Bennelong Papers

Pascoe Laments Writers ‘Without Aboriginal Heritage’

As expected, the AFP today ended its investigation of Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe for claiming to be that which genealogical records say he is not: an Aborigine and thereby entitled to receive awards and prizes reserved for members of his purported race.

“No Commonwealth offence has been identified,” investigators announced in a press release which concluded “the AFP has now finalised this matter.”

It is ironic indeed that, had Pascoe led the investigation of himself, he might well have reached a different conclusion.

That view is based upon a 2011 letter — pictured above — in which he and fellow judge of the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers, Jennifer Kemarre Martinello, objected to the inclusion of entrants “without Aboriginal heritage”. Their letter to the Koori Times, as published on April 20, 2011, is reproduced in full below:

The judges of the David Unaipon Award, part of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, have been in dispute with the awards committee about the legitimacy of entrants and the nature of submissions.

The judges for the past four years have been concerned that the awards entrance criteria may allow people without an Aboriginal heritage to enter the event.

Furthermore we feel that the original purpose of the award was that it should reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life in some way.

A statutory declaration is not sufficient proof of identity, in our opinion. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are required to have a known relationship to community for their identity to be accepted by that community.

The manuscripts entered in the competition should show some cultural association.

We believe this is not an onerous requirement. Non-Indigenous writers might rebel at such an association, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accept such rules as a part of Indigenous life.

We urge the Queensland Premier’s Department to reconsider the advice of the judges.

Until such requirements are met we will not act as judges for the David Unaipon Award and urge others to approach with caution before committing to an award we believe has been sullied by the Premier’s Department approach.

Jennifer Kemarre Martinello and Bruce Pascoe

The complaint alleging Pascoe’s ineligibility to accept awards reserved for Aboriginal writers was lodged by indigenous businesswoman Josephine  Cashman with Minister Peter Dutton and referred by him to the AFP.

As the awards Pascoe has been snaffling are state-based, Ms Cashman might want to redirect her complaints to state police.

  • lhackett01

    The David Unaipon literary award is for an emerging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writer. Hence, the writer must be an aborigine or a Torres Strait Islander. The law states that an aborigine is defined as a person of aboriginal descent, who identifies as an aborigine, and who is accepted by other aborigines to be aboriginal. I do not know what is the legal definition of a Torres Strait Islander. Therefore, the word “heritage” must be seen to accord with the legal definition of aboriginality; that is, especially, the claim must include descent. This is what must be determined about Pascoe himself.

  • brandee

    If “no Commonwealth offence has been committed” by the unsubstantiated aboriginality claim of Bruce Pascoe then the law needs to be changed to make it an offence to make bogus claims.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Wait until Mordi Bromberg retires.

  • deric davidson

    Race is something defined by DNA, namely defined by science. Aboriginality can only be determined by scientific testing. Aboriginality cannot be determined by fantasy, imagination or lies. I understand we live in a world where many are in denial of reality but that should not allow this case of obvious fake racial claims to be accepted as truth. There is nothing racist about exposing racial theft. In fact the opposite is the case in that racial theft is the worse kind of racism.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    In Thailand it is an offence to impersonate a Buddhist monk,.
    In Australia it is an offence to impersonate a police or indeed any public officer:

    Criminal Code – 87 Impersonating a public officer. (b) represents himself or herself by word or conduct to be a public officer, when the person is not such a public officer. … any act or power of such a public officer is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 2 years. › statutes

  • PT

    Not surprised at all. Doubtless there was “no Federal Law broken” in the Australia Day riots either. If Pascoe has been collecting Commonweath grants set aside for aboriginal people and he is not of aboriginal descent, then surely there is some Federal Law that he may be in breach of?
    Now are we going to hear from usual suspects saying that Pascoe’s aboriginal heritage has now been proven?

  • PT

    Just had a look at the ABC’s article on this. It confirms the AFP did not even look at his ancestry because “aboriginality was ‘not relevant” to whether or not a Commonwealth offence had been committed”! It’s like the investigation into Murali’s “bowling” action! Remember this if anyone tries to claim Pascoe’s aboriginal heritage has been “proven”! They won’t dismiss their ABC!

  • Citizen Kane

    Pascoe’s claim of aboriginality is now nothing short of a state sanctioned fraud. I’m off to centrelink at the first available opportunity to state my claim. I on what grounds can they now deny it? look forward to the largesse which will follow.

  • Citizen Kane

    And just like gender I can revoke it at anytime of my choosing or indeed change it on a daily basis if so desired.

  • lhackett01

    According to Paige Taylor’s column in the Weekend Australian, today, the problem was that the complaint was not properly constructed. (Quote) Its (the AFP investigation) first step was to identify whether Professor Pascoe had received a financial benefit and this was not identified on the material provided. This meant the AFP did not take the next step of establishing whether Professor Pascoe had wrongly claimed to be an Aboriginal man.(Unquote)
    This is a common problem when people defend themselves in Court. The Court does not use what most people would believe to be commonly understood about a particular matter. It will use only information that is presented to it, unless there is president.
    Therefore, someone else should formally complain to the AFP using correct procedures. Perhaps legal advice should be sought first?

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