Bogus Identity and Constitutional Change

In July 2000, Allen Appo of Bundaberg, Queensland, was charged in the Townsville Magis­trates Court with a breach of the Fisheries Act by illegally catching undersized and female mud crabs. He was represented by Townsville Aboriginal Legal Aid who argued that, because Appo was Aboriginal, fishing restrictions did not apply to him. However, a cousin of his, who was the daughter of an Aboriginal man, told Fisheries officers that Appo was not of Aboriginal descent and that his family heritage was purely Sri Lankan. She complained that the 66-year-old Appo and more than 100 mem­bers of his extended family had been practising the deception for more than thirty years.

In that time, they had received millions of dollars worth of benefits, including housing loans, business loans, study grants, employment preferences and legal assistance. Some operated indigenous cultural schools for tourists and sold their artworks commercially. Other family members had taken advantage of indigenous preference for government jobs and university appointments. No one in authority had ever questioned their rights to these benefits. The colour of their skin was all it took to confirm them.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries legal officers finally made a genealogical study of the family and presented to the court generations of birth, death and marriage certificates showing Appo’s heritage was entirely Sinhalese. Appo was fined on the illegal fishing charge but appealed the magistrate’s deci­sion. He was audacious enough to persuade Aboriginal Legal Aid to represent him again, but the local District Court rejected the appeal.[1]

In other words, the much publicised recent scandal of Bruce Pascoe’s fraudulent claim to be an Aboriginal man, is nothing new or unique. Pascoe’s forbears are all English, mainly from Cornwall, and his genealogy contains no Aboriginal ancestry at all. However, this has not concerned the judges of state Premiers’ lucrative literary prizes supposedly reserved for indigenous writers, or the academic committee at the University of Melbourne who disregarded Pascoe’s lack of any postgraduate qualifications or contributions to academic journals and appointed him Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture. Given the success that bogus Aborigines like Pascoe and Appo have long enjoyed there should be little doubt they will continue to do so, especially if the Australian populace is foolish enough to support the new Labor government’s proposed referendum to give Aboriginal people their own platform in our Constitution.

Aboriginal identity has well-known finan­cial benefits, provided directly from government or from various government-funded institutions. Hence governments have a palpable interest in being able to clearly distinguish genuine from bogus claimants. If constitutional change will give Aboriginal people even more rights for which other Australians do not qualify, there needs to be some means of distinguishing between those applicants who are genuine and those who are not. Otherwise, special constitutional rights will open up vast opportunities for people to make fraudulent claims. By diverting power to make policy to Aboriginal communities under the guise of self-determination, the Voice would inevitably attract hordes of imposters, carpetbaggers and shysters to this new honeypot. In other words, Labor’s planned constitutional change cannot avoid the vexed question of how Aboriginal identity is defined and managed.

Since 1981 when the Commonwealth published its Report on a Review of the Administration of the Work­ing Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian governments have accepted a three-part test for genuine Aboriginality: the person should (i) be of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent; (ii) identify as someone of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, and (iii) be accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives.[2]

No Australian government department or instrumentality wants to get into a dispute over this issue and all have happily regarded the three-part definition as the resolution to the ques­tion. Unfortunately, the test is anything but foolproof. For the past five decades, Aborigines themselves have been accusing others of being false pretenders. Indeed, within the fickle world of modern Aboriginal politics, this has been one of the most common allega­tions against rivals. In the ensuing conflicts, federal and state govern­ments, their bureaucracies, institutions and courts have all, when put to the test, shown themselves unable to satis­factorily resolve the question of Aboriginal identity.

Most government bureaucracies that provide grants to indigenous applicants are required to ensure t the money goes to bona fide indigenous claimants. Most require their departmental forms to include a clause along the following lines: “The submission must provide evidence that the applicant is an Aboriginal person or a Torres Strait Islander.”[3] However, if any applicant finds this requirement objectionable, they don’t have to do much to get it waived.

In 2012, the actor Jack Charles applied to the federal government’s arts funding body, the Australia Council, for a grant to write a book about his life. He had been working in the theatre since 1971 and also had some roles in minor documen­taries and feature films. Like most actors, Charles thought he was a famous person who would not need to establish his iden­tity. So when the Australia Council followed its protocol and asked him to prove his Aboriginality so it could properly con­sider his funding application, he was deeply offended. He made this as widely known as he could, especially to a sympathetic news media.[4] The resulting publicity quickly caused the Aus­tralia Council to cave in, not only in Charles’s case but for all other Aboriginal applicants too. It changed its protocol so that since then, when Aboriginal people are applying for grants, they have not been required to prove their ethnic identity.[5]

The Jack Charles case shows that in applications for federal grants for indigenous people, the onus of proof is not on the applicant. Claims of Aboriginality are now widely taken at face value and the onus of responsibility is on those who are suspicious of such claims to challenge them, obviously at considerable risk to them­selves from potential defamation suits or, like journalist Andrew Bolt in 2011, found by the Federal Court to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act. Hence, unless sceptics have strong evidence to prove their suspicions, they are well-advised to keep them to themselves. In short, a bogus applicant finds it easy to get away with it.

The track record of Australian law courts is not much better than the arts bureaucracy. On the one hand, the courts say they recognise the three-part test for eligibility. In the Mabo v. Qld (No. 2) case in 1992, Justice Gerard Brennan endorsed all three points, saying:

Membership of the indigenous people depends on biological descent from the indigenous people and on mutual recognition of a particular person’s membership by that person and by the elders or other persons enjoying traditional authority among those people.[6]

On the other hand, some courts have felt free to drop parts of the test in particular cases. This was apparent in the strange case of Darren Wouters in 1989. Initially, Federal Court judge Cecil Pincus found the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had no jurisdiction to inquire into the death of Wouters. In this case, Wouters’s identity failed on both the second and the third counts of the test. He did not identify as Aboriginal and no Aboriginal community identified him as Aboriginal either. Justice Pincus found that, even though Wouters’s mother was probably part-Aboriginal, as were his maternal grandpar­ents, this genetic connection was not enough to make him Aboriginal. Justice Pincus found:

…the late Mr Wouters was of European appearance and presumably of largely European extraction, his mother being part-Aboriginal and his father Dutch; although he became aware that he was part-Aboriginal, he was not identified by the community as an Aboriginal, nor did he regard himself as one. I have come to the conclusion that the late Mr Wouters was not an “Aboriginal” within the meaning of the letters patent and there will be a declaration accordingly.[7]

However, the Royal Commission, which was struggling to find enough Aboriginal deaths in custody to justify its existence, appealed. When the case went before the Full Federal Court, it reversed Justice Pincus’s decision. The full court found the category of Aboriginal “could expand or contract according to the context and purpose”. Hence, because the Royal Commission was a broad-ranging inquiry, it could include people whose identity was in question.[8] This finding smacked more of a favour for the Royal Commissioners than fidelity to the life of poor Mr Wouters. Robert French, who Kevin Rudd later appointed Chief Justice of the High Court, was one of the three judges on the Full Federal Court that made this decision, but it does not impress with its logic. The criterion of “context and purpose” is immensely variable. Anyone denied recognition could argue their case was unique in both context and/or purpose, as individual cases inevitably are, and that they should therefore be exempt from one or more of the three parts to the test. The point of laws and regulations, surely, is to create gen­eral rules that all should abide by. Under the Full Federal Court’s criterion, any claim of Aboriginal identity would now be almost impossible to refuse.

This was confirmed when the most exhaustive case to distinguish between genuine and bogus Aborigines failed its objective. In 1997–8, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre went to the Federal Court to challenge the eligibility of eleven people to vote in elections to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The head of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell, declared there were “more phoney than real Aborigines in Tasmania, and more than half the voters in the 1996 ATSIC election were not Aboriginal”. Mansell said that if properly investigated, about 60 per cent of Tasmanian “Aborigi­nes” would be rejected, and nationally up to 70,000 self-proclaimed Aborigines would be denied their claimed identity. He said members of the rival Liah Pootah community in Tasma­nia were not Aborigines but simply white people identifying themselves as such in order to gain access to greater welfare benefits and to make claims for land rights.

After a two-year hearing that took 1000 pages of affidavits, Justice Ron Merkel (a former barrister well-known for act­ing for Aboriginal clients in the Gunner-Cubillo Stolen Genera­tions test case) accepted as genuine most of the electors in dis­pute. Even though they were unable to provide proof of descent from tribal society, all but two members of the Liah Pootah community were accepted as being Aboriginal, primarily on the grounds of self-identification and recognition by other Liah Pootah members. None of them could provide a gene­alogical record that connected them to the original Tasmanian tribes and they were not required to submit to DNA tests. Of the two people ruled ineligible, one was a man who failed to file his evidence on time, and the other a woman who was the only per­son whose family tree was disproven by immigration records found by the Mansell faction.[9] In other words, as a result of this case, anyone who claims to be an Aborigine and can muster some friends in support, will be accepted by the Federal Court as genuine. Although Michael Mansell was unsuccessful in his Federal Court action, he did manage to prevent the Liah Pootah people from voting at subsequent elec­tions for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council, an organisa­tion controlled by his cousin Clive.

If it is so difficult for the Australian legal system to separate legitimate Aborigines from frauds, then the self-governing Aboriginal entities proposed by Labor’s Constitutional change could hardly do any better. There is a long tradition of dark-hued Australians of various non-indigenous back­grounds who have masqueraded as Aborigines. Some, like the Queensland Sri Lankans, have done it for money and personal advancement; others for political reasons; and others again for all three.

Bobbi Sykes, a one-time teenage striptease dancer, declared herself Aboriginal when she came from North Queensland to Sydney in the 1960s and got involved in radical black politics. She moved on to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy demonstrations in Canberra in the early 1970s. On the strength of her journalism and activism, she became well-known as an Aboriginal identity and advocate of Black Power. Even though she had no undergraduate degree and had left school aged fourteen without finishing high school, she applied for and won a scholarship to America’s top university, Harvard — all expenses and accom­modation paid, plus a generous living allowance — where this hallowed institution awarded her a PhD in education. In 1983, Sykes was widely hailed as Harvard’s first Aboriginal graduate. She was quickly appointed to positions across a range of Australian govern­ment-funded indigenous associations. Such are the rewards for those who know how to game the system of positive discrimina­tion.

However, there had long been Aboriginal people who knew she was not one of them. In 1972, Aboriginal journalist and editor John Newfong complained she was of White Australian and Black American descent. Brisbane’s Sunday Sun newspaper in 1973 quoted her mother Rachel Paterson saying her father was a black American soldier stationed in Townsville during the Second World War, Master Sergeant Robert Barkely of the United States Army.[10] But it took a very long time for the full-time whistle to be blown on Sykes’s bogus career. In 1998, in her multi-award-winning autobiography, Snake Dancing, Sykes credited herself as founder of several Aboriginal political, welfare and community services. This finally led a number of Aboriginal activists and identities, including the magistrate Pat O’Shane and the academic Gracelyn Smallwood, to out Sykes as a phoney.

During her time as an Aboriginal celebrity, one of the books Sykes launched was by the Western Australian author Colin Johnson, who was then going by the names of Mudrooroo Narogin and Mudrooroo Nyoongah. However, an uncannily similar dispute soon took place over the status of his Aborigi­nality too. Mudrooroo was a prolific author who not only wrote a best-selling novel, Wild Cat Falling (1965), but also a well-received study of Aboriginal literature, Writing from the Fringe (1990), and a political and social treatise about Aborigi­nality, Us Mob (1995). He was well known in the media as an advocate for Aboriginal causes. However in 1997, after his sister publicly revealed their descent was not Aboriginal but from a father of African-American background, the co-ordinator of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, Robert Eddington, denounced Mudrooroo’s claim to Aboriginality and to being one of the Nyoongah people. Until then, his Aboriginal identity had never been questioned by any of the arts bureaucrats who had liberally supported his career. None of them had ever asked him whether he complied with the three-part qualifications for Aboriginal identity. Like Bobbi Sykes, he would not have passed any of them.

One of the plaintiffs who succeeded in prosecuting Andrew Bolt for racial discrimination in 2011 was Larissa Behrendt, who grew up in the white middle class suburb of Gymea, near the Port Hacking water­front in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney. Larissa became the centre of media attention at one point during the hearings of Bolt’s trial. The ABC program Q&A invited Bess Price, a Northern Territory Aboriginal politician (and mother of now Senator Jacinta Price), to talk about the Howard government’s large-scale “intervention” into domestic violence and child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities. Bess Price had praised Howard’s actions but, watching it at home, Larissa could hardly contain her contempt. Her Twitter protest to one of her contacts at the ABC made Larissa front-page news when she said: “I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.”

Her comment was not only something that would now probably rate as hate speech but it also opened up what had been until then a largely unspoken gulf within Aboriginal politics. The activist academic Marcia Langton felt compelled to intervene herself, describing Behrendt’s comments as:

…an exemplar of the wide cultural, moral and increasingly political rift between urban, left-wing, activist Aboriginal women and the bush women who witness the horrors of life in their communities, much of which is arrogantly denied by the former … Behrendt and the other anti-intervention campaign maestros have assumed the role of superior thinkers whose grand education and positions in the metropolis qualify them to heap contempt on the natives of that faraway place where other Australians rarely tread foot and about which they sustain a romantic out-of-date mythological view.[11]

Now, Bess Price is a fully Aboriginal woman, born and raised within the Walpiri tribe in the Central Australian desert. However, neither Larissa nor her parents came from an Aboriginal community, so they couldn’t honestly fulfil all three parts of the Commonwealth’s test for Aboriginality. Larissa’s father, Paul Behrendt, when I knew him in the 1980s, was the head of the Aboriginal Research and Resource Centre at the University of New South Wales. Her white mother, Raema, was an accountant. The parents separated when Larissa was young and she had very little contact with Paul when she was growing up. Paul himself had no contact at all with Aboriginal people or culture when he was growing up. In fact, until he was 40, Paul did not know that his mother, Lavena (Lavinia) Behrendt who died when he was three years old, was part-Aboriginal. Paul’s father, Henry Behrendt, a white man of English and German descent, was a journalist in Lithgow in the 1930s and 1940s.

After Lavena died during childbirth in 1942, Henry did not raise their nine children himself but put them in the Presbyterian Church’s Burnside Homes at Parramatta. Paul remained there until he was fifteen when he left to join the Navy. He did not adopt an Aboriginal identity and pursue Aboriginal politics until the 1980s. Nonetheless, he quickly became one of the most radical activists of the time. In one book he co-authored, he declared British colonisation of Australia illegitimate and said Aborigines should be given a separate country, self-governing with its own laws: a revival of a demand first made by the Communist Party of Australia in the 1930s. Larissa was obviously influenced by all this since after she left school she joined her father as a member of the Aboriginal Provisional Government, headed by the Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell.

Larissa has long portrayed her ancestry as predominantly Aboriginal. In her evidence to the trial of Andrew Bolt, she said when Paul did research on his family background, “the only non-Aboriginal ancestry he discovered was that my paternal grandfather was born in England.” Her witness statement also said that Paul’s mother, Lavena, “had an Aboriginal mother and was brought up by her Aboriginal father”. However, in articles in Quadrant on the Bolt trial and Larissa’s testimony, Michael Connor has pointed out that Lavena actually had a white father, an Englishman named Arthur Dawson.[12] Hence, when her mother’s German antecedents are also counted, only one of Larissa’s eight great grandparents was a full-blood Aborigine, the rest were European.

However, Larissa had few qualms about using her minority biological connection with Aboriginality to make the most of the positive discrimination offered by the education system. She successfully applied for enrolment at the highly selective law school at the University of New South Wales but admitted, “I hadn’t got particularly high marks.” When she applied for a scholar­ship to take a postgraduate degree at Harvard University, she was preferred ahead of the university medalist, and the decision generated a complaint.

Larissa later told a Sydney Morning Herald journalist that she learnt how to apply for the position from none other than the bogus Aborigine Bobbi Sykes, who in the 1990s was her father’s mistress. Sykes showed her how to win the scholarship. “She literally put the forms in front of me,” Larissa said, and advised her on what to say. Larissa soon found she fitted the required profile. “I think Harvard saw a gap in their intake”, she explained.[13]

Soon after she returned with her degree from the USA, at the age of 31 Larissa was appointed by the Uni­versity of Technology Sydney as Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies in 2001. She subsequently moved into a high-rise apartment overlooking Hyde Park in the Sydney CBD. There was no Aboriginal community at that locale, let alone “elders or other persons enjoying traditional authority”, who could identify her as one of their own. Yet these days this girl from Gymea calls herself a “Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman.”

Larissa’s career is another example of how problematic the government’s three-part definition has become. Her case, and the others discussed here, show why the question of Aboriginal identity will remain dodgy, or, as Robert French’s judgment puts it more nicely, as variable as “context and purpose”. In contrast, to decide land rights cases, the Federal Court established a Native Title Tribunal to make judgments based on historical occupation of particular lands. But none of the examples I have given here have any comparable basis in something as tangible as land. They are all based squarely on the identity assumed by the claimants which, as we’ve seen in other notorious recent examples of identity politics, need be nothing tangible at all.

And yet Australians are soon to be asked to vote in a referendum to confer a special status in the Constitution on people who our major institutions cannot confidently identify as genuine, and who other Aborigines denounce as “phonies”. If no one is willing or able to enforce the three-part test, the phonies are highly likely to multiply exponentially in the future, at a rate that correlates closely with the incentives on offer.

There is, however, a rational and civilised way to resolve the issue. This would be to deprive bogus Aborigines of any inducement to make their claims in the first place. That would mean treating Aborigines as equals with other Australians. It would mean abandoning special laws, benefits and employment targeted at Aboriginal people, or any other group based only on race or ethnicity. It would mean that welfare payments should be based on need rather than skin colour; literary awards be based on talent rather than identity; education be based on scholarly accomplishment rather than racial privilege, and employment be based on merit rather than racial quotas. Above all, it would make completely redundant any reason to confer a special status on Aboriginal people in the Constitution.


[1] Tony Koch, ‘Aboriginal Blood Feud’, Courier Mail, 16 December 2000

[2] The most useful and thorough examination of this question is: John Gardi­ner-Garden, ‘Defining Aboriginality in Australia’, Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library Current Issues Brief, no. 10, 2002–03, http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/cib0203/03Cib10

[3] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (Regional Council Elec­tion) Amendment Rules 2002 (No. 2)

[4] ‘Nobody has ever asked me if I’m Aboriginal. This is the only time’, Syd­ney Morning Herald, 23 November 2012

[5] ‘Indigenous Win’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2013; ‘Aboriginal Iden­tity: Who is “Aboriginal”?’, Creative Spirits website, www.creative spir­its.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-identity-who-is-abo­riginal#toc0

[6] Mabo v Qld (No. 2) (1992) 175 Commonwealth Law Reports, 1, p 70

[7] Queensland v. Wyvill, 1989, at: https://jade.io/article/211732

[8] Gardiner-Garden, ‘Defining Aboriginality in Australia’

[9] For sources of these disputes and other conflicts and scandals within Tas­manian Aboriginal communities, see Windschuttle, Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume 1, (third edition, 2005), ‘Epilogue: Heritage, Genealogy and Black Intellectual Authoritarianism’, pp 417–36

[10] quoted by Anita Heiss, in Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight — Publishing Indigenous Literature, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2003, p 9

[11] Marcia Langton, ‘Aboriginal Sophisticates Betray Bush Sisters’, The Australian, 15 April 2011

[12] Michael Connor, ‘Larissa Behrendt and the Denial of Family’, Quadrant, June 2022; Michael Connor, ‘The Family Stories of the Behrendts’, Quadrant, November 2016

[13] ‘Lunch with Larissa Behrendt’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 September 2010

54 thoughts on “Bogus Identity and Constitutional Change

  • Stephen Due says:

    They cannot tell whether a person is a man or a woman, so it comes as no surprise that they find determining aboriginality a challenge. What does the future hold as we progress further and further into the realms of make-believe? Perhaps, as with ‘gender reassignment’, the hospitals will start offer ‘race reassignment’ for those who feel they are an Aboriginal trapped in the body of a White Oppressor?

  • wdr says:

    Too much common sense and anti-wokeism here to be likely to succeed in these politically correct times. Dutton should be good on this issue, unlike Morrison- but will he be?

  • john.singer says:

    A great article by a man clearly a master of his subject.

    Might I humbly add a few comments. First one of the questionable Aborigines is or was married to a former Attorney General of Australia and this might have had some bearing on how evidence was perceived.

    Second, it is doubtful if the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have much genetics in common. Therefore the appropriation of the word “Indigenous” which in my opinion applies to more than 17 Million Australians born in Australia yet not catered for by the Ministry for Indigenous Australians is itself confusing. The Minister sacked a member of the Voice design committee for justifiably questioning the Aboriginality of an Author. No Doubt the enshrining of an “Indigenous” Voice to Parliament would lead to considerable litigation.

    Thirdly, in absence of the rational and civilised way the only alternative would be scientific genetic tersting (DNA) and a clear definition of the percentage of Aboriginal blood required to qualify as a person of aboriginal descent. The proposals as they stand at the moment seek to change our Constitution to grant special rights based mainly on hearsay. We saw the social and economic damage that hearsay did in the injection of “Secret Women’s Business ” into the Hindmarsh Island Bridge matter.

    • irisr says:

      Genetic testing again . . . the Dark Emu Exposed site used to have a photo of a chart assigning who can be considered full or part Aryan . . . you get my drift?
      Better to remove all distinctions, no more favours, no more freebies, no more sinecures or fake Uni degrees. No more division.
      I paid my taxes here for 40 years so why would I be a lesser citizen than anyone else born here? That was not on the cards when I took the oath of allegiance!

  • Brian Boru says:

    Thankyou Keith for this excellent and well documented case against discrimination in Australia.

  • NFriar says:

    Keep up the great work Keith.
    Great paper.

    We can but try to make it a ‘no’ and you are helping us spread the truth.

  • pmprociv says:

    Thanks so much, Keith, for yet another brilliant expose. My mind boggles at the naivete, if not frank stupidity, of those judges and lawyers who are so far divorced from life in the real world; it seems, for them, the Noble Savage reigns supreme, not only in Australia’s remoter regions, but also in suburbia. The supreme obstacle to having an elected Voice to Parliament will be identifying just who is eligible to vote, and this article only serves to reinforce just what an impossible challenge that presents. But what a windfall for lawyers it would provide!
    Our current Federal Parliament already includes a disproportionately high number of “indigenous” MPs: to whom does their “voice” belong? Simply the assumption that indigenous people speak with one voice, or a “different” voice, is racist, for it is stereotyping. We’re all uniquely different, and I often happen to feel that nobody in Parliament is speaking for me.
    The sooner this bizarre matter is laid to rest, the better. Kieth’s concluding paragraph couldn’t have stated it better, or more clearly. You don’t cure “racism” by instituting racist practices.

  • gilmay97 says:

    It is long overdue for scientific DNA gene testing based on ancient genetics for determining aboriginality — excluding any Indian and migrant DNA. The current determination of aboriginality where white people are deemed aboriginal is pathetically unsound and in need of review; intelligent logic dictates you cannot be deemed of different race just because you identify with them and they accept such — that defies intelligent analysis and logic — you are what you are born, you can change allegiance — but not race or genetics.

    Legislation needs to determine the fact, you are what you are born — you cannot change your genetic base; a pig can never be a parrot, nor a cat a cow.
    Consideration should be given to claim aboriginality you pay for a DNA test to prove you are at least 60% aboriginal, if you are proven to be aboriginal and not an Indian, European or other migrant, Medicare could refund the cost of the test?
    Years ago we wrote to several Aboriginal Affairs Ministers identifying numerous people of Indian, Sri Lanka, African and US nationality with dark skin claiming and receiving Aboriginal funding with health and educational benefits for their families — they had lived in northern Australia and learnt the tricks on how to claim aboriginal status and rip-off taxpayers — not one of the four ministers we wrote to showed any interest or had the guts to sort it out — too much trouble and maybe bad press, all preferring to blindly waste taxpayers money which is still continuing 40 years later today — typical eh?
    Many white people have claimed aboriginal benefits and education assistance which was provided. They are white and the husband employed so why were they granted any form of assistance, inquiries reveal they just fill out a form and it is accepted? No DNA genetic tests to prove you are of original Australian aboriginal ancestry — as genetic DNA is the accepted world standard for identification of race or breed why is there no internationally accepted standard used in Australia?
    Without some form of official identification, the number of those people wrongly claiming aboriginality will be accelerated out of control where taxpayer are rorted even further by the system taking urgently needed funds away from your families health, hospitals and education. As always, the quiet family people who are time and income restrained, working for their income cannot compete with those on social welfare systems with unlimited time and government legal funding holding political protest and lobbying to get excessive further benefits so they get more welfare.
    A statistical overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia | Australian Human Rights Commission
    Between the 1991 and 1996 Census there was a 33% increase recorded in the numbers of Indigenous peoples.
    Between the 1996 and 2001 Census there was a 16% increase.
    In contrast, the total population in Australia increased by five per cent between 1991 and 1996 and four per cent from 1996 – 2001.
    That is a 28% increase between 1991 and 1996 Census.
    And an 11% increase between 1996 and 2001 Census.
    The increases in the Indigenous population cannot be accounted for by the birth rate alone. The Australian Bureau of Statistics attributes the increase to a growing propensity of people to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. (Becoming aware of how easy it is for people to make a claim and get away with it — no DNA evidence required)
    Because of the recorded increases in the number of Indigenous peoples, the ABS has warned that comparisons made between two censuses must be made with caution. They recommend comparing percentages from two censuses, rather than directly comparing counts or numbers.
    Table 1: Census count of the numbers of Indigenous peoples, 1991-2001

    1991 1996 2001
    Recorded by Census 265,500 353,000 410,000
    Increase on previous Census (per cent) 17.00% 33.00% 16.00%
    % of total population (per cent) 1.6 2.0 2.2
    Governments only require people to identify as aboriginal and be accepted by the communities in which they live or have lived. To officially become aboriginal — having aboriginal or Indian DNA is not required.
    On that established basis, why do they bother with citizenship — everyone could just identify as Australian and be accepted by the communities in which they live or have lived — that would be universal application of law without discrimination — now the absurdity becomes clearly visible. One law for aboriginals and one for everyone else.
    We have heard stories from old genuine aboriginals telling of bribes offered to accept others as aboriginal and sign an already written letter and offers of gifts etc?
    Everyone who applies for social security assistance, pensions, or unemployment benefits should be given the same legal standing where they are only required to identify as being in need and accepted by the communities in which they live or have lived — as being in need — to be granted pensions or unemployment benefits. This is discrimination at as bad as it can get and gross stupidity of governments.
    The old farmer pointed out the chook in the cow paddock fully accepted by the herd — on the government’s interpretation of identity — the chook is a cow — and that folks is how politics work in Canberra.

  • Tom Lewis says:

    Well written indeed! This gravy train needs derailing.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Your last paragraph says it all for we are all equal under our constitution or at least should be equal under our constitution with equal rights, but in effect we are not equals for those claiming to be Aboriginal and those who are actual Aboriginals get more support in many areas than do we and one knows for sure that the Aboriginal industry will fight tooth and nail to preserve that and more with what in effect will be apartheid if the “voice” referendum succeeds, and it probably will. Those of us who grew up in the bush where there were a goodly number of Aboriginals know that in reality they are pretty much run of the mill people as we all mostly bush reared folk were/are and far different people to the citified ones who work the system, and they will with disastrous consequences for the whole Nation.

  • Claude James says:

    Yes, a very useful and powerful exposition of the fraud that can be undertaken within the prevailing system governing Aboriginal affairs.
    And, when we look in the right places, we see how individual human ingenuity in garnering “government” money -and preferential access to power and public money accorded to special groups- is a widespread factor in our society.
    And we would learn a great deal of important information by studying how this ingenuity in using access to goods on the basis of Identity rather than technical competence and is distributed across groups readily defined by race, colour, religious affiliation, sexuality, gender.
    Relatively little wealth that is created within Australia is invested in enterprises that will create more useful wealt. Instead, much of it is transferred by individuals to other countries to fund anti-Westernist activities and the individuals’ future retirement, or is simply used to fund current consumption here in Australia by anti-Westernist groups of all types.

  • March says:

    “It would mean that welfare payments should be based on need rather than skin colour; literary awards be based on talent rather than identity; education be based on scholarly accomplishment rather than racial privilege, and employment be based on merit rather than racial quotas.”

    Martin Luther King’s dream!

    FYI the Dark Emu exposed group have found evidence for another Pascoe like identity.in our Universities… See their site for more… https://www.dark-emu-exposed.org/home/who-do-you-want-us-to-think-you-are

  • rosross says:

    Surely the sensible thing is to do what most other nations have done and demand 50% Aboriginal ancestry as a minimum to register as Aboriginal. It is ridiculous to have people less than 50% calling themselves Aboriginal and insane to have those less than 1% doing it. The concept of acceptance by a community is also ridiculous.

    And if any benefits are needs-based it would wipe out 99.99% of those who now register Aboriginal ancestry I would bet.

    The fact is, no-one is Aboriginal as in being separate from Australians in general. Those who are 100% and there are not many of those, see themselves by their tribal names rather than as Aborigines. Even someone with one Aboriginal parent like Jacinta Price is not Aboriginal but is an Australian with Aboriginal ancestry. And I did read somewhere that even Bess Price has a distant English ancestor.

    In a modern democracy our ancestry, while personally interesting, should be completely irrelevant. Let us end this Aboriginal identification once and for all.

  • rosross says:


    since genetic testing is deeply flawed and Aboriginal peoples were diverse because they were descended from different migrations and different peoples, there simply is no DNA marker for all those who were called Aborigines by the British and certainly no such marker for those who identify today who are more Anglo-European than anything else and so minimally Aboriginal they are not.

    Those who cannot prove they have one Aboriginal parent who is 100% in ancestry should not be allowed to register as Aboriginal. To identify people through genetics is terrible and dangerous racism.

    Modern genetics has said with less than 1% difference between the DNA of what we once called races, there are no races. There is no universal Aboriginal DNA for all those peoples here in 1788, divided into 350-500 different groups, without a common language so there certainly will not be such a thing for those who identify as such today.

  • Alistair says:

    What is being referred to here appears to be my Axiom 8 (see 10 Glaring Pitfalls) https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/aborigines/2022/06/the-voice-and-its-ten-glaring-pitfalls/
    To resolve these problems it will again fall to the White courts to resolve Aboriginal problems. This can only lead to trouble … and the perversion of our own legal system as it tries accommodate itself to Aborigines’ much more “relaxed attitude” to rules of evidence etc. There can be no winners here.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Imagine the fun in America if the wet dreams of the Dems turned into reality and reparations were payable to descendants of slaves. How in the world would they work out who got what? Is there an English-speaking land (too old to learn a new language) where lies and insufferable cant aren’t overwhelmingly present? Can I go there?
    Yes, Keith’s views, as ever, are thoroughly researched and soundly argued. But they are as seeds sown among thorns. And the thorns are getting more widespread and denser. Not a reason to stop speaking the truth. But when I see ‘conservatives’ like Chris Kenny supporting an Indigenous Voice, I get a heightened sense of the difficulties.

    • Peter Smith says:

      Just to make it clear, Peter Smith being such a common name, that this Peter Smith is not me, the Peter Smith that writes regularly for QoL. If this Peter Smith who is commenting keeps on doing so we might have to distinguish between the two of us. Over to you Roger. Having said that, I agree that Keith writes masterly on the subject. But we live in a world, in which a large number of people prefer to pursue an agenda than seek the truth.

  • PT says:

    A real test will have to be implemented if they’re serious about this “voice” stuff (which is clearly aimed at establishing a separate and independent aboriginal state, albeit largely funded by everyone else who lives here). Given that if simply saying you’re aboriginal is all it takes, what’s to stop everyone doing this? There’s not only every positive incentive for it, but being relegated to being a second class citizen having to foot the bill for all of this if you don’t make the claim is a massive negative incentive to make a bogus claim of identity.

    The huge cost of this aboriginal state enterprise will be unaffordable and it will come crashing to the ground. This has clearly never crossed the minds of proponents, except perhaps Mansell, and it’s only belatedly so in his case.

    Most of the garbage is a result of virtue signalling and kicking the can down the road: someone else will have to deal with it when it gets out of hand! Well that time is now at hand.

  • ianl says:


    As previously commented, Dutton did not push to have Jacinta Price in his shadow cabinet, so I see no hope of him crossing the zeitgeist here.

    Similarly, Matt Canavan is now clearly non persona grata for Dutton, so hard analyses of AGW and energy supply are not on his side of the Rubicon.

  • gilmay97 says:

    Good point, there were hundreds of DNA samples taken and identities made, we know where current aboriginals originated.
    Four Thousand Years Ago there was a wave of migration of southern Indian aboriginals into Australia.
    The scientific mtDNA study at one of the worlds most respected institutes by Dr Irina Pugach at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig, Germany, analyzed genetic variation from across the genome from aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, Island Southeast Asians, and Indians. Their mtDNA findings prove substantial gene flow from India to Australia 4,230 years ago. i.e. during the Holocene and well before European contact, “Interestingly,” says Dr Pugach, “this date also coincides with many changes in the archaeological record of Australia, which include a sudden change in plant processing and stone tool technologies, with microliths (fine stone spear tips) appearing for the first time, and the first appearance of the dingo in the fossil record. Since we detect inflow of genes from India into Australia at around the same time, it is likely that these changes were related to this migration.”
    Indian researcher Dr Satish Kumar led the extraction and analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 966 individuals from 26 ancient relic populations of India, the Baiga and Birho tribes identifying seven individuals from central Dravidian, and Austro-Asiatic tribes whose data had already been analyzed and published by colleagues that share two basal synonymous mtDNA polymorphisms G8251A and A9156T with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines; showing a shared mtDNA lineage between Indians and Australian Aborigines. These particular mutations do not exist anywhere else in the world; they are shared exclusively between a few isolated ancient tribes in India and Australian aboriginals. They are the same people.

    Long before that numerous other race occupied Australia. There are so far 6 different skull types we have photographs of, and other very interesting facts.

    Have been a few years researching and writing about hominid occupation of Australia from the mists of time to modern times, identifying the full gamut of the aboriginal industry both good and bad, with some interesting anthropological discoveries that will cause a few large ripples, getting near the end.

    • RobyH says:

      Look forward to this. This is important. Particularly now.

      Proof could undermine Native Title Act.

      Is there a time frame for release of a book/information.

    • pmprociv says:

      Thanks for filling us in on those details, gilmay97. Clearly, this then throws a big spanner into the works, for those advocating a DNA test as proof of Aboriginal ancestry — what about all the recent and ongoing immigration from India? Maybe even the notorious Appo family would have come up positive in the test!

      The sooner we remove race from eligibility for any special benefits, the better. Yes, I know, many Voice advocates already claim there’s “no such thing as race”, to which I’d respond: “So what’s the Voice all about, then?”

  • vagan says:

    What the ABS politely calls “an increasing propensity to identify” was famously characterised by Aboriginal journalist-activist John Newfong in the early 1970s as “nouveau noir” (originally in relation to Bobbi Sykes).

  • 27hugo27 says:

    ianl- I have to agree with you and think Dutton will be another huge disappointment , hope to be proven wrong of course but the signs are bad. And Albanese will be such a disaster as PM that should make conservative positions tenable in the right hands if Dutton can seize the day !

  • Stephen says:

    I may misunderstand the situation so please correct me if I’m wrong. I can get a range of benefits including Government money If I’m an Aboriginal and to be an Aboriginal I only need to claim it and I don’t have to “prove” it?
    If that’s true where do I sign up? Everyone should sign up. Let us all form long ques today outside every Centrelink Office in the land. Free money yay!!

  • Mali Taus says:

    So the next logical steps are:
    . EVERYONE self identifies as Aboriginal and applies for the perks, and
    . Immigrants to Australia who self identity as Australians are automatically granted citizenship.

  • gilmay97 says:

    This evidence of deliberate theft of government money (Taxpayers — The People’s Money) by this man and more than 100 members of his family of millions of dollars, why haven’t the government prosecuted every one of them and made a public example of them as a deterrent, every one of them knew they were not of aboriginal descent. If they were white, they would have all been prosecuted to the maximum with massive headlines of the theft, why not Press Editors and News Managers? By your silence you are adding and abetting this type of scurrilous theft from the needy people it was supposedly to help, if it was theft from a Charity that helps needy people or a Hospital, there would have been headlines across the county, police investigations and government Ministers on TV condemning the rotten act. So why the quiet softly, softly, coverage and no forceful follow up on this issue — this is deliberate covert racism protection for some but exposure for others.
    If you steal a few thousand from Centrelink or rob a Bank, there is a great hullabaloo across national press, these mongrels knowingly contrive to defraud millions of the government people’s money and it is quietly laid to rest. Why haven’t government Ministers and the Attorney-General been brought to the courts, they know of these thefts, we have written to many Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs over forty years to get this stopped and been ignored.
    It would appear the corruption is at very high levels?
    There appear many other similar instances across Australia — all costing you the taxpayer billions.

    • Brentyn Graham says:

      Perfectly put

    • pmprociv says:

      Sorry, but you’ve got this wrong: “If they were white, they would have all been prosecuted to the maximum with massive headlines of the theft.” We can’t have that; it would be rampant racism! How do you explain Bruce Pascoe, and all those other great success stories exposed on the Dark Emu exposed website? It’s not all about skin colour, you know — but skin colour sure gives one a big kickstart. What surprises me is how Bruce Pascoe doesn’t bother enhancing his with some colouring agent, as Stan Grant appears to be doing.

      • mrsfarley2001 says:

        Reminds me of Justin Trudeau: undergraduate blackface shenanigans.

        • pmprociv says:

          Instead of apologising profusely, Justin should simply have said he was a real blakfella, and accused any skeptics of racism — would have got away with it! Don’t we all have pigmented ancestors in our deep ancestral past?

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “And yet Australians are soon to be asked to vote in a referendum to confer a special status in the Constitution on people who our major institutions cannot confidently identify as genuine, and who other Aborigines denounce as ‘phonies.’ If no one is willing or able to enforce the three-part test, the phonies are highly likely to multiply exponentially in the future, at a rate that correlates closely with the incentives on offer.”
    Spot on. An excellent article. The ‘Aboriginal voice to Parliament’ has whiskers all over it, and of all colours from black to white via brindle.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Given the newly elected federal government a referendum on the “voice” is bound to happen sooner rather than later so it is imperative that a list of the advantages Aboriginals or pretend Aboriginals receive courtesy of the taxpayer dollar, a list of tax exemptions on revenue handed out by mining companies etc. and all the other advantages they take as a matter of course, advantages we supposed white people don’t get. The list must be published far and wide in the manner the Alphabet people and others use to brainwash we ordinary people else we are going to lose badly as we become second class citizens.

  • IainC says:

    Apropos The X-Files: the truth may be out there, but not where it’s needed most.

  • whitelaughter says:

    I’m a “whiter than Michael Jackson” Aborigine; easily passing the ancestry/acceptance test, and happy to use the title to destroy twerps who thought they were just yelling at a ‘plain white male’.
    But it is absurd. Why does a tiny fraction of my ancestry – that I didn’t know about until I was 17 – matter? Why are we tolerating the blatant racism of special rights and privileges based on ancestry?

  • padraic says:

    Thanks Keith for another fine article revealing the details of the plan to divide Australia and the falsehoods surrounding the Aboriginal identity industry. I agree fully with the following extract from the article, viz: “In one book he co-authored, he declared British colonisation of Australia illegitimate and said Aborigines should be given a separate country, self-governing with its own laws: a revival of a demand first made by the Communist Party of Australia in the 1930s. Larissa was obviously influenced by all this since after she left school she joined her father as a member of the Aboriginal Provisional Government, headed by the Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell.” It validates the point I have been making for sometime that this “Voice” proposal enshrined in the Constitution is the Trojan Horse of the activists (who are still following the Communist line) to be employed to destroy Australia as we know and like. With a bit of luck Adam Bandt’s recent flag removal stunt will have the same effect on the outcome of the referendum as did Bob Brown’s pilgrimage to outback Queensland on the outcome of the 2019 Federal election. I also share Peter Smith’s reservation about Chris Kenny’s support for the Voice. I saw him interviewing Jacinta Price on this issue and he looked dumfounded when she took the opposite view.

  • padraic says:

    Correction: “agree” is not the operative word in the above post. I don’t agree with the contents of the quote but agree with Keith having highlighted the truth of what this “recognition” push is all about by quoting that statement of intent by the activists.

  • lhackett01 says:

    The Definition of Aboriginality
    The definition of Aboriginality is a problem. It is so loose as to be almost meaningless.
    Aboriginality is defined usually as:
    a. being of Aboriginal descent,
    b. identifying as an Aboriginal person, and
    c. being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly
    All three criteria must apply for accessing Aboriginal-specific services or programs such as:
    • grants (like Indigenous housing loans, research and study grants)
    • university courses (with specific positions for Indigenous students)
    • Centrelink and housing assistance (Indigenous-specific)
    • employment (Indigenous identified positions)
    • school programs for Indigenous students.
    Reference: https://aiatsis.gov.au/research/finding-your-family/before-you-start/proof-aboriginality

    Courts use various definitions depending on circumstances. Some judgements have declared that, “Aboriginal descent alone is sufficient,… that once it is established that a person is ‘non-trivially’ of Aboriginal descent, then that person is Aboriginal within the ordinary meaning of that word. Neither self-identification nor community recognition is necessary.”

    “The courts, in interpreting statutory definitions in federal legislation, have emphasised the importance of descent in establishing Aboriginal identity, but have recognised that self-identification and community recognition may be relevant to establishing descent, and hence Aboriginal identity, for the purposes of specific legislation.”
    Reference: https://www.alrc.gov.au/publication/essentially-yours-the-protection-of-human-genetic-information-in-australia-alrc-report-96/36-kinship-and-identity/legal-definitions-of-Aboriginality/, Clauses 36.21, 36.22, and 36.28.

    However, “where Aboriginal descent is uncertain, or where the extent of Aboriginal descent might be considered insignificant, self-recognition or recognition by other Aboriginal persons may have an evidentiary value in resolving the question”.
    Reference: Australian Law Reform Commission, Legal definitions of Aboriginality | ALRC.

    Australian Censuses collect information about Aboriginality through self-identification questions. There is no requirement to prove descent or acceptance, merely self-identification. This very loose definition of Aboriginality is why the number of “Aborigines” is so high. Almost anyone who sees benefit can claim Aboriginality without penalty. Anybody who can prove descent can claim Aboriginality, no matter how small the fraction of “blood’. Government benefits are meant for Aborigines who pass the three-part test.
    No other people in Australia can claim such special identification. All Australians are descended from various races or ethnic groups, but none is entitled to the discriminatory benefits available to the Aborigine because of race or ethnicity.

    In contrast, many Indian tribes in the United States of America have strict blood quantum rules for defining membership. Some require the Indian blood quantum to be one half, others one quarter, one eighth, or one sixteenth. Similar rules apply in various other countries.
    Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood quantum laws#Tribes

    The High Court judgement on 11 February 2020 has compounded the issue of Aboriginality. It has essentially ruled that wherever born or of whichever other country they are a legal citizen, a person able to prove Aboriginal descent has an inalienable right to stay in Australia and cannot be declared alien in accordance with the Constitution. No other person can claim this privilege.

  • RobyH says:

    The Labor government recently dropped its deportation case against Shayne Montgomery, a New Zealand citizen culturally adopted as Aboriginal. Montgomery was a non-citizen and should have been deported at the end of his prison sentence.

    He was due to be deported but lawyers were going to argue Aboriginality like Love and Thoms precludes him from the immigration act and deportation

    The Liberal party were taking this to the High Court but the Labor Attorney General withdrew the case and let him stay.

    So now we have a serious problem.

    Aboriginals can determine who is Aboriginal – for a large fee or otherwise. And if you are a foreign citizen you are no longer liable to expulsion under the immigration act or otherwise…. Aboriginals determine who can stay in Australia.

    Serious times ahead.

    • Katzenjammer says:

      If Aboriginals aren’t citizens as defined in the Constitution, then what place does anything about them have in it? There’s internal conceptual conflicts in this like most progressive ideas.

  • Daffy says:

    I note that Pascoe is still oppressing Aboriginal Australians by snaffling their awards, culture and kudos. About time he reconciled with them on this, along with all the other fake Aboriginal Australians.

  • john.singer says:

    Since the wording of the proposed Constitutional amendment is now available it is time for a rethink, It is proposed to create a new Chapter in the Constitution, devoted not to Australian Citizenship but devoted solely to Australian citizens identified as members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander races.

    You cannot be a Member of Parliament (for more than 3 months) without election. You cannot be a Member of the Executive except by Coronation, proof of appointment or election. You cannot be a Member of the Judiciary without provable qualifications, experience and appointment..

    So it is reasonable to assume that being prescribed in a Chapter of the Constitution would require a higher standard of proof than would be required under a leglislation not specified by the Constitution. The three part definition has been prone to deception and therefore quite inadequate to satisfy Constitutional recognition.

    The rethink would be the responsibility of the High Court as the sole remaining arbiter on the Constitution.

  • norsaint says:

    Great article Keith.
    Can anyone recommend a country worth emigrating to?

  • leabrae says:

    Imagine the outcome when faux Aboriginality meets AI. See for one possibility. Clearly, AI “makes [things] up”, not only biographies but legal cases as well! What price scholarship?

  • Dubitat says:

    Perhaps we are too hard on some of these claimants. It takes a certain intelligence to build and maintain a faux identity. Maybe even more intelligence than is required for some PhD qualifications, even from Harvard or Melbourne University.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    “To stop discrimination based on race stop discriminating based on race” Chief Justice John Roberts US Supreme Court.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    A common misconception about the Voice is that it would entail a group of representative aboriginal people who were ‘voted in’ by others to ‘speak’ to Parliament. The difficulty of finding an electorate in the morass of identification issues Keith covers means that a decision has already been made to appoint rather than elect the members of the Voice, taking note of suggestions from elders and similar groups or individuals. What a mess of entitled seagulls fighting for chips thrown on a beach that will produce. Meanwhile, nothing else will change regarding identification, which with the passage of time will become only more tangential.

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