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.