Remedial Education for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is currently in Australia and pontificating on the historic wrongs he believes this country has inflicted on indigenous peoples. According to The Australian, Dr Welby had this to say:

There is a very considerable consciousness of past errors in a number of institutions in which, incidentally, the Anglican Church of Australia is one, but only one of that number. There is a real effort to change that and it goes right across the church, overriding other differences which are divisive in the church around human sexuality.

So, according to the head of the Anglican church, racial reconciliation is more “unifying” than the Bible’s teaching on same-sex marriage? Dr Welby is also mistaken as to the historical reality surrounding his own denomination’s ministry to Australia’s indigenous peoples. Rather than being governments’ lackeys working to perpetuate systemic racism, the Anglican Church of Australia — alongside every other Christian denomination — was at the forefront in defending the rights and protections of Aboriginals. For example, as far back as 1920 the Church Missionary Society asked the Commonwealth to set aside the whole of Groote Eylandt as an Aboriginal reserve.[1]

However, Dr Welby’s ignorance of the Christian church’s relationship with Australia’s indigenous people goes much deeper. As will be demonstrated below, the term “Stolen Generations” is a relatively recent idea, formulated by political activists. What’s more, the historical evidence proves that—despite popular opinion—the Anglican Church does not have to “repent” of participating in a racial genocide.

Keith Windschuttle, shows that the term “Stolen Generations” was first coined in 1981 by a then unknown postgraduate history student named Peter Read who wrote the 20-page pamphlet in a single day outlining his case.[2] Significantly, the original title was “The Lost Generations” but his wife advised him to substitute the more attention-getting adjective, stolen. Two years later, Read’s colleague, Coral Edwards, addressed a meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council provocatively arguing that “govern­ments never intended that the children should ever return”.

By April 1997, Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission published a report, Bringing Them Home, in which they accused the Australian government of having historically engaged in genocide against Aboriginal peoples in breach of the United Nations convention. Then in 2001, academics Ann Curthoys and John Docker of the Australian National University went even further, equating settler colonies such as Australia as

…setting out to achieve what the Nazis also set out to achieve, the displacement of indigenous populations and their replacement by incoming peoples held to be racially superior

Finally, on February 13, 2008, prime minister Kevin Rudd all but enshrined this belief in the national psyche when in he said in his famous Apology to Australia’s Indigenous people:

The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.

However, as will be demonstrated below, this accusation is patently false. Kevin Rudd and others should have known it was untrue, as Justice Maurice O’Loughlin had ruled back in August 2000:

Integration of part-Aboriginal children was not based on race; it was based on a sense      of responsibility—perhaps misguided and paternalistic—for those children who had been deserted by their white fathers and who were living in tribal conditions with their      Aboriginal mothers. Care for those children was perceived to be best offered by   affording them the opportunity of acquiring a western education so that they might       then more easily be integrated into Western society.[3]

What follows is a summary of the ten most salient reasons[4] as to why this is the case.

1. The High Court of Australia ruled in 1997 that there wasn’t a genocide

The verdicts of Kruger v. Commonwealth and Bray v. Commonwealth were definitive legal cases which considered whether the removal of Aboriginal children amounted to genocide. Handed down two months after the Bringing Them Home report, most of the mainstream media and political commentariat ignored it. Significantly, all five judges rejected the claim of “genocide”.[5] For example, Justice Daryl Dawson wrote:

There is nothing in the 1918 Ordinance, even if the acts authorized by it otherwise fell  within the definition of genocide, which authorizes acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any Aboriginal group. On the contrary, as has already been observed, the powers conferred by the 1918 Ordinance were required to be exercised  in the best interests of the Aboriginals concerned or of the Aboriginal population generally. The acts authorized do not, therefore, fall within the definition of genocide  contained in the Genocide Convention.

Likewise, Justice Michael McHugh stated:

The 1918 Ordinance did not authorize genocide. Article II of the Genocide Convention relevantly defines genocide to mean certain acts ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such’. The acts include ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group’ and ‘forcibly  transferring children of the group to another group’. There is, however, nothing in the 1918 Ordinance that could possibly justify a construction of its provisions that would  authorize the doing of acts ‘with intent to destroy, in whole or in part’ the Aboriginal  race.

2. Full-blood Aboriginal children were hardly ever removed from their families.

The only full-blooded aboriginal children taken into institutional care were those who were seriously ill, dangerously malnourished or physically disabled. The majority of children were half-castes (who were often rejected by Aboriginal communities as being of lesser descent), who were given access to education and job training.  Significantly, Windschuttle notes, ‘In some communities, full-blood people accepted half-castes; in others, they were not regarded as true Aborigines at all; in some cases, half-caste babies born to tribal women were routinely put to death’. 

Following on from this, the major rationale for removing children was not based on race but “illegitimacy”. In the rough social justice of the nineteenth century, white children were also routinely removed if their mothers were unmarried because they lacked a father and, hence, a means of financial support. Thus, the child’s fate was not determined not by skin colour but, rather, their illegitimacy.

3. Older children were removed more often than younger ones

Contrary to the opinion of some historians, such as Henry Reynolds, who claim children were taken by authorities as young as possible to make sure they would never be in a position to inherit and absorb Aboriginal culture, it was not only extremely rare for babies or infants to be removed but some state governments explicitly forbade their removal unless orphaned or in need immediate hospitalisation. In NSW, the age of those who were most commonly affected were around 13 to 15 years of age. Whereas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory it was around primary school age.

4. Children were not removed permanently but returned to their families

A careful examination of the case records reveal that the majority of children removed in New South Wales—for instance—were later returned to their families or Aboriginal communities. Indeed, the older children were given money for the rail fare home, while the younger ones were accompanied by a supervising adult on the train.

Once again, Reynolds wrongly contends that, “The break from family, kin and community must be decisive and permanent”. Not only were children later returned to their families or communities, but they were sometimes accompanied by their own parents to government institutions or religious mission stations during their stays.

5. The majority of children were victims of child sexual abuse

Rather than for racist reasons, government officials and religious leaders wanted to rescue children from communities plagued with alcoholism, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Public servants, doctors, police and Christian missionaries all recorded that Aboriginal girls between five and eight years of age were suffering from sexual abuse and venereal diseases. Occasionally, girls of nine or ten years old were prostituted by their own parents. As Keith Windschuttle rightly remarks:

Government officials had a duty to rescue children from such settings, as much they  as they do now. From the perspective of child welfare officials, the major problem was  that state treasuries would not give the relevant departments and boards sufficient  funds to accommodate all the neglected and abused children who should have been removed.[6]

6. Aboriginal children weren’t removed ‘large scale’

While Kevin Rudd stated in his Apology that between 1910 and 1970, approximately 10 to 30 per cent of indigenous children had been “forcibly” taken from their parents—a total figure of “up to 50,000”—the statistical reality was much less. According to Windschuttle:

My own estimate of the total number of Aboriginal children taken into care in the period from 1880 to 1970…is 8250. ‘Taken into care” means Aboriginal children  separated from parents and placed in government, church and charitable institutions, plus the very small numbers placed into foster care and adopted by white families. The figure represented 5.2 per cent of the Aboriginal population at the 1976 census of  160,000.[7]

7. Indigenous populations increased during this period

Ironically, Aborigines are the only people in history to have supposedly suffered racial “genocide” in the midst of a boom in their own population. According to Windschuttle:

In the first half of the twentieth century, when university historians and Bringing Them Home assured us governments were doing their best to eliminate the Aboriginal race, its population grew substantially. In the period nominated by the Human Rights Commission as the worst affected, 1910 to 1970, the Aboriginal population of Australia grew by 68 per cent from 83,588 to 139,456. Growth was particularly strong in those regions where governments were purportedly determined to absorb half-caste and other part-Aboriginal people into the white population. In New South Wales, the   Aboriginal population grew by 65 per cent from 1915 to 1940. In Western Australia,   the supposedly “doomed race” of full descent people in the north of the state did not decline at all, while in the southern half of the state, where part-Aboriginal people predominated, their numbers were up no less than 12- per cent between 1900 and 1935. In both cases, their populations grew at a faster rate than that of white people.

8. Governments invested more in education than institutionalism

One of the major reasons why governments did not systematically remove Aboriginal children from their parents is because they wanted them to go to school. This was the Australian government’s chief objective — in terms of time and money — rather than removing children from their homes. This is because in the 1880s education was made compulsory for all children of school age, regardless of racial or ethnic background, were required to enrol their children. What’s more, many Aboriginal stations had better facilities than whites. As Windschuttle states:

The best Aboriginal stations had superior buildings and more amenities than many white working-class people in the outer suburbs and country towns at the same time. Some institutions for Aboriginal children had swimming pools, gymnasiums, tennis courts, film projectors, radios, record players, pianos and telephones decades before many white people’.

9. Removal of children was for “safety” rather than “sterilisation”

It is common for “activist academics” to claim that when government authorities realised Aborigines were not “dying out” as they allegedly hoped, it was decided they had to finish the job themselves. For example, historian Heather Goodall has claimed that Aborigines Protection Board’s aim was explicit targeted at reducing the Aboriginal birth rate. As Goodall writes:

The Board stated quite openly in its reports and minutes that it intended to reduce the birth rate of the Aboriginal population by taking adolescent girls away from their communities. Then it intended that the young people taken in this way would never be   allowed to return to their homes or to any other Aboriginal community. The ‘apprenticeship’ policy was aimed quite explicitly at reducing the numbers of identifying  Aboriginal people in the State.

 However, Windschuttle writes in response:

Goodall did not give any specific source for her claim. Instead, she referred readers of her book Invasion to Embassy to the Aborigines Protection Board’s annual reports for the period 1906 to 1923. I read the board’s reports not only for the  years she suggested but also for its entire eighty-five years of existence, looking for any comment about its intention to reduce the Aboriginal birth rate. I could not find anything of the kind. Instead, the board explained its apprenticeship policy in 1924 in the following terms:

 [The Board’s] object is to save the children from certain moral degradation on the reserves and camps, and to give them a chance to reach maturity, after which they are   given every facility to return either on holidays or permanently, according to their wish,      to their own districts, where they are expected to take up suitable employment. Here     they have an opportunity of meeting people of their own colour, and in many instances, they marry and settle down in homes of their own. [8]

 10. Aboriginal people themselves were involved in fostering

Finally, one of the most overlooked factors is that there were many indigenous men and women who themselves participated in fostering the children who had been removed. As Windschuttle explains:

Some prominent Aboriginal people engaged in child welfare have been quietly airbrushed from history because their activities contradict the Stolen Generations thesis. One of them was Aunty Molly Mallet, a member of the Cape Barren Island  community descended from the Tasmanian Aborigines. Mallet moved to Launceston where she provided government-approved foster care for orphaned and neglected Cape Barren Islander children. From the 1950s to the 1970s, she fostered so many she “lost count”. Even though she had far more experience than anyone else in the plight of these half-caste children, the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry never called her as a witness. Bringing Them Home declined to even mention her role, preferring its readers to believe the children were all placed with white families and in white institutions.

The ‘Stolen Generations’ Enduring Popularity

In the light of the above evidence it is difficult to understand why the accusation of Australia being systemically racist took hold. And yet the myth of the “stolen generations” involving systemic racism with the consequence of genocide has since taken hold in the national psyche. But it is clearly false. Windschuttle offers the following explanation as to how it has become so popular, especially amongst indigenous people.

It is not difficult to understand the immediate appeal of such an explanation to many Aboriginal families, especially to those who had grown up on welfare communities and segregated housing estates with high rates of crime, alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse. This new version of events was deeply comforting. The myriad problems in their own lives no longer derived from the failings of their families or the bad choices they made themselves. Mothers had not given their children away; fathers had not left their children destitute or deserted their families or been so consumed by alcohol they left them vulnerable to sexual predators. Siblings and cousins had not abandoned their communities because they thought their way of life hopeless. Instead of reproaching themselves, Aborigi­nes could suddenly identify as morally innocent victims of a terrible  injustice. Their problems could all be blamed on faceless white bureaucrats driven by  racism. Read’s interpretation has since come to be believed by most Aboriginal people in Australia. 


IF WE are to move forward as a nation, then it must be on the basis of truth. Australia has never had an official government policy targeted at eliminating Aboriginal people but, rather, has sought to produce a harmonious society where everyone is afforded the same rights and opportunities.

Finally, the Christian church in Australia has always been at the forefront in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Rather than proclaiming a political program such as that contained in “The Voice”, the Archbishop of Canterbury should instead focus on being a spokesperson for God.

[1] Murray Seiffert, Gumbuli of Ngukurr: Aboriginal Elder in Arnhem Land (Acorn Press, 2011), 2.

[2] For a definitive examination of the issue see Keith Windschuttle, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume 3, The Stolen Generations 1881-2008 (Macleay Press, 2009).

[3] Justice Maurice O’Loughlin, judgment in Cubillo and Gunner v. Commonwealth, Federal Court of Australia, August 2000, para 162.

[4] This article is a summary of Keith Windschuttle’s work in Quadrant on the subject found here and here.

[5] Windschuttle correctly concludes, “In short, when they tested specific policies before the Federal Court, and when they argued the general intentions of the parliaments and legislators before the High Court, the historians and political activists who invented the notion of the Stolen Generations proved incapable of substantiating their case. As far as Australia’s highest courts are concerned, the central hypothesis of the Stolen Generations is legally extinct.”

[6] Windschuttle goes on write, “The fringe camps where this occurred were early twentieth-century versions of today’s notorious remote communities of central and northern Australia. Indeed, there is a direct line of descent from one to the other—the culture of these camps has been reproducing itself across rural Australia for more than 100 years.”

[7] Windschuttle, “Rather than governments being over-zealous, the reality was the opposite. Everyone who worked in Aboriginal child welfare complained that the states and territories did not do nearly enough, especially in the period from Federation to the Second World War. There were always many more Aboriginal children badly in need of welfare, education and health services than governments were willing to fund”.

[8] Windschuttle goes on to conclude, “In short, the board saw a period of apprenticeship as the key to gaining employment, and the best way for Aboriginal youth to get off welfare and live independent lives in the modern world. It wanted to put an end not to the Aboriginal race but to Aboriginal dependency.”

18 thoughts on “Remedial Education for the Archbishop of Canterbury

  • Blair says:

    “”Coming of the Light – Torres Strait Islands
    The Coming of the Light is a holiday celebrated by Torres Strait Islanders on 1 July each year. It recognises the adoption of Christianity through island communities during the late nineteenth century.
    The London Missionary Society set out to convert people of the Southwest Pacific to Christianity from the 1840s. In July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane, a member of the Society anchored at Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait. He was accompanied by South Sea Islander evangelists and teachers.
    In defiance of tribal law Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub welcomed the London Missionary Society clergy and teachers.
    The acceptance of the missionaries and Christianity into the Torres Strait Islands is often credited with ending conflict between different island groups. However, Christian principles were already somewhat compatible with Islander religion. The missionaries offered a more practical advantage. Torres Strait Islanders had been grossly exploited in the maritime industry. The missionaries provided some protection and assistance to Islanders who negotiated with outsiders in the maritime industry.
    The acceptance of missionaries and Christianity into Torres Strait led to profound changes that affected every aspect of life from that time onwards.
    Annual Celebrations
    Torres Strait Islanders living on the islands or on the mainland come together to honour this anniversary every year. Islanders of all faiths celebrate the Coming of the Light in a festival like no other in Australia.”
    Queensland Museum
    The Coming of the Light occurred prior to the Colonial government of Queensland annexing the islands in the 1870s.

  • pmprociv says:

    Bravo! This stuff deserves a far wider audience. As a young, atheistic medical student, I spent almost 4 months working in a mission hospital in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) 50 years ago, and couldn’t help but be impressed by the work ethic, dedication and humanitarianism of the missionary staff. Their provision of medical services to the local community was invaluable, saving the colonial authorities considerable expense and effort. I have no idea what modern Vanuatuans think of those missionaries, but wouldn’t be at all surprised to find unjustified resentment and victimhood taking root — it’s a powerful political weapon, exploiting a colonial past that can’t be changed (except in its descriptions and interpretations, including the calculated omission of inconvenient truths).

  • DougD says:

    Two points;
    1] Justice Maurice O’Loughlin reached the conclusion quoted after hearing both sides in the Cubillo stolen childrens’ test case. unlike the authors of the Human Rights Commission report.
    2] Those implicated in the Nazi genocide paid a severe penalty at Nuremberg. Sir Ronald Wilson, the inventor of the stolen children’s genocide claim in his Human Rights Commission report, was himself implicated in his genocide as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in WA and, more directly, as a member of the board of Sister Kate’s Home in Perth, where many of the ‘stolen” children were sent. Wilson’s only penalty for being involved in this worst crime against humanity? His “heartfelt apology” on ABC Radio.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    I taught for a couple of years in a (by then) Government school on the coast SE of Port Moresby. Until a year or two before my arrival, there had been no Government school serving the three local villages. The need had been met by the London Missionary Society which was the dominant Christian mission in the area.
    When the Government school was established, the Education Department went out of its way to encourage all the children then being taught in the Mission schools to transfer to the new Government K-6 primary school. No age limitations were applied so, by the time I arrived we had kids ranging in estimated age of 3-5 in Kindergarten to 16 or 17 in 6th Grade. Everyone was happy.
    And then a delegation from the UN Trusteeship Council visited the then TPNG to light a fire under the Australian Administration, to hasten the move towards independence.
    The thrust of their recommendations was that the Government should spend significantly less on education and other such nonsense and spend a great deal more on infrastructure, mainly roads and bridges and the like.
    So, when I returned from long leave in Australia, I was briefed by the Senior Education Officer in Port Moresby that I was to be Head Teacher at my school, BUT….
    Policy had changed. The Government had accepted the UN Trusteeship Council’s recommendations so my immediate task was to remove from the school any pupil who did not meet the optimum age-grade profile. This task had been started by the new Australian teacher who filled in until I returned some weeks after the start of the school year.
    You can imagine the heartbreak that implementing this policy caused at the coalface. Just two or three years earlier, the Government had effectively destroyed the Mission-run village schools with their come one-come all policy. Now they were dumping dozens if not hundreds of older kids literally yearning for higher education with no plans but to send them back to the village.
    We tried to keep them by cooking the books, but were expressly ordered to comply.
    The parents of the kids were heartbroken, and it broke our hearts too to see them cry. Education was their only hope to improve their lives. Another effect of the new policies was that chalk, readers, exercise books, pencils and so on became unobtainable virtually throughout the country.
    I have detested the United Nations ever since, and the spineless Australian politicians who refused to stand up to them. Everything that has occurred in PNG since was either directly caused or seriously exacerbated by their cynicism and incompetence.

  • Daffy says:

    It looks to me as though Welby has been reading the latest Sydney Anglican ‘Southern Cross’ newspaper. Therein is a statement by an Aboriginal new member of synod where she claims that Aborigines were not even citizens until the 1967 referendum.
    Of course the referendum was nothing to do with citizenship as Aborigines had long had the relevant right (but not obligation) to vote and were citizens. Some even members of the colonial police force.
    The paper also contains the Archbishop’s recital of media talking points that misstate every aspect of Aboriginal-British relations then pin his pastoral theology on that shaky foundation.

  • Wyndham Dix says:

    Mark Powell:
    “If we are to move forward as a nation, then it must be on the basis of truth.”

    A commendable aspiration. Alas, it will not be realised. Truth is no longer objective. In many minds it is subjective: I believe the sky is green; ergo it is.
    Decades ago I took it to be objective truth when I first learnt from a former C of E missionary, and separately from a State Government protector of Aborigines, about the time invested in care of natives and attempts to improve their living conditions.
    Today’s “truth tellers” would have me believe that these European benefactors lied through their teeth about, among other things, Aboriginal parents begging them to take their children into care.
    The morale-sapping torture of language and purveying of lies as truth will not change unless and until we reform the education system from the ground up and regain our sovereignty from unelected and dictatorial international organisations. I see no prospect whatever of any politician, present or future, belling those cats.
    The gynarchy will not tolerate such reform. Neither will the established church lead the way out of the morass; its part in the Zeitgeist is little to be distinguished from that of unbelievers.


    The AB of C Justin Welby’s woke Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand: “Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge the Canaanites as the original inhabitants and custodians of thIs land”.

    • David Palmer says:

      That was a bit cruel, St John of Grafton, but apposite.

    • Brian Boru says:

      The miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes has had consequences.
      A Middle Eastern family who are descended from the boy who sold the original loaves and fishes claim he was never paid for them.
      They have calculated that with compound interest the original debt of $10 (today’s money) and interest rate at a modest 5 per cent has now amounted to $46,731,568,629.
      They are suing the Christian Churches for this amount. There are 2 billion Christians worldwide. If you are Christian your share of this debt is $23.37.

  • Sindri says:

    Welby generally puts one in mind of Gregory Peck in 12 o’clock High: “Padre, your business is sin. From now on you’ll confine your activities to that theatre of operations.”

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      Thanks Sindri, and it brings to mind the Pommy way of life where one either placed a useless son into the clergy or military but in a long and sometimes useless life I have observed the “God Botherers” in PNG as the locals called them, and the missions here run by the missionaries who in the main did wonderful work and just how they kept the warring factions together escaped me. Aurukun was an example of that but lawless now as are many Qld “communities,” Iron Range aka Lockhart now was excepted. Last time I had anything to do with the “communities” was over five years ago and then it wasn’t advisable to even park a Police aeroplane at any of them because it would be vandalised. The reverend Archbishop should confine his activities to reading Thomas Grey’s elegy in a country churchyard and not pontificating on our aboriginal woes for in reality the only people who can resolve the problem are the aboriginals themselves.

  • RobyH says:

    Truth. In Tasmanian from1935 to 1975 there were 100 distant descent Aboriginal children taken into welfare – there were over 11,000 other children without any aboriginal descent taken into welfare.

    The Human Right Commission brandished this a genocide. The Tasmanian Government apologised -, gave each person over $50,000 and then gave them land. . This is the destruction of truth.

    The stolen generations is the whipping post which the white man is chained to …. the major problem it is is lie.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Anyone see Insight this week? It was about people claiming Aboriginality. Going by the advertising Uncle Professor was on, but I haven’t had time to look.

  • Max Rawnsley says:

    Welby has form.

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