Department of Aboriginal Affairs

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This article is about the Australian Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs, that existed between 1972 and 1990. For the New South Wales Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs, see New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs. For other uses, see Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Department overview
Formed 19 December 1972[1]
Preceding Department Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts
Dissolved 5 March 1990[1]
Superseding agency Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Headquarters Canberra
Ministers responsible Gordon Bryant, Minister (1972‑73)
Jim Cavanagh, Minister (1973‑75)
Les Johnson, Minister (1975)
Tom Drake-Brockman, Minister (1975)
Ian Viner, Minister (1975‑78)
Fred Chaney, Minister (1978‑80)
Peter Baume, Minister (1980‑82)
Ian Wilson, Minister (1982‑83)
Clyde Holding, Minister (1983‑87)
Gerry Hand, Minister (1987‑90)
Department executives Lenox Hewitt, Secretary (1972‑73)
Barrie Dexter, Secretary (1973‑77)
David Hay, Secretary (1977‑79)
Tony Ayers, Secretary (1979‑81)
John Taylor, Secretary (1981‑84)
Charles Perkins, Secretary (1984‑88)
Bill Gray, Secretary (1988‑90)

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was an Australian government department that existed between December 1972 and March 1990.


The Department was one of several new Departments established by the Whitlam Government, a wide restructuring that revealed some of the new government's program.[2]


Information about the department's functions and/or government funding allocation could be found in the Administrative Arrangements Orders, the annual Portfolio Budget Statements and in the Department's annual reports.

According to the Administrative Arrangements Order issued 19 December 1972, at its creation, the Department was responsible for:[3]

  • Matters related to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
  • The development and administration of national policies for the advancement and welfare of the Aboriginal people, including the administration of welfare activities in the Territories.
  • Special laws for the Aboriginal people.


The Department was an Australian Public Service department, staffed by officials who were responsible to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.[1]


  1. ^ a b c CA 1476: Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 15 December 2013 
  2. ^ National Archives of Australia, Gough Whitlam: In Office, National Archives of Australia, archived from the original on 19 April 2013 
  3. ^ Administrative Arrangements Order of 19 December 1972, National Archives of Australia, 19 December 1972, archived from the original on 26 April 2013 

Further reading[edit]