The Children’s Book Council and ‘Young Dark Emu’

I have been following the Bruce Pascoe Dark Emu saga with increasing despair. My opinion of Australia’s literary scene reached a new low when I read that Pascoe’s little book of bias and untruths, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History is now on the short list for the Eve Pownall Award. This award is given out by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) for “outstanding books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material”.

Young Dark Emu is not factual material and is therefore not eligible. Even its subtitle is a lie: a “truer history” it most certainly is not. Pascoe makes many claims in an attempt to support his major premise that Aborigines were agriculturalists, not hunter-gatherers. These claims are easily rebutted by careful research. No qualified scholars or reputable academics agree with Pascoe’s claims. The accepted scientific and academic view is that the Australian Aborigines were hunter-gatherers. The writings of reputable historians both past and present are clear on the subject and easily accessible to anyone searching for the truth.

This essay appears in the current Quadrant.
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Most particularly, Aborigines did not “construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity”. Readers of William Buckley’s memories of his three decades living with Aboriginal groups in Victoria in the early 1800s would recall his comments about the violence and bloodshed that were commonplace in Aboriginal life. Buckley was not alone in making such judgments. There was no Aboriginal nation united in peace and harmony, with its people tilling the soil, growing crops and living permanently in large towns of stone houses.

A particularly disturbing aspect of Young Dark Emu is Pascoe’s interpretation of the interaction between the British arrivals and the Aboriginal people. His bias is extraordinary. The situation was far more complicated than Pascoe describes and Young Dark Emu is deliberately misinforming our children and doing them a disservice by pushing his incorrect, guilt-ridden version of our past.

The CBCA awards have been in existence for seventy-four years. In that time, the public has grown to trust the CBCA to make reasoned, professional decisions regarding the merit of the works considered. The winners are chosen because they are worthwhile additions to a child’s library. As a retired teacher with many years of working with children, I recall how we would always purchase the winning books for our school because we knew they would have much to offer our students. The CBCA “stamp of approval” on the cover meant that the book was of consequence. For seventy-four years the CBCA has been perhaps the most highly regarded body involved with quality children’s literature in this country.

A politically biased book like Young Dark Emu has no place in a child’s library. A book that purports to be the truth when in fact it is not has no place in a child’s library either. We adults tread dangerous ground when we become a party to such dishonesty. The CBCA should not be complicit in spreading historical untruths. It should not be complicit in the wrongful indoctrination of young children.

The judges of the CBCA awards cannot fail to be aware of the problems surrounding Young Dark Emu. These issues were made public years ago and have been well documented by Quadrant contributors, mainstream journalists and many other concerned Australians.

The reputation of the CBCA awards will be tarnished by this connection with Young Dark Emu.  Pascoe doesn’t deserve a free ride to fame at the expense of the integrity of the CBCA and the truth. In this time of worry and uncertainty, it is more important than ever that we are able to rely on those in positions of trust.

I have recommended Peter O’Brien’s expose, Bitter Harvest: The Illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, to the judges of the CBCA awards in the hope that they will make their own investigations before arriving at any decisions about the veracity or otherwise of Young Dark Emu. They would be negligent and malfeasant not to do so. It’s bad enough that Young Dark Emu is already being used as a school resource and that our educators are too lazy, uninterested or politically biased to work out that this book is false history, without Pascoe being considered for yet another award.

I have also asked the CBCA to consider withdrawing their support for Pascoe’s book and I would encourage those who care about what their children read to do the same. As yet, I have not had a reply.

“So what is going on here?” I ask myself from my coronavirus-induced isolation. “Why is nobody standing up and shouting to the rooftops that Bruce Pascoe has no clothes? What are you all afraid of?”

I listen for an answer but hear nothing. Nothing but the wind in the bullshit trees.

Order Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

  • Peter OBrien

    Thanks very much for this hard hitting article, Joanna. Love the last para.

  • rh_au

    Thanks Joanna for bringing this concerning issue into the light. Our culture is continuously under attack and being politically and socially engineered further towards the left largely by stealth and deceit – and particularly by the devious manipulation of our young. Let’s hope the CBCA and each of its constituent members are not to reveal themselves as part of this increasing problem.

  • Counsel

    My suspicion is that nobody, including those that promote his work, actually believes that what Bruce Pascoe has written is correct. I suspect, rather, that those that support his writings probably expect that if people thought that Aboriginal culture of the 1700s was more advanced than is generally believed, then people nowadays would view Aborigines more favourably and that that would indirectly improve the lives of aboriginal people. They are looking for desired outcomes rather than truth.

  • MichaelinBrisbane

    Let’s swamp the CBCA with messages of our disdain that they should even consider YDE for the shortlist for the Eve Pownall Award this year.
    I fear for my grandchildren and the indoctrination they are getting.

  • rod.stuart

    The forest of bullshit trees expands daily by leaps and bounds.
    The winds of global warming, ‘gender’ nonsense, aboriginal incarceration, identity politics (to identify a few of many) blow a gale through these expanding forests of pure bullshit.

  • wdr

    Pascoe’s book is rubbish from A to Z, as Peter O’Brien has shown. Joanna Hackett should be widely praised for posting her article. I have an article coming out in the next issue of Quadrant about pre-Contact Aboriginal life which should raise some eyebrows. The current depiction of Aboriginal life is truly Orwellian in its total distortion of what it was actually like.

  • Stephen Due

    As it happens, my current reading list includes George Taplin’s 1874 account of the South Australian Aboriginal people he calls the Narrinyeri. His account reflects 25 years of intimate acquaintance and dialogue with these people. His book gives the lie to Bruce Pascoe on every page.
    How can a fake history like that peddled by Bruce Pascoe gain so much credibility? Australia has become a nation of gullible simpletons. I remain firmly convinced that the problem lies in the State School system.

  • L Louis

    The Eve Pownall Judging Panel for the 2020 Book of the Year Awards:

    Melinda Allan is the Reading Coordinator at Eltham Library

    Narissa Leung works as a literacy consultant in schools across Victoria

    Lucy Long is currently working for the Federal Dept of the Environment and Energy

    ?Margaret Bromley

    None have History qualifications, and if I can get addresses, I will send my critique of Dark Emu.

  • NFriar

    Thank you Joanna Hacket.
    I and many, many others despair at the indoctrination of our children from the cradle – and the nor so young adults (post Dark Emu students).
    A political agenda afoot with Pascoe as the Trojan Horse.
    To put to death any misunderstanding of ‘terra nullias’ and gain traction to more land claims.
    I too am a retired Infants School teacher.
    A genertion of children will emerge as refugees in their own country.
    Cild abuse.
    Pascoe commits the genocide of the longest living culture.
    @L Louis I too am keen to get the addresses of the selection panel.

  • Biggles

    The KGB’s method of subversion of a nation consisted of four stages; Demoralisation, Destabilisation, Crisis and Normalisation. Australia went through the Demoralisation stage starting with Whitlam, We are now in the Destabilisation phase, in which everything is turned on its head so that people eventually rebel. Pascoe’s book is just one of a myriad of contributions to Destabilisation. The left is works tirelessly to ensure that Crisis will result from such things. Totalitarian rule then becomes enforced. The result, Comrade, is socialist Normalisation,

  • Bwana Neusi

    I have just finished reading Cape York – A Savage frontier” and Pascoe’s assertion that Aborigines did “construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity”. is an absolute lie.

  • L Louis

    I have sent an email to CBCA.

    The National Executive Officer, CBCA[[email protected]]
    Dear Ms Flamsteed

    The Children’s Book Council of Australia can be justifiably proud that its annual book awards “are now the most influential and highly respected in Australia”; but it has damaged this enviable status by short listing for the Eve Pownall Award, Bruce Pascoe, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. As your stipulation is that “Entries in this category should be books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material”…Young Dark Emu does not qualify, as it is a travesty of pre-history. Its basic arguments are not supported by archaeologists and pre-historians- typically, Professor Peter Hiscock, chair of archaeology at Sydney University, regards his claims as “ridiculous”. You should also be aware that Dark Emu is the subject of heated political controversy.
    The Eve Pownall Judging Panel bears a heavy responsibility as Young Dark Emu is being introduced into schools, and its opinions will influence teachers ill equipped to make a critical evaluation of the book. Could I suggest that you forward to members of the Panel the critique appended to this email.
    Yours Sincerely
    L J Louis ( retired Associate Professor of History).

  • L Louis

    As Pascoe’s nonsense is being peddled in schools, and it is beyond the competence of teachers to generate any informed debate, more than protest is required. A positive strategy should be implemented to get “Bitter Harvest” introduced as a teaching aid.

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