Editor's Column

Cancelling Australian History

Though its target is Australia’s past, the main aim of this crusade is to erode the legitimacy of the nation in the here and now. The protesters against the statues of historic figures and their supporters in the media and other cultural institutions are in effect calling into question the moral integrity of present-day Australia … As far as they were concerned the past was so contaminated by systematic acts of malevolence that the foundation on which the Australian nation rests must be destroyed. —Frank Furedi

This statement was part of a feature story in the Australian on February 13 in which Frank Furedi compared the leftist demonstrations against Australia Day on January 26 to other recent radical protests in Britain and the United States.

Furedi argued that this movement was not simply a response to misdeeds committed in Australia’s colonial history but was an integral part of a wider global conflict that has engulfed much of the Western world. “In recent times,” he writes, “hostility towards the foundation on which different Western nations rest has acquired a systematic form.”

Keith Windschuttle’s column appears in every Quadrant.
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The trend was most strikingly articulated, he said, by the New York Times’s 1619 Project. This is a reinterpretation of American history that claims 1619 and not 1776 constitutes the true origin of the nation. African slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619 and leftists are determined to make this event the recognised foundation of national history. “Like the attempt to rebrand Australia Day into Invasion Day,” Furedi says, “the ambition of the 1619 Project is to devalue and criminalise the founding of the United States.”

This is a sentiment that is no longer confined to the university sector, where it originated. Furedi argues its claims have been now widely internalised by societies’ cultural elites:

The embrace of the 1619 Project by celebrities, online influencers and leaders of the US’s cultural industry highlights one of the most important developments that encourages the cancelling of American culture. The most significant feature of the war against the past in the Anglo-American world is the complicity of cultural institutions and their leaders in the project of estranging society from its traditions and history.

The same edition of The Australian that published Furedi also contained an article by the Morrison government’s Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, reminding readers that the date, February 13, was the thirteenth anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s national apology for the Stolen Generations. Wyatt’s article is proof of the depth to which the story of the Stolen Generations has been internalised not only by Australia’s cultural elites but also by the Morrison government itself.

In fact, this is one area where Australia has been well in the lead of the international movement to devalue and criminalise the founding of the nation. Wyatt calls it “undoubtedly one of the darker chapters in our nation’s story. It’s a day for us to reflect on practices undertaken by governments in the past that sought to disrupt and destroy the world’s longest living culture.”

Wyatt begins his piece with the story of Isabel Reid, born in 1932 near Wagga Wagga, who told him how she was suddenly seized in the street by officials and taken away without her parents’ knowledge:

One afternoon she was walking home from school with her brother and sister when she was taken from her family by the government. Her parents did not know what happened to their children. Aunty Isabel was to become a domestic servant, sent to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home, where wages for her work were paid to the NSW government. She was denied the opportunity of a good education, denied a bond to her family, community and country, and was targeted for no other reason than the fact she was Aboriginal.

It is not hard to show that Wyatt is repeating a story that is largely bogus. The workings of the Aborigines Protection Board in New South Wales in the first half of the twentieth century are analysed in detail in Volume Three of my series The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, which shows there were two principal reasons why the Board removed children from their families.

The first was the traditional grounds of child welfare such as neglect or abuse by parents. In such cases, Aboriginal and white children were removed from their families for exactly the same reasons.

The second was the board’s vocational training scheme for teenagers living on Aboriginal stations (or missions) in New South Wales. If Isabel Reid went to the Cootamundra Girls’ Home, her parents would have known where she was and would have agreed to her going there. She would have been trained over a period of from three to eighteen months in domestic service (at that time still the biggest single occupation for teenage girls of all colours) and then given a four-year apprenticeship with either a rural or city family.

There was never a government policy to sever contact with “family, community and country”, as Wyatt claims. Isabel’s parents could have visited her at Cootamundra, as others often did, or at her subsequent place of employment. She could have gone home for annual holidays, as many did. Once her four-year apprenticeship contract was complete she could go home to her family, as Aborigines Protection Board records show that a majority of its trainees did. The board gave them the train fare home.

The underlying idea in Wyatt’s claim that governments wanted to sever all contact between parents and children is that the Aborigines Protection Board’s ultimate aim was the elimination of the Aboriginal race, that is, genocide. Wyatt should know the High Court of Australia put paid to this notion in 1997 in Kruger v Commonwealth, and only one Aboriginal complainant has ever been successful in the state courts. But there is an even better refutation in the historical record. This is the attitude of Aboriginal activists of older generations.

The Stolen Generations story only became a public issue in 1981 after a white ANU postgraduate student, Peter Read, wrote a twenty-page pamphlet on the topic. If, as Read said, and Wyatt obviously accepts, the removal policy goes back as far as the nineteenth century, why didn’t earlier activists realise what was going on?

At the high point of Aboriginal radicalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the attempt to put an end to Aboriginality by removing children never received a mention in any major agenda of Aboriginal political grievances. During the lead-up to the successful 1967 constitutional referendum to give the Commonwealth powers in Aboriginal affairs, not one of the political activists campaigning for reform mentioned stolen children as an issue to be rectified.

In 1970, neither the ten-point Policy Manifesto of the National Tribal Council, nor the Platform and Program of the Black Panthers of Australia, nor the 1972 Five-Point Policy of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Parliament House, Canberra, or any other political manifesto of the time, mentioned stolen children, let alone the genocide that Aborigines had purportedly been suffering for the previous sixty years.

Aboriginal activists of that era proved very adept at gaining attention from the news media and very capable of articulating their case. Black Panthers spokesmen included Gary Foley, later a university lecturer, Paul Coe, subsequently a barrister, and Dennis Walker, son of one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal literary figures. They and their colleagues were politically astute enough to mount the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House—an inspired piece of political symbolism—yet could not recognise the genocide and child stealing purportedly taking place at the very same time.

Some of the best-known of the earlier generations of Aboriginal advocates had been in an even better position to see what was going on. In the 1940s, when Isabel Reid would have been at Cootamundra Girls’ Home, three prominent Aboriginal activists, William Ferguson, Walter Page and Pearl Gibbs, served as directors of the renamed Aborigines Welfare Board. Yet they supposedly never realised what was happening right beneath their noses. How could they possibly have missed it?

If the Stolen Generations story was true, then at that very time, right across Australia, in all states and territories, scores of white welfare officials, backed by parliamentarians and senior public servants, were forcibly removing Aboriginal children to put an end to Aboriginality. How did these hundreds of white people, for a period of more than sixty years, maintain the discipline needed to keep the whole thing so quiet that Aboriginal activists like Ferguson, Page and Gibbs were oblivious to its existence? How come the first person to see the light was a white, male, left-wing academic?

On these grounds alone, the inherent implausi­bility of the Stolen Generations thesis should always have been self-evident. Yet Ken Wyatt, desperate to shore up public support for constitutional change for “the Voice”, has now placed it firmly within the policy repertoire of the Morrison government. Oh! what a tangled web.

23 comments
  • rod.stuart

    It is a strange age in which we live, when public officials, “scientists”, and even reepresentatives of the people can spout nonsense whose origin is thin air.
    I suppose BS has always been with us, buut there was a time that such Blarney was swiftly and securely countered. I our present Orwellian world,
    “Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
    Eric Blair (George Orwell)

  • gary@erko

    The predecessor to Peter Read’s pamphlet was Bob Randall’s “Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)”, written in 1970. That doesn’t alter the political aims that make use of the myth.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I came across the following recently in Climate Change, The Facts 2020: “A fact is something that is known, or proven, to be true. A scientific fact cannot be established by a consensus of opinion, or by the popular vote, or because it is morally good. A fact may contain offensive information, but may nevertheless still be true. This book is prefaced by the assumption that we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own version of the facts.”
    So much of today’s politics is based on lies, generally because someone believes that the lies will generate an outcome which they consider to be morally good. Almost inevitably emotions outweigh logic or truth in such considerations. This is why cultural Leninists focus on victims – because they generate emotions. It is also why many believe in the “Stolen Generation”, or in Bruce Pascoe’s absurd claims.
    Nothing it seems will get in the way of emotional outrage, except perhaps the Courts. South Australia’s Supreme Court decided that there was no policy to steal Aboriginal children. The Australian High Court unanimously overturned Cardinal Pell’s conviction despite the lynch mob encouraged by Loiuse Milligan and her colleagues at the ABC.
    Because most vote based on their emotions, politicians cannot be trusted with the truth. Despite their many failings (the deeply corrupt Victorian legal system comes to mind), the courts seem to be the only defense against the mob.

  • Harry Lee

    Yes, the lies and general anti-empiricism employed by marxist-inspired, power-mongering, Big State anti-Westernists, of all colours and creeds, in regard to Aboriginal matters and all matters pertaining to the Open, Free, Productive Society, have brought Australia to the edge of The Abyss -indeed, we well-progressed into said Abyss.
    And the populace is OK with it.
    Note the nation-wide combined votes for the ALP and the Greens. But start with the huge majority ALP-Green votes in the ACT, and consider the motivations of the denizens of the Fed public services.
    And note that there is nothing -very evidently nothing- that can be done to counter-act the neo-marxist propaganda that is channeled by the taxpayer-funded education systems, the ABC and SBS, the AHRC, and the “human rights”, “violent-criminal rights” and “refugee rights” components of the law industry.
    The Constitution does not provide for protection of the nation from anti-Westernism in all its various forms.
    Well and truly sunk, we are.

  • Stephen Due

    The picture chosen by Keith of the Cootamundra girls in the 1950s speaks for itself, not only about them, but also about the parlous situation of many Aboriginal children of the 2020s, who being sacrificed on the altar of Political Correctness. It would be difficult to take such a picture anywhere in Australia today,

  • NFriar

    Great article Keith.
    Thank you for exposing Wyatt and Morrison’s ignorance for the sake of a political agenda.
    I guess they would believe the girls were punished by locking them in the morgue – and babies were heard crying as they were thrown down the well to their deaths at Bimbadeen.
    Just two of the myths that exist.

    And yes – the girls went to the local primary and High Schools to complete their education before Domestic Training.
    What a magnificent facility was provided for the girls.
    Far more than for their white counterparts.

    All children – black and white – who were taken into care have a record – all they have to do is approach their State Archives for a report on their circumstances.

    I would suggest Isabel Reid do just that.
    But at her age now – the truth would be stranger than her story.
    So many made/make stories up to account for their parents/parent not visiting.

  • call it out

    The more woke we become in relation to the whole gamut of issues surrounding indigenous issues, the worse it gets for all of us. What a mess has been created, with little prospect of a way out.

  • pgang

    “It’s a day for us to reflect on practices undertaken by governments in the past that sought to disrupt and destroy the world’s longest living culture.”
    No, that’s the Jews. We have no actual knowledge of aboriginal cultural history prior to 1770. Another example of materialist fabrications and story telling undermining reality, resulting in the transferance of credibility to a false claimant.

  • lhackett01

    The Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families – Commonwealth of Australia 1997 is necessary reading.
    It explains that forcible removals occurred from the beginning of Settlement for reasons including the advantage to settlers of having cheap Aboriginal servants.
    In the early 1800s, Governments and missionaries removed children to inculcate European values and work habits. During the 19th century, Protectorates were established based on the idea that Aborigines would willingly become self-sufficient agricultural communities. This idea failed and the Aborigines became increasingly dependent upon government rations. Protectors (usually police officers) controlled Aboriginal affairs and were the legal guardian of all Aboriginal children. Children were removed to dormitories and their contact with their families was strictly limited, all done to assist their conversion to Christianity and distance them from their Aboriginal lifestyle.
    The Report explains the changes in attitudes of governments about the need to ‘protect’ especially children of mixed blood, the idea that over time mixed bloods would ‘merge’ with the non-Indigenous population, Aboriginality being defined by the proportion of Aboriginal blood preventing some from living on reserves or from receiving rations, ‘merging’ becoming ‘assimilation’ in 1937 such that mixed blood children should be educated at white standards and their subsequent employment being under the same conditions as whites, through to the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972 declaring a policy platform of Aboriginal self-determination. This latter policy is complicating the matter further.

  • rosross

    A lie repeated often enough will be seen as a truth. Most people are poorly informed, even more those who should know better, who are in academia and education, but the lie has become a dogma in the racist religion of colour coding.

  • pgang

    lhackett it would be interesting to know the original sources of that information in regard to the removal of children to either ‘church’ them or enslave them. Also the conclusion that the agricultural communities all failed (which the language suggests).
    .
    Look up ‘Hermannsburg’ on the web and all you get is a pile of crap about artists and potters. It’s a pretty accurate refelection of the futile, navel-gazing superficiality of contemporary life.
    Inevitably there is a fancy federal government website for the ‘potters’ which presents a ‘history’ for the mission that redacts out any and all history associated with it, but assures the reader that there was lots of violence – no specific details of such offered of course.

  • pgang

    Having just skimmed the aforementioned Bibliography, the refences are asymptotically skwered towards 1997. The vast bulk are from the 90’s and thus represent the prevalent opinion of the time, already decided. The crowd gets pretty thin prior to the 70’s. There is however one reference from 1748 which must be particularly relevant.
    But from the period in question there is exactly nothing referenced. There is a small flurry from the 1950’s, but the only really interesting and potentially enlightening reference as a study of actual events from Australia’s first 150 years was this one.
    ‘McLean, Charles, 1957: `Report on the operation of the Aborigines Act 1828 and the regulations and orders made thereunder’, in Victorian Parliamentary Papers 1956-58, Legislative Assembly, Volume 2 Paper Number 18.’

  • Farnswort

    “Yet Ken Wyatt, desperate to shore up public support for constitutional change for “the Voice”, has now placed it firmly within the policy repertoire of the Morrison government.”

    Once again reaffirming that Morrison is not a conservative and has no interest in challenging the Left on historical and cultural issues. Morrison is a tacky salesman, nothing more.

  • Farnswort

    While it may have came too late in his term, Trump to his credit made an effort to counter the Left’s war against the past, establishing a “1776 Commission” to fight the growth of far-left revisionism such as the 1619 Project.

    Here is Trump’s September 2020 address on the teaching of American history:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WGvn6N1qPE

    Could you ever imagine the likes of ScoMo making a powerful speech like that?

  • Blair

    ” lhackett01 – 1st March 2021
    The Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families – Commonwealth of Australia 1997 is necessary reading.”
    Necessary reading. Why?
    The Report can’t provide one example of a Torres Strait Islander child forcibly removed.

  • Harry Lee

    Yes, the Left’s anti-useful portrayal of the Aborigines and their history/culture is bad -and will not help a single Aborigine live a flourishing life.
    But the Left’s anti-civilisational campaign runs far deeper and wider than the Aboriginal situation.
    Consider the anti-human-flourishing precepts that now dominate the ideology channeled by the ABC, SBS, 90% of the commercial msm, the schools and the universities, the law industry, and the public services generally.
    And Big Tech now enables this destructiveness. And Big Biz and most investors are surrendering to the neo-marxist forces.
    It’s all nett bad, and too few Proper Australians can be bothered to volunteer for the fight-back.

  • wmrbuck

    There were many so called ‘children’s homes’ in Australia. It would be interesting to see the total number of black and white children who ended up in these places. In any case, I understand that children of all races are still taken away from their parents for a range of reasons. Whoever has the answer to these age old problems will be made a saint.

  • Stephen

    I’m 70 but my memories of working as an Examiner (a junior clerk) in the State Wards Branch of the NSW Child Welfare Department in 70/71 remain pretty clear. Our role was to receive reports and submissions from the District Officers about the welfare of children who’s condition had been brought to there attention usually by police or teachers. These reports were the basis for submissions to the Minister. They were about making children state wards in order to protect them or to restore them to the custody of the parents when home conditions had been remediated.

    Many of these reports made harrowing reading describing terrible home conditions where children were filthy, malnourished and too often injured by parental violence. Alcohol was often a key contributor. The children were admitted to a State run residential home with many being fostered out.

    The parents would continue to receive visits from the DO’s (mainly young women with degrees in Social Work) and if sufficient efforts were made to improve home conditions they could apply for the child to be restored. This sometimes worked well but there was always too many cases were the child had to be removed again.

    This was the pre internet age. Communication arrived in post bags often hand written. There were no photos. One thing we at the Head Office in Ultimo NEVER new and was NEVER mentioned and frankly NEVER discussed was whether the child was Aboriginal or net. This was an unwoke age when a child was just a child.

    Some may accuse me and my colleagues from those days as being complicit in the stolen generations. Like making sure the trains to the gas chambers ran on time. They can think what they like. I don’t care because those of us actually involved did it for moral and compassionate reasons. Were we culturally insensitive? Why should anyone be culturally sensitive about filth, malnourishment and violence? What humbug!

  • Elizabeth Beare

    When we travelled in Western Australia in 2017 I spoke to some older aboriginal people, who despaired of the situation today. They had fond memories, some handed down from their parents, of mission life in the earlier times, and the picture of those young girls says why. They radiate health, happiness and security. There were things then happening in missions (and schools for poorer white kids) that don’t fit the practices of today, but so much that is good was lost when Christianity was lost to these people.

    I say this as someone who is not a believing Christian, simply a cultural one.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    “This was an unwoke age when a child was just a child”

    That says it all, really.

    I know, I know, I can hear the ‘problems’ of cultural identity coming forth, but first and foremost the best interests of the child refer to the health, safety and happiness of the child. No child is ‘happy’ in squalor and neglect.

  • Andrew Campbell

    ‘Mt. Margaret: A Drop in a Bucket’ by Margaret Morgan (Missions Publications of Australia, 1986) details, in a first person account, the mission activities of Rod and Mysie Schenk at Mount Margaret in Western Australia. Rod Schenk was a trenchant critic of A.O. Neville, the ‘Protector’ of Aborigines. I wonder how many others were at the time. Certainly not the Mosely Royal Commission (1935). Rod Schenk saw through Neville’s eugenic policies, particularly disallowing ‘half castes’ to marry ‘full bloods.’ Interestingly the removal of children to Moore River Settlement didn’t get Schenk’s disapproval as much. Whatever, as an evangelical Christian and ideologically close to Schenk, I am proud that some Christians, at least, saw the evil of government policies. And they didn’t just protest from the sidelines. Rod and Mysie gave their lives, living in appalling conditions, for 30 years, 1921-1953.

  • wdr

    One of the main problems is that most Aboriginal communities are hundreds of kilometers from the nearest big city and its employment opportunities. Even if the Federal and state Parliaments pass twenty laws to benefit the Aboriginals, these communities will still be hundreds of kilometers from places of employment. Another problem is the glorification of Aboriginal “civilisation” by the Left, and the taboos about critiquing it, although the pre-Contact Aboriginals were (not to put too fine a point on the matter) Stone Age savages.

  • Harry Lee

    Noel Pearson is saying that Australia is “incomplete” without the Voice.
    He is wrong, dead wrong.
    The Voice is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for Australia to be complete.
    My gentle encouragement to Pearson and ilk is to use some of the annual 33 Bn to reduce the neglect, abuse, and violence that Aboriginal children must deal with.

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