National Aboriginal Conference Position Paper on Economics
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      N A T I O N A L   A B O R I G I N A L   C O N F E R E N C E

                           POSITION PAPER ON 



In the traditional societies of Aborigines there was no such thing as 
a monetary system nor was there any bargaining between the people 
within the tribe or with other tribes. When Aboriginal tribes met for 
specific purposes, and that is, the initiation of the young men and/or 
tribal ceremonies. There were, however, communicational links between 
the many different tribes and there were at these meetings exchange of 
goods. The exchange of these goods was not designed for economic 
purposes they merely represented goodwill between the tribes. 

The best illustration that I have ever heard in relation to how we 
survived was by a man by the name of Mr. Bob Holroyd of Edward River, 
Arukun, North Queensland, when he was delivering a speech to an anti-
uranium rally in Sydney in 1977, and he said, "Before the white man 
came we had no need of industry nor did we have a need for a monetary 
system, and laws of our people was such that if we wanted food all we 
had to do was go into the bush and get it and for those who lived on 
the coast, merely had to go to the sea where food was always 
plentiful, these places were our stores we had no need for money." 

The present claim for land rights that our people make is not based 
upon the white man's belief in land as an economic base, land is not 
an investment in the economic sense. Aboriginal people are not of this 
view, the land to Aboriginal people is the perpetuation of our 
spiritual ancestors. It also serves as a medium from which we are able 
to communicate with our dreamtime, further it also serves for the 
continual evolution of the Aboriginal people and their spirit. 

If one is to describe how the land is used by Aborigines for wealth 
then it can only be said, that it is the spiritual wealth that 
concerns the Aboriginal people. All that was needed to sustain the 
people that exists an this continent prior to colonial development was 

In short, the basic distinction between Aborigines and whites, can be 
best illustrated by saying that the white man's wealth and security is 
materially orientated, as opposed to aborigines whose wealth is, his 
spiritual wealth and his security is the uninterrupted continuation of 
that spirit. 

In order for the Aborigines to develop any form of economic base that 
may be remotely similar to the white Australians, we need land, land 
that is ours from time immemorial and the continual denial of land 
rights, denies the Aborigines of a method for self-determination and 
economic development. 

For our people to set any criteria for self-determination, there must 
be a moratorium on mining in this country, because whilst mining and 
mineral exploration continues the Governments both State and Federal 
will refuse to negotiate with Aborigines. 

It is important to point out that in order to have a moratorium the 
Federal Government must be made to realise that its continued failure 
to take action under the constitution denies us a method. 


1. That there be a moratorium on mining and mineral exploration within 
   Australia and within Australian waters for a period of three years. 

2. That the Federal Government recognize unconditional land rights. 

3. That the Federal Government appropriate the necessary finance for 
   Aboriginal development in capital enterprise. 

4. That the Federal Government legislate where necessary to give 
   Aborigines in each state of Australia the right to develop their 
   communities without hinderance from such states. 

5. That the finance appropriated for expenditure in Aboriginal Affairs 
   be classified as compensation for lands that have been lost as well 
   as the destruction of traditional Aboriginal societies. 

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