Bureaucrat who oppressed Aborigines dies


The one-time director of Aboriginal and Islander affairs ran an `evil regime'

THE people of Mapoon, far north Queensland, will shed no tears for Pat Killoran after his death nine weeks ago, publicly unmarked by the state he served for nearly 40 years as one of the country's most notorious indigenous administrators.
Until now, there has been no recognition of Killoran's passing: no death or funeral notice, no valediction in the state parliament.
His son, Pat Jr, told The Australian the family did not want publicity and that his 88-year-old father had ``wanted to go quietly''.
The day for which Killoran will be searingly remembered -- embodying what independent federal MP and former Queensland Aboriginal affairs minister Bob Katter calls an ``evil regime'' -- was November 15, 1963. It was the day Killoran brought grief and destruction on the tiny Aboriginal community of Mapoon, on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.
He stood on the deck of a government ship anchored off the mouth of the Batavia River to ensure his orders were carried out when police raided the church-run Mapoon Mission.
Families were turned out of their homes at gunpoint and then watched, horrified, as their humble abodes burned to the ground.
The families were then forced on to waiting boats and transported 200km to form the community of New Mapoon, atop the peninsula.
Killoran ordered the raid -- actually an exercise in mass kidnap and arson -- as a politically expedient response to his political masters' desire to have the land vacated. This was so the state government could open the door to mining giant Comalco to establish a bauxite mine on Cape York.
Archival documents show that Killoran commandeered a sum of pound stg. 3000 from Aboriginal wages and savings to pay for the ``relocation'' of the Mapoon people.
Killoran also staunchly opposed the payment of award wages to Aboriginal workers on communities, and when courts finally ordered that it had to be done, he carried out his threat to sack almost half the indigenous people employed on communities -- so his budget would not be affected.
This has led to a situation where the Queensland government now owes hundreds of millions of dollars to those workers who were underpaid or not paid at all.
Offers of token compensation have been made over the past decade -- so far unsuccessfully -- to put the issue to bed. Killoran always considered himself omnipotent in Cape York and the Torres Strait.
He put that to the test in 1983 when he ran as a candidate for the National Party in the state-based seat of Cook, which takes in Cape York and the Torres Strait. He was humiliated, attracting just 17 per cent of the primary vote. But this tyrannical administrator met his match in 1983 when Katter, then a young state National Party MP, was appointed Queensland minister for Aboriginal affairs.
Katter, now a federal independent MP, says Killoran ``headed an evil regime''.
``I knew when I was appointed that only one of us would walk away from the table,'' Katter told The Australian, after learning that Killoran had died on August 26 in Brisbane's Greenslopes Hospital.
``At a time like this, we should remember Pat Killoran for the excellent work that was done in the early years when he worked to ensure education was provided for Aboriginal people.
``And there is no doubt that in his time he delivered services superior to (those enjoyed by) any other native or indigenous peoples in the world.
``But it must be put on record that the latter half of his administration went far beyond paternalism and had to be opposed. Many people had careers destroyed and they immersed themselves in the good fight to destroy that regime, which had become evil.''
Katter repeatedly clashed with Killoran -- and, through him, then premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen -- in his efforts to overturn injustices, including land rights, in the aftermath of the Stolen Generations and the period of ``stolen wages''. This was when Aboriginal people on remote communities were forced to work for grossly under-award wages -- and those payments were often stolen or ``went missing''.
Killoran's notorious time at the helm of indigenous affairs in Queensland is documented in the acclaimed work of researcher and author Ros Kidd in her 1997 publication The Way We Civilise.
In the last media interview he gave, Killoran in 1995 asserted that no indigenous children were taken forcibly from their parents or forced to live in separate dormitories.
Killoran said: ``(There) were no compulsory removals of any child or any parents within my knowledge. I am going back to the end of the 1930s and 40s. ``There were some kids who went to Cherbourg (an Aboriginal community). They were put into dormitories, but not compulsorily put there.
``The parents would ask if they could stay there. If there was a court order where an Aboriginal mother was put into jail or somewhere, this was a haven for them.
``But, certainly, when I became associated full-time with the department -- which would be going back to 1947-48 -- there was definitely no compulsory removal of a child, or its parents being locked up.''
He said the legislation that governed the lives of indigenous people was the Sale of Opium Act of 1897 and the Aborigines Act of 1939. ``It was a concept to preserve and protect the strain of the race of Aborigines,'' he asserted.
``As for half-caste kids being taken away -- it never happened in Queensland, not to my knowledge. I am talking of times since the Second World War. There were none whatsoever.''