They’re gonna die out anyway

There’s been a lot of talk about racism in this country and how it is being applied in the political and social landscape.  This is not a recent phenomena.  Rather, an ongoing one that has weaved throughout our society for over 200 years.  To understand our racial attitudes I thought I’d take a look at our racist heritage.  As an historian, I’m not interested in what our forefathers did on such-and-such a day, but what was in their minds that drove them to do it.  In particular, why were they intent on ridding the country of the first Australians.  My research concludes that in the minds of our colonial forefathers the demise of the Aborigines was ordained by a higher order, and with due thanks to Mother Nature the pair colluded to wipe them off the face of the earth.  The colonists were quite happy to hurry things along, content with the notion that “they’re gonna die out anyway”.

This is not a short read, but I hope for those who have the time and patience to read through it will gain something.

Here goes.

Australia was determined to maintain what it believed was its racial homogeneity.  If the indigenous peoples continued their perceived decline towards extinction (and other migrant races were excluded or expelled), a ‘pure race’ could logically result.

Even before colonisation, the construct of the Aborigine saw them positioned in the landscape as a savage: a subsequent depiction that evolved in the minds of European imagination.  The English, especially, considered themselves well credentialed.  As the first Englishman to encounter Aborigines, William Dampier instilled in other Englishmen’s minds the preconceptions about these people when he wrote that they were “the miserablest people in the world.”  And the image of the Aborigine was to leave no impression of excitement or significance on James Cook, a later visitor, merely accepting the Aborigines as Dampier had earlier reported.  Cook had also brought with him images of indigenous peoples as noble savages, largely the antithesis of Europeans.  Cook was probably influenced by the writings of Rousseau, whose saw native peoples as unadulterated by the evils of civilisation.  These idealistic views were modified after 1788.  However, these early explorers saw no, and reported no positive attributes among the Aboriginal people and believed in their own superiority. The land was declared terra nullius . . . and the various Aboriginal nations declared uncivilised.

Earlier constructs of Aboriginal people were no less flattering.  Constructed by Europeans in their absence, Australia’s Aborigines were placed low in the order of humanity based on their perceived lack of intellect and active powers.  These conceived attitudes were carried throughout colonial Australia and helped secure the fate of the Aborigines.

The preconceptions had thus germinated by 26th January 1788 when the history of European-Aboriginal interactions began as the British flag was raised at Port Jackson.  Accordingly, Governor Phillip and others brought their own preconceptions about Aborigines and also their intentions of their future.  Based on these preconceptions they would be considered a part of Australia’s past.

Contemporary writers offer a picture suggesting that in January 1788 amicable relations between the Europeans and the Aborigines were established with comparative ease.  They wrote liberally of pleasant interactions, confidently suggesting that the Aborigines would soon discover that the colonists were not their enemies, and noted that the Aborigines were treating the whites as their equals.  However, as Aboriginal people had nothing the invader wanted but their land, attempts to maintain diplomatic relations with them were abandoned.

Nevertheless, Aborigines were to be treated as equals of British subjects – without actually being British subjects – in order to allow the Governor some semblance of control over actual British subjects.

Regarding the legal status of Aborigines in the early days of colonial settlement’ official correspondence frequently drew a distinction between British subjects and the Aborigines, treating the two groups differently.  However, as interaction between the groups increased, Aboriginal people came to be treated as if they were British subjects, albeit for some purposes.

At the outset of white settlement the British government claimed ownership of all land for the crown.  London espoused the ethnocentric viewpoint that Aboriginal peoples who did not cultivate the land and who showed no signs of permanent homes were not accorded any legal rights to the lands.  Instead, the Aboriginals were to be treated as coming under British dominion, subject theoretically to the same laws which applied to the European settlers.  Just as the colonists were allowed to manage their own affairs, so the Aborigines were left to themselves to do as they like so long as they do not interfere with the colonists.  If an effort was made by the government to benefit them by trying to induce them to adopt a civilised life, it is left entirely at their option whether they permitted themselves to come under the provisions made for their benefit or not.

However, as the colonies later became self-governing in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the influence of London declined, Aboriginal people were increasingly displaced, legally and physically, as a distinct people.  This change was to be dramatic in the latter half of the nineteenth century when the distinctive differences could be explained, classified, and sanctioned.

The year 1859 saw the publication of a rather important book: Charles Darwin’s The Origins of Species.  In his book Darwin suggested that species were not permanently fixed, that they were all undergoing change by natural selection.  If a species did not adapt successfully, it was liable to become extinct.  Only the favoured survived and prospered in the struggle for life.

Darwin’s theories also suited the social order.  Even before The Origin of Species, the idea of ‘the survival of the fittest’, a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer, was being used to justify ruthless competition between individuals, classes, nations and races.  Although The Origins of Species did not relate natural selection to humanity, it seemed to give a scientific – and therefore moral – sanction to repressive social relationships.  For the remainder of the century, Social Darwinism, as this misapplication of Darwin’s ideas came to be called, was used to justify the oppression and exclusion of the Aborigines.  Darwin’s ideas seemed to justify what happened when the British expanded their empire, populated new lands and dispossessed indigenous peoples.  Before Darwin had published The Origin of Species, the extinction of the Aborigines was being explained away as ‘the design of Providence’.  Darwin’s theories gave such sentiments an aura of scientific legitimacy.

Following the publication of Darwin’s book the view of evolution was quickly applied to the study of racial groups.  Herbert Spencer considered the development of society and human intellect in evolutionary terms and argued that the dominant races overrun the inferior races.  Spencer’s premise that a general law of evolution could be formulated led him to apply the biologic scheme of evolution to human society.  The doctrine of social structure and change, if the generalisations of his system were pertinent, must be the same as those of the universe at large.  In applying evolution to human society, Spencer, and after him the Social Darwinists, was adding integrity to its origins.  The survival of the fittest was a biological generalisation of the cruel colonial processes at work in late nineteenth century society.  Spencer himself wrote that the whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better.  Nature is as insistent upon fitness of mental character as she is upon physical character.

Spencer, significantly, was more concerned with mental than physical evolution.  This doctrine confirmed his evolutionary optimism.  For if mental as well as physical characteristics could be inherited, the intellectual powers of the race would become cumulatively greater, and over several generations the ideal person would ultimately be developed.

Spencer’s theory of social selection was written out of his concern with population problems.  In two articles that appeared in 1852, seven years before Darwin’s book was published, Spencer had set forth the view that the pressure of survival upon population must have a beneficent effect upon the human race.  This pressure had been the immediate basis of progress from the earliest human times.  By placing a premium upon skill, intelligence, self-control, and the power to adapt through technical innovation, it had stimulated human advancement and selected the best of each generation for survival.

Darwin precipitated the development of this new perspective on ‘race’.  If the human race had evolved, it was perhaps natural to suppose that the human races might represent evolutionary stages.  Social Darwinism was subsequently to become one of the leading strains in conservative thought and was used to defend racial conflict.  Although Darwinism was not the primary source of the belligerent ideology and dogmatic racism of the late nineteenth century, it did become a new instrument in the hands of the colonial theorists of race and struggle.

Spencer’s theory had considerable influence in European social evolutionary thinking.  Within a few years of the publications of Spencer’s work he was known to a considerable body of American readers and the following article from The Atlantic Monthly 1864 draws parallels to the ideologies of the colonial Australian and articulates the influence of his work:

Mr. Herbert Spencer is already a power in the world . . . He has already influenced the silent life of a few thinking men whose belief marks the point to which the civilisation of the age must struggle to rise. . . . Mr. Spencer has already established principals which, however compelled for a time to compromise with prejudices and vested interests, will become the recognised basis of an improved society.

The doctrine of Social Darwinism had thus produced a set of ideas that were to be very engaging to the colonial society.  Previously Europeans had been convinced of the inferiority of the Aborigines, but that did not justify their extinction, whereas Social Darwinism did.  Colonial Australia proved an attractive spawning ground for Social Darwinist ideas since it was an area of new Anglo-Saxon settlement where racial conflict needed to be explained away.  Although Darwin only gained real acceptance in Australian scientific circles towards the end of the century, at a more popular level his ideas enjoyed a very wide currency.  In the first place, they provided a comforting, seemingly scientific explanation for the actual destruction of Aboriginal society.  Previously Europeans had been convinced of the inferiority of the Aborigines, but that did not justify their extinction.  Social Darwinism did.

In a period that witnessed Aborigines being hunted like animals, dying in their thousands through imported diseases, and reportedly murdered at the hands of punitive colonials, the emergence of a law which not only justified the extermination of Aborigines but argued that it was beneficial to the human race, was gratefully accepted and enthusiastically endorsed by many sectors of Australian society.

Popular literature of the nineteenth century depicted an image of the Australian Aborigine that reinforced these colonial ideals.  We are to assume that the contemporary reader of the following extract from David Blair’s History of Australasia, when published in 1879, foreshadowed, perhaps demanded, the inevitable extinction:

As a race the aborigine is a savage in the strongest sense of that term.  Alike cruel and treacherous, he loses no occasion of wreaking his vengeance on an enemy, and indulges in the most bloodthirsty propensities.  The practice of cannibalism is general among the natives: for a long time this was doubted, but it has been proved, beyond the reach of question, and the practice often found accompanied by the most revolting ferocity – as the sacrifice of an infant by its own mother for the mere pleasure of eating its flesh.

It is arguable that evolution and survival of the fittest, per se, supported the colonial racist ideology of white dominance and the biological inferiority of the dominated (or displaced).  The laws of evolution, it was confidently assumed, were not only pushing the Aboriginal race to the brink of extinction, but there was nothing that should, or could be done about it. Such demands, it was debatable, influenced by publications such as Blair’s as well as the dominant ideology, were being called for throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century.  In colonial discussions about the Aborigines references to racial struggle and the survival of the fittest became commonplace from the 1860s onwards.

I suggest that a strong correlation can be seen between racist thoughts and the racialist practices that developed.  A definite inner-relationship can be drawn between the structure of a contact situation and the ideas and the theories which evolve from, and in turn, serve to strengthen that structure.  The violence and rapid population decline, especially focussing on their apparent trend towards extinction in Tasmania, confirmed the emergent ideology of Social Darwinism, proving the inevitable consequences of colonisations . . . Australians were told not to trouble themselves about the disappearance of the Aborigines.

This doctrine conveniently helped justify colonialism and the favourable tenet that Aborigines would eventually disappear under the impact of civilisation and hence supported the ideal of white dominance and the biological inferiority of the dominated.  To support this convenient doctrine it became a task to provide evidence as to whether the Aborigine was inferior to the European.  This was already known.  It was instead to become a task of confirmation.  The Australian Aborigine thus became the victim of an intellectual hiatus.  During the latter half of the century, it was increasingly to the writing of natural science that Europeans subsequently turned to find the most credible and compelling support for their racist suppositions.

The data that lent themselves most readily were clearly those of biology and natural history.  Extended to human affairs, the pervasive spirit of simplicity sought to reproduce for social relations the sort of simple order thought to be inherent in nature.  Hence there was an application of categories of racial classification to human groups on the basis of natural characteristics.  This racial ordering also implied a behavioural expectation and that perhaps the major assumption underlying classification was that identification of races in terms of their differentia is adequate to establish the laws of behaviour for their members.

Early applications of this theory were none-too-soon observed in the behaviour of the Aborigines.  Behaviour, it was argued, that was driven by primitive instinct and without the habits of forethought or providence.   For example, their instinctive mating habits and the eating of raw meats – to an ethnocentric observer – clearly represented diminished intellectual development.  Even the absence of nets or fish-hooks in some coastal Tasmanian societies was taken as an indication that the local Aborigines had not yet evolved to the point were they needed one of the most basic of human foods.  Hence terms such as ‘the childhood of humanity’ were liberally and needlessly applied and the evolutionary theory enforced.

At this time, and certainly based on observation, few Europeans in colonial Australia doubted that other races were inferior, but many felt the need to establish some scientific basis for their belief.  The evolutionary notions of Aboriginal inferiority were the founded on scientific racism.  The most conclusive evidence to support the Aborigines’ low level of intellectual development was thus obtained through scientific proof.  Science found a way to satisfy the ideology that primitive intellect was confirmed through recognisable primitive characteristics.  One such conclusion was derived through the study of craniology: the examination and measurement of crania.

The crania of the Aborigines supplied fertile ground for evidence of their primitiveness: long heads with a sharp, sloping brow; prominent ridges and heavy bone structure; and significantly, a smaller, lighter (and presumably less complex) brain than that of a European.  These structural features were considered ape-like, to which other physical similarities were unduly drawn.  Such conclusions served to support the view that the Australian Aborigines were a relic of the oldest type of humankind, or indeed, even living fossils.

The science of phrenology was credited with further advancing consistencies of primitiveness in that the astute European could now – through even more elaborate scientific reasoning – develop a model for character analysis also drawn from cranial properties.  Popular in the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century, phrenology was a pseudo-science based on the twin assumptions that specific areas of the brain were responsible for particular moral and intellectual characteristics and that the shape of the skull reflected the inner structure of the brain.

Phrenologists professed to discover an individual’s mental faculties from identifiable peculiarities of skull formation.  With racist suppositions the colonial scientists elaborated Aboriginal inferiority based on phrenological evidence.  Their prominent bumps or ridges on the skull – as an example – were a signature of depravity or other abstract qualities; and the smallness of their brain (or internal capacity of the skull – as compared with an average European) was the cause of miserable manifestations of mind; and even the mere thickness of the skull alone was a sure indicator of low mental ability, moral character, benevolence and conscientiousness.  The conclusion was drawn, that based on the evidence of phrenological interpretation, the Aborigines possessed only a few of the intellectual faculties so evident in white Australians.

The colonisers therefore had no compunction in applying erroneous scientific theories as justification for extermination.  Science had confirmed the inevitable: that the Aborigines as primitives faced extinction and every assessment of their situation, every evaluation of policy, took place in the shadow of that certainty.

The relationship between the colonisers and the Aborigines was fundamentally based on the social evolutionary theory.  This theory justified European colonialism, summarising that destruction of the weak was the only way to assure success for the strong.  Subsequently, government policy making in Australia embraced these racial beliefs.  These government policies took on a short-term palliative nature to ‘protect’ Aborigines by isolating them on state regulated reserves away from European contact and abuse in wait of their demise and by removing most of the rights they had enjoyed as citizens.  The policies of Protection, Segregation (and Assimilation which was sanctioned in the twentieth century) reflected this ideology.

Protection was influenced by the theory that Aborigines were certain to die out as a result of the European contact.  Subsequently, all that could be done for them was to protect them until this inevitable demise.  However nature had not yet selected Aborigines for extinction – only the colonisers had – and the policy of protection underwent a subtle change to Segregation.  Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: Aborigines were a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

Whilst the Aboriginal race had survived, government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the twentieth century they had still failed to progress since European contact.  Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white purity.  Such practices would not only expedite the demise of the Aborigines, but would hasten the emergence of the Australian national.

The Australian type was believed to be a new product of the multiplying British stock, the race which, in the heyday of British imperialism and legitimated by the now immensely influential ideology of Social Darwinism, saw itself as superior to all other races and therefore possessing the duty and destiny to populate and civilise the rest of the world.

Interest subsequently increased in using evolution theory for justification of a strong state in Australia.  It is this racialist concern with a distinctively Australian type that under-girded the White Australia Policy, which was sanctioned by the adoption of the Immigration Restriction Bill in 1901.  The Imperialist and racist ideology drew on generations of conquest, slavery and exploitation, and on a whole language of black inferiority and white superiority, bolstered in the nineteenth century by the new sciences.  This ideology proved useful and flexible in rationalising the bloody violence, dispossession and incarceration of Aboriginal people, necessary to clear the way for the white nation.

The Darwinist explanations of evolution asserted that given equal competition, the fittest societies would survive and the inferior would die out, and links the attempted and hastened destruction of Aboriginal societies based on this theory.  The British, being industrious and capital driven, accepted themselves as superior to the improvident Aborigines and accepted that as racially doomed and undesirable were destined to die out, and provided encouragement to hurry on the inevitable result of colonial contact.  Such acts, it could be argued argued, sidestepped issues of morality by assertions that such conflict was beyond the reach of normal moral or social concern, being driven by irresistible forces of species survival.  Destruction of the weak was the only way to assure success for the strong.

And from that Australia was born.

46 comments on “They’re gonna die out anyway

  1. Migs, I’ll be reading this with a great deal of interest and more fully when I can give it my fullest concentration but for the moment I’m intrigued by “As an historian, I’m not interested in what our forefathers did on such-and-such a day, but what was in their minds that drove them to do it.” This is exactly my interest as a family historian, motivations and the impacts of society and which were the influencing factors.

  2. It’s ironic, isn’t it? That idea of the inherent superiority of the white race which only had to wait for Aboriginal people to die out certainly hasn’t proved true so far.

    The other idea that they could be ‘bred out of existence’ hasn’t worked either. True there are plenty of people of mixed race with a range of coloured skins, but while there may have been inter-breeding there has been comparatively little inter-marriage. Hence the lack of social acceptance until recently of people of colour generally which has led to a very distinct group of people set apart from whites by their racism. Had white society been more accepting of mixed race marriages and their offspring I imagine Aboriginality in and around country towns in the south would indeed have almost died out by now.

    Who knows? Not quite two hundred years of white settlement here in WA isn’t very long. Our presence and impact is so far very superficial. I used to live in a farmhouse some hundred miles east of Perth about 25 years ago. The farmer ploughing there with his tractor often turned up fire stones with their distinctive dip where firesticks had been twisted for god knows how many generations. I have one here at home still. I have a great sense of awe every time I touch it and feel a connection with people who lived here for millennia before I was born on a continent thousands of miles away.

  3. Migs, you mention two initial philosophies that of Rousseau and also Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest.

    To me Rousseau’s ‘noble savage’ suggests a certain paternalism, that the noble savage although to be admired was still in a childlike state. The survival of the fittest of course was/is used in a way so as to confirm white superiority plus it also abrogates all responsibility. That if the Aboriginal peoples were not to survive then it’s ‘all their own fault’.

    These two philosophies seem to me to reflect today’s attitudes, both the paternalistic attitude and also the no care/no responsibility evident in the more racist sections of society.

  4. I caught a snippet on Sky News but couldn’t quite hear it so here it is as a link.

    Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called for a renewed intervention to address a growing crisis in the Northern Territory.

    From the bit that I could hear on Sky Julia said that Abbott should stop playing politics and that Jenny Macklin and her opposite number were working in cooperation to achieve outcomes..or similar.

  5. I’m not normally one to provide praise, but that’s an outstanding and thought provoking analysis.

    Australia does have a shameful history in its treatment of aboriginal people. It’s always handy for the ignorant and racists to be able to anchor their prejudice in misrepresentation.

    While I’ve said before that I think attitudes are slowly changing in Australia, I also accept the point Miglo made previously that this may only be accurate among more urban populations.

    Regional and rural communities often remain deeply racist and ignorant. Suspicion about government policy is widespread and efforts to address dispossession is seen as an attack on them personally.

    I think Australia needs some symbols of reconciliation. I’ve said in the past that the Kanak Cultural Centre in New Caledonia is an outstanding symbol of cultural respect and reconciliation. There is no reason that there should not be a similar centre in every population centre of Australia. Such centres provide education to the (younger) population, and represent a source of cultural connection and self respect for indigenous people.

    Just a couple of other points –
    • Social Darwinism appears to look more like a Hobbesian view of the nature man, than that of Rousseau.
    • While we do end to talk about British imperialism here for obvious and entirely appropriate reasons, we shouldn’t ignore the activities and legacies of other European colonial powers. Few provided institutions that have survived the post colonial period.

  6. Regional and rural communities often remain deeply racist and ignorant. Suspicion about government policy is widespread and efforts to address dispossession is seen as an attack on them personally.

    ToM, as you say, racial attitudes in regional and rural Australia do remain as entrenched as ever. I was treated to examples of this Saturday and despair of any change.

    These attitudes are passed down through families and their virulence remains undimmed. Worse still, is the fact that all the people making their ignorant pronunciations have never had any dealings with Aboriginal people!

    And I agree wholeheartedly with the last sentence quoted above, although how to alter that particular mindset is a puzzle.

    I like the idea of cultural centres; it could be a step toward breaking the chain of ignorance.

  7. ToM, around this area one thing that has been highly successful is school visits by the Aunties of the Bundjulung people. The visits consist of story telling, chalk drawings and otherwise introducing the predominantly white school children to indigenous culture and history.

    Adults usually have their prejudices fully ingrained and so I believe that this personal contact with young children goes a very long way to as Jane says “breaking the chain of ignorance”.

  8. Watching Mr. Abbott in QT, once again saying that NZ is not a foreign country. Why do we need a visa to visit.

    He went onto say that it was the first times that the Head of the country, the head of government and the alternative head of government visited NZ at the same time.

    Alternative Head of Government, not Opposition Leader. I would have thought the alternative head of government would have been the deputy PM. Do not they take over when the PM is absent.

    We now have evidence that Mr. Abbott, the Opposition Leader does not like or accepts the role he has been designated at the Australian voters at the last election.

  9. Yep good essay Miglo. As for one point made by Tom:

    Regional and rural communities often remain deeply racist and ignorant. Suspicion about government policy is widespread and efforts to address dispossession is seen as an attack on them personally.

    I agree, but perhaps the use of ‘often’ understates the problem.

  10. From Yahoo! News comes this piece, bringing closure to the story one of colonial Australia’s most prominent Aborigines.

    The grave of one of the most prominent Aborigines in Australian history has been located under the garden of a suburban Sydney home, a report said Sunday.

    Bennelong was one of the first Aborigines to live among white settlers after the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, when he was kidnapped and employed as a cultural interlocutor by the British.

    He adopted European dress and sailed to England alongside Governor Arthur Phillip, becoming immortalised in school history books. The land that is now the site of the Sydney Opera House — Bennelong Point — was named after him.

    Also known as Wolarwaree, Ogultroyee and Vogeltroya, mystery has surrounded his final resting place for almost two centuries.

    But the Sun-Herald newspaper said one of Australia’s leading environmental scientists, Peter Mitchell, had now gathered archival evidence to pinpoint the grave.

    While it was known that he was buried on the banks of the Parramatta River, the exact spot was not known.

    “We knew Bennelong was buried in the area but it’s always been an urban legend in terms of where,” a Parramatta Council official told the newspaper.

    “Dr Mitchell quietly chipped away on the project for some time and following some extraordinary research, he was able to add some general certainty to the grave’s location.

    “From there, council’s surveyors advanced his findings to where it now stands today. They’ve pinpointed the grave, to within the nearest metre, in someone’s front garden.”

    The council is now meeting with Aboriginal authorities to discuss the next step, the report said.

    While Bennelong adapted to the European way of life, teaching the colonisers about Aboriginal customs and language and learning to speak English, he ultimately became an alcoholic and died in 1813, aged 49.

  11. Miglo, when we are discussing what money is spent on Aboriginals, I would like to see the amount equal to what is spent on other Australian deducted from the figures.

    Also the comparison should be made between what is spent on the general community and the Aboriganal community in similar areas.

    The figure that needs to be identified is money that is ONLY spent on Aboriginals. This I believe would not be a great amount.

  12. CU, when I was with ATSIC an officer from the ABS gave a talk just prior to a census. The officer informed us that on average the government spends a whole $2 a year more on an Indigenous Australian than the national average.

    Yet all we hear about is waste.

  13. Thanks Mig, I knew it was low, but not that low. ATSIC was a fraud on the Aboriginal people, for the reasons I pointed out in my previous post. It is a pity that facts are allowed to be ignored in the drive for a good story.

    What I find very annoying is that only negative stories are ever told. There is no mention of the thousands that attend uni and hold down very high powered jobs. The many who have made names for themselves in the arts, sports and other pursuits.

    Supporters of the Coalition and many others say that the Aboriginals were to blame for the failure,

    We see Mr. Howard getting praise for what was a desperate election ploy on his part, use a report on sexual abuse on children, to invade and take away peoples rights. By the way most of those children in the report had the perpetrators taken before the court. There has been very little about sexual abuse since. As a previous child protection worker, I know you do not get results with actions that occurred under the intervention. More police do not find child abuse. This can only happen with highly trained protection workers, working with the police, community and health services.

    I seem to remember one of Mr. Howard’s first actions after being elected was to dismantle as much as he could of the Aboriginal Land Rights that was begun under Mr. Whitlam and carried on by Mr. Keating. Migs, I might have some of my titles wrong but I hope you get the gist of what I mean.

    I do not know first hand what goes on in the northern end of Australia but I have been observing what happens in NSW since the late 1940’s. My mother use to have Aboriginals girls in the home employed as housemaids. Some come from Murray Bridge, near Lake Cargelligo and others from Cootamundra Girls home. I witness many arguments my outspoken mother had with the Aboriginal Protection Board. My father employed young men from Burnt Bridge when we had a dairy farm.

    I find it hard to believe that other people my age were not aware of the situation.

    I do have three beautiful part Aboriginal grandsons, among my many grandchildren.

  14. I saw the best and the worst of ATSIC, Cu. In three of the offices I worked in there was nothing but dedication to the plight of the Aborigines. In the other there was a Regional Council whose only interest was to feather their own needs. The needs of the communities they represented were of no importance to them.

    Unfortunately the media only focused on the negative.

  15. but it gives the lie to the “die out” premise.

    Exactly, hence my comment in the post that nature hadn’t selected Aborigines for extinction, only the colonisers had.

  16. Reb, it’s a ripper isn’t it! Eddie has put a link up to Crikey’s take on the story on the Media Watch III thread.

  17. Via the story at Crikey, former Justice Merkel has the case spot-on…

    Former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel, for the applicants in his opening address, attacked Bolt over his alleged views that genetic descent was the sole determinant of a person’s race, when, ever since the Holocaust, self-identification and community are considered equally relevant.

  18. Pip, I think that the applicants have an excellent chance of success, the reason being (and this is just my opinion), but the legislation reads that unlawful discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person [including] because of “their race, colour, or ethnic origin; or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference;”.

    This is where I believe that Bolt has come adrift as he is claiming that because a person isn’t of Aboriginal appearance, even though they have an indigenous heritage and cultural ties that they should be treated less favorably (not be awarded grants) due to their color alone.

  19. Min, that’s quite clear, but will Bolt make a fool of himself and argue in the pages of the HS, thereby breaking another law? I hope he does, just for the pleasure of seeing him receive his come-uppance. His editor had better be more critical at this point.

  20. CU, thanks for the link. Abbott probably will burst a blood vessel, but he sounds as if he’s already lost a few marbles!!

  21. Pip, if Bolt loses and I expect that he will, he will have to offer a public retraction explaining the error of his ways..and isn’t he going to LOVE having to do that one! A financial penalty will be no biggie as no doubt will cover Bolt for that one.

    I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in becoming more discerning about what they publish as unfortunately bad publicity is still good publicity. Bolt of course thrives via his notoriety.

  22. It might be a good idea tomorrow to check out Tony Windsor’s speech on the NBN. He’s giving the Coalition the best telling off I’ve heard in ages. Can’t remember enough of it to repeat here but I’ll have a look tomorrow.
    With a bit of luck he’ll be on 7.30 or Lateline but it’s more likely we’ll get Whiney Pyne.
    The one thing I remember is him telling Pyne that he’d need the NBN to communicate with him as he’s rarely in the House!!!

  23. I heard that on the way home Pip, he set them up beautifully. The whole thing was a farce, designed by the libs to put pressure on the Indies (particularly in light of the NSW results), but Windsor turned it around beautifully and basically called the Nats on it, making them look like the pawns of the libs they are, rather than the Indies being the pawns of Labor as they were trying to assert. I particularly liked the way he went on about the Member for Sturt, and how he would benefit the most as he is absent so often lol and could use remote access to the parliament

  24. Pip, that would be great if you could find what Oakeshott said on Hansard. I caught bits and pieces of Oakeshott on Sky but couldn’t hear the whole thing.

    Tom, I think that Abbott is falling into a major trap in believing that by coercion and threats he can change the indies’ opinion. Neither Windsor nor Oakeshott got to where they are, being elected as independents if they didn’t have the nous to know exactly what game Abbott is playing.

  25. Reminds me of the many years I spent in a violent abusive marriage.

    The looks where more demoralising that the words.

    Surprisingly the physical abuse was not the worse part.

    I did manage to put an end to the physical abuse, surprisingly by hitting back.

    It was impossible to stop the anger and the words, but it is the looks that still haunts me. Pure hate.

    It is the face of a hateful bully who is not getting his own way.

    I think this was meant to be light hearted comments but to me I cannot trivialise Mr. Abbott, the Opposition behaviour.

  26. By god Andrew Bolt makes me so angry. His argument here seems to be based on ‘choosing’ to identify as Aboriginal. Blot, the reason that quite a number of people choose not to ‘come out’ as Aboriginal is because of the inherent racism in some sections of Australian society and especially targetted are those of Aboriginal heritage. Have a look at yourself in the mirror Blot and you’ll see why some Aboriginals are reluctant to reveal their heritage.

    The story is at:

  27. Very appropriate description Migs. The Blot’s reasoning appalls me, it is HE who accuses lighter skinned Aboriginals of being too light to be ‘real’ Aboriginals – accuses them of using a mean-nothing heritage for their own advancement..and then states what’s da matter why don’t you lot come out and say it sooner than 19yrs (which ended up being 14yrs old).

  28. I do know that in the past, many part Aboriginals with light skin live in the fear that the little proportion of Aboriginal blood would lead them becoming outcasts if discovered.

    Society did class them as Aboriginal, no matter what their other heritage consist of. Many of these people denied their own heritage, which is sad but harmful.

    This might explanation of Mr. Bolt’s question of why many are reclaiming their heritage because it is now safe to do so.

    Maybe they are not doing it as Mr. Bolt asserts, to claim benefits that are only available to Aboriginal people.

  29. CU and then there are the Stolen Generations where children of lighter skin were taken while their darker skinned siblings were left behind. My granddaughter is 1/4 Torres Strait Islander and is as white as her father, son and partner are now expecting their 2nd child who could be any color darker than her (yes it’s another girl :)) sister or as dark as her other grandmother. Andrew Bolt would point the finger at little E* and say You can’t be indigenous, you’re not black enough. I hope that this description provides some insight into why those of Aboriginal and other indigenous heritage find Andrew Bolt’s remarks so offensive.

  30. A very good reason why the GST needs reviewing…

    The Northern Territory gets an adjustment factor of five – 5.07 to be precise, soon to climb to 5.35. Largely because of its special needs in having a large, highly disadvantaged indigenous population, the Northern Territory gets back five times as much from the GST as its residents put in.

    But it doesn’t need to spend the money fixing indigenous disadvantage – the grants are untied.

    In fact, it is in its financial interest for the indigenous disadvantage to remain. It is in its financial interest to spend the money on something else: offices in Darwin, enviable salaries for its public servants and politicians.

    As Australia’s foremost specialist on state taxation, Neil Warren, puts it: “The Northern Territory likes to have a disadvantaged population – it has no interest in removing disadvantage. The money given to them because they need indigenous housing, they have poured into Darwin.”

  31. Sometimes I wonder what is worse; the treatment of the Aborigines from the colonizers, or the racist attitudes of so many modern day Australians. Some people haven’t learnt from history, or they are so ignorant of it.

  32. Hansard from 28th. NBN re discussion with Min and TomR

    Click to access rhansard.pdf

    Oakeshott, pages 108 – 110
    Windsor 151 -153

    I’ve scanned and scrolled till I’m cross-eyed looking for the funniest part of Windsor’s speech about C. Pyne and can’t find it, but if their electorates could read this the Nationals wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Dr. Mike Kelly also spoke perfect sense, page 111 -113 + 121 -122 as well as Ed Husic.

  33. …and to think that you all spitefully spit out these comments – so ironically – on a COMPUTER, using ELECTRICITY, and do so whilst making full use of the infrastructure of a civilised sovereign nation, the Commonwealth Of Australia!

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