History

Who’s Afraid of William Buckley?

At writers’ festivals, Australian racism has become a career-building topic, and an opportunity to sell books. It also means money for the Guardian, which uses it in advertising: “The conversation on race is just getting started. The Guardian sees its role as to amplify it, to investigate injustice, listen to people from all communities, tell their stories.” It is taught in schools, and in Victoria it is the original-sin belief of an Orwellian Truth Commission setting out to lock our history-telling into a hateful one-sided and bloody narrative.

The “Independent Assessment Panel” which selected the five Justice Commissioners who will preside over the Truth Commission consisted of four un-independent people—two members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria chosen by the Assembly; the Executive Director, Social Policy, Department of Premier and Cabinet chosen by the state government; the Executive Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice (which is based in New York) also chosen by themselves. This international organisation “works for justice in countries that have endured massive human rights abuses under repression and in conflict. We work with victims, civil society groups, national, and international organizations to ensure redress for victims and to help prevent atrocities from happening again.”

This essay appears in June’s Quadrant.
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Australiaphobia has got itself a Truth Comm­ission, with the powers of a royal commission. This promising disaster was prepared by historians teaching division, massacre and genocide who deleted the violence and brutality of Aboriginal society before colonisation from their accounts of our history. The path to present racial hatreds is paved with their bad intentions.

Richard Broome’s Aboriginal Victorians (2005) is an influential text that will probably be referenced for the Commission’s view of the state’s black history. Though a poor choice, it is representative of the continuing malaise in academic history writing. Claiming to recount the history of the Aborigines since 1800, its treatment of William Buckley, an exceptional source for the period from 1803 to 1835, is dismal. He should be read, not read about.

Buckley, a convict runaway, lived for thirty-two years with Aborigines in the Bellarine Peninsula district. There are two sources for his adventuring years: a short text by George Langhorne assembled from conversations with Buckley in 1837, first published in the Argus on January 31, 1891, and the later book-length The Life and Adventures of William Buckley by John Morgan, written with the illiterate Buckley and published in 1852; a modern edition bringing together both texts has been edited by Tim Flannery. They are not in chronological order and Langhorne’s earlier and shorter text at the back of the book should be read first. As with Watkin Tench for the founding of New South Wales, Buckley’s testimony is essential for a glimpse of Aboriginal life on the cusp of the colonial intrusion.

The historians who soften the realities of Aboriginal life before the coming of the white settlers do so for truth-hiding political purposes, and they have been remarkably successful in creating the impression of an Arcadian black paradise torn apart by brutal white intruders. Though Buckley only slightly enters Broome’s narrative his onstage appearances show a historian using editorial touches to bend history in that desired direction. Leopold von Ranke’s ideal of history writing capturing “how things actually were” could be an antidote to modern judgmental and politicised rants which pass for history writing—but probably the now old-fashioned remedy will only be taken up by new voices when the current culture is shocked back into reality.

Here are six incidents in which Broome uses Buckley’s texts. In each case the historian has usurped the witness: the history is Broome’s, not the wild man’s.

1/ Introducing the escaped convict, Broome states that he was adopted by Aborigines who “believed him to be Murrangurk, a deceased relative”. Readers are not told that the “deceased relative” and his daughters had been murdered by other Aborigines. Surviving members of Buckley’s new family lived, while they could, in a society of extraordinary violence: men, women and children were slaughtered by other Aborigines all the time—repeat, all the time. Later in the story Buckley’s adopted kinfolk, for whom he had great love, were also murdered:

My old friend, and supposed brother-in-law, had a spear sent right through his body, and then they hunted out his wife and killed her dead on the spot.

The “savages” returned and beat the wounded man to death and also killed his son. They had been murdered because a young man had died of snakebite and his family believed Buckley’s friend had caused the death by sorcery. Following these killings his friend’s young blind son, who Buckley was shielding, was attacked:

they forced the poor blind boy away from me, and killed him on the spot … After this, they roasted the body in the usual manner …

In retaliation Buckley’s own friends sought out and “killed two of the children of their enemies”. Read Buckley and you become aware of how fearsome the Australian bush was for the Aborigines. The land is covered with blood. Night is terror. Night attacks are always feared. Outsiders are oppressors or victims. That is the native world Buckley inhabited but from which Broome shelters his readers by omission. Unfaithful to Buckley and the Aborigines he lived with, the historian’s text curries favour with modern race activists.

2/ The historian is misleadingly inventive when he writes, “Buckley recalled that Wathawurrung saw two Europeans brought ashore, tied to a tree and shot, which horrified them, as they generally punished in less fatal ways.” The Aborigines’ “horrified” reaction is Broome’s fabrication. This is Buckley:

During the period we were watching her, the natives told me another vessel had anchored nearly in the same place, a long time previous; from which vessel, two white men were brought ashore by four or five others, who tied them to trees, and shot them, leaving their bodies bound.

There is nothing about a horrified reaction, and Broome has not told his readers that it is part of a larger tale in which Buckley recounts that when a ship anchored in Port Phillip Bay his Aboriginal companions wanted him to lure the crew onshore, “to get them into our power, with the vessel, boats, and cargo also”. The lethal plan was not carried out because the ship changed its mooring after three Aborigines got on board and stole what they found on deck. The unhorrified Wathawurrung who told Buckley the story were themselves planning violence.

3/ In a discussion of smallpox and its effects on Aborigines, Broome cites Buckley, who spoke of:

a complaint which spread through the country, occasioning the loss of many lives, attacking generally the healthiest and strongest, whom it appeared to fix upon in preference to the more weakly. It was a dreadful swelling of the feet, so that they [the sufferers] were unable to move about, being also afflicted with ulcers of a very painful kind.

This is used by Broome in speculating a suitable though illogical conclusion: “Thus Buckley’s recollection of a ‘loss of many lives’, together with the ‘ulcers’ and his description of the state of the feet suggests smallpox.” It is faulty argument because the historian, who does not mention that Buckley was described as having a face marked by smallpox presumably acquired in England, had preceded those quoted words with an explicit statement which suggests he was not describing smallpox:

I never observed any European contagious disease prevalent, in the least degree, and this I thought strange.

Another reading of Buckley’s words would place those “ulcers” on the feet, preventing walking, and not body-covering pockmarks.

Also, Broome’s treatment ignores Buckley’s puzzlement as to why this mysterious illness chose “the healthiest and strongest” rather than the weakest or the whole population. Was it something they ate? There are many possibilities and it may be that they had been sickened by an animal-sourced illness. Presumably the “healthiest and strongest” included the hunters, who traditionally received the least appetising part of what they had caught when the food was shared out:

They are not at all nice about their food; all kind of beasts, and fish, and fowl, reptile, and creeping things—although when alive poisonous—being acceptable. It is quantity, not quality, with them.

4/ Broome refers to the settler John Wedge who, in 1835:

recorded the first brief ethnographic descriptions of Aboriginal Victorians, shaped more by his preconceived ideas of “savages” and Buckley’s information than by careful observation. Wedge claimed the Wathawurrung were slaves to the food search, made their women drudges, practised cannibalism (but only after warfare), and infanticide (due to the needs of extended breast-feeding of their young).

If Wedge was dependent on Buckley for these observations he had an excellent source—though those bracketed excuses for cannibalism and infanticide are not at all supported by the evidence of what Buckley saw. The list of criticisms attributed to Wedge are entirely supported by Buckley’s experiences, for the Aborigines were slaves to food searches, did treat women as drudges, were cannibals and did practise infanticide. Wedge, drawing on first-hand information from Buckley, is entirely acceptable—and he was also able to question his source.

5/ Broome consistently hides the facts of Aboriginal cannibalism. I give a further example in The Invention of Terra Nullius (2005). He selectively quotes Buckley, from George Langhorne’s short text of conversations in 1837, which he describes as Buckley speaking “in measured terms”. He queries whether he was telling the truth, and decides “his observation has a ring of moderation and sincerity”. He does not consider that Buckley may have been sheltering his friends and even himself from criticism as he sought to influence Langhorne’s attitudes towards the natives. If Broome had shared details from The Life and Adventures with his readers he could have cited far more graphic accounts, including this:

They have a brutal aversion to children who happen to be deformed at their birth. I saw the brains of one dashed out at a blow, and the boy belonging to the same woman made to eat the mangled remains. The act of cannibalism was accounted for in this way. The woman at particular seasons of the moon, was out of her senses; the moon—as they thought—having affected the child also; and, certainly, it had a very singular appearance. This caused her husband to deny his being the father, and the reason given for making the boy eat the child was, that some evil would befall him if he had not done so.

6/ Broome is critical of the use of Buckley’s evidence of widespread violence by other historians, notably Geoffrey Blainey, who have suggested that Aborigines killed more Aborigines in the hundred years before settlement than settlers killed in the hundred years after settlement:

However, this is based on the false premise that we can measure inter se death rates before whites arrived from post-contact sources—observations made in a changing Aboriginal world and framed by a notion of “savagery”—or from Buckley’s memories twenty years after re-entering European society.

Broome argues that those “death rates were managed and contained in traditional times and rose due to the presence of whites”. Having himself omitted to reveal to his readers the extent of the violence Buckley encountered, Broome is making a politically progressive and fashionably anti-colonial argument. Stephanie Jarrett in Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence (Connor Court) noted that “White colonisation brought new triggers for violent conflict, including alcohol. But white law also led Aboriginal people to reduce the use and lethality of their violence.” Read Buckley and you understand what she means; read Richard Broome’s version of Buckley and you wonder what she is talking about.

William Buckley lived with Aborigines for about 11,680 days, and stayed alive. Other unfortunates who encountered Aborigines after enduring shipwrecks were murdered. As I grew up on the Bellarine Peninsula, the convict adventurer was part of the imaginative landscape around me, though his supposed cave at Point Lonsdale was disappointingly damp, dank and smelly, completely unlike what I thought a comfortable castaway cave should be like.

The tall, wild-looking, hairy, skin-wearing white man who appeared at Indented Head at precisely 2 p.m. on Sunday July 6, 1835, was about fifty-four years old. When he first encountered the local Aborigines he would have been impressively tall, strong and about twenty-three. When he came in to the European settlement Buckley was an ageing, lonely and completely despondent man—his closest Aboriginal family had been murdered and he would feel out of place and untrusted in the settler society.

To chatter of what he had experienced to his compatriots was to betray a way of life in which he had been passionately involved. Both Langhorne and Morgan had difficulties drawing words from Buckley—he was not forthcoming and, when Langhorne drew up the earlier account, was still having difficulties recovering the English language. To some he seemed just stupid and dull. An uneducated man, he was probably thrown into a deep depression when he left the Aboriginal world. He was so deeply associated with it that he could not speak of it without a sense of betrayal to people who simply had no sympathetic understanding of his savage friends.

Perhaps the rewriting Richard Broome still does not understand. It must have been difficult to admit to having been an accepted part of a society in which it was normal to kill people and eat them. And it must have been difficult to talk of bodies mutilated “in a shocking manner” or explain the fear he had felt so often on seeing an approaching group of natives who might either kill or corroboree, or do both. It must have been difficult to explain that it was normal to beat to death wounded enemies. And to explain to outsiders the reason the sexual diseases he had seen were present in adults and children. It must have been with great pain that he described the coating of young children in fat as stones were heated to cook the human flesh it came from. It must have been difficult to tell of the friendly society he lived in where killings occurred so often that “scarcely a month had passed without them being repeated”.

And when he talked of savagery and savages, what had been his own savage role in those events? The accounts he has left are a rich source for a view of Aboriginal life and death before colonisation—both for what they tell and for what they don’t. In Tim Flannery’s introduction he refers to a “charming vignette of how he [Buckley] spent his evenings” but another reading of the words he is referring to conjures up memories of a Michael Jackson interview:

As I always kept up at night the best fire and had the best Miam Miam in the camp (the Blacks not withstanding the cold often being too lazy to attend to their fires) the children would often prefer to sleep with me and I was a great favourite among them.

But not all in our past is quite so cheerless as Broome asserts: “The politics [sic] of consuming human flesh is packed with emotion and value judgments.” In 1855 the Victorian Legislative Council debated giving Buckley an annuity of eighty-eight pounds. John Pascoe Fawkner, characteristically abrupt and assertive, opposed the measure. He had been a child when he travelled to Port Phillip with his free mother and convict father on the same ship which carried Buckley and now, though his parent had been transported for theft, he objected to the generous gesture as “he believed Buckley had been a thief in his younger days”. He also did so because he believed that when Buckley had “bolted” he had eaten the three prisoners who escaped with him.

There was movement in the council room (as reported in the Launceston Examiner, April 7, 1855):

The Auditor General said the hon. Member for Talbot [Fawkner] stated that Buckley had rendered no service to the colony, but by the honorable member’s own account, Buckley had eaten three old lags. Now if every free man in the community had rendered such service, there would have been no necessity for the introduction of the Convicts’ Prevention Act; nor would the colony have been inundated with old lags from Van Diemen’s Land (roars of laughter). The vote was then assented to.

The Life and Adventures of William Buckley
edited and introduced by Tim Flannery

Text Classics, 2017, 256 pages, $12.95

 

22 comments
  • john.singer

    The Industry has also denigrated the testaments of Daisy Bates because she too wrote of cannibalism. As she wouldn’t allow men into her camp it is highly likely that the women safe from punishment might reveal practices which they would otherwise conceal.

  • ChrisPer

    We have a real problem with history.

    I was bothered by the Colebatch book ‘Australia’s Secret War: How Unions Sabotaged Our Troops in WW2’. The stories appeared to be horribly untested anecdotes and the conclusions assumed in advance. The challenges from ‘establishment historians’ on these grounds were unmet; not with documentary evidence, not with sources.
    We can value the anecdotal evidence highly, but we have to know what was verified, what contradicted, whose word backs it, and how their word has proved up in other matters.

    It was a great contrast with the staggering effort put in to ‘The Killing of Aboriginal History’ and the very enjoyable and helpful Pocket Windschuttle that guided me into it. Colebatch’s failure to ‘do history’ properly is a challenge to our honesty.

    Pretending lies are true cannot end well, and now our ‘educated class’ are mandating it we have to at least not deceive ourselves. Higher Education as a whole sector appears to be in a death spiral, and ‘They’ oughter build a new one!

  • Doubting Thomas

    ChrisPer, I was aware of the events recounted by Colebatch from a very early age. In late 1943, father, was a pilot with the RAAF No 12 Squadron based at Merauke in the then Netherlands East Indies, now the Indonesian province of Papua. I have his log book which shows that he was one of those who flew their Vultee Vengeance dive bombers down to North Queensland ports to stand guard when ships were being loaded with food and other essential supplies for Australian units in western Pacific Theatre areas. Not only did the Australian waterside workers steal just about anything they could get away with, they also sabotaged much that they couldn’t steal. Anyone who has ever known Australian military personnel who served in the New Guinea islands during World War II will have heard such anecdotes. My father’s unit survived for months on unappetising canned food because perishables had been contaminated by sabotage, eg by communist unionists loading aviation gasoline in the same holds as fruit and vegetables and loosening the bungs on the fuel drums. These anecdotes abound throughout the Army and RAAF. The wharfies did the same or worse with ships bound for Vietnam during that war, and if you need further convincing about the bastardry of Australian waterside unions ask almost any member of the RAN what they think about them.
    There is not likely to be much if any official documentary evidence to support these incidents, but Colebatch’s extensive notes certainly provide ample anecdotal evidence which is part of military folk lore to this day.

  • Harry Lee

    We have a real problem in the way we deal with reality, here and now.
    Aboriginal cultures were and remain the domain of savagery and superstition of the worse kinds. Their beliefs and practices are contrary to human flourishing, with a very, very few notable exceptions. And the parasitism and treachery of white wharfies and many other kinds of parasitism displayed in the large union-controlled/ALP-dominated sector of the populace has always been a feature of Australian society. And now with the greenist fantasy about the climate, and the utter idiocy of multiculturalism, the way has been opened for high-level money scoopers of all political affiliations to pocket vast sums of money generated by nett tax-payers. This, while our capacity to produce electricity, catch rainfall and control bushfire, is being ended. Add to that the tax regime and the work of unions and public servants in constraining entrepreneurial investment and associated management of proper economic activities. Add too that the ALP wants Australia to be a subservient province of China -so that ALP politicians and union people can be the local commissars to dominate our daily lives, while they live in luxury.
    And too many non-corrupt Australians -esp those of European descent- are simply ignorant mugs who cannot see the destructive implications of the marxist takeover of all of our institutions -of which the Aboriginal BS industry is just one.

  • ChrisPer

    No doubt Thomas a lot of it is true, but all we have is the collected stories. I don’t automatically believe them when being humbugged by academics, or by indigenous grifters, or by site tourist guides.
    And of course we all have heard rumours in our youth, perhaps remembered wrongly or been under misapprehensions, and made them up ourselves too.
    Union documents, private diaries, contemporary army reports and paper correspondence between customers and vendors should exist to back SOME of it up.
    For instance, the poem ‘Delegate’ by Vic Williams celebrates WWF, but maybe from the Emergency not WW2; but it shows wharfie communists acting against Australian Army equipment on the wharf. Poets make self-serving framings, of course; but this is an independent confirmation from the other ‘side’. Where is the rest?
    Not seen?

  • Biggles

    Sorry, Harry Lee, you are wrong about one thing. When Australia becomes a province of China, the ALP and Union people will be the first against the wall; they know too much.

  • Harry Lee

    Biggles -yes, that’s a strong possibility. What the ALP-union people imagine their future to be, and what the Chinese actually give them are likely very different.

    Then we might consider the fate, under Chinese domination, of Aborigines, Muslims, and black Africans (here and in Africa)-

    -and that of various Asian groups considered not up-to-snuff by the Chinese, starting with Indians and Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indonesians, and add in the various Pacific Islanders.

    Of course, the Chinese overlords will also be selective about which Europeans they permit to stay in the universities, in the news/opinion media, in the school and legal systems, and generally in the public services-

    -even though such people might imagine that they have done plenty to justify their continued existence, having paved the way for their Chinese saviours to take over the place.

  • mpowell

    Excellent article. I only recently finished reading Buckley’s account and the comparison you make is spot on

  • Doubting Thomas

    ChrisPer, there is some reference to waterside Union activity in the civil volumes of the Australian official history of World War II. However, there is unlikely to be any union records of their illegal activities, and with strict wartime censorship there is unlikely to have been any reports in the Australian press. It would have been a major propaganda coup for an enemy to have official or public acknowledgment of the success of our own subversives in crippling our war effort.
    In the case of my father, I have his logbook that records a trip from Merauke on 17 Dec 43 to Townsville and return on 21 Dec 43 via Cooktown and Cairns. He had another officer in the backseat, not his regular gunner. He told me the purpose of that trip was to mount guard on a ship. Although I haven’t actually researched the 12 SQN unit history, it beggars belief that, in the wartime situation at the time, the CO would have authorised such a long and inherently dangerous trip by a single-engined aircraft for trivial reasons.

  • NFriar

    @John.Singer
    {The Industry has also denigrated the testaments of Daisy Bates because she too wrote of cannibalism. As she wouldn’t allow men into her camp it is highly likely that the women safe from punishment might reveal practices which they would otherwise conceal.}
    Thanks John – and now the ‘indigenous grifters,’ thx ChrisP – are determined to get her books off the shelves.

    Great point.
    And now the

  • NFriar

    EDIT – not grifters – the Industry.

  • Alistair

    For those who are inclined not to believe Buckley’s reference to cannibalism in Victoria you might consider reading an account from Lake Tarong, Port Philip District of Victoria of an event witnessed by the Victorian Protector of Aborigines, Mr Sievewright, and published in the Victorian Parliamentary Papers on Australian Aborigines in August, 1844,.

  • Peter OBrien

    You can also read a description of Sievewright’s event in my book Bitter Harvest.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    “Buckley’s account of his 32 years with the tribes of Port Phillip has been sanitized, redacted and, above all, misrepresented by broadscale and quite deliberate omission”. The same could be said of the stories of knights in armor I read as a child, which were clearly sanitized compared to, for instance, the picture Jonathan Sumption paints in his history of the Hundred Years War. The difference is obviously the maturity of the intended audience. Sumption writes for adults while Broome apparently thinks his audience are infants. If it were my ancestors Broome was writing about, I would find his misrepresentations insulting, but then I doubt I qualify as part of his intended audience.
    There is no completely effective counter to bowlderised untrue history, especially when the “sanitization” has a political motive and thereby a readymade audience of true believers. The best counter available is to produce well referenced and cogently argued rebuttals, as Quadrant and it’s associated writers have done in the past. So called “cancelling” of such rebuttals by a leftwing dominated media has not been completely effective in the past, and won’t be in the future. That is why, when the Independent Assessment Panel produces its report, it is important that the inevitable misrepresentions by broadscale and quite deliberate omissions are exposed and the rebuttal is published.

  • Stephen Due

    If the violence endemic in Aboriginal societies is added to the trendy narrative of settler violence against the Aborigines, we just end up with a history of violence. This is not going to make for a balanced view of the consequences of British settlement.
    Two facts are of paramount importance. First, occupation by British settlers necessarily meant the end of the Aboriginal tribes: it entailed the destruction of their way of life and their culture, which were intimately connected to the land. The intractability of this problem was widely recognised by the settlers themselves at the time, and was often noted in the colonial newspapers.
    Secondly, strenuous efforts were made in Australia and in Britain to ameliorate as far as possible the effect of British settlement on the native population. This is well documented. But it was also widely believed that even the most humane and enlightened efforts by governments, missionaries and private citizens to preserve and protect Aboriginal society were doomed to failure. Most settlers familiar with the practical problems on the ground seem to have believed that assimilation of Aboriginals into settler society was the only viable option for the remnants of the tribes.
    For this reason I think the demonisation of the settlers by trendy historians seriously distorts Australian history. The process of settlement was not the work of some evil genius plotting the destruction of the Aborigines. Rather it was an unfolding tragedy that, broadly speaking, was subject to political and economic forces nobody could fully control once it got under way.
    The ‘White genocide’ style of history writing seems to me to reflect an element of psychological immaturity on the part of the authors. It is unhistorical. It more closely resembles tabloid journalism than history, seeking to impress a gullible audience with simplistic narratives, virtue-signaling and confected outrage. The results are predictably awful.

  • wdr

    There are literally hundreds of reliable reports of Aboriginal cannibalism into the twentieth century. Aborigines were primitive nomadic hunter-gatherers who did not domesticate livestock or grow crops, and the size of their tribes had to be kept small. If there were excess mouths, these were eliminated, often by infanticide or cannibalism. See my (William D. Rubinstein) article in the November 2020 Quadrant. I will shortly be writing an article for Quadrant about Aboriginal cannibalism- but I will not be sampling any examples, even of restaurant quality.

  • L Louis

    Professor Richard Broome AM, FAHA, FRHSV is the author of fifteen books and many articles on Australian and “Indigenous” history. Rated as an expert, he was enlisted as a consultant to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991); and he has authored brochures for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and texts for Year 12 students in partnership with the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria. His book, Aboriginal Victorians. A History since 1800 (2005), won the NSW Premier’s Prize in Australian History and the Victorian Community History Book Prize (2006-07).
    After my long university career as an academic historian, I was shocked by Professor Broome’s enthusiastic praise for Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu; and I sent him a copy of my critique, with the protest:
    “It is impossible that that you are not aware that archaeologists and anthropologists from John Mulvaney to David Frankel( with Between the Murray and the Sea: Aboriginal Archaeology in South-eastern Australia), categorise Aborigines as hunter/gatherers and not agriculturalists. I am therefore totally flummoxed that you can claim that in his Dark Emu, a partisan tract of fabrication and deception, Bruce Pascoe “has done a great service by bringing this material to students and general readers…”, and can “heartily recommend this book to teachers of Aboriginal studies…” As Young Dark Emu – A Truer History is being used in schools, you are an accomplice in force feeding misinformation to kids.”
    This communication was ignored, as was a copy of the article by Dr Ian Keen, ‘Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture’ Anthropological Forum, A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology which established that Aboriginal people were “hunters, gatherers and fishers”. Now Michael Connor has documented Broome’s shortcomings as an historian at the most elementary level.

  • wdr

    Could “L. Louis,” who posted the most recent message, kindly email me at: wdr@aber.ac.uk I would like to obtain a copy of the Ian Keen article he mentions for an article I am writing about Aboriginal cannibalism, and for a possible future book on Aboriginal society. (Emeritus Professor) William Rubinstein

  • Tricone

    The lies are repeated in many small ways.

    While visiting the Otway Fly Treetop Walk near Lavers Hill in 2017, I encountered a sign mentioning Buckley, saying that he lived among Aborigines for decades but left due to distress at the incursions of white settlement destroying the native way of life.

    But the accounts gathered in Flannery’s books said no such thing – rather, they said he was depressed by incessant inter- and intra- tribal violence causing the loss of friends and family.

    A small thing, as I said, but likely to be seen by more people than have ever read the first-hand accounts of Buckley’s interviewers.

  • bomber49

    South Australia possesses the largest collection of Aboriginal artifacts in the world and not surprisingly most are variations on a theme on how to kill and or maim their fellow human beings. One style of spear to wound a kangaroo with another 10 used to kill a person. One can only conclude that Aboriginal culture was devoted to warfare.

  • pbridge

    From Peter Bridge, historian and publisher.
    There are those who doubt the material of Colebatch and query the ‘lack of confirmation’ from official documents.
    To answer this:- In Western Australia the State Records Office, while now better organised than earlier, had staff (deceased and departed) who denied access to files. Later we found that these files were cleared for viewing 20 years before.
    The state government still destroys files willy nilly despite the Act which demands their preservation. Try to get 50 year plus files from some departments that still deny access or put one through hoops to even find if they exist.
    The files of the Volunteer Defence Corps units who carefully followed the activities of saboteurs were deliberately destroyed at the end of the war.
    Previous operators in the SLWA were those whose ignorant delight was in destroying records. I have multiple records of this.
    Justice files relating to aboriginal criminality were intercepted by staff of the WA Uni and documents removed before lodging in the SRO. See Savagery on the Swan River settlement.
    Police files were destroyed by the uncontrollable old hands before selected material went to the SRO. Massive quantities of Police Occurrence Books that any non-leftie historian would absorb with ecstasy were refused by the SLWA and destroyed by the Police.
    When researching National Archives I found that so many military files do not now exist. The Army etc destroyed much and I am sure there are immense amounts still gathering white ants in the back stores of Federal departments. Security files are withheld long after the 50 year date, and when there are no lists to consult then you can’t ask for them. Are files being withheld by the court employed historians to become ‘their’ finds over a lifetime of leisurely employment?
    We have noted that files that were once released have now been sequestered back into the secret system ie Those on the murder of Harold Holt, and those on the drug wars.
    I covered the tip of the old iceberg in The Ontology of Book Burning.
    In all the holding institutions the indexing/cataloguing is in such disarray that many critical items are only found by accident or literally years of systematic probing. But that is the price of parrhesia.
    As well as destroying their old reference book stocks few, if any, state libraries index items from journals or magazines.
    That we know anything has been due mainly to independent authors, researchers and publishers telling of their personal experiences.
    If there any files left, or more to the point, any free historians and publishers, when the KGB/Stasi of the Great South Land self-destructs, then that will be an interesting day.

  • James Falkiner

    Readers may find this interesting.
    https://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/spenati.pdf

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