the 450 personal accounts but allocated for christmas gifts and foods, [41] and thereafter transferred annually to the Aboriginal Protection Property Account (see p 10 below) (from where only a portion was expended for that purpose).

29. The total earnings of external workers on the government settlements of Barambah, Taroom and Palm Island (started in 1918) were remitted by each superintendent into the Savings Bank Account established for each settlement,[42] and not to the Savings Bank account of each individual. The balance of wages held in the three trust accounts in December 1921, after deducting settlement maintenance and allocating pocket money, was £6173 for the 677 Barambah inmates, £677 for the 224 Taroom inmates, and £4436 for the 467 inmates at Palm Island.[43]

30. The 1922 Report found that the half-yearly balances supplied by the Home department to the chief protector and to settlement superintendents ‘seldom agreed’ with the accounts at the settlements, due to similarity of Aboriginal names or omissions as to which account was concerned. The Commissioners recommended that individual credit balances be clearly stated on all work permits so account balances were known (p20); this suggestion was ignored. Following a further recommendation, the three settlement trust accounts were transferred to the chief protector’s office rather than the Home department, along with the account for Brisbane workers. [44] (The merged Aboriginal Settlements Trust Account was listed in 1941 as S031. [45])

31. By 1922 the government allocated a wage component for those working on each of the settlements, covering 39 workers at Barambah, 19 at Taroom and 15 at Palm Island, but in practice these allocations were shared among ‘a much larger number ‘of workers (p10).

32. By 1926 the savings balances on the three settlements were £17,466. Following advice from the Audit Office, the ‘idle portion’ of these settlement funds, predominantly comprising individual savings, was invested in 1926 into Treasury Loan Inscribed Stock of £3000 for Barambah (leaving £2042), £4000 for Palm Island (leaving £2498) and £1000 for Taroom (leaving £1402). Added advantages were the higher rate of interest (than savings bank) and that ‘the state has use of the money and not the Commonwealth’. [46]

33. During 1928 a further £5000 was invested from the Barambah settlement account throwing the account into deficit by November, when £1000 was transferred temporarily from the Aboriginal Provident Fund (APF), (see p 12 below) to enable a credit balance of £1084 for the department’s December Annual Report. Subsequently £1000 from Barambah Inscribed Stock was transferred to the APF portfolio. [47]

34. During the 1929-32 Depression a range of measures was introduced to meet drastic cuts in the department’s Vote allocation. In 1933 Cabinet approved further deductions from savings accounts of 5 per cent on all settlement accounts over £20, bringing the government over almost £27,000 between 1933 and 1935, a deduction that continued until June 1941. [48] This was in addition to current settlement maintenance deductions of 10 per cent for external workers with dependants on the settlement, and 5 per cent for those without.[49]

35. Advances to workers against their accounts for purchases were so poorly monitored that savings account debit balances totalled £1600 by 1941. The Inspectors said that the many relating to inoperative accounts would of necessity be recouped against the APP Account, constituting not only a ‘breach of trust’ but ‘could reasonably be regarded as misappropriation’. Given settlement superintendents were ‘unable to efficiently control the savings bank accounts’, the Inspectors recommended they be handled at head office like those of country protectors.. [50]

36. The 1941 Inspection highlighted the inequity of streaming settlement maintenance holdings to revenue producing investments. During the 1930s, while £8000 of workers’ income was so diverted, Inspectors described rations supplied to Palm Island inmates as a ‘grave scandal’ which demonstrated clearly the department’s practice of forcing those with bank accounts to ‘supplement the niggardly ration’ from their own savings to buy essential foods that were provided free on other settlements;: child rations provided only five-eighths of recommended dietary calories. [51]

37. The bank account number for the Aboriginal Settlements Trust Account was given in 1941 as S031.

The Aboriginals Protection Property Account

38. The genesis of the Aboriginals Protection Property Account (APP Account) was the widespread cheating of maritime workers around Cape York during the late 1800s, where a common ruse to avoid paying wages owing was to leave workers stranded in remote areas or claim they had deserted or died at sea. Under S10:5 of the 1901 Amendment Act ‘all wages due’ to a deceased or deserting worker were to be paid to the shipping master at the port of discharge. In August 1902, under these management powers, the northern protector of Aboriginals opened ‘a trust account’ in Cooktown named the Aboriginals Protection Property Account. By the end of the year it held over £200, a reflection, he wrote, on what might have been lost to the workers had the government not intervened. [52]

39. The Regulations of 1904 formalised the APP Account to receive all unclaimed moneys ‘to be used in such manner as the Minister may direct, for the benefit of Aboriginals generally’ (S14). It’s holdings in December 1904 totalled £212.12.4, of which £20 was loaned to ‘the natives’ of Mabuiag Island to cover insurance and incidental expenses for two newly purchased fishing boats. This followed an earlier loan from the APP Account of £100 to the Murray Islanders to buy a lugger, payable within 12 months at 10 per cent interest, already fully repaid. [53] By 1906 the APP Account was almost bankrupt after ‘large withdrawals’ to buy boats for Darnley and Badu Islands and for Hope Valley, plus advances for Moa, Stephens and Hammond Islanders, and a loan to Yarrabah mission for nets and punts. Funds from the APP account were also outlaid for maintenance for illegitimate children and clothing for girls sent to domestic work. [54]

40. Between 1908 and 1910 outlays from the APP Account included burial fees, clothing, fares, £20 towards the Advance Account of the Brisbane protectress and £100 advanced to the Cape Bedford mission for machinery, while the two loans for Torres Strait boats were written off. [55] Between 1911 and 1913, despite income of £839 from deceased estates and almost £183 from deserters’ wages, no monies were distributed to either group, while funds were provided for a launch at Cape Bedford, and a loan for ‘boats for the natives’ at Thursday Island. [56] In 1915 the APP Account covered a cutter for the new Hull River settlement, a boat for Murray Island, a boiler for Barambah settlement, and reimbursement of the £41.16.0 defrauded by the Cloncurry protector. Of deceased estates and deserters’ wages totalling over £866, only 9 per cent was distributed to their families.[57] Almost £445 in ‘inoperative accounts’ in 1917, and almost £2649 in ‘unclaimed bank balances’ the following year were transferred into the APP Account.

41. The 1922 Report found that while the APP Account was authorised to use funds as directed by the Minister ‘for the benefit of Aboriginals generally’, in practice it was also used as a suspense account for refunds and transfers of money ‘temporarily in the hands of the Chief Protector, and for making advances’ (p 21). In that year £3950 was transferred into the APP from deceased estates, deserters’ wages and ‘unclaimed’ balances, while only £1890 was distributed to families. Other outlays for the year included £524 for a septic tank and £857 for a sawmill at the government’s Barambah settlement, £500 for ‘mission upkeep’ at Yarrabah, and £656 for Torres Strait boats (p21). On the Commissioners’ recommendation the APP Account was transferred to an interest bearing savings account.

42. In 1926, when the APP Account balance stood at almost £17,000, £6000 was invested in Inscribed Stock. [58] During the mid 1920s, large amounts from the APP Account funded loans to various missions and building programs and wages on the settlements, including over £3700 for a Girls Home and new school at Barambah, and £1200 for a hospital and school on Palm Island.[59]

43. In the 1930/31 year £25,663 was withdrawn from the APP Account to supplement the Vote. Subsequently 50 per cent of nett collections, plus interest, was transferred half-yearly from the APP ‘to Suspense account for Standing account purposes , as required’, amounting to £374 in June 1940. Between 1925 and 1935 over £72,000 was transferred from the APP Account and the APF ‘for departmental purposes’ of which almost £61,000 directly supplemented the reduced Vote allocation. [60]

44. In 1941 the Public Service Inspector found that the APP Account profited from the chief protector’s ‘failure to make proper inquiries’ to locate relatives of deceased or missing account holders, contrary to claims in Annual Reports that ‘exhaustive inquiries’ were made before balances were transferred (pp 7,8). In 1934, without any efforts to trace relatives, over £1120 was transferred from 18 accounts, several of whom were easily located by the Inspector working in nearby protectorates. In other cases, the debit balances from 31 ‘inoperative accounts’ at Palm Island were ‘wiped off’ by simply appropriating the amount from the estate of an unrelated deceased worker’(p 43), and the debit balance of a deceased worker was recouped from the account of his brother, without his knowledge, which the Inspectors described as little different to ‘a straight-forward case of stealing’(p 44). The failure ‘to notify those interested’ constituted ‘an indefensible charge of maladministration, negligence and inefficiency’ by the director, with the whole subject bearing ‘a sinister aspect’ (App B pp 4,5).

45. Over the years to 1941, the Inspectors calculated that the department failed to identify relatives for 32 per cent of the 4302 deceased or missing account holders whose estates averaged £233, enabling £2740 per year to stream into the account (App B pp 4,5). The department did not notify wards of unclaimed accounts, a requirement of ordinary trustees, and would likely be ‘inundated with claims’ if such information were made available on settlements and elsewhere (App B p4). The Inspectors identified a contingent liability of £73,932 for which the APP Account held only £1130 after a range of loans and payments which included £15,680 paid to the Vote between 1929 and 1932, and a further £25,914 transferred to the Standing Account between 1932 and 1941 (App B pp4,3).

46. The account number for the APP Account was given in 1941 as S1801.

The Aboriginal Provident Fund

47. The Aboriginal Provident Fund (APF) was inaugurated under the 1919 regulations as a fund to which all workers not on reserves would ‘contribute, entitling them to relief for themselves and dependents when in want, out of employment, sick, &c.’ [61] Those not currently paying the 20 per cent levy into settlement funds would now be taxed 5 per cent from single wages and 2.5 per cent from married wages (S1:1), payable to the chief protector as ‘contributions’ towards a fund ‘for relief of indigent natives’. (According to the 1922 Report, mission inmates ‘do not contribute to any funds controlled by the chief protector’ (p22)). Protectors supplied quarterly statements of wages earned and APF deductions, but the Commissioners found in 1922 that ‘fully 50 per cent of the calculations on the protectors returns are wrongly made’, requiring constant adjustments. It was also their opinion that APF benefits should only be dispensed ‘to contributors who are employees’ in the police district of the worker and not to Aboriginals generally (p22).

48. During the severe drought and cattle industry slump of the early 1920s APF deductions were reduced to 3 per cent and 1.5 percent with ministerial approval although never formalised by regulation. While over £3000 was deducted from wages into the APF during 1922, and despite desperate rural conditions which saw Aboriginal earnings fall by 32 per cent, only £253 was distributed as relief, while £117 from the APF was used to relocate 70 Aboriginals to the Cape Bedford mission (p25). Despite three drought years, the APF balance had risen to £8000. The Commissioners urged that ‘definite rules’ be formulated regarding benefits from the fund, that protectors should be ‘empowered to give relief to those entitled to it’, and that ‘natives have the right to appeal’ to the chief protector for relief from the fund (p23). None was implemented.

49. In 1923, with the APF balance standing at £10,255, ‘it was deemed advisable’ to invest £8000 at 5.25 per cent in Treasury Loan Inscribed Stock with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In 1926 a further £6000 was invested leaving a balance of only £2015 available for Aboriginal relief. [62]

50. In the years 1925 to 1935 bulk amounts were ‘appropriated for departmental purposes’ from the APF and APP Accounts. While the Annual Reports show a total of £18,099 transferred from the APF to the Home department ‘to supplement Votes’ in 1931, 1932 and 1933 (plus £18,099 from the APF) a document by the chief protector reported total appropriation from the two trust funds was £72,036. [63]

51. The Public Service Inspectors in 1941 identified a circular from head office in the mid 1930s incorrectly informing protectors that the 5 per cent APF deduction on a wage of 5/1 was 3 pence (almost double the correct amount), and that 3 pence should be deducted from wages of ‘up to 5 shillings’ – which could include a wage of only one shilling, effectively a 25 per cent levy. They said this was but one of the ‘innumerable instances’ of wrong APF deductions leading to loss of Aboriginal savings. [64]

52. The bank account number for the APF was given in 1941 as S1800.

Post 1939

53. The Aboriginals Preservation and Protection Act of 1939 [65] applied to any Aboriginal native of the mainland or territorial islands having ‘a preponderance of the blood of Aboriginals’, any ‘half-blood’ declared to be in need of protection of the Act, any ‘half-blood’ married to, or associating with Aboriginals defined under the Act, and any Aboriginal resident of a reserve or their child (S2).

54. This reduced the definition which had been extended under an Amendment Act in 1934[66] to include not only the child of a ‘half-caste’ but the grandchild of grandparents defined as Aboriginal or ‘half-caste’ or one of whom was of Aboriginal or Pacific Islander extraction living as or associating with Aboriginals (S5). The 1934 Amendment Act was crafted in part to extend medical vetting over the Aboriginal and mixed-race population, particularly in northern Queensland (SS 12, 12, 14). These definitions were changed under 1939 Act.

55. The 1939 Act renamed the sub-department of the chief protector as the sub-department of Native Affairs, reclassifying the chief protector as director. While existing regulations had been repealed with passage of the new Act in October 1939, replacement regulations were not gazetted until April 1945 (see relevant sections below). [67] The 1939 Act continued a provision under the 1934 Amendment Act that exemptions from official control might be conditional, allowing for a protector to retain control of ‘all money or property’ after exemption was otherwise granted (S24, 1934 Amendment Act; S5 of the 1939 Act).

56. The Suspense Account (S1799) was a Health and Home Affairs account which absorbed APF and APP transfers plus interest on QAA investments, and attracted bank interest. The Standing Account was an account with Treasury which received payments from the Suspense Account ‘as required’ for its purposes. [68]

57. Additional regulations (RR94-98) were gazetted in March 1955 [69] empowering the director to impose an exemption even where not requested, or to revoke existing exemptions which could be conditional on ‘money or property’ of the exempted Aboriginal continuing to be held in trust by a protector.

58. A further regulation in June 1955 [70] replaced R13 of the 1945 Regulations with a directive requiring the director’s permission for withdrawals exceeding £20 from savings accounts (previously £10), and requiring a reason be given for withdrawals over £10 (previously £2).

59. In 1956[71] clause (5) was added to R12 of the 1945 Regulations empowering the director to withdraw from trust funds ‘for the purpose of investment’ including with ‘any local body’.

60.The Aborigines’ and Torres Strait Islanders’ Affairs Act of 1965 [72]was passed in May. It applied to all ‘full-blood’ Aboriginals, someone having ‘a preponderance of the blood of an Aborigine’, a ‘part-Aborigine’ living as a spouse with the above, or someone living on a reserve other than a non-Aboriginal (S6:1). ‘Part-Aborigines’ were defined as persons with one parent of the above categories, or someone having ‘a strain’ of indigenous blood and themselves having ‘a strain of more than twenty-five per centum’ although not a ‘preponderance of such blood’ (S6:2).

61. Anyone living on a reserve, or ‘having a strain of Aboriginal blood’ and declared in need of assistance by the director, magistrate’s court, judge or stipendiary magistrate, or the child of such an Aboriginal, was now deemed to be ‘an assisted Aborigine’ under the 1965 Act, (and would remain so until 1971) (S8:1).

62. Under the 1965 Act many existing terms were replaced: superintendents became managers, and police protectors became district officers of magistrates’ courts districts (in place of police districts) (S12), although Public Service commissioners noted that ‘services of the Police Force will still be very necessary but their activities will be more in the background’ allowing the ‘public image of Native Welfare’ to be more a matter of civilian rather than criminal control. [73]

63. Settlements and missions were now named communities, on which inmates now needed a ‘certificate of entitlement’ to reside which could be cancelled by the director (enabling ejection of dissidents) (SS16, 24). The director retained power to transfer Aboriginals to and from reserves (S34) for ‘disciplinary or welfare reasons’. [74]

64. Management of private Aboriginal property and accounts continued unless a district officer was satisfied it was in ‘the best interests’ of the assisted Aboriginal that such management was no longer required, and the director or stipendiary magistrate approved cessation of management (S27). An Aboriginal could request that management of their property cease, and could challenge refusal in a magistrate’s court (S29:2). Existing provisions and requirements for such management continued, including the keeping of ‘proper and accurate records and accounts of any such property’ (S28). Administration of deceased estates by the director continued; where there was no beneficiary the estate could be paid into the Aboriginal Welfare Fund (AWF) (see p 16 below) ‘for the benefit of assisted Aborigines generally’ (SS 31).

65. Regulations gazetted on 30 April 1966 [75] under the 1965 Act are referred to under the relevant sections below.

66. In November 1967 an Amendment to the 1965 Act constituted the director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs as a ‘corporation sole … capable in law of suing and being sued’ (S3). [76]

67. The Aborigines Act of 1971 [77] abolished the category of an ‘assisted’ Aboriginal (S6), but continued the role of district officers (S10). It continued the incorporation of the current director (S8), and also the department’s control of Aboriginal reserves and communities (S15) as restricted areas for which a permit was mandated for visiting or residence (SS 18-15), and maintained the option for official revocation of a permit to reside. Administration of deceased estates continued (S40) as did management of property (SS37, 38): an account holder’s request for termination of management could not now be revoked, unless the director was ‘satisfied’ of just cause (S47).

68. Regulations gazetted in December 1972 continued the director’s authority to establish Trust funds for wages, property and savings and the requirement to keep a ‘complete record and account’ of such funds (R5), and continued the department’s control of deceased and unclaimed accounts (S6). Regulations for conduct on the department’s reserves and communities included requirements to ‘obey all lawful instructions’(S7:10), not to disturb the ‘peace, harmony, order or discipline’ on a reserve (S7:15), detailed the establishment and conduct of community Councils (SS18-41), and the establishment of a Community Fund to receive moneys due to an Aboriginal Council from rates, rents and fees etc and also fines imposed by an Aboriginal Court (S42).

69. Under an Amendment Act in 1975 the department from Aboriginal and Island Affairs became the department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement.[78]

The Aboriginal Welfare Fund

70. A provision in the 1934 Amendment Act allowed for the Governor in Council to make regulations, including for Aboriginals and ‘half-castes’ whether on a reserve or elsewhere, to contribute to a fund ‘for the general welfare and relief’ of Aboriginals, ‘half-castes’ and other inmates of reserves (S26:4).

71. The 1939 Act allowed for establishment of ‘a welfare fund’ for ‘the general benefit’ of Aboriginals, to be maintained by payment of moneys earned by sale of produce on controlled reserves, the proceeds of enterprises on reserves, Aboriginal ‘contributions’ as prescribed, unclaimed moneys and other moneys as prescribed, and also for the ‘management, control, and disbursement of such fund’ (S12:9).

72. In 1943 an appropriation of £51,000 was included in the Estimates for Trust and Special Funds for the Aboriginal Welfare Fund (AWF), and was subsequently transferred to the Standing Fund in the department of Health and Home Affairs (previously the Home department). The AWF was a Treasury trust fund ‘for the general benefit of Aboriginals’ under the regulations gazetted in April 1945.[79]

73. The AWF absorbed the difference between savings bank interest on individual trust accounts and the total interest on all trust accounts and investments; proceeds from store sales, enterprises and sales of produce from settlements and reserves (but not missions); fines, fees and penalties collected from settlement residents; and unclaimed moneys of deceased and missing Aboriginals’ (R9). ‘Contributions’ from earnings were to be deducted by protectors or superintendents and duly accounted for (R10).

74. In 1946 wages owing and written off to two Innisfail workers were recouped from the AWF. AWF funds were also used to reimburse lost wages for three workers in the Mossman protectorate, and an ‘irregular loan’ following an investigation into the senior clerk at Palm Island. [80]

75. Early in 1946 the department bought a cattle property, known as Foleyvale, as a reserve to be worked as a commercial venture to train young Aboriginals for pastoral employment. Cabinet approved that a loan for working capital of £10,000 be provided from QAA, and in October a total of £7429 was paid from QAA to the department of Health and Home Affairs. While costs and wages relating to Foleyvale were legitimate charges against any income to the fund, the director protested that the AWF was being charged for wages ‘being for administration work by natives [which] should be charged to Vote’.[81]

76. By January 1948 the AWF was in debt by £17,722, rising to £18,659 by May 1948, necessitating a transfer of £6542 from the Vote. [82] In June the director again complained that the AWF was being misused: [83]

Generally it must be accepted that Aboriginal Welfare Fund is bearing a considerable amount of expenditure which truly could be regarded as legitimate Vote expenditure and into this category comes the cost of removal of Aboriginals, indigent, sick, and refractory…

A supplementary provision of £8000 was made to bring the AWF into credit by July 1948.

77. In 1948 Cabinet approved £1300 from ‘Loan Funds (Aboriginal Camps and Missions)’, later described as coming from the AWF, to purchase of a 60 acre property near Townsville to provide a hostel for Aboriginal travellers and hospital patients, after police objected to accommodating them in the watch house and its stockade. The land was purchased using £4416 from Palm Island institutional child endowment and £3512 from the Vote, but in 1957 £1000 from the AWF and a further £3100 from child endowment and was approved to complete the project. (From 1969 restrictions were placed on Palm Islanders who were encouraged to find alternative accommodation while in Townsville.) [84]

78. In 1949 the AWF was authorised to cover costs of replacing huts damaged in a cyclone on the department’s Cooktown reserve, where some individual occupants did not have sufficient credit to cover the cost (£285 was taken from 16 accounts).[85]

79. In 1952 the government considered purchasing a third property, at Sorrell Hills near Foleyvale, financed from QAA funds currently invested. The director justified the proposed purchase on the grounds that ‘industrial and pastoral undertakings’ gave a similar benefit as individual bank interest, while also generating revenue ‘to assist government funds’ in providing for indigent Aboriginals. Although such acquisitions would not ‘immediately relieve Government Funds to any extent’, using ‘native funds’ in such undertakings ‘ensures a long range plan of ultimate relief of the taxpayer’ .[86] (This purchase did not proceed.)

80. In 1953 wages for white staff at Foleyvale were charged against the AWF. In 1954, the deputy director declared that wages and rations for ‘native assistants’ employed by the department but previously charged against the AWF ‘should obviously be transferred to Vote’. With the QAA balance at over £94,500, the department suggested transferring some of the current investments (then £363,000) into ‘more lucrative gilt-edged security’ to generate a higher interest bonus into the AWF. To this end, a further $100,000 of Aboriginal savings were invested, including a £60,000 loan with the Southern Electric Authority. [87]

81. In 1955 the deputy director suggested that portion of the AWF funds could be better used providing accommodation for exempted Aboriginals living in the general community, ‘particularly as those Aboriginals already exempted and the many who will be exempted in the future have all contributed either directly or indirectly to Welfare Fund through this source. [88] [my emphasis]

82. In 1957 the department suggested the AWF could subsidise the Cairns Air Ambulance which also transported injured Aboriginals in north Queensland and the Torres Straits. It was initially suggested that Aboriginals working in areas serviced by the Air Ambulance should pay 2 shillings weekly ‘voluntarily’ from their pocket money allowance, but since they already contributed to the AWF via the APF levy it was suggested a yearly contribution of £300 to £500 from the AWF was appropriate. [89]

83. The director stated in 1958 that the AWF was meeting part of the costs of ‘general relief’ to Aboriginals for ‘clothing, rations, meals etc.’ At this time, the minister informed the Trades and Labour Council that AWF relief excluded outlays on government settlements and church missions, and ‘the main avenues for expenditure are the provision of housing for country Aboriginals, the industrial development of Government settlements, including the establishment and outfitting of workshops, sawmills etc.’ Costs for building houses at Mareeba and Georgetown in 1958, estimated at £5000, were provided for in the Estimates and ‘chargeable against the Welfare Fund’.[90]

84. In 1959 when departmental funding was heavily reduced, the AWF was used for what were previously government responsibilities ‘to meet some of the expenditure that under happier conditions would have been paid from Vote’, reducing holdings by 56 per cent. In 1960 when state salary increases further reduced departmental funding, items ‘such as trucks, launches’ were ‘for the first time’ provided against the AWF, amongst other ‘legitimate charges against Vote’. The director complained AWF funds were drained to such an extent ‘that the latter is unable to meet’ its usual commitments on rural housing for Aboriginals. He said settlement jobs and wages were cut as the AWF ‘is, as applied many years ago, carrying a major portion of this expenditure’.[91]

85. In 1961 the director suggested £30,000 could be advanced from the AWF, for later recoupment from QAA, for a proposed Aboriginal hostel to be run by the One People of Australia League (OPAL). Given there was no statutory authority to spend QAA funds for a proposed hostel, the money was to be made available as a loan from the AWF, dependent on the opinion of the Solicitor General as such a loan was ‘not specifically provided for in the Regulations’. Approval was given in 1961 for the AWF to provide £6250 for deposits so that 25 homes could be acquired through the State Housing Commission loans program. [92]

86. In 1962 the director anticipated outlaying £3000 from the AWF to provide 12 homes in rural towns. When it was suggested that these funds could not be used to assist in housing for those who were exempt from the Act, the undersecretary suggested the housing projects could be covered from departmental Loan funds allocation, and other housing expenditure normally charged to Loan Funds could be charged against the AWF to offset the expenditure involved. [93]

87. The AWF provided £185 in 1964 to supply electricity to huts on the department’s reserve at Birdsville, and for a loan of £2000 to Hope Vale to develop a cattle industry, the director rationalising that Hope Vale residents contributed to the development of government settlements at Woorabinda and Cherbourg during their internment there during the war years.[94]

88. The 1963/64 financial statement for the AWF included payments for a dairy building, for tractors and trucks, for sewerage at the department’s Aitkenvale hostel, a grant of £500 to the Cairns Air Ambulance, and ‘removal expenses’ of almost £10,000 partially offset by recovered costs of almost £4000 for the same item. [95]

89. From November 1965, control of operations on the AWF was transferred to the department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, from the parent department of Education. [96]

90. The 1966 Regulations renamed the existing Aboriginal Welfare Fund as ‘The Aborigines Welfare Fund’, operating under the control of the director ‘for the general benefit of persons having a strain of Aboriginal blood’. For the first time the parameters of income to the AWF (R4) were itemised:

· the income surplus between savings bank interest credited to individual bank accounts and the total amount of interest credited from all other trust investments of any type;

· proceeds from store sales, training farms and other departmental undertakings on reserves and communities;

· proceeds of the sale of produce from communal effort on communities and reserves;

· all rents ‘and associated charges made from homes or quarters maintained by the director’.

91. Between 1966 and 1967 the final statutory ‘contributions’ to the APF dropped from $34,175 to $4,706; none were recorded subsequently. (From 1968 federal child endowment income was credited to the AWF.) Over $26,500 was spent from the AWF for ‘removal expenses’ of which only $8,785 was recouped.[97] Audit Reports for both 1969/70 and 1970/71 note ‘that no salaries of European staff members who are connected with Welfare Fund projects, were charged to the Fund during the year.’ [98]

92. In a ‘Personal and Confidential’ letter to Comalco manager John Tonkin in November 1969 director Patrick Killoran sought to purchase of 40,000 shares in Comalco Ltd which would constitute a ‘capital equity’ on behalf of Aboriginal Queenslanders. [99] The director proposed the shares be purchased from the AWF, a fund he said ‘originated from a policy attitude … that the State did not propose to specially benefit from a revenue aspect from the efforts of Aboriginal people’. A share-holding of $50,000 to $100,000 would bring a dividend return to Aboriginal people: ‘ not only ‘Assisted Aborigines’ but all persons of Aboriginal racial origin are eligible to receive benefit through the Aborigines Welfare Fund’ [my emphasis, underlining in original]. With Cabinet approval 40,000 shares were bought for $54,000. [100]

93. Regulations in 1972 defined income to the AWF (R4) as: surplus interest from invested savings accounts; proceeds of sales from stores, beer canteens, training farms and departmental undertakings on reserves and communities; sale of community produce; rents and charges for departmental houses or quarters; institutional child endowment; and unclaimed deceased estates (R4:1). AWF expenditure was defined as: purchases of goods for community retail stores and beer canteens; purchase of materials for Trade Training and Curio Workshops; purchase of items for sale by Queensland Aboriginal Creations; purchase of livestock and expenses associated the breeding and sale of livestock; purchase of forage and farm seeds, and for maintenance of tractors, vehicles, tools and machinery for use on community farms and Aboriginal Training farms; ‘wages administration and running expenses incurred in connection with community farms, Aboriginal training farms, retail stores, trade training sections, curio workshops and Queensland Aboriginal Creations, [101] except such wages and administration and running expenses as are payable from other funds ‘[my emphasis]; assistance in respect of rental or purchase of homes; institution child endowment from funds received from Department of Social Services; services rendered by voluntary and other agencies approved by the minister; grants in aid in accordance with S36 of the 1971 Act (as a secured loan to an Aboriginal).

94. Following passage of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act, and action against it in 1979 in the State Industrial Commission for illegal underpayment of community workers, [102] the Queensland government was forced to gradually increase the wages of workers on it’s communities to legal levels. With the wage deficit in 1978 at $3.6 million below the state’s minimum rate, and $6.85 million below award rates, the government directed that the increases be met with the ‘total cost to the State remaining at the existing level’. To meet mandatory increases within budgetary constraints the department was forced to retrench workers and increasingly ‘diverts wages costs’ against the AWF, where accounts showed a 20 per cent increase in wage expenditure in the year to 1981/82. In 1981 the director again complained ‘the cash resources of the Aborigines Welfare Fund are again being seriously depleted’. [103] In 1982 the AWF was again contributing to ‘subsidisation’ of Vote ‘by charging borderline costs of wages and services thereto.’ [104]

95. The continued loading of wages and charges against the AWF to cover Vote shortfalls for rising wages brought cash liquidity to an ‘alarming’ state by late 1983, with expenditure $1.25 million in excess of receipts. In a ‘strictly confidential’ letter to the manager at Yarrabah the director informed him the fund’s financial position ‘is occasioning grave concern’ and instructed him to make ‘a drastic reduction in the number of workers employed.’[105]

96. By 1986 wage attrition across the communities left only 901 waged employees, compared with 2500 in 1976 and 1500 in 1981: managers warned essential services were at risk. [106]

97. In 1990 the Aboriginal Co-Ordinating Council was among many agitating against the department’s continued operations on the AWF for government-controlled cattle and other commercial ventures, demanding remaining funds be held for Aboriginal Queenslanders. The recently elected Labor government commissioned a full Report into the ‘disappearance of wages and funds held in trust’ by the Aboriginal department, including ‘apparently illegal practices’. [107] In September 1990 the $4.5 million remaining in the AWF was frozen. [108]

The Aboriginal Protection Property Account

– The Assisted Persons Estates Trust Account (from 1966)

98. The 1939 Act continued the Director’s authority to administer deceased estates (S16:3), although in the absence of regulations since October 1939 when the previous Act was repealed and April 1945 when new regulations were gazetted, the department had no authority for such management, as successive Audit Reports stated.

99. In 1940 over £26 from the APP was used without authorisation to clear individual debit balances: auditors demanded it be reimbursed. Loans against the APP to missions, for Torres Strait boats, and to the Island Industries Board, totalled over £2500, leaving a working balance of only £1213.[109]

100. Only after the 1941 Public Service Inspection was an analysis compiled of transactions on the APP between 1914 and 1941. This revealed a total of £103,756 had been transferred to it comprising the balances of 4307 accounts, but only 771 accounts valued at £31,140 had been refunded. Almost £71,000 had been paid for other items, and loans of £2765 were outstanding. This left a balance of only £1111 to meet ‘the contingent liability represented by some thousands of unclaimed natives’ balances’, although auditors warned ‘it is doubtful if the natives concerned in many cases are aware that they have any money in an account.’ [110] From July 1941 transactions on the APP were confined to receipt and distribution of unclaimed balances and estates. [111]

101. The 1945 regulations required unclaimed funds and those of missing or deceased Aboriginals to be transferred to, and remain in, an Aboriginals Estates Trust Account for a period of five years (S14:15 (1), (11)) (although Audit Reports until 1964 continued to refer to the APP Account as before.) Money could be refunded from this account if a successful claim was made against such a transfer. Funds unclaimed after five years could be transferred into the AWF at the director’s discretion (S15:4).

102. By 1945 1403 undistributed estates totalling over £21,000 in the APP Account were over 20 years old, and estates of over £73,000 were over 5 years old. ‘Large sums’ had been paid for items other than refunds to beneficiaries, and the auditor recommended that both the excess expenditure and the unclaimed estates and be transferred to the AWF. [112]

103. In 1947 almost £1800 in unclaimed and deceased estates was transferred to the APP Account, against distribution to relatives of only £83. £3000 Inscribed Stock was transferred into the APP account from settlement investments held for Palm Island to bring the balance to £8239. In 1949 £1674 was transferred into the APP account while only £16 was ‘allowed’ in estate claims, and £1000 was loaned to the Island Industries Board. In 1950 APP Account holdings were over £11,600 in deceased and unclaimed accounts, some over 35 years old, including cash holdings of only £7700 from which it was considered ‘not advisable at this juncture’ to make a further investment.[113]

104. In 1954 the APP Account held Inscribed Stock of £8000 and had outstanding loans owing of £1000 from the Island Industries Board, £1000 from Thursday Island boats, and £500 from Mapoon mission. £209 outstanding from the Palm Island turtle boat loan was written off. [114]

105. Under the 1966 regulations (R6) the Aboriginal Estates Trust Account was renamed ‘The Assisted Persons Estates Trust Account’ (APET Account) and held as before in the QAA. District officers or managers were instructed to forward moneys of deceased or missing persons to the director for lodgement in the APET account while inquiries were made ‘as he deems fit’ to locate missing account holders. If such a person was traced within 10 years his estate was to be returned to him via a personal bank account plus interest (R6:2(d)). After 10 years the district officer or manager formally notified the director who administered the estate as per the Act and Regulations (presumably for transfer to the AWF as per S31:3 of the 1965 Act).

106. Audit Reports for 1972/73 and 1973/74 show portions of the APET account transferred into the AWF of $59,299 and $5128, leaving an APET balance in QAA of $93,997 and $100,000 respectively. The APET balance in QAA for 1974/75 was $77,788, was minimally overdrawn in 1975/76, and was not listed subsequently in QAA.

107. Unclaimed estates were transferred into the AWF in the years 1977/78 ($13.39) [sic], 1978/79 ($1457), 1979/80 ($13,034), 1980/81 ($4,573), and in 1981/82 when an $8000 ‘shortfall’ in endowment receipts after the benefit was discontinued through the department was recouped by an extra $8,469 in unclaimed estates for which it was said there were ‘no beneficiaries’ .

The Aboriginal Provident Fund

108. In the absence of regulations since October 1939 when previous Act was repealed and April 1945 when new regulations were gazetted, successive Audit Reports warned that the department had no authority ‘for the employment of these persons’ or to make APF deductions from wages. [115]

109. Under the 1945 regulations deductions from workers’ earnings continued, other than for those in the Somerset district (see next paragraph). For those without dependents – single men and women, widows and widowers – the APF rate was 5 per cent of gross earnings. For those with dependents – married or single men and women, widows and widowers – the rate was 2.5 per cent of gross earnings (S6:1). No Aboriginal would ‘contribute to more than one welfare fund’ (S6:8).

110. The Somerset district covered Thursday and Torres Strait Islands, and the Cape York missions of Aurukun, Lockhart River, Mapoon, Weipa and Mitchell and Edward Rivers, which were all under control of the Thursday Island protector. Workers were levied at the rate of 5 per cent of gross earnings, payable into ‘a welfare fund’ set up by that protector with the Savings Bank of Australia ‘for the general benefit of Aboriginals’ in the protector’s district (S6:2). Between April 1945 and June 1947 these balances were transferred to the Brisbane Country and Natives Account within the Queensland Aboriginals Account. [116]

111. The fund which received workers’ levies on the mainland continued to be known as the Aboriginal Provident Fund, listed under that heading in the AWF. All contributions to this welfare fund were to be deducted from the wages by a protector or superintendent ‘and duly accounted for’. They would be absorbed into a trust fund created by the director with the Commonwealth Savings Bank along with the ‘wages, property, or savings of Aboriginals’, with interest at the current rate credited to the individual accounts therein (S12:1).

112. APF deductions were calculated by protectors on ‘wages collection sheets’ forwarded to head office where they were checked ‘and remitted monthly to the Welfare Fund’ at the department of Health and Home Affairs. This included the Cape York missions whose savings accounts were managed in Brisbane in S.2127 between 1945 and 1947. In 1945 Yarrabah and Doomadgee missions had been allowed to retain the APF deductions from their workers’ earnings. After this was challenged by the auditor, the acting-director admitted these deductions should correctly be paid into the AWF, but as government subsidies to these missions were insufficient to meet maintenance costs, the extra revenue from their external workers augmented the subsidy. He reasoned that while APF income was ‘not used for the general benefit of Aboriginals in the state, [but] it is used for the general benefit of those Aboriginals on the Mission.’ [117]

113. In 1955 when the Anglican authorities again lobbied to retain the APF levy of Yarrabah workers for mission development, the deputy director noted that the missions of Doomadgee, Hope Vale, Mona Mona and Mornington Island missions would also claim to retain ‘the benefit of the monies contributed by their employed Aboriginals’, which would be a combined loss to the AWF of almost £3000 for the 1954 year. The Mornington Island mission was refused access to AWF funds despite desperate need, on the grounds that APF deductions from their workers were paid ‘into one general welfare fund’ from which moneys were withdrawn ‘consistent with requirements and not always consistent with the amount which a person may have contributed.’ The AWF could therefore not ‘give any direct assistance’. [118]

114. The auditor found several errors in the calculation of APF deductions in 1959 which had supposedly been checking by head office. He advised more care be exercised in checking protectors’ calculations. [119]

115. APF deductions into the AWF from Aboriginal wages ceased from 28 April 1966.[120] However AWF transactions, revealed in Audit Reports after 1965-66, show transfers of ‘statutory contributions’ into the fund of $38,546 in 1965, $34,175 for 1966, and $4706 for 1967 (possibly late postings from rural district officers?).

Queensland Aboriginals Account, wages

116. Auditors in 1940 warned that the collection of wages into the QAA was unauthorised in the absence of regulations between 1939 and 1945, and also that a revised wage scale implemented from 1936 was never authorised under previous regulations.

117. The public service inspector in 1941 condemned the continuation of ‘financial emergency conditions’ on Aboriginal accounts imposed during the Depression years, including seizure of bank interest, long after they had been lifted from the white population, who ‘ have had restored to them the financial cuts which were made .’ [my emphasis] The director himself admitted ‘that much of this taxation is an injustice’, and the 2.5 per cent ‘administrative’ charge on country bank accounts and 5 per cent charge on settlement bank accounts over £20, by which the government collected £7620 and £887 respectively during the 1939/40 year, were abolished. Settlement maintenance deductions of 5 per cent (single wage) and 10 per cent (married wage) yielding £988 for 1939/40, and APF deductions (£2394), were continued to protect the potential ‘loss in revenue’. [121]

118. In 1940 the QAA held a working balance of less than £15,000, while £190,000 was invested in Consolidated Inscribed Stock, and £18,500 was held in three loans for Torres Strait Boats and the Island Industries Board. Auditors continued to censure departmental trusteeship of Aboriginal wages and savings: there was still no complete catalogue of thumb prints and/or signatures in order to verify documentation forwarded by rural protectors; thumbprints forwarded for store purchases were often useless for verification purposes; and head office only checked about one in three prints or signatures against the ID cards, and even those checks were months in arrears.[122]

119. During 1941 deductions from the savings of several rural workers were used to offset the cost of huts and improvements on Aboriginal reserves at Coen, Georgetown, Gregory Downs and Mount Molloy, despite no policy on who should be paying for such expenditure. At Mount Molloy it was suggested the cost be covered from the APP but this did not happen. At Normanton money from private savings was refunded from Standing Account. Not all workers were agreeable to forfeit savings for buildings that were largely used by people without work. The director conceded the policy was ‘not agreed with’ and proposed that Standing Account funds be increased to meet these costs currently charged against the QAA. [123]

120. According to the auditor in 1941 some workers had savings balances between £500 and £1500 on which they received no interest, thereby losing between £10 and £20 per annum in interest, as well as being charged either 2.5 per cent or 5 per cent for the APF. In addition, these workers might now also be contributing to buildings on the department’s reserves which could be ‘fairly claimed’ as ‘legitimate items to pay from the Standing account which the natives already contributed to’ through the forfeiture of bank interest and the APF levy. [124]

121. While the QAA was previously used for Brisbane and Country Natives transactions, from July 1941 it absorbed the Settlements Trust Account (S031), the APF Account (S1800), the APP Account (S1801), the director’s Suspense and Collection Accounts, and first balances of child endowment accounts held at head office (see p 34 below]. [125]

122. Work agreements and permits were issued in triplicate: for the protector, the employer, and at head office where they were entered on the individual cards. The protectors advised head office of monthly receipts and payments, and official receipts were issued to each protector for the monthly deposits. All withdrawals by workers ‘are supported by natives’ receipts or ‘acquitted vouchers.’ The uncertainty of such ‘acquitted vouchers’ was apparent from the discovery in 1942 that the protector at Mossman was getting workers’ thumbprints on receipts before the goods were received ‘or in these cases not received at all’, and it was clear the person witnessing the thumbprints on receipt of goods was not there at the time.[126] In 1943 the protector at Urandangie was investigated for improper procedures relating to cheques to cover cash payments to workers, and the auditor questioned ‘irregular withdrawals’ by protectors at Malanda, Mossman, Roma, South Johnstone, and Coen. In some cases protectors were both certifying and witnessing workers’ thumbprints or signatures. [127]

123. Two investments of £15,000 and £10,000 were made from the QAA during 1943 to generate further revenue, bringing total investments from the fund to £198,000.[128] In 1944 a loan of £6,400 from the QAA was expended to purchase land for an Aboriginal Training Farm near Cherbourg settlement, and in 1946 a further loan of £10,000 from the account was approved by Cabinet to purchase a second farm at Foleyvale, to be worked ‘as a commercial proposition, using Aboriginal labour to the utmost capacity’. In neither case was there a formal agreement regarding interest and redemption. [129]

124. A further loan of £2500 was advanced to the Cherbourg Social and Welfare Association ‘for provision of social facilities’, which included over £1690 to erect an entertainment hall from a building purchased and removed from Kingaroy at a cost of £500. In November 1946 £450 was used to purchase a house in Cloncurry ‘for visiting Aboriginals’, paid initially from the AWF but ‘refunded’ from the savings accounts of Cloncurry workers. (The house was riddled with white ants and was dismantled in 1950.) [130]

125. Contrary to R75, by 1945 it had become ‘general policy’ not to claim wages lost when a worker became ill while employed, unless payment was offered by the employer. The auditor also found that some protectors were not abiding by R13 which required notification to head office of any withdrawal over £2, ‘nor has attempt been made to strictly enforce it at head office’. Some protectors were also failing to renew work agreements immediately for continuing employment, leaving a gap in work contracts. [131]

126. Irregular accounts procedures in 1946 and 1947 included endorsement by the mailman for goods supposedly received by Aboriginals in the Coen protectorate; the shopkeeper in Birdsville witnessing an unsigned receipt for goods; the Mossman protector’s continued failure to provide receipts for cash withdrawals and to pursue wages owing; and irregular witnessing by the Ingham protector of a voucher that had not been acknowledged by the buyer, who subsequently disputed amounts listed on it. The Palm Island clerk was found to have falsified withdrawal sheets and receipts after payments had been properly receipted and witnessed, the sums totalling over £200. [my emphasis] [132]

127. In 1947 Aboriginal workers using the department’s Charters Towers reserve were charged £1 weekly to recoup outlays of £213. Similarly, the accounts of 16 workers based at Cooktown were charged for the rebuilding of huts on the department’s reserve had been demolished by the 1949 cyclone. [133]

128. ‘Laxity on the part of the witnessing party’ was identified in 1949 on vouchers and receipts from protectors at Gordonvale, Quilpie, Normanton, Cherbourg, Cloncurry, Urandangie, Einasleigh, Toowoomba and Birdsville, and auditors again stressed the need for ‘satisfactory witnessing’ given ‘the more or less illiterate condition’ of those subjected to the Act. The extreme vulnerability of workers to fraud was described by the Cooktown protector:[134]

In 90 per cent of the cases the native who is not educated has no knowledge of the amount he should receive, and if a person is dishonest and wants to take them down, there is a better opportunity to do so. Many natives may be able to distinguish a 10/- note from a pound note, but when paid by cheque I venture to say the 3 per cent of them wont know the value of the cheque, and when they make a purchase they have no idea of how much change they should receive, and are completely at the mercy of the person paying them…

129. Rural audits during 1950 identified four protectorates where storekeepers signed as the claimant on orders as well as witnessing the signature (Normanton, Charters Towers, Forsayth and Mossman), six protectorates where storekeeper’s relatives acted as supposedly ‘independent’ witnesses (Croydon, Boulia, Georgetown, Cloncurry, Chillagoe and Gregory Downs), and seven where protectors acted in that role themselves (Urandangie, Bedourie, Camooweal, Croydon, Gregory Downs, Laura and Mt Mulligan). In 1952 ‘an unusually large number’ of thumb prints on documents forwarded from the Coen protector were rejected as illegible by the Criminal Investigation Branch. [135]

130. In 1949 the only shelter for travellers and hospital patients among the 500 controlled Aboriginals in Normanton protectorate was a few ‘iron humpies’ on the department’s reserve. In 1952 costs for two steel buildings were approved, and working Aboriginals with accounts over £100 were asked to ‘contribute’ 5 per cent. By 1954 erection of the huts had still not commenced although over £2305 had been committed ‘voluntarily’ from workers’ accounts. At that time Aboriginal savings at Normanton stood at £75,729, and the protector advised that workers would be ‘satisfied to make further contributions and use money from which they now receive little benefit ’ [my emphasis]. In 1955 it was said that the balance of £830 from ‘natives’ contributions’ would refund the Thursday Island Vote. In 1956 the sheds were still awaiting erection. [136]

131. Investments from combined Aboriginal savings in QAA jumped from £363,000 in 1953 to £403,000 in 1954 plus an additional £60,000 in the Southern Electric Authority loan. From the savings balance of £47,583, Cabinet approved a loan from the funds of £4950 for purchase of cattle for Hopevale mission, interest only payable for the first five years. In 1955 investments from QAA were lifted to £433,000 plus the £60,000 SEA loan, leaving a cash balance of under £60,000. [137]

132. An amended regulation in 1956 authorised the director to invest trust funds with ‘any local body’ (R12:5) extending revenue-raising options available for QAA holdings to include loans for modernising and expansion projects of (white) hospitals: £50,000 was loaned to the Toowoomba Hospital board. By December 1958 over £287,800 of QAA holdings was on loan to five hospital boards, in addition to £243,000 in inscribed stock and £60,000 to the SEA loan.[138]

133. In a letter to the Yarrabah superintendent in June 1958 concerning ‘the large number of wages outstanding’, the director stated: [139]

This Department on occasions is held culpable for failing to ultimately collect wages owing to men under agreements issued by Country officers because these Country officers have failed to press the employer for payment or to remove the Aboriginal from the employ of the non-paying employer. It is futile raising excuses of shortage of staff, lack of time, etc. The position is that we have accepted the responsibility of protecting these people by controlling their employment and collecting their wages . [my emphasis]

134. In January 1961 the director suggested that £100,000 ‘available for investment’ from the QAA might be better invested on the short term market for a 30 day period.[140] By June 1962 when investments stood at over £680,000, the savings pool of supervised Aboriginals was overdrawn by over £34,000, the deficit rising to over £38,250 by mid 1963, and by over £27,130 in mid 1963. [141] During this period of peak investment of withheld savings in expansion projects for white hospitals, successive investigations referring to decaying hospital buildings and inadequate facilities on Palm Island as a key factor in infections causing multiple deaths on Palm Island of infants under two years old suffering malnutrition and gastroenteritis. [142]

135. While individual ledger accounts held at head office were reconciled monthly with the balances forwarded from protectors, in 1963 there were still no internal checks or controls on accounts for those contracted from Brisbane, auditors warning there was no way of knowing if correct postings were made to these individual accounts. In the 1963-64 year cheques totalling over £21,472 were received from protectors and superintendents without any supporting documents. The auditor also remarked that some country protectors were ‘inclined to be lax’ in their handling of Aboriginal savings accounts which required more supervision by head office. [143]

136. Into the mid 1960s there were still no duplicate records for the Brisbane savings accounts or for settlement savings accounts. With regard to savings accounts generally, auditors warned that because pass books were not issued it was likely ‘a fair margin of errors in postings to remain undetected’. Noting that because an account holder had no idea of the balances nor of the postings to their account, the auditor warned that if an entry was erroneously or fraudulently posted the chances of them challenging the entry were ‘very remote’. While thumbprints were counter-checked by the CIB, no signature specimen cards were kept and therefore signatures could not be authenticated. Because pocket money books were never checked at head office, there was no direct supervision of the accuracy of the books or the payment of pocket money by employers. [144] At this time the 51 rural protectors controlled over 1400 private accounts.

137. Management of private Aboriginal savings was continued under the 1965 Act and 1966 Regulations, including the requirement to keep ‘a complete record and account of all such moneys’ to be credited into separate individual accounts for each person for whom they belong (R5). Employment controls of ‘assisted’ persons continued (RR71-74), with regulations dictating wage rates (RR96-103) and conditions (RR75-95). Missions and settlements were now named communities, superintendents became managers, and police protectors became district officers of magistrates’ courts districts (in place of police districts) (S12).

138. The 1966 regulations did not continue the provision of the 1956 amending regulation enabling the director to withdraw from the trust funds for investment in ‘any local body’. [145]

139. A Public Service Commission report on the department in 1965 [146] described the department’s operations on private savings bank accounts as ‘a form of paternalism’ given the ‘fair degree’ of discretion exercised by rural protectors. It found that many wages were only paid subsequent to demand by protectors, a system it described as ‘too open to abuse’. There were still no checks on signatures to verify withdrawals as specimen signatures were not held, and although thumbprints were checked against master files at the CIB the audit inspector felt that insufficient security raised questions about supposedly witnessed documents. They warned that the individual bank pass books gradually made available after the introduction of decimal currency in February 1966 only offered limited security depending on the literacy of account holders. [147]

140. A further Public Service Report in 1967 concluded that the lack of experienced officers at head office jeopardised checking of withdrawals from the savings accounts operated by district officers, leaving ‘room for fraud’.[148]

141. The 1966/67 Annual Report list of savings balances controlled by rural protectors, included $144,440 at Coen, $300,438 at Normanton and $52,808 at Boulia. The auditor described entries on wages cards for external workers as ‘unsatisfactory’ with debit and credit entries at times made ‘simultaneously’, against procedures. While all withdrawals were ‘purportedly witnessed’ at the time of payment, the department still lacked a signature database against which all could be checked. For an 18 month period to July 1968 the protector at Mount Garnet defrauded accounts of around $4,000, primarily by ‘bulk’ witnessing documents at a later date, and not reconciling passbooks regularly with ledger balances. In 1969 district officers were advised that large withdrawals from savings accounts were to be avoided: ‘the system of making small advances at more frequent intervals, is preferred’. Head office approval was now required for any cash withdrawal over $80. [149]

142. Almost 500 of those whose accounts were controlled by the department in 1970 were still illiterate, being ‘marksmen, using the right hand thumb print’ to acknowledge transactions on their savings. While all thumb prints were checked by CIB, continuing ‘apparent’ witnessing irregularities prompted the director to issue ‘appropriate instructions’ in 1971 to several district offices. Although almost 95 per cent of withdrawals by district officers were now made by cheques to ‘order’ of the account holder, ‘discrepancies’ still occurred between the amount on the cheque and the entry on withdrawal sheets, and it was ‘ this latter figure [which] is charged to the person’s account ’ if there ‘have been no forgeries or fraudulent alterations, etc.’ [my emphasis][150]

143. During 1971 the QAA, formerly S2127, was renumbered 090-472. [151]

144. By 1971 several district offices operated on passbooks only with ledger control in Brisbane. These were Aurukun, Bamaga, Cairns, Edward River, Hopevale, Lockhart River, Mitchell River, Rockhampton, Townsville and Weipa. Cherbourg, Palm Island, Woorabinda and Yarrabah were ‘autonomous’ and kept individual cards locally which were reconciled ‘with a total control in Brisbane’. [152]

145. The 1972 Regulations [153] allowed for the continued control by district officers of the ‘whole or such part as he may specify’ of the wages of a worker whose property was managed under S37 of the 1971 Act (R67:1). All workers, other than those on government reserves, were required to be paid ‘in accordance with his qualifications skill and experience’ under relevant industrial awards (R68). An ‘aged infirm or slow worker’ might request a district officer to apply to the director for permission to work for less than the basic or minimum wage (RR69,70).

146. Under the 1972 Act official management of Aboriginal property could continue upon application by the Aboriginal (SS37,38); any application to terminate management of property was at the Director’s discretion (S45, S46). (In 1974 this was amended to remove the director’s intervention provided the Aboriginal ‘is competent in law’ to apply for the release. [154]) Resumption of management of property was also at the Director’s discretion (S47), as was the ‘supervision’ of any agreement made by an Aboriginal managing his own property (S43).

147. Notwithstanding the right of individuals to control their own savings, Audit Reports show the ‘Brisbane and Country Natives’ component of the QAA held savings of $985,800 in 1976/77, $1,038,771 in 1979/80, and $1,023,339 in 1984/85, supporting ongoing investments of $514,653, $187,010 and $691,600 respectively. [155]

Settlement maintenance

148. Until regulations were gazetted in April 1945 workers controlled or living on settlements or missions continued to be levied as before for settlement maintenance, despite notification from successive auditors that this was without authority.

149. The 1941 Inspectors were appalled with the lax security on individual accounts managed at Palm Island which enabled £25 to be withdrawn monthly for a whole year from one man’s account for alleged purchases from the settlement store. His account was ultimately reimbursed through a £200 transfer to the APP Account from the account of a worker said to be missing, although later found working under agreement. The Inspectors deplored the ‘excessive’ store prices as excessive and condemned the current loading of 40 per cent on groceries and 33.3 per cent on clothing as ‘making a profit out of the Aboriginals’: they recommended prices only cover the cost of goods and distribution. [156]

150. Investments from combined Aboriginal savings held in the Aboriginal Settlements Trust Account in December 1940 were £1000 from Cherbourg, £3000 from Woorabinda, and £10,000 from Palm Island. Interest for the year of £700 was credited to a Settlement Interest Account and expended on food, clothing, tobacco, and presents at christmas. The auditor noted that under the additional tax of 5 per cent from accounts with balances over £20 meant working Aboriginals were levied on both their earnings and their savings even while they were not living on the settlement. In some cases where both husband and wife were working, each was levied the 10 per cent charge, effectively 20 per cent for the family. The ‘settlement levy on capital’ of 5 per cent on all balances over £20, one of the ‘financial emergency burdens’ imposed on Aboriginal finances during the Depression years, was only removed in 1941. [157]

151. By September 1944 a further £6000 was invested from the Palm Island settlement fund. The total removal of $16,000 for investment revenue underlay the dire circumstances of ‘settlement maintenance’ for the settlement’s 1200 inmates: many families still lived in palm frond huts or overcrowded shacks without kitchens, were forced to cook in the open using old tins, survived mostly on damper and a weekly allocation of meat for which there was no refrigerated storage, and drew their untreated water from shallow wells. The infant death rate was almost 40 per cent. [158]

152. The 1945 Regulations continued the levy on wages of all Aboriginal workers from settlements and missions, or those who lived on a settlement or mission (other than those in the Somerset district) of 5 per cent of gross earnings if they had no dependants, or 10 per cent of gross earnings with dependants on a settlement or mission (R2).

153. In 1947 some working couples on settlements were still each levied 10 per cent of their earnings for settlement maintenance where their children were kept in the dormitories. Superintendents were instructed that male parents were to be regarded as having dependent children and levied 10 per cent, and their wives should be levied 5 per cent only. Working couples with no dependents on the settlement were to be levied 5 per cent each for settlement maintenance. In ‘a large number of cases’ withdrawal sheets and attached receipts for settlement entries lacked the transaction date, a position auditors described as ‘most unsatisfactory’. Of settlement account funds totalling £36,171 in 1951, £26,000 was held in investments, including £21,000 from Palm Island savings accounts. [159]

154. In 1966 the only control account for settlement inmates’ accounts was held in Brisbane.[160]

155. Settlement maintenance charges were not included under the 1965 Act or 1966 Regulations, and were effectively replaced by the introduction of a cash economy on missions and settlements under department control. In 1966, when the basic wage was £16/4/6 the director advocated a wage of £12/10/- comprising ‘£3 per week cash, £7 in value’ plus a ‘margin for encouragement’ of 25 per cent. To meet costs of rent, by 1968 a $3 ‘rental component’ was added to the community wage for people earning less than $23 weekly.[161]

Child endowment

156. From July 1941 mothers or guardians of Aboriginal children were eligible for 5 shillings weekly in commonwealth child endowment provided for second and subsequent children. The bulk amount was paid to the Native Affairs department and lodged in QAA for distribution to individual bank accounts held by each protector. Ledger cards for each endowee were kept at head office and by each protector. In the six months to end of December £4854 was received by the Queensland government; withdrawals through protectors were almost £2670. [162]

157. From June 1942 endowment was also provided for children in one child families. After government lobbying, ‘institution’ child endowment was paid for children in settlement dormitories, bringing £1148 to November 1942. Auditors said institution endowment was ‘to buy extra fruit, butter, ice cream and clothing’, although they noted that the income would ‘cause a definite reduction in the amount of free issues at these settlements’ (suggesting it would also offset basic rations). [163]

158. Contrary to the ‘expressed policy of the Commonwealth Government’, interest was not initially credited on individual child endowment accounts, even though the department had instructed protectors of this procedure. [164]

159. Protectors were advised not to send children under 16 years to work because the endowment ‘contributes to a considerable degree to their maintenance’, although late in 1942 the shortage of manpower was such that protectors were advised to resume contracting children to work. Child endowment for child workers would only be cancelled where food and accommodation were supplied, otherwise it would continue; wages were 12/6 weekly plus clothing or 17/6 weekly without. [165]

160. The missions applied successfully to receive bulk endowment directly. The Presbyterian Mission Board anticipating endowment of £4000, an annual bonus of 66 per cent more than the current government grant of £2400 across the four Presbyterian missions, which ‘represents to the smallest fraction one penny per head per day for all the people on our stations.’ However the government cut annual grants by the equivalent amount, effectively substituting the additional endowment income to benefit consolidated revenue: ‘blankets, clothing and all other things are cut right out. They quite evidently think that the child endowment is going to cover their omission.’[166]

161. A detailed Memorandum in February 1943 again outlined correct expenditure from institution endowment: for fruit, milk and ice creams ‘additional to that provided by the state’; for a ‘better class of clothing’; for good story books ‘the property of the endowed child’; for equipment for indoor and outdoor games ‘the property of the endowed child’; and for any purpose not provided for by the state deemed ‘to personally benefit the endowed child’ in terms of ‘maintenance, training and advancement’. Vouchers for expenditure, ‘duly certified and endorsed “Charge Child Endowment “’ were forwarded from the settlements to head office for payment, and superintendents were advised that endowment need not be expended during any given period. The director advised that use of child endowment by the Normanton protector for child outpatient hospital fees was a ‘legitimate expenditure’. [167]

162. From 31 March 1943 accumulated institutional child endowment of was transferred from the Suspense account for administration by the department of Health and Home Affairs. In 1945 the senior health officer revealed chronic malnutrition on the settlements where children’s diets were grossly deficient in milk, vegetables and fruits: on Palm Island infant mortality for children under two years was 36 per cent. At that time the department was holding almost £1800 of unexpended institutional child endowment [168]

163. From July 1947 the department took direct control of all child endowment for Palm Island children under 5 years. All baby welfare costs were subsequently charged to Vote, which was credited quarterly by 7/6 per child from institution child endowment. Authority was also given for settlement superintendents and matrons to operate on individual child endowment accounts ‘where the endowee is incapable of properly utilizing the funds’. Auditors found that the matron at Woorabinda failed to detail the goods provided for each endowee. By January 1949 when private child endowment holdings were almost £14,300 the auditor suggested some be investment in Inscribed Stock. At this time the government was holding almost £13,000 of institutional child endowment for 540 children. [169]

164. While protectors were notified to inform mothers of their child endowment holdings, between 1949 and 1950 child endowment in QAA increased from just over £16,000 to almost £20,600; many mothers had endowment balances of over £100 (perhaps indicating some reluctance to approach protectors). Audit recommendations that a portion be invested in Commonwealth Loan were opposed: ‘it is considered inadvisable for the State to be investing surplus Child Endowment funds,the property of individuals’ [my emphasis]. [170]

165. In May 1951 Cabinet approved the use of £3000 from institution endowment held for children on Palm Island for construction of a Child Welfare Centre; in September 1952 the deputy director requested £2000 be made available from the ‘ample funds’ held in Cherbourg institutional child endowment for a similar centre at Cherbourg settlement. In a 1953 conference between the minister, top department officials, and settlement superintendents, it was revealed that department holdings of institution child endowment for Palm Island children stood at £20,000 and concern was expressed if the commonwealth government ‘finds out we are holding that money’. While acknowledging that endowment was not to be ‘utilized to relieve Consolidated Revenue’, it was deemed acceptable to use £2500 each on domestic science and manual training centres and £5000 from Palm Island endowment towards purchase of a tractor. [171]

166. Child endowment and government grants were insufficient to cover the costs of the maintaining the Presbyterian missions and providing for inmates. The director admitted in 1952 the missions were in such desperate straits they were forced to use the endowment for ‘administrative purposes and for the feeding of adults and children.’ The director admitted this could only be resolved by greater government funding. [172]

167. In 1953 £8000 from Palm Island institutional child endowment was approved towards construction of the Aitkenvale hostel at Townsville (a further £3100 was used in 1957 to complete the project). [173]

168. In 1954 the department conceded it was ‘quite impracticable’ to apply endowment only for the endowed child as required, and regularised the use of institution child endowment for construction: [174]

In order to avoid the accumulation of child endowment funds, which under the scheme is not allowable and also in order to give children more lasting benefits the method of expenditure was increased in scope and now includes the provision and equipping of Baby Welfare Centres, Domestic Science and Manual Training Centres and other buildings which will be of use to present children and children yet to come, such as the hostel in Townsville…

169. In 1957 Cherbourg’s institutional child endowment was overdrawn after machinery costing over £1200 for the Cherbourg Trade Training Workshop was loaded against it (£1000 from AWF was used to offset the debt). In 1959 when the state cut baby welfare funds by one-third settlement superintendents were instructed to meet the £3000 reduction from their child endowment holdings. [175]

170. A list for mid 1967 shows total endowment holdings of $51,716, with the largest rural balances at Normanton $6517, Chillagoe $3529, Coen $2795 and Mossman $3447. Auditors included child endowment passbook accounts in their repeated warnings about the unsafe security of dealings on savings bank accounts. Institution child endowment held by the government totalled over $91,500.[176]

171. From 1968 the bulk payment of institution child endowment of $1.50 per week for children fully maintained by the government on the settlements was transmitted directly into the AWF, bringing an outstanding balance of $12,945 and a payment of $67,409 for the year to June 1968 to be expended on cost of dormitory maintenance, boarding school fees, and sometimes children’s holidays. The unexpended child endowment held in the AWF was almost $70,000 in June 1969 and almost $86,000 in June 1970. At that time a medical survey revealed that malnutrition on the government’s missions and settlements was the key factor in the deaths of 50 per cent of children under three and 85 per cent of children under four. [177]

172. In 1970 the director stated that child endowment ‘is used to off-set’ the costs of providing food and clothing to children in settlement dormitories. From 15 September 1970 child endowment was paid directly into mothers’ bank accounts by the department of Social Services, bypassing the department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs. [178]


173. Before the first payment of Aged, Invalid and Widows’ pensions to Aboriginals commenced in February 1960, Queensland’s Aboriginal department was calculating ‘to what extent State Government Revenue will benefit’ from the pension payment. As early as 1956 rural protectors were instructed to exempt any people who might qualify (the commonwealth refused to pay pensions to those under state control) and register them for a pension, after which their finances would continue to be controlled ‘even though exempted and not under Departmental control’. By late 1959 the missions independently, and successfully, lobbied to receive the bulk pension payments direct.[179]

174. The department anticipated that ‘the State would directly benefit ‘ by over £300,320 annually from direct payments to pensioners on settlements. Unlike child endowment payments which ‘could not be diverted to revenue’, the Invalid, Age and Widows pensions could be ‘so dealt with’ for settlement pensioners by imposing a clothing and incidentals’ levy similar to procedures applied to white people in aged care homes. An additional ‘reduction in cost to State’ was the cancellation of the £2 weekly support for indigent rural Aboriginals. While imposing a direct levy on mission pensions was deemed ‘hardly likely’ given the missions’ continuous appeal for more funds, the government anticipated some benefit ‘in that subsidies would not be increased’. These savings to the State directly contradicted assurances by the minister of Health and Home Affairs that the state would not reduce it’s ‘existing programme of welfare and other services’. [180]

175. By October 1960 pensioners at Cherbourg had written to both the premier and the prime minister demanding their pensions in full. The director told superintendents that ‘somewhere about £30,000’ from settlement pensions ‘goes direct to Revenue’. [181]

176. An audit of the parent Department of Education revealed there was no legal authority for the ‘compulsory contributions’ deducted from pensions by the director of Native Affairs, given the Aboriginal Acts provided only for compulsory contributions from employed Aboriginals, paid into a welfare fund and expended only for the general benefit of Aboriginals. Nevertheless, the 1963/64 audit of the Department of Education showed ‘maintenance charges’ paid to consolidated revenue fund of £38,773 in 1962/63 and £42,323 for 1963/64. [182]

177. From April 1965 pensioners on government settlements were ‘contributing’ two-thirds of their pensions towards costs of their maintenance, a quota which ‘would be credited to Consolidated Revenue’, despite the auditors warnings. In the 1964/65 year ‘maintenance of Aboriginal pensioners’ brought $88,419 to Consolidated Revenue, and $99,587 for 1965/66.[183]


[1] Queensland Parliamentary Debates (QPD) 15.11.1897 p1545.

[3] Queensland State Archives (QSA) COL/442-4 Executive Council Decisions 1894-1919 ‘1895: Relief of Aborigines’ ; A Meston, Report on the Aboriginals of Queensland, Queensland Votes and Proceedings (QV&P), 1896 p 12.

[4] QPD 15.11.1897 p1542. Op cit

[5] QPD 15.11.1897 p1540. op cit

[7] QPD 15.11.1897 p 1627. Op cit

[8] QPD 15.11.97 pp 1151, 1543, 1629. Op cit

[10] Annual Report of the Northern Protector of Aboriginals for 1901 p 15.

[12] 2 Edw VII No 1. (See attachment)

[14] Annual Report of the Southern Protector of Aboriginals for 1901 p 2.

[16] Queensland Government Gazette No 71 26.3.04.

[17] Annual Report of Chief Protector of Aboriginals (CPA) for 1904 p 3.

[18] QSA HOM/J19 27.3.06, 26.2.06.

[19] QSA HOM/J17 14.9.05.

[22] QPP 1909 p66 Auditor-General’s Report; QPP 11-12 p 89Auditor-General’s Report; QPP 1916-17 p 89Auditor-General’s Report; QPP 1917 p 72Auditor-General’s Report; QPP 1918 p 90 Auditor-General’s Report.

[27] Queensland Government Gazette No 207, 6.6.19.

[29] QSA 1B/25 22.11.43, Attachment 9.

[30] QPP 1920 p 105 Auditor-General’s Report, QPP 1921 p 201Auditor-General’s Report, QPP 1922 pp 239, 240Auditor-General’s Report, QPP 1923 p 130Auditor-General’s Report, QPP 1929 p 139 Auditor-General’s Report.

[31] QSA A/58856 Report on the Office of the chief protector of Aboriginals , 1932, p 23.

[32] QSA A/58856 14.3.33.

[33] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-department of Native Affairs, 1941, p 59.

[35] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-department of Native Affairs, 1941.

[36] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office Sub-Department of Native Affairs 1941, pp 19, 32.

[37] QSA A/69452.

[39] Queensland Parliamentary Papers (QPP) 1907 Auditor-General’s Report p 35.

[42] The government’s Hull River settlement was destroyed in the 1918 cyclone, and inmates moved to the new settlement at Palm Island.

[43] QSA A/69452 5.3.23 Report on the Sub-Department of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals , pp 18, 17.

[44] QSA A/69452 20.11.23.

[45] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-department of Native Affairs, 1941, p 58.

[48] QSA A/60627 6.11.35; A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, 1941 p 59.

[49] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, 1941, p 59.

[50] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, 1941, p 66.

[51] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, 1941, pp 21, 22.

[52] Annual Report of the Northern Protector of Aboriginals for 1902 p 24.

[60] QSA A/4291 30.6.41 Report on the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-Department of Native Affairs , p 61; 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940, p 4; A/70627 6.11.35.

[63] QSA A/70627 6.11.35.

[64] QSA A/4291 30.6.41 Report on the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-Department of Native Affairs , p 42.

[67] Queensland Government Gazette No 90 23.4.45.

[68] QSA 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940, p 6.

[69] Queensland Government Gazette No 83 p 1173.

[70] Queensland Government Gazette , No 49 p 735.

[71] Queensland Government Gazette , No 14 p 186.

[73] QSA TR1320/1 Box 518:1781M 22.11.65 Appendix 20.7.65.

[74] QSA TR1320/1 Box 518:1781M 22.11.65 Report on Head Office, Sub-Department of Native Affairs, The Public Service Board, p10.

[75] Queensland Government Gazette 1966 No 98.

[76] An Act to Amend ‘The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders’ Affairs Act of 1965 ’, No 32 of 1967.

[79] QSA A/69634 20.10.43; Queensland Government Gazette No 90.

[80] QSA 1B/30 29.8.46; 1B/31 Audit Report for 1946 pp 8,15.

[81] QSA 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947 pp 9,10; A/69634 24.6.47.

[82] QSA 1A/303 11.2.48, 17.6.48, 25.6.48.

[83] QSA 1A/303 25.6.48.

[84] QSA 1A/432 Undated summary filed with letter 13.10.89. In 1989 the under secretary dispute Aboriginal claims that the Aitkenvale hostel had been part financed from the AWF (1A/432 13.10.89).

[85] QSA 1D/111 8.6.49.

[86] DAIA RK:124 14.8.52.

[87] QSA A/58879 5.10.53; 1A/380 3.8.54; 1A/188 2.2.54, QSA 1B/40 Audit Report for 1953 p 4, 1B/42 Audit Report for 1954 p 3.

[88] QSA 1D/185 11.11.55.

[89] QSA 1A/268 21.10.57.

[90] QSA 1D/174 21.4.58, 1D/174 30.4.58 Minister to General Secretary TLC; 7B/5 22.5.58.

[91] QSA 1C/88 11.10.60; 1A/524 26.7.60; 1A/471 18.9.59.

[92] QSA 1A/583 16.1.62; 1A/602 8.10.64.

[93] QSA 1D/185 11.9.62.

[94] QSA 1D/145 8.12.64; 6B/14 18.12.64.

[95] QSA 1A/655.

[96] QSA 1B/70 Audit Report for 1965-66 p 3. The department of Health and Home Affairs was abolished in November 1963.

[97] QSA 1B/76 Audit Report for 1966-67 p4; attached statements of AWF receipts and disbursements.

[98] QSA TR 1821:385 Audit Report for 1969/70 p 9, TR 1821:392 p 7.

[99] QSA TR 1821:392 Audit Report for 1970/71 p 9; 1A/438 27.11.69; AWF Branch Box 05263 Audit Report for 1986/87 p7. Annual Reports show that in 1957 the Weipa Aboriginal reserve was cut by over 54% when Comalco was granted mining rights for bauxite deposits, the government anticipating royalties ‘will relieve the expenditure of this State’ by £250,000,000 (QSA 1E/57 18.12.58 Conference between Minister and Church authorities).

[100] Between 1970 and 1985 a total of 172,836 shares were bought in Comalco with AWF funds for $218,271 (QSA 16A/67 28.5.85). All shares were sold in 1986 bringing the AWF $570,353 (AWF Branch Box 05263 Audit Report for 1986/87.).

[101] A retail outlet run by the department from 1960, selling paintings and artefacts produced on communities.

[102] See 1C/110 29.5.79 and subsequent.

[103] QSA 1C/190 24.9.79; 1C/110 12.6.79, 2.5.78; 1C/190 24.9.79; A/70003 12.8.82; 4A/87 16.9.81.

[104] QSA 1C/190 11.11.82.

[105] QSA 1A/185 7.11.83, 10.11.83.

[106] QSA 1C/110 27.2.86.

[107] QSA 1A/185 25.7.90; The Consultancy Bureau Final Report. Investigation of the Aborigines Welfare Fund and the Aboriginal Accounts , March 1991 (See attachment); QPD 2.8.90.

[108] QSA 1A/185 10.9.90. In November 2008, ignoring a survey of Aboriginal Queenslanders who wanted the funds distributed among surviving Aboriginal elders, the unclaimed balance of $15 million from the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations Scheme was merged with the AWF balance of $10.8 million to form the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation to fund scholarships for Aboriginal students.

[109] QSA 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940, pp 5, 6. Known as Pacific Industries Limited between 1904-34, it was renamed after the Queensland government took control.

[110] QSA 1B/23 Audit Report for 1941, pp 8,12.

[111] QSA 1B/29 Audit Report for 1943, p7.

[112] QSA 1B/30 Audit Report for 1945, p4.

[113] QSA 1B/35 Audit Report for 1947 p 6; 1B/34 Audit Report for 1949 p 9; 1B/36 Audit Report for 1950 p 12; 1B/36 16.3.51.

[114] QSA 1B/42 Audit Report for 1954 p 27.

[115] QSA 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940, p 17.

[116] QSA 1B/30 Audit Report for 1945, p11; 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947 p 8.

[117] QSA 1B/30 Audit Report for 1945, p 13; 1B/30 29.7.46.

[118] QSA 1D/135 24.2.55; 6K/27 16.5.56.

[119] QSA 1B/51 Audit Report for 1959 p 5.

[120] QSA 1B/70 Audit Report for 1965-66 p 3.

[121] QSA A/4291 30.6.41 Report on the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-Department of Native Affairs , p 53; A/69634 10.7.41.

[122] QSA 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940, pp 11-14.

[123] QSA 1B/23 Audit Report for 1941, p 16; 1B/23 19.2.43.

[124] QSA 1B/23 Audit Report for 1941. P 17.

[125] QSA 1B/23 Audit Report for 1941, p3.

[126] QSA 1B/25 Audit Report for 1942, pp1, 14, 9, 12.

[127] QSA 1B/29 Audit Report for 1943, pp 7, 15-17 1B/30 Audit Report for 1944-45, p 7.

[128] QSA 1B/29 Audit Report for 1944-45 pp 2, 11.

[129] QSA 1B/29 Audit Report for 1944-45 p 9; Audit Report for 1946 p 11.

[130] QSA 1B/31 Audit Report for 1946 p10; 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947:10; 1B/33 Audit Report for 1948 p 6; 1B/36 Audit Report for 1950 p 7.

[131] QSA 1B/30 Audit Report for 1944-45 pp 2, 10, 15.

[132] QSA 1B/31 Audit Report for 1946 pp 16, 17; 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947 pp 13, 18.

[133] QSA 7C/16 22.7.47; 1D/111 8.6.49.

[134] QSA 1B/34 Audit Report for 1949 p 3; 1B/33 20.7.49.

[135] QSA 1B/36 Audit Report for 1950 p 6; 1B/39 Audit Report for 1952 p 3

[136] QSA 7C/3 9.12.49, 23.12.52, 8.4.54, 26.1.55, 31.10.56.

[137] QSA 1B/42 Audit Report for 1954 p 9; 1B/43 Audit Report for 1955 p 3; 1B/42 Audit Report for 1954 p 9.

[138] Queensland Government Gazette , No 14 p 186; QSA 1B/45 Audit Report for 1956 p 3; 1B/50 Audit Report for 1958 p 3.

[139] QSA 1B/47 18.6.58.

[140] QSA 1A/188 20.1.61.

[141] QSA 1B/55 Audit Report for 1961-62 p 1; 1B/59 Audit Report for 1962-63 p1; 1B/63 Audit Report for 1963-64 p1.

[142] QSA 3D/35 11.1.63, 18.1.63, 9.7.63.

[143] QSA 1B/63 Audit Report for 1963-64 p 5; 1B/69 Audit Report for 1964-65 pp 3, 4.

[144] QSA 1B/69 Audit Report for 1964-65 pp 5, 8.

[145] QSA 1B/70 Audit Report for 1965-66 p 5.

[146] QSA TR1320/1 Box 518:1781M 22.11.65, p2.

[147] QSA TR1320/1 Box 518:1781M 22.11.65 pp 2-5.

[148] QSA TR1320/1 Box 530:1819 M 19.4.67.

[149] QSA TR821:362 Audit Report for 1966/67 pp 7, 9, appendix 15; TR821:369 Audit Report for 1967/68 p 8; QSA 1D/145 4.2.69.

[150] QSA 1A/345 April 1970; TR1821:385 7.4.71.

[151] QSA TR1821:392 Audit Report for 1970/71 p 3.

[152] QSA TR1821:392 Audit Report for 1970/71 p 5.

[153] Queensland Government Gazette No 59 2.12.72.

[155] QSA TR1821:435 Audit Report for 1976/77; TR1821:462 Audit Report for 1979/80, TR2005:102 Audit Report for 1984/85.

[156] QSA A/4291 Report of the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-department of Native Affairs, 1941, p 43; A/69634 5.9.41.

[157] QSA 1B/12 Audit Report for 1940 pp 7, 10; 30.6.41 Report on the Inspection of the Director’s Office, Sub-Department of Native Affairs , p 53.

[158] QSA 1B/29 Audit Report for 1944 p10; 3D/8 13.7.45 Senior Health Officer, Department of Health.

[159] QSA 1C/88 8.8.47; 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947 p 7; 1B/36 Audit Report for 1950 p 5; 1B/37 Audit Report for 1951 pp 7,9.

[160] QSA TR1320/1 Box 518:1781M 22.11.65, p 3.

[161] QSA 3A/276 27.1.66. In 1968 the director ordered the workforce at Palm Island to be cut from 340 to 200 to fit within the budget provided, yet already there were 250 people registered for employment and around 10 per cent of the population were without work or money. (ibid, 28.8.68); QSA 15A/101 27.2.68.

[162] QSA 1B/23 Audit Report for 1941, p4.

[163] QSA 1B/25 Audit Report for 1942 p 1.

[164] QSA 1B/25 Audit Report for 1942 p 4.

[165] QSA 1D/106 19.11.42 General Circular to Superintendents and Protectors.

[166] Presbyterian Church General Assembly Minutes for 1941, Minute 103; Presbyterian Archives 29.6.42, 27.10.42.

[167] QSA 1B/25 19.2.43; 1B/29 Audit Report for 1943 p 7.

[168] QSA 3D/16 13.7.45.

[169] QSA 1A/619; 1B/32 Audit Report for 1947 p 5; 1B/33 Audit Report for 1948 pp 3,4; 1A/6 27.5.49.

[170] QSA 1B/36 Audit Report for 1950 p9; QSA 1A/188 1.8.50.

[171] QSA A/58865 1.9.52; A/58879 5.10.53.

[172] QSA 1E/45 30.1.51, 21.11.52.

[173] QSA 1A/432 Undated summary filed with letter 13.10.89

[174] QSA 1A/6 22.11.55.

[175] QSA 1A/6 25.9.57; SRS 505-1 Box 91 23.9.59.

[176] QSA TR1821:362 Audit Report for 1966/67 A 16; 1A/746 29.8.67.

[177] QSA TR1821:369 Audit Report for 1967/68 p 6; TR1821:376Audit Report for 1967869 p A12; TR1821:385 Audit Report for 1969/70 p A41; Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Annual Report for 1970.

[178] QSA 1A/6 9.3.70, 14.8.70.

[179] QSA 1A/467 17.3.59; 1D/72 8.11.56 Circular to all Protectors of Aboriginals; 1A/467 14.12.59.

[180] QSA A/467 6 & 7.4.59, 17.3.59, 11.6.59.

[181] QSA 1C/88 12.10.60. Superintendents’ Conference.

[182] QSA A/69729 4.3.65 quoting extract from Audit Report for 1963/64 p 5; A/69729 13.4.64.

[183] QSA A/69729 13.4.65; TR1821:353 Audit Report for 1965/66 Attachment.

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