The Political Weaponising of Truth-Telling

A history built on dishonesty is worthless, yet much of the current public discourse on Aboriginal culture and history has become based on dishonesty, exaggeration and misrepresentation. Like a person who claims credentials and qualifications he does not possess, a culture which is built upon deception or misrepresentation has little merit and is dishonourable. Many of the assertions being made by individuals who proclaim their Aboriginality are being accepted without challenge, yet to question those claims is condemned as racist. As Franklin D. Roosevelt observed, repetition does not transform a lie into a truth. Here is a brief discussion of some of the most obvious statements which are being used frequently, but which have been widely accepted without scrutiny.

Nations. This term is now being used instead of tribe. It is understandable, because the latter has a negative connotation, conveying a sense of primitiveness. The word nation and the term First Nations convey a certain grandeur and a sense of dignity, both having been copied from North America. However, the indigenous people of Australia were never nations in the sense that they comprised large, united communities. Indeed, as William Buckley (who lived for decades with indigenous families in the early 1800s) explained, the families were small in number and constantly quarrelling, the quarrels often erupting into deadly fights.

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Unlike the indigenous people of Canada and the US, who mostly lived in large groups of hundreds or thousands, the indigenous Australians lived in small family units, occasionally gathering in larger numbers for trading or ceremonial purposes. The description of indigenous Australians as comprising nations is an example of exaggeration and misrepresentation; it has become the common term, passively accepted without challenge.

The world’s oldest living culture. This statement is patently false. All people alive today have inherited their respective cultures from unbroken lines of ancestors and so all of us represent continuous living and evolving cultures. This claim should be re-stated as “the world’s oldest unchanged culture”. Aboriginal culture remained quite static for millennia. Thirty thousand years ago, and more, all our forebear Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers, anthropologists today categorising them as paleolithic or stone-age, wood and stone being their main sources of tools. In time, people in some regions developed technologically and culturally, archaeologists describing evolutionary phases as the iron age, bronze age and so on: consider the wheel, writing, musical instruments, houses, clothing, mathematics and forms of engineering.

In the Middle East stonemasons attained levels of skill and sophistication which still astonish us today. In contrast, indigenous Australians never accomplished any of these things. No written language, woven clothing, nor houses consisting of solid walls, a roof, and a doorway. The didgeridoo is today accepted as a musical instrument, but it is very limited in its scope; it cannot be used to play a tune, being confined to droning and barking sounds. Aboriginal numbering systems remained very simple because there was no need for anything more advanced; anyway, without any form of writing or any writing materials it was not possible to perform complicated arithmetic.

Sacred sites. The word sacred is over-used, often being applied dishonestly to describe particular features of the environment. The word has a general notion of something being spiritual or divine, yet the concept of holiness has little place in indigenous mythology. Certainly there are places that have special importance to local communities, but while they may be of cultural, historical or family interest, in no way can they be categorised as sacred in the religious sense.

To give them special status, they are often described with the over-used term significant. Caves, hills, rivers and rock formations may form parts of songlines, myths and stories, but that does not make then sacred. Similarly, rock engravings and cave art are cultural sites but that does not mean that they should all be considered divine. Too often this term is used to berate non-Aboriginal people who do things that indigenous people may not like.

Welcome to country. In recent decades it has become fashionable for public ceremonies to commence with “Welcome to country” ceremonies. But this is a modern contrivance, and many indigenous groups have no recollections of such rituals. Indeed, some describe these rites as embarrassing nonsense. The use of smoke in ceremonies has a long history, being used by many religious groups even today. But in Australia it has taken on a new role, non-indigenous Australians imagining that by tolerating it they are being respectful of Aboriginal people and customs. It has become an industry, some “elders” charging large sums to perform. But this is stone-age behaviour, men in loincloths and painted bodies stamping the dusty ground while others rhythmically clack sticks together. Do men and women of Aboriginal heritage want to be seen by the world as a primitive historical curiosity?

A technologically advanced culture. Some claims have been made (by writers such as Bruce Pascoe) that indigenous people had long understood and applied scientific methodologies. Such a claim is untrue because until very recently they lived as nomadic (or semi-nomadic) hunter-gatherers. Trial-and-error is not really a scientific method. Men fashioned wooden weapons and implements, some constructed rudimentary canoes, and stone was used for spear points and grinding stones. Similarly, the claim that the land was cultivated has little merit. Farming is physically demanding but the earliest inhabitants lacked tools capable of any form of large-scale cropping. Women used digging sticks for uprooting tubers and for excavating insect nests (such as those of ants and bees), but a single-pointed stick is of no use for gardening on a larger scale.

Writers such as Bill Gammage have drawn attention to the use of fire as a means of cultivation. Gammage, a thorough and meticulous researcher, provides considerable evidence to show that fire shaped much of Australia’s natural environment. Moreover, there are photographs and films from the early 1900s depicting indigenous men setting fire to grasslands in the tropical northern regions. However, the use of fire to remove old growth and to stimulate new growth cannot be considered evidence of a distinctively Australian form of advanced land management.

It has often been stated that indigenous people lived in harmony with the environment, but this is an idealised, rose-coloured view of the traditional lifestyle. While this is true insofar as they did not cause widespread damage to the natural features of the landscape, it was due primarily to the numerically small population and to the absence of suitable tools, especially metal tools, with which to work the land. A few traps for fish and eels remain today, but these are the simplest types of construction and did not require special tools.

Truth-telling. The use of this term has been copied mainly from various overseas bodies (such as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), but it is not really about people telling the truth; rather it is a term that has become politically weaponised, a means for berating white Australians. In the current discussion it entails non-indigenous people admitting the truth about our past, that the continent had been “invaded” and colonised, and that the original inhabitants had been ill-treated. That most Australians now accept that killings, cruelties and injustices occurred was evidenced by the well-attended “Sorry” marches (across Sydney Harbour Bridge and elsewhere) that accompanied the national apology in 2008. Additionally, since then a great national effort has been made to elevate the quality of life of indigenous people and to achieve reconciliation by righting past wrongs. The “Closing the Gap” programs are an example. Yet, accompanying this commitment to acknowledging historical truths it is reasonable also to require Aboriginal people to admit a fundamental truth: that theirs was a stone-age culture. Instead of misrepresenting their culture as advanced and comparable with others around the world, it would be honest to accept that at the time of the arrival of British settlers their way of life had continued substantially unchanged since the earliest periods of human migration out of Africa. As evidence of this I cite two events.

Some older readers will recall the publicity given to an event in 1957 when a very ill ten-year-old boy was rescued by a helicopter pilot who happened to be flying over the Tanami Desert. The boy (now an elderly man who lives with the nickname of Helicopter Tjungurrayi) was then living with a family of about thirty. Continuing in their traditional lifestyle, it was the first time most had encountered a white person. Later, a similar group was dubbed by the media as the “Pintupi Nine”. In 1984 a family of nine was found to be living in the west of the Northern Territory. They were described as the last people living the traditional way of life. Photos show the nine family members naked but for some hair-string belts, the men carrying spears and boomerangs, the women with wooden dishes and implements. They were nomadic, moving between waterholes and living on bush tucker, goannas and rabbits. They were testament to the traditional, unchanged paleolithic lifestyle of the Aborigines.

The terms and phrases discussed here are just a few that are being repeated in public discussions. They have become accepted without question, and indeed there are many more such claims that need to be scrutinised, such as traditional wisdom, Aborigines as a maritime people, and the validity of oral history. These are important issues because increasingly indigenous groups are making allegations, some outrageous, that are supposedly based on historical truths. All of the claims are for land or money, and many are made without any evidence; however, challenges to these claims are swiftly suppressed, branded as racist.

Dr Christopher Nance is a retired public servant and academic. For many years he supervised a training program for young indigenous men and women entering the South Australian public service

23 thoughts on “The Political Weaponising of Truth-Telling

  • brandee says:

    Christopher Nance your revelations are much needed to be heard by by a vulnerable uninformed public.
    Very scholarly is your sentence “They were testament to the traditional, unchanged paleolithic lifestyle of the Aborigines”. Better perhaps to now use ‘paleolithic’ sa you do than the equivalent ‘stone age’ but Ion L Idries uses the latter in Our Living Stone Age [published 1963] which recounts much aboriginal culture he witnessed in his itinerant prospecting life before WW1.
    Idriess writes as a friend to aborigines and is a witness to initiation ceremonies that none want to recall nowadays when speaking of a desire to return to culture. A comprehensive account of these ceremonies including the ‘barbaric’ initiations is also contained in the scholarly tome of anthropology by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillem The Native Tribes of Central Australia.
    The sub-incision initiation of males meant that ‘the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to the junction with the scrotum’ the ‘operation is performed with a sharp chipped piece of flint’. Sub-inised males were said to pass water like a woman for the rest of their life
    Aboriginal girls had an initiation ceremony in which there is a brutal opening of the vagina and this is ‘regarded as the equivalent of sub-incision in the male’.
    Rigid tribal life with its initiations and polygamy quickly broke down when tribespeople were exposed to an alternative. Christian missions provided sanctuary and an alternative culture.
    The parliamentarian with the big hat and native hat band is Pat Dodson and he was placed in a Christian school to receive a very good Catholic education and he became for a short while a priest, the first aboriginal priest in Australia.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      Brandee, that was called “whistle cocking” when I was a kid in the FNQ bush of the 1940’s I never did see any but then again they wore trousers then when around civilisation. My grandfathers who were mates of Idress by the way, spoke of it along with lots of other stuff we won’t mention in polite society.

      • Brian Boru says:

        Yes Bots, I heard that term used in WA. Brandee mentions one concession, at least the flint was sharp.
        I also remember reading of Warri and Yatungka being brought in from the desert to Wiluna in 1976. According to Wikipedia they had to elope to the nomadic lifestyle 40 years previously because their relationship was against tribal law.

  • john.singer says:

    All cultures evolve but few if any of today’s Aboriginal people live in a culture of pre-1788. Nor would many of them survive if they tried.
    The article above clearly shows an adaptation to the 19th Century:
    “the nine family members naked but for some hair-string belts, the men carrying spears and boomerangs, the women with wooden dishes and implements. They were nomadic, moving between waterholes and living on bush tucker, goannas and rabbits.”
    Rabbits being a post 1788 food source.
    There is no shame in living the life of a hunter gatherer, the shame is in not acknowledging their ability to span 4,000 years of European progress in only 230 years and some in a much shorter time.
    These were intelligent people limited by their languages and isolation from other experiences. Unfortunately they are being misled into believing foolish misinformation about a lfe that never was.

  • Adelagado says:

    “Welcome to country. In recent decades it has become fashionable for public ceremonies to commence with “Welcome to country” ceremonies.”
    When are child psychologists going to start advising of the damage this ‘Welcome to country’ practice is doing to all non-aboriginal children? Continually telling kids that this is not really their homeland is no way to build a harmonious society. In fact its a basic first step in the raising of home-grown terrorists.

    • Greg Jeffs says:

      A racial qualification is, at present, necessary to deliver a “Welcome to Country”. Why not a non-racial welcome? Get the ‘r’ word out of welcomes and make it a “Welcome to County”. This could be delivered by anyone indigenous to that County – i.e. born there, or by any person who lives there – irrespective of background or race. I, for instance, am indigenous to County Murray in southern NSW. I also happen to live in a different part of the same historic County today. I would qualify on both counts. I will welcome you for free. If another indigenous or resident of the County wishes to charge a fee for formal welcomes, that is OK too. The main point being to remove a racial qualification from Welcomes. Welcome to County can be given and received with no race guilt or race triumphalism. Additionally, there is no doubt about which County one was born in or lives in. It is all documented and doesn’t rely on hearsay or self-identifying.

  • cbattle1 says:

    Yes, the word “Stone-Age” is now seen as a pejorative/depreciatory term, and must be expunged from our vocabularies, as it is part of the hierarchical Euro-white supremacist system of justifying colonisation and exploitation of non-European peoples and lands! Or so the PC rhetoric goes.
    But, there is a lot of truth in the anthropology of the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, and that can be clearly seen when comparing and contrasting the Palaeolithic cultures of Australian Aboriginals with the Neolithic culture of the Maori in NZ. Neolithic culture will always displace the Palaeolithic, and it was only the physical isolation of this continent, and the poor soils of most of the coastal areas that allowed Palaeolithic Australian Aboriginals to continue as they did.
    It is not inconceivable that the Maori or other Polynesians would eventually make their way to the east coast of Australia, possibly via Norfolk then Lord Howe Islands, and the encounter between the Polynesians and the Australian Aboriginal, the Neolithic vs. Palaeolithic, would be very different than the encounter between the British of the Enlightenment and the later.
    Imagine the Aboriginal policy that Imperial Japan would adopt, if the continent was free for the taking?
    OBTW, that universal iconic Aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo, was only an artefact of Arnhem Land; it was only with the advent of British settlement and navigation at the Top End, that the “didge” spread west to the Kimberley and east to Cape York. It is probably post WW2 that it became known and used in the rest of Australia.

  • lhackett01 says:

    For an expose’ of traditional Aboriginal culture and the attitude of the authorities at the time of settlement in 1788 read my paper, “The Aborigine, Reconciliation, and the Voice” at https://www.scribd.com/document/621722977/.

  • Lonsdale says:

    The Dark Emu Exposed website has been studying the genealogies of some self-claimed Aborigines and discovering fakes – but their work has been ignored by Aborigines and the MSM.

    • Tony Tea says:

      Coincidentally, I wrote a comment this morning on DEE about whether the South Australian opposition would dare to ask any questions about the SA Attorney General’s heritage.

  • Biggles says:

    Rabbits weren’t a ‘post 1788 food source’ until 1860, when a few breeding pairs were released at Barwon Park near Geelong,

  • Peter OBrien says:

    An article by Victoria Grieve-Williams in last weekend’s Australian used the term ‘truth talking’, which I found interesting. Here is my comment on that article:

    “I notice Victoria uses a term I have not heard before – truth talking. Is this to differentiate her position from the normal term ‘truth telling’, which is all about an Aboriginal persecution narrative and is largely based on two monstrously spurious claims – that 60,000 to 100,000 Aboriginal warriors lost their lives in a series of colonial wars and that up to 50,000 Aboriginal children were stolen simply in order to breed out Aboriginality? ‘Truth telling’ is a one-way street in which white Australia is always the villain. Does her ‘truth talking’ imply that there might be faults on both sides? I would like to think so. Does it include the fact that the second class infrastructure in Aboriginal communities (that she refers to) might have less to do with money and more to do with Aboriginal neglect and destructiveness, and that the disadvantage in remote Aboriginal communities exists despite the ongoing efforts of myriad Aboriginal organizations and programs?”

    To my surprise, the comment was published.

    • geoff_brown1 says:

      “Truth telling” – the latest claim, here in Western Australia, is that eight hundred Aborigines were murdered in the South West, by a party of police and settlers, in 1841, “and the river estuary ran red with their blood.”
      Did police and settlers in 1841 have access to automatic weapons and field artillery?

  • Daffy says:

    I wonder what the phrase ‘in harmony with the environment’ is supposed to mean. How does one live not in harmony with the environment? Breath nitrogen instead of oxygen? Pave agricultural land then wonder why planting doesn’t work?
    I can see some disharmony when poor river management leads to erosion of good farmland, or open agricultural channels lead to loss of water through evaporation and infiltration…when we’d need lined and covered channels to avoid these detriments; that would be ‘in harmony’.
    Harmony is understanding the environment and managing it for productive human life.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    The world’s oldest static culture uintil 1788, then the worlds fastest changing culture, from paleolithic to Europeanised “uncle” and “auntie” PhD professor elders in only two centuries.
    Sacred sites are locations where tales comparable to those told to children about how the rabbit got long ears occurred.

  • john.singer says:

    It is odd that so many current doco-movies, particularly the ones with Professor Marcia Langton and/or moviemaker Rachael Perkins, feature whopper misinformations. I loved the one when all 11 ships disembarked in Port Jackson featured in Episode 1 of the First Australians:
    “….it is a summer’s night on the 25th of January 1788, eleven giant ships enter the harbour, on board are over 1300 people more than half are convicts the rest are soldiers. The people on board ordered to remain there until dawn, they traveled for nearly eight months from England to this unknown land. around the harbor the first Australians like fires and they yelled from their canoes for these apparitions to go. They thought they was devil when they landed first, they did not know what to make of them when they saw them going up the mask they thought they were possums [muffled speaker identified]. At first light the order was given for the convict men and women to disembark…”

    This does not tally with any of the many reports I have read about the first landings at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. These docos are prominent in the teaching of school children and they should not be so misled.

  • rosross says:

    All humans alive today are descended from the same relatively small group of distant ancestors. So, all cultures are as old as each other, but as the article points out, some did not evolve very much. Aboriginal peoples were not alone in remaining stone-age for there were a few other groups around the world including the African San people, but the fact is, they changed very little in the 40,000 years Homo Sapiens are thought to have been in what we came to call Australia.

    What is clever or admirable about failing to evolve? The real question is why because Aboriginal peoples were not stupid. They quickly realised broken glass made a better spear tip and they also appreciated the benefits of an iron axe compared to a stone axe, along with the other benefits of the then modern world which arrived with the British.

    One suspects their appalling treatment of women who were little more than slaves and the massively high rate of infanticide kept them trapped in a stone-age culture. Humans evolve faster when they must. And women play a major role in motivating evolution.

  • call it out says:

    When the white settlers arrived in Adelaide in 1836, estimates were that there were 700 (some say as few as 300, and others say the population was much reduced by smallpox coming down the Murray areas) Kaurna people living in their tribal area, which was roughly 10,000 sq km. That is about 1 person per 14 sq km.
    Now there are about 2240 persons of all colours, types and origins per 14 sq km. And much of that land also produces food exported to feed others.
    The Kaurna people touched very lightly on the land mostly because there were so few of them. There were so few of them because life as a hunter gather is very hard.
    There are still some nice patches of undisturbed land here and there, and should a group of Kaurna descendents and their supporters wish to re-live an earlier lifestyle, I doubt whether there would be any opposition.
    Then again, who would give up an abundance of food, good medicine, protection of the law for all, including women, warmth and shelter, leisure, iphones, Toyotas and AFL football for a life of grinding misery?

  • padraic says:

    An excellent article on historical facts and “truth telling” at its most objective, particularly showing what the Aboriginal people are going through is no different what all cultures at some point have gone through. When I see the response by governments to the situation in remote area towns and remote Aboriginal settlements the Australian expression “running around like headless chooks” springs to mind. What is occurring in these communities is not new in the grand sweep of history and it may be useful to see if any of the past historical remedies used to address such issues may also be worth trying.
    As often pointed out in this Quadrant article and others and in commentary on them, humans at different times have moved from hunter gatherers to settled subsistence farmers (crop growing, domesticated food animals, barter) and then to a modern industrialised and urbanised form of society. Britain was the first European country to liberate itself from feudal institutions and made the change from feudal subsistence lifestyle to industrialised society over several centuries. Others, in more recent times, like subsistence farming people in Africa and Asia made the change over several generations and more recently hunter gatherer societies are also making the change. Hunter gatherers have essentially skipped the settled farmers stage and gone into the urbanised/industrialised stage in a relatively short time. Very commendable I would have thought.
    In all three cases the changeover involves massive cultural, economic, political and social disruption resulting in the breakdown of existing traditional forms of living. There may be lessons to be learnt from the adjustment to modernity from the experience of those of us and whose ancestors experienced the Industrial Revolution that took place in Britain and Ireland and those more recently, as in societies in Asia and Africa. Much of the Industrial Revolution involved the breakdown of settled rural life and the movement to where the new forms of paid work were available in the larger towns and cities. Between 1740 and 1742 the massive migration (and subsequently) from countryside to London resulted in the population of greater London virtually doubling from 674,000 in 1700 to 1,274,000 in 1820. This change of lifestyle had significant economic and social consequences on the existing way of life. Most of our ancestors, whether of convict or settler origin, came to Australia as a result of the impact on society by the Industrial Revolution in UK. One of my great grandfathers, for example, worked in an iron ore mine in western Cumberland where the mined ore was transported in panniers on the sides of donkeys down to the port and loaded on to ships which took the ore around to Newcastle (where they mined coal) to be processed into steel. The conditions underground were appalling and many men died at a very young age from silicosis and related lung diseases. As the demand for steel increased and iron ore could be imported more cheaply from the colonies who were using newer technology, the mine was closed down and many of the miners came to Australia to work in the Hunter Valley rather than sitting around over there living in poverty and getting into trouble. Finding work in another country is a traumatic way of dealing with the impact of socio-economic change.
    In relation to the economic impact of the Industrial Revolution two important sectors were the chemical phase (1750 – 1850) and shortly after 1750 followed by the mechanical phase (there are many other “phases”). The chemical phase began with the factory production of alkalis used in soap, glass and textile manufacture. Up to 1820 alkalis were sourced from the ashes of burnt Barilla plants and the ash from burnt kelp seaweed. The collection of these raw materials was very much a cottage industry. Barilla was grown in small rural gardens and Kelp was collected by hand along the coasts of Ireland and Britain. Between 1840 and 1860 the new factory production methods replaced both of these sources of alkali and the people involved in the old technology became unemployed. A similar thing happened with the cottage industry weavers who were made redundant when the new cotton and woollen mills began producing. The novel “Silas Marner” was published in 1861 and makes reference to this change.
    The economic impact of these changes led to undesirable social impacts through unemployment, the transition to slums in the cities and alcohol abuse, and the birth of modern marketing, leading up to the famous Hogarth painting of “Gin Lane” in 1851. The manufacturers of gin managed to have their product made widely available in retail shops with a smaller tax than applied to beer which caused a change in the drinking habits of the poorer members of the community with the consequent breakdown in social behaviour.

    When the appalling impact on society was recognised an Act was passed in 1851 so that spirits became highly taxed and widespread retail availability by the distillers and shopkeepers was stopped and sales confined to licensed premises. This reduced the excesses in spirit drinking to a large degree and was a turning point in the social history of London and other large urban centres. But it was not an immediate silver bullet and after this regulatory action it was estimated that one eighth of deaths in adults in London was due to spirit drinking. Another Act in 1851 was the Arsenic Act which was aimed at preventing deliberate poisonings by readily available arsenic (used legally as a rodenticide) mainly by women who could not get a divorce from husbands when they found themselves in a violent or otherwise unsatisfactory relationship. Because there was no divorce in the Victorian era they exercised the marriage clause “Until death do us part”. John Stuart Mill was the driving force in this period behind a lot of this social legislation aimed at preventing harm in the community.

    In more recent time in the 1970s I understand that in Malawi where people were in last stages of the process of moving from a feudal type subsistence farming society to modern urbanised society there were social problems caused by alcohol due to the social dislocation resulting from this process. Many men from the rural villages went to South Africa as migrant workers with the intention of sending some of their pay packet back to their families. This did not always happen, leaving the women left behind short of money. Home brewing of traditional beer made from maize or millet was still possible, so the women began brewing beer at home and then distilling it into a spirit and selling it in illegal “shebeen” outlets in the rural areas and towns. This caused much the same problems as did gin in UK in the 18th century, particularly brain damage through contamination during the distillation process with methyl alcohol, and seen by the government as a public health problem. Initially the government responded by fining or jailing the women which caused a huge backlash, so much so that the government went back to the drawing board and basically solved the problem another way. They encouraged a British distillery company to set up a modern plant in Malawi and then buy all the home distilled “gin” made by the women – which gave them a legitimate source of income – and then reprocess the homemade gin in the distillery and in doing so removed the methyl alcohol and other impurities and then marketed it a mainstream product. After this was put in place if someone persisted in making and selling homemade gin directly to the public they faced being arrested and being fined. Here in Australia abuse of alcohol was not unknown and older readers will remember the 6 o’clock swill with its legislated restricted hours of service and restrictions on the retail sale of “alcoholic beverages and spirituous liquors”.

    Another problem in UK (and its colonies) in the Industrial Revolution was the misuse of drugs, mainly in the form of products derived from opium, but there were others. “Chlorodyne” was widely available as a cure for diarrhoea and there were similar opium based products for children like “Soothing Syrups” and “Teething Syrup” which were the cause of many deaths of children, mainly through parental neglect when the parents would sedate their children and leave them at home before they “went to the pub” and in doing so would often overdose the children, with sad results and this engendered a Poisons Act in 1868 and later legislation.

    It is very rare that the answer to the problems seen in transitioning from one form of society to another can be achieved by legislation alone. There is also a cultural dimension and people themselves have to come up with some answers and/or non-government organisation such as the churches, and religious groups and secular groups and charities have a role to play, without being patronising. In the Industrial Revolution religious groups such as the Salvation Army, the Quakers and the Methodists, as well as the mainstream churches at the time like the Catholics and Anglicans played a part in combatting the “demon drink” and other undesirable social ills. John Wesley, for example, began as an Oxford graduate priest in the Church of England. In 1738 after he had preached in Bristol to some workingmen who lived and worked in terrible conditions and who could not be helped because the Poor Laws utilised the parish system of poor relief and this had broken down under the weight of mass migration from the countryside to the urban parishes who could not cope. Wesley split off from the C of E and started his own church with a focus on the working poor in the overcrowded towns and cities with an emphasis on self-discipline, evangelism and philanthropy. The Catholics, here in Australia as well, had a system whereby young 12 year old boys making their Confirmation, would be encouraged to “take The Pledge” which involved not drinking alcohol until they reached the age of 21. In the 1990s some missionaries in outback Australia became concerned at the harmful effects of alcohol to members of the Aboriginal communities they were living in and decided to substitute Kava for alcohol. It was a disaster, as Kava is usually used moderately in occasional ceremonies in places like Fiji, but in those Aboriginal communities the hardened drinkers switched from drinking lots of alcohol to drinking lots of Kava which is quite toxic and heavy drinkers end up in what looks like a catatonic trance. The Government had to ban it for that reason and it is still banned in the Northern Territory. Recently one of the Australian MPs visiting Fiji and to be admitted to hospital after drinking it at a ceremony.

    The need for initiatives other than Legislated ones was highlighted by Jacinta Price in a recent article about Alice Springs in “The Australian” in which she says “we developed the Traditional Owner Elder Patrol, which consisted of local elders (my mother Bess Nungurrayai Price included) patrolling the streets from 9pm to 2am ensuring children were being returned to their families and not creating problems. The elders were language speakers and often had kin relationships with the children and their families so this created effective communication around family responsibility for the children….” This sensible community initiative was not supported by governments – so much for their virtue signalling about “consultation” and self-determined answers to Aboriginal problems. As Jacinta price mentions in the article you don’t need a “constitutionally enshrined voice …” to implement “many immediate, effective measures.” “They do, however, require common sense, honesty and a bipartisan approach.”

    I have travelled several times around the Northern Territory and north Western Australia and what impressed me was the great job the mining companies are doing by employing and training young Aborigines and have met these youngsters at the various motels at which we were staying and seen their self confidence. This is in contrast to other companies who make all the woke politically correct statements and gestures in their big city splendour but would never think of actually using their corporations to create jobs in these remote areas.

    So, there is a lot that can be done to smooth the transition, if people are serious about it, but the situation here in Australia has become a political football and the proposed “Voice” will not substitute for practical solutions.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Thank you padraic for a marvelous, all encompassing comment about the history of social transitioning.
      Your final words comparing the actions of companies and communities which actually do something compared to those just following the woke vibe are telling.

  • padraic says:

    Thanks for the comment Brian Boru but I apologise for a typo chronological error – no doubt because I wrote the original in a hurry late in the evening and did not check carefully enough. The section dealing with “Gin Lane” should read as follows:
    “…. leading up to the famous Hogarth painting of “Gin Lane” in 1751. The manufacturers of gin managed to have their product made widely available in retail shops with a smaller tax than applied to beer which caused a change in the drinking habits of the poorer members of the community with the consequent breakdown in social behaviour. When the appalling impact on society was recognised an Act was passed in 1751 so that spirits became highly taxed and retail availability by the distillers and shopkeepers was stopped and sales confined to licensed premises. This reduced the excesses in spirit drinking to a large degree and was a turning point in the social history of London and other large urban centres. But it was not an immediate silver bullet and after this regulatory action it was estimated that one eighth of deaths in adults in London was due to spirit drinking. In the second half of the 18th century tea drinking became very popular and was another factor in reducing alcohol intake. A century later another Act in 1851 was the Arsenic Act which was aimed at preventing deliberate poisonings by readily available arsenic (used legally as a rodenticide) mainly by women who could not get a divorce from husbands when they found themselves in a violent or otherwise unsatisfactory relationship. Because there was no divorce in the Victorian era they exercised the marriage clause “Until death do us part”. John Stuart Mill was the driving force in this period behind a lot of this social legislation aimed at preventing harm in the community”

  • Carnivorous says:

    Another of the unsubstantiated claims that has gained inclusion in the popular vernacular is that aboriginals were involved in trade.
    With the term trade networks slowly gaining traction.
    This article itself has pronounced ” the indigenous Australians lived in small family units, occasionally gathering in larger numbers for trading or ceremonial purposes.”
    Is their any actual evidence of commerce or ven anything like it ???
    Early encounters mention the difficulty of making reciprocal exchanges.
    The aboriginals would take what was offered but could not be induced to understand that there was a mutual obligation of return.
    Problems around this cultural misunderstanding led to many violent interactions as the Europeans felt that taking without giving something in return was theft.
    Buckley told a story about an old man who made props to hold up the sky who requested stone axes be sent up north in order that the props could be maintained.
    This story would explain the spread of axe heads or possibly othrr items without the concept of trade being involved.

  • Peejay says:

    Decades ago, the ‘experts’ were content to claim that the aborigines have been here for some 40,000 years, Later it edged up to 50K and all of a sudden it’s become 100,000 years. BUT I also know that this 100k number is somehow magical because it aligns with the estimated 100k natives that according to Rachel Perkins in her Australian Wars TV spectacular (not!) that were killed fighting for their land.

    Thus the reasoning behind this blatant numerical forgery has allowed the lie tellers (ie the urban aboriginal elite – well fed, well educated and vocal part aboriginals) to desecrate our sacred War Memorial in Canberra by demanding a share of the space to show the world that their war dead were just as numerous as our soldiers who left THIS land to lay down their lives for Their country (which was a sovereign nation.

    Pre 1788 the people living in the vast two thirds desert and semi desert inland would not have known they were part of this huge island continent. Nor would they have known anything about nations because they didn’t exist. Claims to the contrary are simply an urban political construct by the aborigial industry,

    When the first episode of Rachel Perkin’s fancifull Australia Wars was run I sent an objection to the SBS Ombusdsman. I claimed that it breached the Channels Code of Conduct relating to factual content.This related to the claims by Perkins that there were an estimated 100k natives killed in these so called wars

    I wasn’t surprised that the lady who replied rejected my argument .She trotted out the crap about the 100k figure derived by two so called academics who I claimed had no written records to work with.

    Hard evidence apparently doesn’t matter to the woke inspired SBS as crystal ball gazing is just as effective a tool in providing the magical number necessary.

    The graduates from the University of Kellog’s Cornflakes made unfounded assumptions about how many raiding parties their were in Queensland over time by the Native Police Force then sexed up an average for how many kills per raiding party. and added a fudge factor to arrive at the magical ton!

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