Bennelong Papers

Bruce Pascoe’s Top Ten Howlers

Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe’s, Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? is a game-changer. Not just as an academic assessment of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu but as part of a wider political discourse. Sutton and Walshe are leaders in their respective fields of anthropology and archaeology. Importantly, they are not politically conservative, which what makes their critique of Pascoe’s work all the more far-reaching.

Significantly, Sutton and Walshe describe Pascoe’s work as being so ‘simplistic’ that ‘…the message serves only to seriously mislead secondary students exposed to this material’. In their professional opinion, ‘This teaching resource book should be withdrawn by any educational authority currently using it, and rewritten.’

What follows is a ten-point summary as to the most salient criticisms of Dark Emu that Sutton and Walshe make and hence, why their scholarly judgment should be heeded by all government educational departments.

First, the resurrection of social evolutionism. For those on the Left—such as Sutton and Walshe—this is probably the most stinging criticism of them all since it is essentially racist. While Pascoe himself rejects that he does this, the language which he goes on to use betrays what he really believes. As Sutton and Walshe write:

Pascoe’s approach appears to resemble the old Eurocentric view held by the British conquerors of Aboriginal society. Those were the people who organised mass theft of Aboriginal country and many of whom justified the killing of people who resisted them, really out of greed and indifference, but often under an ideological flag of social evolutionism. They assumed they had a right to profit from the ‘survival of the fittest’ and were the ‘superior race’. The ‘less advanced’ had to make way for the ‘more advanced’. Pascoe risks taking us back to that fatal shore by resurrecting the interpretation of differing levels of complexity and differing extents of intervention in the environment as degrees of advancement and evolution and cleverness and sophistication’.

Second, the absence of Aboriginal words for farming. Sutton rightly observes that, “Culture is to a very significant degree reflected in language”. Hence, if Aboriginal peoples had been engaged in farming practices then there would be evidence in their language for it. But as Sutton says:

I have consulted dictionaries of around forty Aboriginal languages looking for words glossed as ‘farm’, ‘farmer’, ‘to farm’, ‘garden,’ to sow’, ‘hoe’, ‘crop’, ‘to plant’, ‘weed’, and ‘to plough’. Almost invariably there are no such terms.

As if that were not as conclusive enough, Sutton exposes Pascoe’s linguistic ignorance in the following paragraph. The criticism is devastating:

Almost the only venture into language in Dark Emu is this: ‘It seems even the name of Lake Killapaninna [sic: Killalpaninna] has within it a word for the harvest grass variously spelt pannana or parrara. The evidence, while now difficult to find on the surface of the land, is still embedded in the language (page 47). Killalpaninna (more accurately Kirlawirlpanhinha) actually translates from the original Diyari not as ‘harvest grass’ but as ‘In the Vagina’, a name arising from the site’s sacred mythology according to the highly trained linguist Peter Austin, who wrote a study of the language of the Diyari people whose country includes Lake Killalpaninna. Pascoe describes his own etymology here as ‘evidence’. The actual and contrary facts, however, appeared in a published paper by Austin twenty-eight years before Pascoe’s appeared.

Third, extremely poor research methods. While Dark Emu has received a plethora of awards, including being incorporated into school curricula, Sutton and Walshe argue that it is basically untrustworthy. Indeed, the authors eviscerate Pascoe’s work as follows:

…it is littered with unsourced material. It is poorly researched. It distorts and exaggerates many old sources. It selects evidence to suit the author’s opinions, and it ignores large bodies of information that do not support the author’s opinions. It contains a large number of factual errors, a range of which we analyse here. Others we could not include for want of space.

Fourth, Pascoe completely misunderstands the current legal practice as how land rights are granted. As Sutton explains:

Perhaps the most reckless assertion in Dark Emu, one easily falsifiable by anyone with a library card or a computer, is this:

Every Land Rights applications hinges on the idea that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did nothing more than collect available resources and therefore had no managed interaction with the land; that is, the Indigenous population did not own or use the land. [page 129]

 …Pascoe here has the facts completely inverted. Australian land claim applications are based on evidence of traditional land tenure systems and managed resource use systems and their modern descendants. These were and are systems of incredible complexity; and constitute one of the main pillars of Aboriginal Law. Native title and other land rights regimes are an attempt to respect that Law, albeit too late for some applicants to have their wishes met.

Fifth, an over-reliance on the reports European explorers. One of the most damning criticisms Sutton and Walshe make is that,

Pascoe has concentrated more on historical sources, especially explorer’s journals, than on the evidence of Aboriginal people who have traditional knowledge. In fact, there is almost no evidence in Dark Emu that he has asked Indigenous elders about their Old People’s economic practices.

What’s more, they go on to say,

Nor does Dark Emu draw significantly on works by specialist scholars who have studied Aboriginal traditional economics and material culture under senior Indigenous expert mentoring, often through a lifetime.

Sutton and Walshe proceed to explain why relying on the journals of European explorers is so problematic:

…Pascoe’s heavy reliance on explorers journals is reliance on the evidence of those who encountered classical Aboriginal Australia only transiently at each location, and typically without any language in common with those they met. They were also the vanguard field agents of Aboriginal dispossession during the predatory expansion of the agrarian society of the British. They were men who were anxious to be able to map and report valuable future pastoral and agricultural environments back to Sydney and London. They were the forward scouts for the army of land-hungry farmers who would come in their wake. Waving fields of grass and stacks of seed-bearing stems, real as they were, could be easily read from a European standpoint as meadows in waiting, full of promise for the coming wave of agricultural usurpers.

Regarding the category of ‘specialist scholars’, Sutton and Walshe refer to the work of Dr Ian Keen of the Australian National University, ‘whose 2004 book is a thoroughly researched study of multiple regional Aboriginal economics on the threshold of conquest by the British Empire. He describes a rich array of cultural and economic practices, but does not find that mainland Indigenous Australians practiced agriculture or gardening’. By the way, an excellent scholarly critique of Dark Emu by Dr Keen can be read here.

Sixth, Pascoe often misrepresents the academic sources he does quote from. For example, Sutton and Walshe state:

Pascoe links gardening and cropping to the settled life—that is, to what is sometimes called sedentism. Given the extent to which Dark Emu owes a debt to the work of Bill Gammage, it is unfortunate that Pascoe effectively rejects him on the question of sedentism. Gammage said:

Neither in Australia’s richest nor poorest parts, by European standards, were people tempted to settle. Instead they quite their villages and eels, their crops and stores and templates, to walk their country.

They were mobile. No livestock, no beast of burden anchored them. They did not stay in their houses or by their crops.

At this point, Sutton overlooks Peter O’Brien’s invaluable contribution, Bitter Harvest (Quadrant, 2019), dismissing it is ‘a pugnacious polemical assessment of Dark Emu’ which consults ‘extremely few anthropologists or archaeologists’ (page 220, footnote 47). What’s more, this curt assessment is somewhat unfair to the author in question, since O’Brien has never claimed to be an ‘expert’ on Aboriginal culture, but rather an ‘auditor’ of the sources Pascoe himself claimed proved his case. As O’Brien wrote in The Spectator Australia:

…I have repeatedly stated that, in writing Bitter Harvest, I did not set out to prove Aborigines were hunter/gatherers, nor to prove that they were not agriculturalists, nor to position Aboriginal society in any particular way in between. I set out to demonstrate that Pascoe had failed to prove his own thesis. In doing so, I, of course, relied principally on the sources that Pascoe cited. Pascoe’s shtick was that his theory was buttressed by the journals of the early explorers and settlers and so my modus operandi was to check those same references. As I have also said, I saw my role simply as an auditor. And my audit came to the same conclusion as Drs Sutton and Walshe, albeit 18 months earlier than they did — that Dark Emu is a complete fraud. 

Seventh, rejection of testimony from European castaways. Following on from the previous point, Pascoe not only relies on—a misrepresentation—of the journals of early European explorers but shows ‘little or no reliance on the evidence of those who lived on the Aboriginal side of the frontier for months on end, learning from the traditional owners of the lands they lived in and learning local languages’. What’s more,

There is also almost no reliance in Dark Emu on those early castaways who lived inside Australian Indigenous societies and operated in local languages, for years on end, as in the case of William Buckley (32 years), James Morrill (17 years), James Davis (13 years), John Sterry Baker (14 years) and Barbara Thomson (5 years). Sutton and Walshe also include a valuable appendix documentary all of Buckley’s movements while he lived with the Aborigines.

In short, Pascoe is what Sutton and Walshe dismiss as ‘an armchair theorist’ — a criticism all the more damning when they quote the famous anthropologist W.E.H. ‘Bill’ Stanner:

‘The damage to our appreciation of Aboriginal life really came from the men of the armchair, who write from afar under a kind of enchantment’.

Eighth, Australian aborigines were hunter-gathers and did not engage in agriculture. This point lies at the very heart of the debate. Sutton and Walshe persuasively argue that the Old People—as Sutton prefers to label Aboriginal peoples—that they were neither mere hunter-gathers but neither did they engage in agriculture per se. Sutton and Walshe pose and then answer the following question:

If ‘agriculture’ was the way of life of the Old People, why did they not segue smoothly into the domestic gardening—and the broad-field ploughing, sowing and cropping—of the British settles? The latter tediously and repeatedly claimed that many of the people they encountered were averse to horticulture and agriculture both. They were great horseback musterers and game trackers, but averse to hoeing, weeding and planting. Knowing—as the Old People did full well—that plants grew from seeds and tubers, ignorance played no role in this rejection of farming. It was cultural resistance, and loyalty to their own ways.

…A minority harvested grass seeds and ground them into a paste that could be cooked or eaten raw. They had not, however, become farmers who created and tended fields, sowed crops and lived in permanent villages. Nor had they become horticulturalists (gardeners). They had their own way. This way should be cherished.

 Ninth, nor did they engage in ‘aquaculture’ or ‘permanent dwellings’. Following on from the previous point, neither did Aborigines engage in this kind of activity. As Sutton and Walshe explain:

Most people’s understanding of ‘aquaculture’ would define it as the protective breeding, rearing and harvesting of aquatic animals. Raising fingerlings in captivity, where they are protected from predators, is usually integral to aquaculture enterprises. That is, there is domestication of the reproductive beginnings of the relevant fish population. While the Old People did this through ritual and through communicating with aquatic spirits, there is no evidence they did so using physical technology.

Similarly, Aboriginal peoples did not construct permanent dwellings. Some of the examples of Pascoe’s errors here are quite frankly, embarrassing. For instance, Pascoe claims that the people of Cape York and Arnhem Land had two types of housing to suit the wet and dry seasons. However, as Sutton rightly explains, ‘His assessment here is one of many elementary errors that a proper peer review process would have corrected. A two-season northern year is a non-Aboriginal idea’. Instead, they had a six-season calendar. And as such, ‘That monsoon-belt people used a range of forms of housing and shelter—not two, as announced by Pascoe—has been on the public record for many years’. 

Tenth, Pascoe’s secularisation of Aboriginal culture. Sutton and Walshe believe that the disconnect between the spiritual and the physical is not Dark Emu’s ‘biggest gap’. As Sutton states, ‘A secularised notion of Aboriginal cultivation, devoid of spiritual dimensions, did not exist in Australia before conquest’. This means that Pascoe ‘mythologises’ Aboriginal history and culture by ironically, ‘ignoring the spiritual propagation culture of the Old People. As such, ‘He [Pascoe] is in this way as much a myth-maker as a myth-breaker’. Sutton states:

The Australian people of the pre-conquest era did not avoid agriculture because they didn’t know how plants grow. The proposition would be absurd, given they were acute observers of the plants around them and the plants’ life cycles. Instead, they regarded the fertility and the reproductive spark that maintained plant populations via seeds to be spiritual, not a matter of secular human technology.

How government departments respond remains to be seen. But there are wider questions here also relating to the media—and in particular, the ABC—who have championed such blatant falsehoods. As Parnell Palme McGuinness bravely argued in The Sydney Morning Herald:

There are views that are not socially acceptable. They are not, as the Germans say, ‘salonfähig’ – meaning, suitable to be aired in the salons, boardroom lunches, writers’ festivals, or harbour side soirees of fashionable society.

Sutton and Walshe though, go even further:

This journalistic abandonment of the academy, if that is what it is, seems to be symptomatic of a break from the past—a past in which professional knowledge and lay knowledge were more distinct, and the distinction more respected. The authority of the academy has slipped. Much worse than that, the authority of Aboriginal knowledge-holders has been ignored again.

Without doubt, Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? is one of the most important books to be published on the subject of Aboriginal issues this century. It will not only change the way people view and understand Aboriginal people, but also act as a warning to the media elite not to jump without looking onto the latest progressive bandwagon.

Mark Powell is a Presbyterian pastor

49 comments
  • pgang

    “They (the explorers) were also the vanguard field agents of Aboriginal dispossession during the predatory expansion of the agrarian society of the British.”
    Ha ha, these lefties. How can you not but enjoy their wild and rabid visions of our inner darkness?

  • Tony Tea

    The powers that be have decided to sex up Australian history curricula:

    “The new version of Australian history will replace the current study design – described by one expert as a “rollicking race through a lot of content” – with four deep dives into distinct themes, including Aboriginal land management, race and immigration, landmark environmental fights such as the Franklin Dam campaign and struggles for women’s equality.”

    It will be interesting to see how they handle the “Aboriginal land management” part, having so recently been burnt by Pascoe’s firago.

  • gary@erko

    Reviews of Sutton and Walshe have usually concentrated on the more academic sounding criticisms of Pascoe, giving the impression they’re entering a controversial debate with an equal among their fellows. None have quoted the type of thoroughly damning blows directly at midships as above.

  • Harry Lee

    The problem is far bigger than pascoe.
    Pascoe is an example of a fantasy novelist.
    The bigger issue is that the universities, other parts of the education systems, and politicians, lawyers and media people are treating Pascoe’s fantasy as truth.
    But there is a still bigger issue, namely:
    The West, and for now that includes Australia, is not constituted to defend itself from the destructive forces of anti-Westernism. In Australia, these forces include the ALP and the Greens, and the commissars of the unions, the education and the legal systems, and the ABC and SBS, and indeed much of public services, and the people who control those parties from the shadows.
    These anti-Westernist forces are using/promoting fantasies presented by naive idealists and careerists and money-grubbers and celebrity-seekers as part of their strategy, and their arsenal, to destroy the essentials of Western Civ.
    Anti-Europeanism, the climate sham/scam, the elevation of parasites to entitlement and sainthood, and the non-containment of persons-of-violence are examples.
    All this is obvious.
    This is a very major problem, a fatal one, namely:
    The people who framed the Constitutions of the USA and other Western nations, including Australia, underestimated the malignity/evil of the anti-Westernist forces that would arise in the context of the freedoms and material abundance that only the West can provide.
    Anyone up for the fight-back?

  • GrahamP

    “While Dark Emu has received a plethora of awards, including being incorporated into school curricula, Sutton and Walshe argue that it is basically trustworthy.”
    Is this a typo? Should that read “untrustworthy”?

    • Roger Franklin

      Now fixed, GP.

  • john.singer

    I have so far only read comments on Sutton and Walshe’s book and not the book itself. However it appears to me that they are intellectual snobs and that coming from the left should make us treat them with as much caution as any other modern publication.
    I find their criticism of Peter O’Brien’s work and that of us other “men of the armchair” to be offensive. After all we pioneered the research and criticism of Dark Emu”” which emboldened the academics to emerge from their cocoons.

  • Doubting Thomas

    As pgang suggests, you just have to love ‘those lefties’. Their criticisms are just as ‘polemical’ as Peter O’Brien’s and their intellectual arrogance orders of magnitude worse than his.
    ‘Pascoe’s approach appears to resemble the old Eurocentric view held by the British conquerors of Aboriginal society. Those were the people who organised mass theft of Aboriginal country and many of whom justified the killing of people who resisted them, really out of greed and indifference, but often under an ideological flag of social evolutionism. They assumed they had a right to profit from the ‘survival of the fittest’ and were the ‘superior race’. The ‘less advanced’ had to make way for the ‘more advanced’. Pascoe risks taking us back to that fatal shore by resurrecting the interpretation of differing levels of complexity and differing extents of intervention in the environment as degrees of advancement and evolution and cleverness and sophistication’.
    That’s just a plainly stupid judgement from afar, applying anachronistic modern standards to people who had totally different points of view that were the norm for their era.

  • pgang

    ‘This journalistic abandonment of the academy, if that is what it is, seems to be symptomatic of a break from the past—a past in which professional knowledge and lay knowledge were more distinct, and the distinction more respected. The authority of the academy has slipped. ‘
    .
    Given the rather droll and bleeding obvious-ness of the critique of Pascoe, this observation stands out as the most interesting point from the article.
    .
    One could argue that academia has brought this upon itself. For too long they have been feeding us swill. Again, this is to state the obvious.
    .
    But this attitude extends into the corporate world also – professions or professionalism are a shadow of what they once were. My own professional life began with four years of gruelling study, followed by several years of mentoring and learning the trade, including almost two years on the actual tools. Eventually one adopted both the intellectual and experiential maturity to make informed decisions.
    .
    But now that we have had decades of the tempting fruit of Human Resources and their ideology of treating people as units of production, almost anybody is allowed to do my job – and the cheaper they come, the more likely will they be chosen. You can come on board with a lesser degree or diploma, do a quick correspondence course, prove that you can turn on a computer and voila – instant professional. I often wonder how much wealth goes unrealised out of sheer ignorance, and how much real knowledge has been lost to us.

  • NFriar

    @Pnang
    “They (the explorers) were also the vanguard field agents of Aboriginal dispossession during the predatory expansion of the agrarian society of the British.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    [Ha ha, these lefties. How can you not but enjoy their wild and rabid visions of our inner darkness?]

    Had to have a last stab didn’t he!
    And to go on as if he was a historian :
    “They were men who were anxious to be able to map and report valuable future pastoral and agricultural environments back to Sydney and London. They were the forward scouts for the army of land-hungry farmers who would come in their wake. Waving fields of grass and stacks of seed-bearing stems, real as they were, could be easily read from a European standpoint as meadows in waiting, full of promise for the coming wave of agricultural usurpers.”

    BAH Humbug.

    @Mark Powe – thank you

    @John.Singer – those at dark emu exposed website are just racist with no scholarship lols

  • Harry Lee

    The elevation of Pascoe’s fantasies to Truth by the Academies and the Media has this consequence:
    Declining numbers of non-Aborigines will believe anything said by most Aborigines.
    And declining numbers of Ordinary People will believe anything that is promulgated by the Academies and the Media.
    And, when the commissars who control the legal system institute Voice in the Constitution and place non-elected Aborigines in the parliaments, Ordinary People will lose even more faith and trust in the law and in the parliaments.
    Just as intended by the Anti-Westernists in the shadows who are puppeteering all of this.

  • Michael

    O’Brien, in auditing Pascoe’s Dark Emu, has applied the Sagan Standard – extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. O’Brien found that Pascoe presented little, if any, evidence to warrant his extraordinary claims.

    Sutton and Walshe, as professionals in the relevant disciplines, go much further, and that is good. For me, their major point is not just that Pascoe is wrong on a range of matters, but that he completely misunderstands the essence of pre-settlement Aboriginal culture as a spiritual practice.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Michael, I agree, but their contempt for Peter O’Brien’s work and their anachronistic political attitude to the early settlers annoyed me. I really wonder whether they would have written their book had Peter not kicked the anthill first.

  • wdr

    An outstanding and very brave book. But it doesn’t go far enough. I have an article coming out in the August issue of Quadrant about Aboriginal cannibalism, which will raise some eyebrows. (They apparently preferred to eat Chinamen, who tasted better than white men.) I then intend to write about the Aboriginal mistreatment of women, etc. I hope to write a book on just how appallingly awful Aboriginal society actually was- the exact opposite of the utopian world now depicted, Orwellian style. The Left has now replaced class war with race war and gender war. This has to be understood. Another element is the Myth of the Noble Savage, very strong. Just how barbaric Aboriginal society actually was was well understood by writers in colonial Australia and by later writers down to the 1960s. Since then it has become taboo. (Emeritus Professor) William D. Rubinstein

  • Doubting Thomas

    Wdr, at least until that pocket rocket Jacinta Price came along to tell it like it is. Of course, Ion Idriess made several references to Aboriginal cannibalism in his books.

  • Helmond

    Harry.

    “Anyone up for the fight back?” In principle, sure thing, because these left-wingers and greenies drive me nuts. But saying that, my life seems pretty comfortable and I don’t think my assets will be confiscated by the state in my life time. And no nationalisation of industry either. But count me in.

    Now I’m thinking what this fight back is going to involve. Can you help me with this? Oh yes, and remember that the good guys seem to be vastly outnumbered.

  • nfw

    What about the spaceport and The Aboriginal Language? Don’t tell me they don’t exist.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    IMO. an important test needs to be done and publicised, before acceptance of claims about aboriginal entitlement are further developed, such as the push for Constitutional amendment.
    That test is about the authenticity of aboriginal records. Given that there was no preserved, early written record of practices, social organisation, traditional knowledge and so on, we have to rely upon narrative between traditional aborigines and a recorder of some type. The recorder has often been an anthropologist, whose process of conversion of oral story to narrative of interview has been and still is open to subjective bias, intentional or accidental.
    There is a strong need for a graded register of historic claims, starting with the most authentic, being a document authored by and written by a literate traditional person using only the knowledge that he/she has personally required. The next grade might be similar material recorded by a professional and endorsed as a true and correct record, of a standard and veracity expected in a Court document. The grading might see several more stages, until we reach the point of non-authenticated common gossip with no traceable historic endorsement.
    I have had some direct experience from land claims and similar legal procedures in the Alligator Rivers region of the NT, from the northern Cape York region and some from the Kimberley, when every time I was with a professional consultant anthropologist, in the 1970-80s. There were many instances of material being presented as authentic aboriginal traditional knowledge that was correctly a modern invention, sometimes expressing personal ideas of others such as anthropologists.
    This register should be used as a basis for claims of ownership, invention, tradition, practice and so on. It is mentioned here, not so much as a way to block suspect material, but as a way to progress actual knowledge. For example, it is hard to discern if aboriginal knowledge of fire management at a location goes back through many generations of tradition, or is merely a case of common sense doing what was obviously best at the time.
    Maybe there is such documentation in registers, but I have not seen it. Have others? Geoff S

  • mpowell

    Michael, you are absolutely correct about Pascoe’s misunderstanding of Aboriginal spiritual practice in relation to food acquisition and land management. This is the real strength of Sutton’s book. Having lived with and studied Aboriginal peoples since the early 1970’s—and speaking three Aboriginal languages—Sutton is a leading authority on the whole subject. Point 10 of the article I wrote is really the most important oversight and misunderstanding of them all.

  • Harry Lee

    Helmond-
    -Yes, you pose the right points alright.
    It’s all too comfy for all of us. And the enemy is ready to wipe out the fight-backers.
    The fight-back must be started quietly and unseen, self-organising and self-funding in small cells, that sort of thing. And capabilities built over time.
    I will not say more in a public forum. But I recommend acting only within the law.
    Look to acquire and use existing assets. It’ll be hard work, for ever and a day. Best, Harry.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    ‘…A minority harvested grass seeds and ground them into a paste that could be cooked or eaten raw. ‘
    While jackerooing at Hillston, under Clem a 3/4 Aboriginal stockman, it was not unusual to find Aboriginal artefacts. One was a grinder and Nardoo stone. The flat rock had been ground down, showing the sedimentary layers and parked next to a shed. It unfortunately fell apart after a while, worn thin.
    http://orangeblossoms.orangemuseum.com.au/images/sep10/gindingStone.jpg
    The ‘minority’ were women, who judging by the work needed to cook and grind nardoo seeds from a fern, were an important, large minority.
    According to to the locals, grass seeds were also collected and ground on this hollowed rock.

  • Biggles

    Might I suggest a simple way of checking Pascoe’s claims? British Pathe made several films early last century showing aboriginal life at that time. The attached link gives one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ9tGC8fMVc. Such films should be shown to Australian school children as a rebuttal of Pascoe’s lies, but of course, the ABC and the rest of the looney left would do their best to stop that.

  • Doubting Thomas

    LPB, I have at least two Aboriginal grind stones picked up over the years along a non-perennial watercourse, the Mulla Cowal that bisected our property out near Nyngan. Most farmers out there found them, and “canoe trees” were also common.

  • Harry Lee

    Noted:
    This Pascoe thing is absorbing a great deal of energy of people -as shouters from the sidelines.
    Easier to spend time commenting on matters like Pascoe’s fantasies than on rescuing Aboriginal babies and children from neglect, abuse, and violence.
    But true, last time the social workers tried to save Aboriginal kids, it created The Great Big Sorry/Diversion from Real Problems/Waste of Money and Aboriginal Lives Corroboree, led by the marxist-inspired ALP, figured-headed by Rudd, and supported by all Aboriginal so-called leaders.

  • Blair

    ‘Pascoe’s approach appears to resemble the old Eurocentric view held by the British conquerors of Aboriginal society. Those were the people who organised mass theft of Aboriginal country and many of whom justified the killing of people who resisted them, really out of greed and indifference, but often under an ideological flag of social evolutionism. They assumed they had a right to profit from the ‘survival of the fittest’ and were the ‘superior race’. The ‘less advanced’ had to make way for the ‘more advanced’.
    The Origin of the Species was published in 1859, The British arrived in Australia 80 years earlier and the more productive areas of mainland Australia had been settled well before its publication.

  • mpowell

    @Blair that is a very perceptive point.

  • pgang

    It is a good point that Blair makes, and you could add that the authors posses an obvious anti-Euro bias (Europeripheral?).
    Darwin’s ideas were not new, but he was expressing academically popular, anti-creation sentiment in a novel way. At that time is was vital to frame philosophy as ‘science’ to give it credibility, and that’s what Darwin set out to achieve (and failed).
    Having said that, it should be acknowledged that the majority of people of the time would have scoffed at evolutionary ideas, being still of a predominantly Christian mindset. The authors are committing a Pascoe-like fallacy in presenting a radical concept of history without providing adequate (or indeed any) proof. Ironic.
    While Pascoe’s veiwpoint is pointedly secular, I doubt that it has much relationship to that of the settlers, who would have more likely identified aboriginal life as superstitious in nature. It is also notable that the missionaries tended to respect these superstitions and traditions, understanding the essential nature of spiritual life. In fact the more I think about it, the more insulting is this claim of racially motivated expansion.

  • Blair

    john.singer – 29th June 2021
    “…However it appears to me that they are intellectual snobs and that coming from the left should make us treat them with as much caution as any other modern publication.”
    They assert ” British conquerors were the people who organised mass theft of Aboriginal country and justified the killing of people who resisted them,.. often under an ideological flag of social evolutionism. They assumed they had a right to profit from the ‘survival of the fittest’ and were the ‘superior race’. The ‘less advanced’ had to make way for the ‘more advanced’
    No evidence. Bullshit just like Pascoe’s.

  • whitelaughter

    I like Biggles suggestion!
    ——————————————-
    also,
    ” Instead they quit*e* their villages and eels, ”

    I assume that ‘e’ is a typo?

  • Peter Marriott

    Good piece Pastor Powell. While Sutton and Walshe expose pretty much the same flaws in Pascoe’s story that Peter O’Brien did in his excellent book ‘Bitter Harvest’, they nevertheless seem to be coming from pretty much the same invented, untrue camp that Pascoe’s floats around in, and as such I think they are no more to be trusted than he should be.

  • Peter Marriott

    I’ve been trying to put a name to who Bruce Pascoe’s strange, sage like appearance reminds me of…it’s Charles Darwin. Is he trying to model himself on Darwin I wonder ? If so he’s put himself on even shakier ground I think.

  • L Louis

    I have received a reply to my request to the Children’s Book Council of Australia, “As serious damage is being inflicted in schools, will the CBCA attempt to ameliorate the consequences of its error and rescind the[ Eve Pownall] award ?
    Dear Les, I thank you for your interest in the CBCA and our work. We encourage discussion and debate around children’s literature and are following this issue closely.
    WENDY RAPEE, AALIA (CP)
    M: 0405 107860
    CHAIR
    Children’s Book Council of Australia

  • Tony Tea

    “A Dark Emu documentary planned for the ABC is likely to go ahead, despite the criticism levelled at Bruce Pascoe’s acclaimed-and-now-disputed account of First Nations culture at the time of white settlement in a recently published book.”

    https://www.theage.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/bruce-pascoe-s-dark-emu-series-for-abc-tv-likely-to-still-go-ahead-20210701-p585za.html

    “Pascoe is understood to be working his way through [Farmers or Hunter Gatherers?] at the moment, and his response will inform the creative direction of the series.”

    No doubt Pascoe will mouth his usual gob-full of platitudes to keep the production running.

  • mpowell

    The problem is @Peter OBrien is that the MSM constantly “darken” Pascoe’s image to make him appear indigenous. It really is quite deceptive. Andrew Bolt put together quite a good compilation of this type of thing https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/turning-white-bruce-pascoe-brown/news-story/9c024903f49e1da2a98b8a71ccda2a8e

  • Peter Marriott

    Peter, you’re right and El Greco really knew how to conjure up an image, mixing the old Greek with his adopted Spanish. It’s so obvious about B. Pascoe when you really think about it. Anyone who is really open and honest doesn’t need to cheat by creating a false image of himself, unless it’s political polemic and just plain old Greek sophistry…..which this surely must be. He’s spent so long conjuring this false image of himself and living the lie…the unsmiling, above it all, wisest of sages, that I fear he’s actually come to believe it, like his false aboriginality. He’ll probably maintain the lie through thick and thin now, a bit like the dangerous anthropogenic global warming theorists who have dug themselves in so deep around their humbug, it’s become impossible for them to dig themselves out. Only their passing away and/ or being ignored will bring the final curtain down on all these soap box operas I’m afraid, and when even Governments fall for them the mind boggles how long that will take. Some have been going for 45 or more years now. It would pay them to reflect I think that the penny ( curtain) will drop eventually, and they will be found out and caught….. in the end !!

  • Harry Lee

    Now list all the fantasists who have been elevated to the levels of wise sages by the media, by the education systems and by the legal system-
    -fantasists who are excellent tools for the anti-Westernist/anti-British/anti-England forces who have destroyed the underpinnings of Proper Australia.
    Multiculturalism was started principally by Irish-descended and Italian-descended members of the Whitlam mob as an anti-British, actually anti-England, campaign.
    It has since expanded into an all-front onslaught again the essentials of Western Civ-
    -even if the people who staff this campaign realise it or not.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    “Pascoe risks taking us back to that fatal shore by resurrecting the interpretation of differing levels of complexity and differing extents of intervention in the environment as degrees of advancement and evolution and cleverness and sophistication’.”

    I have always taken the anthropological view that cultures make do with what they have and the situations in which they can exchange with others. Human beings in different situations find themselves to be equally adaptable – human ingenuity produces cultures that survive to reproduce (a sign of success) in the most dire of situations. We must admire the ingenuity of aboriginal Australians in mostly dreadful and deficient environments for human thriving. But to suggest the culture/s they provided was exemplary as we look back; that is an error in values. They are though admirable within their own terms. Aboriginal kinship systems and religious beliefs were examples of complex human thought applied to a special problem in a harsh environment. Hard to ask for more, and good to say goodbye to it all now.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Aboriginal economies were tailored to specific environments across a whole continent. Of course they varied. But none were technologically advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer mode, which they did well.

  • lbloveday

    A good News Corp article by Victoria Grieve-Williams paywall-free:
    .
    https://morningmail.org/dark-emu-hoax-takedown-reveals-the-emperor-has-no-clothes/#more-133793

  • call it out

    O’Brien’s critique of Pascoe’s use of historical sources is just as valid, and valuable, as Sutton’s anthropological assessments.
    Yet Sutton betrays his leftist bent in his views on O’Brien, and reveals himself to be partisan and unbalanced.
    A useful foray into the debate by Sutton, but one that still requires some sceptical analysis.

  • Joseph

    The Hindmarsh Island bridge controversy is interesting to revisit in this context. There were last minute claims about historical aboriginal practices and beliefs which were used to thwart the erection of this bridge. These claims came to be known as ‘secret women’s business’ and there was considerable controversy about the truthfulness of them, One of the problems was that the content of the claims had to remain secret, nevertheless a Federal Labor government felt confident enough to block the bridge construction. Peter Sutton even had a role in it. The Wikipedia article is worth reading for the detail and the complexity of the whole affair which has left us with a new bridge and a new phrase to refer to secrecy.

  • F. Cooper

    I await William Rubenstein’s book. I wish I had his courage to publish some of the events and coverups that I have witnessed or been privy to but evaded by Media, do-gooders or employed. I have too many left wing friends ,who are convinced by woke, who would oppress me.

  • abrogard

    @Biggles Thanks for the link to the video. Excellent. Have you any more? Or anyone?

  • Biggles

    I purchased a small bread roll from the bakery and tended a two dollar coin for it. I asked the salesgirl (about 16) if she knew the name of the man on the reverse. She said, ‘Oh, yes, I knew it but have forgotten’. I said, ‘It is Bruce Pascoe’. She replied, ‘Yes of course. We learned that in school’. Forget ‘Eddie Everywhere’, Victorians, it is now ‘Bruce Everywhere’.

  • Biggles

    Sorry; typo; I meant tendered.

  • Michael Waugh

    Sutton and Walshe had read Peter O’Brien’s “Bitter Harvest” before writing their account. Both Sutton and Walshe had decades of professional experience in Aboriginal history. This was their living. Yet they remained silent for years about “Dark Emu” as it accumulated the highest academic and establishment prizes and accolades. Peter O’Brien, on the other hand, boasts no professional expertise in the subject. He is merely an educated and intelligent member of the citizenry who was puzzled about Pascoe’s wild claims and set about to check the latter’s assertions. He then did more hard yards to publish his findings, in effect his audit of “Dark Emu”. We owe him a large debt of gratitude. It is Peter O’Brien’s work that should be on the school curriculum.

  • Tony Tea

    This article in the Australian does not mention Bruce Pascoe by name, and only one of 300+ comments so far has mentioned Pascoe. I don’t suppose the article has been de-Pascoed, but I suspect the Australian’s comment gnomes have been hard at work running a virtual red pen through naughty comments.

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/the-creative-story-behind-box-tickers/news-story/812a30677406d59b8eb172a794ce031b

  • Tony Tea

    I mean, if the following did not prompt a raft of Pascoe comments, I’ll go “he” for tiggy:

    “Box tickers try adopting well-known Aboriginal English words or phrases – such as “deadly” – but there is something “off” or discordant to our ears; the word or phrase is used or pronounced awkwardly.

    Add costuming to these performative elements in the form of a long, bushy beard, a bandana, or a conspicuous tattoo of the Aboriginal flag, and the conversion is all but complete. All that remains is recognition from the non-Aboriginal world, and repeated refining of the performance.”

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