On a wet Thursday in Adelaide last week, we took the Glenelg tram to Holdfast Bay. The old town hall there has been converted to the Bay Discovery Centre for culture and history (above), all well done and with much to learn. For example, it featured some history of topless bathing at Glenelg. In the early 1930s, the council furiously opposed topless bathing as immoral, regardless of it being practised on some European beaches. Aldermen wanted the beaches patrolled by police who would take vigorous action against any and all topless bathers.
By 1937, however, Glenelg Council was turning a blind eye to scantily-clad sunbathers “with the top of the costume rolled down”, providing they didn’t make themselves “offensively prominent”. By the following year Glenelg men could freely bathe topless, defined as wearing properly belted trunks without shoulder straps.
I was less impressed with the permanent display, Wangkanthi Kumangka (Truth-Telling Together). It was created with help from the Kaurna Nation (so-called) “and explores the true history of South Australia.” The caption says, correctly, “The exhibition about truth-telling challenges South Australia’s history books.”
It emphasises William IV’s Letters Patent establishing the South Australian colony. While the King included a guarantee for any Aboriginals and their descendants to retain all rights to their lands, the Kaurna can make a good case they were dudded by the colonists. Nearby was a caption headed Tiati (“truth”):
At the time of the invasion, Aboriginal people across the continent had homes, farmed the land, cared for crops, and embraced trade with neighbouring territories. They were advancing with technologies, shared language, oral traditions and ceremony. (My emphases).
Thanks a million, Bruce Pascoe and your Dark Emu best-seller, beloved by museum curators, the ABC and teachers operating from kindergarten to university. For example, Pascoe claims explorer Thomas Mitchell traversed four Aboriginal towns within a 50-mile ride, each with population of a thousand. Nowhere in Thomas Mitchell’s journals (nor Sturt’s) does the explorer mention any Aboriginal “town” of a thousand, let alone a cluster of four. The exhibit adds its own myths about pre-contact Aborigines’ “advancing with technologies” — their skills didn’t at the time extend to boiling water. Regardless, the centre’s display “won the Australian museum sector’s most prestigious award in the Museum and Galleries National Awards for 2020.”
As a dedicated museum crawler, I’ve chronicled the takeover by the woke and climate-crazed. Back in 2013 I catalogued the errors and propaganda pushed at visitors even to iconic establishments like the Field Museum in Chicago; the Smithsonian Natural History (Washington DC); Vienna Museum of Natural History; and Te Papa (NZ). The National Museum of Australia? Too sloppy and ideological to mention.
So this week I decided to probe the top-tier Australian Museum and Galleries Association, which gave its 2020 prize to Glenelg’s homage to Pascoe’s rubbish. I curated my own Tracey Emin-like “Melbourne Museum of Desk-top Detritus” (pictured but minus any Emin condoms and dirty underwear). Then I created an account to submit my museum for the Association’s next prestigious MAGNA award. This got me past the Association’s paywall to discover last year’s entry conditions and much else. Here we go (my emphases):
The goal of reimagining representation is to change the way Indigenous peoples are represented in museums and galleries. To do this, museums and galleries need to reflect on past injustices. This means acknowledging the role museums and galleries played in colonisation and dominant historical narratives. How does your project represent or amplify Indigenous voices and histories? Consider past injustices and dark histories, truth-telling, Indigenous knowledge, etc (max 350 words).
EMBEDDING INDIGENOUS VALUES
This element aims to move museum and gallery values away from their Eurocentric foundations. Indigenous values need to be encouraged in museums and galleries in order to make Indigenous peoples feel welcome and safe… (max 350 words)
What perspectives were considered and/or integrated into the design and programming (i.e. Indigenous, queer, gender identity, age, ethnicity) and how did you utilise these perspectives sensitively and truthfully? (max 350 words)
Are you getting the idea? And of course, the goal is to ram the Aboriginal Industry into classrooms, as per
How does your project reflect elements of the national curriculum and/or other learning standards, enhance critical and creative thinking, and contribute to well-being? Did the Indigenous Roadmap inform your project framework? (max 350 words)
This “Indigenous Roadmap” turns out to be a 10-year plan to convert every museum and gallery into Aboriginal-lauding, settler-bashing institutions by 2029:
In order for the Roadmap to be successful, the entire sector needs to take it up…This includes, but is not limited to:
- Australian Museums and Galleries Association
- Indigenous communities
- Individuals working inside museums and galleries
- Educational sector including Universities and TAFEs
- People running training programs for museums and galleries
- Government at all levels
- The cultural sector as a whole.” (p8)
The program was launched in 2019 based on a report by all-Aboriginal intellectual property consultants Terri Janke and Co. It was commissioned by the Association (earlier called Museums Australia) and with some Association input. The Executive Summary calls on museums to
reflect on past injustices. This means acknowledging the role museums and galleries played in colonisation and dominant historical narratives. Further, Indigenous peoples’ voice also need to be amplified by increasing exhibitions that involve strong Indigenous engagement and relationships … Additionally, exhibitions that involve truth-telling need to be addressed. A national coordinated program would encompass all museums and galleries and lead to increased Indigenous audiences.
All museums are instructed to sign on to Karen Mundine’s Reconciliation Action Plans, which in turn require total conformity with the Aboriginal Grievance Industry. A few years back 21 per cent of museums had signed on, with the goal 100 per cent by 2029 (p39).
Museum boards and executives are to be stacked with Aboriginals to make Aboriginal staff and visitors “feel safe”. Don’t expect their permission for exhibits about missionary sisters running the Derby leprosarium, let alone inter-tribal massacres or how young males and females were initiated by the polygamous old men.
Aboriginal staff are to be “compensated accordingly” for their unique cultural knowledge. The roadmap requires that by 2030 at least one national or state museum will be run by an Aboriginal director (p17), while Aboriginal visitors could be offered free admission.
The “truth-telling” will somehow incorporate pre-contact knowledges of “science, technology and ecological understanding.” The document says, “There is much that the world can learn from Aboriginal cultures and traditional knowledge in terms of finding solutions to our global problems. This includes food scarcity, climate change, and environmental management.” (p15).
Even regular science museums are told to add an Aboriginal flavour to their mix for students, and “welcomes to country” could feature “at all exhibitions and events“.
The Association just about runs out of arms for all its black armbands, and even trots out the “flora and fauna” canard:
Indigenous people have felt that representations of them in museums particularly have promoted them as primitive; or just ‘flora and fauna’(p15).
The Association says,
We acknowledge the continued devastating violence and cultural interruption of colonisation.We acknowledge and work to change the practices of museums and galleries which have and continue to contribute to personal and cultural interruption, trauma and loss.
We acknowledge the history and impact of these damaging practices, and that much damage will continue to be done until museums find genuine ways to work inclusively, and respectfully with Indigenous people.
Museums and galleries have the power to help shape our nation’s identity and help end the injustices of colonisation.
It annoys museum academics that so many small-town history museums house items about white pioneer farming, mining and domestic use, thereby ignoring or fudging the Aboriginal dispossession as “just too hot to handle”, in the words of Bruce Pascoe. Mainstream curators want the “bad history” emphasised, like “how replacing the bush and swamps greatly benefited some people at the ongoing expense of others.”
I accept that history displays should be balanced, but it’s still a bit rough for highly-paid and well-resourced curator types to talk condescendingly to shoe-string country museums reliant on their elderly volunteers, donated items and cheap premises.
The Aboriginal curators already calling the shots in big museums make no secret of their goals. Try Nathan Sentance (he/him, archival decolonist). He’s been of Head of Collections (First Nations) at Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences for the past two years. Writing in 2018 on “What is Our Purpose?”, he condemned museums for ” working almost as propaganda distributors for the settler state.” Instead they should “learn past strategies and get inspiration to enact the structural change we need now.” Supposedly neutral inaction is supporting “current oppressive structures”:
Memory institutions have power they need to share with grassroots organisations working towards repairing the damage done by and preventing future harm caused by white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, ableism, and capitalism.
In the US the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020 involved at least 18 deaths and $US2 billion in damage from fires and looting. The Australian Museums and Galleries Association gave its blessing to BLM and the copycat Aboriginal Lives Matter for their goals “to recognise institutional racism and to seek fundamental change”.
It unanimously backed the doomed Uluru Manifesto in 2018, “urging all museums and galleries to engage their audiences to promote understanding of this most powerful Statement.” And last July its national council urged Australians to vote Yes on the referendum, but couldn’t quite demand that members flood their museums with Yes propaganda because some museums’ charters and funding forbid politicking. Instead, the national council urged members to tap the Yes Alliance Campaign for funding “to help facilitate events and activities in pursuit of a Yes vote.”
Museums are leading the green-Left’s march through taxpayer-funded institutions. Perhaps it’s because staff have been screening out conservatives for a couple of generations. To avoid triggering anyone who is right of centre, they should put warning signs at entry: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
Tony Thomas’s new book from Connor Court is Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. $34.95 from Connor Court here
 Letters Patent: “Provided Always that nothing in those our Letters Patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own Persons or in the Persons of their Descendants of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives.”
 Within minutes at the NMA site, you can find the NMA falsely claiming to schoolkids that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament won a 2017 Nobel Prize. The Australian Museum’s courses for schoolkids are almost laughably green-left biased, using emotional appeals and omitting the conservative case on complex issues. A sampling of the NMA “Defining Moments Digital Classroom – Bring history to life with the NMA” includes a saintly treatment of footballer Adam Goodes and guff about the Canberra tent embassy, “with its flags fluttering proudly in the breeze”, as it agitates for “Aboriginal sovereignty over the continent and the right to self-determination.” On asylum seekers and boat people, the Museum blanks out the entire case against people smugglers and a thousand drownings in favour of multi-coloured balloons labelled “Welcome Refugees” and a successful claimant’s story:
I’m very happy because I have my liberty, but I feel that the detention adds to my problems now of fear. What I experienced there is very difficult to forget. Every day I think about my life in prison. Even this morning I thought about it and started crying…
 Emin’s installation, “My Bed” sold for £2,546,500 in 2014. My “Desk Detritus” is available for half that.
 ” The participation and representation of Indigenous Australians in this sector is crucial to securing reconciliation between first and settler Australians.” (p4)
 During Melbourne’s world-record duration lockdown, Black Lives Matter demonstrators in their thousands got waved through by Victoria Police. Demonstrators against the lockdown got VicPol’s rubber bullets.