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May 12th 2010 print

Tony Thomas

The attack on Harold Blair

From The Pocket Windschuttle: Windschuttle concludes that the late Harold Blair now stands publicly condemned in Bringing Them Home for a holiday scheme that used false promises and lies to steal Aboriginal children. The charge was made on the basis of no substantial evidence whatsoever.

The Pocket Windschuttle: The defamation of Harold Blair 

Tony Thomas: This essay describes an innocent plan by a well-known Aboriginal celebrity Harold Blair to give outback Aboriginal children a holiday boarding with white families by the sea. On no substantial evidence, the scheme is now wrongly damned by Stolen Generations as a conspiracy to ‘steal’ the children by illicit adoptions and fosterings. That theory implies that Harold Blair knowingly took part in a dishonest exercise. The facts show that thousands of outback children took part in a happy holiday – and there are no records showing that any failed to return. 

[Note: All page references are to The Fabrication of Aboriginal History - Volume Three: The Stolen Generations 1881-2008 by Keith Windschuttle (Macleay, 2009)]

Perhaps the most loathsome example of all the cases of child removal described in the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the Stolen Generations was said to have occurred in Victoria in the 1960s.

Welfare authorities, in a scheme conceived by famed Aboriginal lyric tenor Harold Blair, invited Queensland Aboriginal parents to send their children for free holidays by the sea in Victoria. But when these kids got to the holiday homes, many were adopted out to white families and never saw their parents again.

The Commission’s source for this claim was Professor Colin Tatz, who called it ‘direct adoption kind of by mail order and by phone call.’ p554 and p555

[Tatz is the director of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Shalom Institute, University of New South Wales and Visiting Fellow, School of Politics and International Relations, College of Arts & Social Sciences] 

Blair in 1976, shortly before his death, was awarded an AO for services to music and the welfare of the Aboriginal people. p555

Blair was born to an unmarried teenager on Cherbourg Mission in Qld, and became suddenly famous in 1945 with a record vote on the radio talent quest Australia’s Amateur Hour. He became a concert singer and activist, and in 1957 was appointed one of two Aboriginals on Victoria’s Aboriginal Welfare Board. p555 In 1964 he stood for the ALP in the Victorian State elections, campaigning on Aboriginal rights. He came first on primaries but was defeated after DLP preferences.

Blair initially was impressed by the visit to Melbourne of a girls’ marching team from Cherbourg Mission, his birthplace, and he decided to expand the scheme into a holiday program. The Queensland and Victorian governments backed it, and Melbourne families rushed to offer to billet the outback Aboriginal kids. Planes had to be chartered to meet the demand, and the program spread to NSW. In the following decade, about 3000 Aboriginal kids got a holiday this way. p556

Yet according to Tatz, it was all a scheme to steal kids from their parents. p556

The Bringing Them Home report relied on Tatz’s uncorroborated claim, and featured it prominently on page 10 of its 689-page report. p557

The report’s one piece of actual evidence was one confidential submission from one un-named woman who claimed she had been stolen via the program when aged 7, in the late 1960s. She said that while boarded in Victoria, initially for the Christmas holidays under the Blair scheme, her mother at Coomealla Mission, NSW, died and although her father was alive for the following three years, she was made a foster-child here on the strength of an official phone call. p557

Windschuttle says that whether or not this woman’s claim was true, it was hardly sufficient to condemn an entire scheme involving 3000 kids, three State governments and thousands of welcoming holiday-parents. p557

All the 3000 children in the scheme were known officially or via the mission records. The commission made no check on whether any parent of these children ever complained, ‘My child has not returned’. p558 No complaints are cited.

In 2005, historian Richard Broome claimed that the Melbourne Herald of 25/6/1968 quoted the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ray Meagher, as saying that some people boarding the kids were not sending them back. Windschuttle checked the Herald, The Age and the Sun and says flatly that Broome’s claim is untrue – Meagher never mentioned the ‘Blair’ scheme or anything like it. p557 (footnote).

The press flurry at that time was over the general issue of informal adoption of Aboriginal kids. The Director of Aboriginal Affairs (Vic) noted three cases where unofficial foster parents had initially refused parents’ requests to return their children, and in all three cases the children were returned without the need for any police action. p558.footnote.

Windschuttle concludes that the late Harold Blair now stands publicly condemned in Bringing Them Home for a holiday scheme that used false promises and lies to steal Aboriginal children. The charge was made on the basis of no substantial evidence whatsoever. Windschuttle says ,”He is one Aborigine who genuinely deserves and apology.” p558

Buy The Fabrication of Aboriginal History – Volume Three: The Stolen Generations 1881-2008 here…