Britain’s science reputation took a blow in 1953 when the fossil of the famous Piltdown Man turned out to be bits of an orangutan glued to a small-brained human skull. Let’s hope the Australian Academy of Science doesn’t come a similar cropper for tying its reputation to self-described Aboriginal Bruce Pascoe, author, seer and would-be overturner of the entire corpus of Aboriginal historiography. Of course, the Academy will be in the clear the minute Pascoe names his Aboriginal forebear, thus smiting us doubters with his irreproachable Aboriginality.
Future Earth is a woke subsidiary of the woke Academy. Future Earth and the Academy hosted a three-day “summit” about Reimagining Climate Adaptation on zoom last April. Its opening plenary speaker was Pascoe, giving what co-sponsor, the loopy Sydney Environment Institute, called a “perfect introduction” to the gabfest.
I’ve often wondered what flights of rhetoric Pascoe delivers at his innumerable speaking events. Future Earth has obliged by posting its Pascoe recording here – see my part-transcript here pro bono. It includes the following gems from this Aboriginal shaman:
# “We” were camped on Bass Strait until a whale warned us circa 12,000BC to scamper to higher ground north and south, and “we” took our language and culture with us
# In Australia “we” were made welcome by our peace-loving southern “cousins”, demonstrating for today’s Western nations how wars are unnecessary. (Someone please let Xi Jinping know).
# “Our” cultures have always eschewed organised violence (I assume the shields to be found everywhere in museums were to ward off enraged wombats)
# Australia’s irresponsible white farmers should cease emitting CO2 in ploughing for wheat and cotton, and instead plant roo-grass and murnong yams. (Mmm. Delicious).
# These farmers should also run kangaroos as livestock on fenceless expanses – sharing the profits in ways that do not actually involve Communism.
# He intends to do some “illegal” shooting of tender young male kangaroos as an improvement on his classic dish, roast lamb with sage and herbs (Aborigines like Pascoe are, apparently, above the white man’s law).
# It would be useful to overturn “contemporary political and economic systems” in favor of Aboriginal ways and Aboriginal sexual mores.
This nonsense was brought to you by the Academy’s Tim Flannery and his 550 brainiac colleagues, who “support excellence in Australian science”. It was also brought to you by the Academy’s Future Earth, with its 10,000 scientists wedded to the crooked UN’s 17 “Sustainable Development Goals”. Future Earth, I read, is “the largest organised group of universities, industry and government in the world working towards achieving global sustainability … to accomplish societal transformation.” Funny, I thought we elected governments to do the societal transformation: wankademics and corporate CEOs can get the hell out, I say.
Pascoe’s opening words, possibly protesting too much, was that he is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man. Genealogist Jan Holland has found that every one of Pascoe’s ancestors on both sides of his family was of British descent. Pascoe is yet to name an Aboriginal forebear who can be checked out.
He’s Yuin? Josephine Cashman, an inaugural member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has tweeted: “Pascoe is not Aboriginal. My son is Yuin and his father doesn’t know who [Pascoe] is.”
He’s Bunurong? Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council says it does not accept Professor Pascoe “as possessing any Boonwurrung ancestry whatsoever”
He’s Tasmanian? Michael Mansell, chair of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, says Pascoe’s not one of theirs: “For political reasons, journalists of the left wanted to believe Pascoe was genuine and put up the blinkers to any contrary view. Now they must eat humble pie and admit they got it all wrong,” Mansell told the Tasmanian Times.
Pascoe told the larger New York Times last August he is both “solidly Cornish” and “solidly Aboriginal”. I hope you can make sense of that. He’s now upped the ante by telling the Future Earth followers he’s more Cornish than Aboriginal.
Pascoe gained fame in our Marxist-minded education establishment for claiming Aborigines lived in towns of 1000, sowed, harvested and stored their crops, and kept their livestock in pens (Wallabies? Koalas? Dingos?). My fellow Quadrant Online contributor Peter O’Brien has dismantled all those claims in his magisterial Bitter Harvest, which can be ordered here. Pascoe, meanwhile, has moved on to a newer shtick: how peaceful Aboriginals were towards tribes around them.
How does he know they were so peace-loving? It’s because of his blood-memory of Aboriginal lore of millenia ago. Trigger warning! After describing his talk, I’ll provide examples of not-so-peaceful pre-contact Aboriginals.
Pascoe claims Aborigines have been in Australia for 120,000 years – mere Pascoe hot air, but a claim now believed by millions of schoolkids whose teachers are thrusting Pascoe profitable fantasies down their young throats. He cites archaeological research from Warrnambool, but even those research leaders tell the ABC that it’s inconclusive.
Pascoe continues that Aborigines have survived in situ through many cycles of genuine climate change, from desertification to glaciation (as distinct from that past century’s beneficial 1degC warming).
As for the whale that recommended “we” depart Bass Strait, this must have been before the seas rose, since otherwise they’d all be in the swim together.
The academic community, he complains, has yet to “engage” with this impeccable sourcing. Anyway, the Atlantis-style languages of Bass Strait-land blended with mainland Victorian languages of the northern “cousins”, and this proves that Aboriginal tribes were welcoming to new arrivals and didn’t do horrid warlike things like bashing their heads in with nulla nullas. Drawing the longest bow imaginable, he rhapsodises,
[Thus] humans can cooperate. It is not absolutely necessary for us to go to war, we should be able to conduct ourselves to meet adversity such as climate change and do so without another group losing. In our adversarial political system, our adversarial economic system and social media system, we presume we have to fight each other. Aboriginal life is telling us that is not the case, we can cooperate. Human has proven that she can cooperate with other humans. I should have said ‘he’, because in the past it would be ‘he’ who chose war or peace.”
The academics glued to their zoom screens must have squirmed with pleasure over his gendered correctness.
Anyway, Pascoe says this whale-led peaceful immigration from Bass Strait is a “hugely important indication of diplomacy — diplomacy that should be manna for the world.”
Drawing an even longer bow, he fantasises that the sea level rises following the last ice age would have driven “massive” numbers of land dwelling Aborigines off the North-West Shelf to inland and, again, the incoming tribes blended amicably with local tribes, languages and cultures intact.
When I was last up on the Kimberley coast (about 2010), the cave art fell into two types – “Bradshaw” or Gwion Gwion art involving delicately drawn figures and animals, and cruder Wandjina art by people of more recent origin, involving stylised crowned “god” figures. Our guides were certain that the newly arriving Wandjina artists and culture wiped out the older Bradshaw artists and culture – Bradshaw figures were defaced or demolished many millennia ago. As usual, the truths are concealed within that vast expanse of time. Pascoe is just trying to wow his pals on zoom. His conclusion is the need to overturn “contemporary political and economic systems” along with Australian agricultural know-how that has helped feed the world for a century.
Pascoe, Melbourne University’s enterprise professor in indigenous agriculture, went into Rousseau-like rhapsodies:
Aboriginal people believe earth is our mother. The British adversarial system and economic system which is profit at all costs, mean that we would indicate to people from outer space, ‘These people despise their grandchildren: they don’t care what the planet will look like in another generation’s time, they don’t care what they do to the country as long as they make profit’. And as long as they get their huge ugly house, their huge ugly car, and then everything will be OK. We can do better than that and Aboriginal Australia has shown that humans can operate in better way.
He also banged his kangaroo drum – thanks to Pascoe, credulous kids at Williamstown High near Melbourne are convinced “soft-footed” roos are the future of the Australian livestock industry. As he told his Future Earth acolytes:
I am suggesting we eat roos instead of cattle and sheep, which are incredibly destructive of soil. I personally bought a lamb roast because I know how to cook it, I have sage and herbs making it beautiful. I also eat roo. People argue against (killing) roos, saying they are beautiful and very soulful. The sight of a female roo nurturing her young, both asleep in the sun in my front yard really warms my heart. It is not disturbing to think at some stage I will shoot a young male roo illegally to get meat. [Tut tut: TT]. A young roo is only as beautiful as a young lamb, they are still animals.
Capitalist accounting systems legitimise tax avoidance in the Bahamas, so it’s no worse to shoot roos broad-scale and share the roo dividends equitably among the farm-holders, he says, venturing into the field of what might be dubbed Pascoenomics:
I don’t see that sharing the dividend of the country is descent into Communism, it’s asking us to cooperate. We should not allow some of our right wing politicans to say it is Communism and Socialism, it is co-operation because we don’t despise our grandchildren. We sensibly start looking at those things that would allow us to continue as a species.
He’s been reading some book called Sapiens and was profoundly shocked that the author predicted our probable extinction in a thousand years from planetary neglect.
I am not pretending Aboriginal people are all good and all wise, what I am insisting on is to look at the longevity of Aboriginal cultural advance and see the cultural, political and economic stability and see that is a good model for the human race.
He scoffs at criticisms that we – i.e. Pascoe and “his” fellow Aboriginals – didn’t invent the wheel, but he points out that roos can’t pull carts and, anyway, nasty Westerners hooked the wheel to cannons and, with the help of wheels, are sending rockets into orbit and further and “destroying outer space”. But back to Pascoe’s favourite subject, himself:
I can’t think of another civilisation which managed the human spirit and problems of geography, economics and cultural life as successfully as the Australian Aboriginal people. My attachment to Aboriginal life is fine, I am more Cornish than Aboriginal, but investigation of my background dragged me into contemplation of these things.
He exampled the Yuin and Gunditjmara, insisting they eschewed being warlike or being ambitious to get other people’s land. The land owned the people not the other way around [blah blah for another sermon]. He claimed that, although “we” Aborigines might be individually violent, “we” didn’t do warlike violence. This leads him to suggest human society re-organise itself to divide labor between the sexes in a civilised, Aboriginal-style way, along with sexual relations.
Like any good speaker, Pascoe’s has learnt to end on a high note, like a tenor hitting that high “C” in Nessun Dorma. Pascoe: “It is not an irrational wish, not beyond the human soul, reimagining our future. I think our species is capable of enormous cooperation and, dare I say it, love.”
David Schlosberg, director of the Sydney Environment Institute, went beyond normal “thank you” to Pascoe and said his talk was “beautiful, really amazing and a perfect introduction” to the conference about adapting to climate change. He’s spot on, there. Just so you know, Schlosberg’s fortes are “Enviro justice, just adaptation, sustainable materialism.”
I HATE to rain on Pascoe’s “peaceful Aborigines” parade but I warned you earlier and here ares some extracts.
Historian Geoff Blainey concluded that annual death rates from North-East Arnhem Land and Port Philip, were comparable with those of countries involved in both world wars, although some might say Blainey’s estimate could be somewhat on the high side. Many such violent incidents are in a peer-reviewed 2015 paper, Proving communal warfare among hunter-gatherers: The quasi-rousseauan error, by Profess Azar Gat of Tel Aviv University. Some extracts, starting with escaped convict William Buckley, who lived from 1803-35 among Port Phillip Aborigines.
Buckley recounts some dozen battle scenes, as well as many lethal feuds, raids, and ambushes, comprising a central element of the natives’ traditional way of life. There was fighting at all levels: individual, familial, and tribal. Some of the intertribal encounters that Buckley recorded involved large numbers: five different tribes collected for battle; a battle and raid against an intruding enemy tribe, 300 strong; several full‐scale intertribal encounters, the last one a raid with many dead; two other encounters, the second against a war party of 60 men. Ceremonial cannibalism of the vanquished was customary. Buckley reported that the large‐scale raid was the deadliest form of violence and often involved indiscriminate massacre:
The contests between the Watouronga, of Geelong, and the Warrorongs, of the Yarra, were fierce and bloody. I have accompanied the former in their attacks on the latter. When coming suddenly upon them in the night, they have destroyed without mercy men, women and children.
In the 1870s, Lorimer Fison and Alfred Howitt studied the Kurnai tribe in southern Australia, specifically in Gippsland, Victoria. They described feuds and whole groups’ fighting. In one episode, fresh tracks indicating trespassing into the tribal territories were revealed and a spy was sent to reconnoiter. He found the intruders, with “lots of women and children.” The Kurnai men “got their spears ready…in the middle of the night they all marched off well armed.” After several marches, “when near morning … they got close to them …. The spies whistled like bird, to tell when all was ready. Then all ran in; they speared away, and speared away! They only speared the men, and perhaps some children. Whoever caught a women kept her himself. Then they eat the skin of the Brajeraks [the trespassing tribe].” The native informants told of other episodes that ended in ceremonial cannibalism of the vanquished.
Gerald Wheeler in The tribe and intertribalrelations in Australia(1910) cites different observers’ reports from all over Australia. According to one such report, after “march by night in the most stealthy manner … then follows a night attack and a wholesale extermination.” According to another report, “A common procedure in such warfare is to steal up to the enemy’s camp in the dead of night and encircle it in the earliest dawn. With a shout, the carnage then begins.”
The most lethal and common form of warfare among the Murngin was the surprise night raid. This could be carried out by individuals or small groups intending to kill a specific enemy or members of a specific family. But raids were also conducted on a large scale by war parties coming from whole clans or tribes. In such cases, the camp of the attacked party was surrounded and its unprepared, sleeping dwellers were massacred. It was in these larger raids that by far the most killings were registered: 35 people were killed in large‐scale raids, 27 in small‐scale raids, 29 in large battles in which ambushes were used, three in ordinary battles, and two in individual face‐to‐face encounters.
Arnold Pilling wrote about armed conflict among the Tiwi of northern Australia: ‘The night raids were effectively terminated, about 1912, when Sir Baldwin Spencer was inadvertently injured by a Tiwi during a spear‐throwing demonstration.” In fact, however, death‐causing battles with clubs occurred there as late as 1948.
One major action in Arnhem Land is described by Ted Strehlow.
To punish Ltjabakuka and his men meant the wiping out of the whole camp of people normally resident at Irbmankara, so that no witness should be left alive who could have revealed the names of the attackers. A large party of avengers drawn from the Matuntara area along the Palmer River, and from some Southern Aranda local groups, was accordingly assembled and led to Irbmankara by Tjinawariti, who was described to me as having been a Matuntara ‘ceremonial chief’ from the Palmer River whose prowess as a warrior had given him a great reputation . Tjinawariti and his men fell upon Irbmankara one evening, after all the local folk, as they believed, had returned to their camps from their day’s quests for food. Men, women and children were massacred indiscriminately.
Arthur Chaseling, too, mentions the whole spectrum of violence, from frequent individual fights to regulated battles between clans to raids. “Entire hordes have been exterminated,” he notes.
Ted Kimber cites evidence of some such major conflicts, including the one described by Strehlow:
In about 1840, at a locality called Nariwalpa, in response to insults, the ‘Jandruwontas and Piliatapas killed so many Diari men, that the ground was covered with their dead bodies”… Strehlow gives the most dramatic account of a major arid‐country conflict. He estimates that 80–100 men, women, and children were killed in one attack in 1875 at Running Waters, on the Finke River. In retaliation, all but one of the attacking party of ‘perhaps fifty to sixty warriors’ were killed over the next three years, as were some of their family members. This indicates that some 20% of two identifiable tribes were killed in this exchange.
The red ochre gathering expeditions … involved travel from the eastern portion of the study area to the Flinders Ranges … One entire party, with the exception of one man, is recorded as having been ambushed and killed in about 1870, whilst in about 1874 all but one of a group of 30 men were ‘entombed in the excavations’.
Although exact figures will never be known, a low death rate of possibly 5 per cent every generation can be suggested for the regions of least conflict, and a high death‐rate of perhaps 20 per cent every three generations elsewhere.
Warfare was not confined to water‐rich northern and southern Australia, but was evident in every climatic zone throughout the continent. (End of Gat extracts).
THE reality of Aboriginal division of labor and treatment of women, vaunted by Pascoe, is horrific and requires a trigger warning.
First Fleeter Watkin Tench noticed a young woman’s head “covered by contusions, and mangled by scars”. She also had a spear wound above the left knee caused by a man who dragged her from her home to rape her. Tench wrote,
They (Aboriginal women) are in all respects treated with savage barbarity; condemned not only to carry the children, but all other burthens, they meet in return for submission only with blows, kicks and every other mark of brutality.
He also wrote,
When an Indian [sic] is provoked by a woman, he either spears her, or knocks her down on the spot; on this occasion he always strikes on the head, using indiscriminately a hatchet, a club, or any other weapon, which may chance to be in his hand.
Marine Lt. William Collins wrote,
We have seen some of these unfortunate beings with more scars upon their shorn heads, cut in every direction, than could be well distinguished or counted.
Governor Phillip’s confidant, Bennelong, in 1790 had taken a woman to Port Jackson to kill her because her relatives were his enemies. He gave her two severe wounds on the head and one on the shoulder, saying this was his rightful vengeance.
Phillip was appalled that an Eora mother within a few days of delivery had fresh wounds on her head, where her husband had beaten her with wood.
In 1802 an explorer in the Blue Mountains wrote how, for a trivial reason, an Aboriginal called Gogy
took his club and struck his wife’s head such a blow that she fell to the ground unconscious. After dinner … he got infuriated and again struck his wife on the head with his club, and left her on the ground nearly dying.
In 1825, French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville wrote “young girls are brutally kidnapped from their families, violently dragged to isolated spots and are ravished after being subjected to a good deal of cruelty.”
George Robinson in Tasmania said in the 1830s that men courted their women by stabbing them with sharp sticks and cutting them with knives prior to rape. The men bartered their women to brutal sealers for dogs and food; in one case, such a woman voluntarily went back to the sealers rather than face further tribal violence.
Also in the 1830s, ex-convict Charles Lingard wrote:
I scarcely ever saw a married woman, but she had got six or seven cuts in her head, given by her husband with a tomahawk, several inches in length and very deep.
Explorer Edward John Eyre, who was very sympathetic towards Aborigines, nevertheless recorded:
Women are often sadly ill-treated by their husbands and friends…they are frequently beaten about the head, with waddies, in the most dreadful manner, or speared in the limbs for the most trivial offences…
…few women will be found, upon examination, to be free from frightful scars upon the head, or the marks of spear wounds about the body. I have seen a young woman, who, from the number of these marks, appeared to have been almost riddled with spear wounds.
Louis Nowra visited outback communities and found them astonishingly brutal:
Some of the women’s faces ended up looking as though an incompetent butcher had conducted plastic surgery with a hammer and saw. The fear in the women’s eyes reminded me of dogs whipped into cringing submission.
Nowra quotes Walter Roth (1861-1933) a doctor, anthropologist and Chief Protector of Aborigines in Queensland. Roth described at the turn of the 20th century how, when a Pitta-Pitta girl first showed signs of puberty,
several men would drag her into the bush and forcibly enlarge the vaginal orifice by tearing it downwards with the first three fingers wound round and round with opossum string. Other men come forward from all directions, and the struggling victim has to submit in rotation to promiscuous coition with all the ‘bucks’ present.
Even worse was his description of practices around Glenormiston:
A group of men, with cooperation from old women, ambush a young woman, and pin her so an old man can slit up the shrieking girl’s perineum with a stone knife, followed by sweeping three fingers round the inside of the virginal orifice. She is next compelled to undergo copulation with all the bucks present; again the same night, and a third time, on the following morning.
In Birdsville, a hardwood stick two feet long with a crude life-sized penis carving at the top, was used to tear the hymen and posterior vaginal wall.
In the Tully area, a very young man would give his betrothed to an old man to sleep with and train her for him. The idea was that the elder would ‘make the little child’s genitalia develop all the more speedily’. There was no restriction on age or social status at which the bride would be delivered up. As Roth observed,
It is of no uncommon occurrence to see an individual carrying on his shoulder his little child-wife who is perhaps too tired to toddle any further.
This has not been a pleasant piece to write. First, there is the sponsorship of “Aboriginal historian” Pascoe by Australia’s most eminent scientific body. Then there is the nonsense Pascoe spouts about supposedly peaceful and gender-harmonious pre-contact society. Finally, there’s the reality as observed in early white contacts with authentic Aboriginal culture. This essay package could be summed up, as per Xavier Herbert, “Poor fellow my [woke] country.”
Tony Thomas’s next book from Connor Court, Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars, will be launched at il Gamberos, 166 Lygon St, Carlton Vic on Wednesday June 16 at 6.30pm. All welcome, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 The Academy’s CEO Anna-Maria Arabia’s pre-appointment roles included adviser to Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese. Her philosophy is “Scientists can be politically active without politicising their science.”
A job ad for an Academy researcher read: “Candidate applications from a range of diverse and inclusive groups of the community including applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are encouraged to apply.”