A ‘Dark Emu’ Ally Flips the Bird at Truth

Last week, Andrew Bolt drove possibly the last nail into the coffin of Bruce Pascoe’s Aboriginal persona.  He secured agreement from Michael Mansell that Pascoe was not a Tasmanian Aborigine.  He secured agreement from Jason Briggs that Pascoe was not a member of the Boonwurrong clan.  And Aboriginal lawyer Josephine Cashman, who is married to a Yuin man, agreed that Pascoe was not Yuin either.

Briggs said ‘Pascoe should come clean about his real ancestry and stop abusing and benefitting from our community’s cultural integrity’. Cashman stated that she ‘knew quite a long time ago that Bruce was a fraud’.  She described his theory as condescending to Aboriginal people. She and Bolt agreed (as do I) that there is nothing shameful in a nomadic hunter-gatherer history for Aborigines.

Bolt’s interview with Cashman can be viewed via this link

Pascoe’s claim that his ancestry encompassed three distinct clan groups was always problematic but I thought he was just gilding the lily.  It never occurred to me that he was not Aboriginal at all.  Given what I knew about his cavalier attitude towards truth when it comes to history, I guess should have been suspicious.

But perhaps I was gulled by the fact that he has been feted and honoured, not only by the ABC, SBS and a mantelpiece laden with literary awards, but by countless indigenous fora such as NITV, The Koori Mail, the National Indigenous Times, the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies (AIATSIS) and website Creative Spirits, to name but a few.  Not a peep from any of them about any doubts they might have had about Pascoe’s bona fides.

Earlier this year, the Merrimans Local Aboriginal Lands Council (at the heart of Yuin country) hosted ‘a weekend of talks, tours, crafts and garden activity to celebrate and enhance the recently initiated Moodji Farm: Indigenous and Urban Agriculture Project’. Also,

to celebrate its recent milestones the project will bring together writer and historian Mr Pascoe, local Indigenous Australian artist Cheryl Davison and natural beekeeper Adrian Iodice on Saturday, June 22 for an evening of discussion on the role of honest story-telling and caring-for-country in the nurturing of a prosperous society.”.

Held at the Bermagui Community Centre, Bermagui at 6pm and emceed by South East Arts’ Shanna Provost, this event coincides with the launch of the highly-anticipated junior version of Mr Pascoe’s book, Young Dark Emu.  Inspired by Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu, this initiative principally seeks to honor, repair and reinstate the intellectual and cultural heritage of the Yuin Nation through the creation and cultivation of a bushfoods garden and Djiringanj language program.  — Narooma NewsJune 14, 2019

So, as recently as June this year, the Yuin community in Narooma had no doubts, apparently,  about Pascoe’s aboriginality or issues with his theory. This is understandable for those who haven’t picked through Pascoe’s farrago, checked his references and consulted his book’s alleged primary sources. Professor Marcia Langton, for instance, said Dark Emu “is the most important book on Australia and should be read by every Australian”. Such endorsements tend to establish an assumed credibility, grossly undeserved in this case.

Now Cashman has now thrown Pascoe and his theory under the proverbial bus, stating quite categorically that he is a fraud.  It remains to be seen how the agencies listed above react.  They could claim that Pascoe may have gilded the lily a bit while maintaining his book is based on work by serious researchers such as Bill Gammage and Rupert Gerritsen. From this perspective he just made it more accessible to the general public.

Here is a relevant extract from my book Bitter Harvest:

Earlier, I noted that Pascoe gives great credit to the late Rupert Gerritsen, who died in 2013, for Dark Emu – a fact noted by Gerritsen’s brother, Rolf, as quoted in The Australian article:

“Ninety per cent of Bruce’s book is taken from my brother’s research,” Rolf Gerritsen says with a chuckle, adding that this is not to belittle Pascoe’s considerable achievement in popularising complex issues and shifting the national conversation about indigenous history.

I have not delved deeply into Gerritsen’s work, but what I have read shows him to be a serious and objective scholar. I am not sure he would have been quite as sanguine as his brother in having his work so closely associated with Dark Emu.’

I might have been rather prescient with that observation. Following Andrew Bolt’s expose, I wondered if the Aboriginal establishment would fold or dig in. Today I think I received my answer.

The Saturday Paper has a front page article titled ‘Bolt, Pascoe and the Culture Wars’.  The author, Rick Morton, claims two days were spent (emphasis added)

at the National Library of Australia reviewing the original documents and explorer accounts in general.  They are – at every instance – quoted verbatim and cited accordingly in an extensive bibliography at the end of Pascoe’s book.

However, Morton gives just one example of this — and that one example is false.  He says:

Thomas Mitchell also noted a town of 1,000 people in his journals, and the quote is attributed to Mitchell in Dark Emu at the bottom of page 15.

Bolt, when he does reference Mitchell, gets the date of that quotation wrong too.  He says it is from Mitchell’s 1848 journal, when in fact the quote is from his 1839 journal.  This too is recorded faithfully in Dark Emu.

Let me deal with the confusion around dates. Andrew Bolt was probably confused by the fact that, on at least one occasion (an article in The Australian), Pascoe claimed this incident took place in Queensland, in which case it could only have appeared in the 1848 journal, the only time Mitchell went to Queensland. But as to the claim itself, it is true to say that, on this occasion at least, Pascoe quoted Mitchell with greater felicity than is his norm.  But the explorer’s actual quote contains no reference to a population of 1,000. That appears in Pascoe’s own words:

He (Mitchell) counts houses and estimates a population of 1,000.

To repeat, those words, contrary to Morton’s claim of “verbatim and cited accordingly”, do not appear in Mitchell’s journal. At this link readers will find the entire 1839 journal, available to be searched for key words by the simple expedient of a CNTRL + F search. Conduct such a search of the text and you have to wonder just what Morton or his researcher was doing over the course of those two days in the stacks. In fact, as I believe I have shown, unequivocally, in Bitter Harvest, at no time did either Sturt or Mitchell on any of their expeditions encounter a village of 1,000 people.

Yet again we see how Pascoe frequently ‘quotes verbatim’ but adds his own interpretation or context.  Here is another example, from page 20:

When Mitchell arrived at the Victorian Grampians in 1836, he saw ‘a vast extent of open downs … quite yellow with Murnong’, and ‘natives spread over the field digging for roots’. 

I can’t speak for anyone else but what this passage conveyed to me is a multitude of natives industriously working a huge field.   If you read Mitchell’s journal, as I have, we find his September 14 entry records:

Several extensive lakes appeared in the lowest parts adjacent; but what interested me most after I had intersected the various summits was the appearance of the country to the eastward, through which we were to find our way home. There I saw a vast extent of open downs and could trace their undulations to where they joined a range of mountains which, judging by their outlines, appeared to be of easy access.

Unfortunately, we have to wait until the September 23 before we encounter the ‘natives spread over the ground digging for roots’:

This morning a thick fog hung over us; but having well reconnoitred the country beyond I knew that I might travel in a straight line over open ground for several miles … and as we proceeded we saw two gins and their children at work separately on a swampy meadow; and, quick as the sight of these natives is, we had travelled long within view before they observed us. They were spread over the field much in the manner in which emus and kangaroos feed on plains, and we observed them digging in the ground for roots

So, two Aboriginal women and their children in a swampy meadow.  Not a multitude harvesting a crop in a vast extent of open downs after all.

Dark Emu is littered with such deceptions, but you’ll have to buy Bitter Harvest to enjoy them.

Morton also says, in relation to correspondence between Bolt and The Saturday Paper:

In his rebuttal, the Herald Sun columnist has been forced to accept there were incredibly sophisticated settlements and seed-milling operations …

Here is Andrew Bolt’s rebuttal by way of response to Morton, See if you can find the columnist accepting ‘there were incredibly sophisticated settlements and seed milling operations’. Moreover, this assertion is simply not true, as any complete reading of Sturt or Mitchell will attest.

Morton was aware that Josephine Cashman had queried Pascoe’s aboriginality but also quotes Professor Marcia Langton on Cashman’s revelation:

The critique of Dark Emu is a job for actual historians not Andrew Bolt and others who benefit financially from tearing apart the lives of people looking for family.

I readily concede that I am not a professional historian, but neither is Bruce Pascoe.  And as far as gaining financially from this saga, best to follow the money — and it doesn’t lead to the Dark Emu‘s critics. Quite the reverse if fact.

10 thoughts on “A ‘Dark Emu’ Ally Flips the Bird at Truth

  • pgang says:

    What gets me is the care factor about ancestry among the entitled. Who cares. When I grew up we were all just Australian and relieved to be so. It was better than winning the lottery.

  • irisr says:

    Thank you for bringing the truth to us, and thanks to Andrew Bolt for spreading the word. This truth-telling is sorely needed in the fight against Stalinist propaganda made, financed and enforced by the State who finances the ABC, the leftist-dominated institutions of learning and the left-leaning Justice system. Statist propaganda is also infiltrating our military and law-enforcement agencies, but thankfully not yet completed in these last 2 bastions. Hence our ability to still commit thought-crimes without being arrested on the spot.
    I imagine it will not be long before 2 uniformed “persons” will grab Andrew Bolt at the end of his show: “You’re coming with us”.
    Then they’ll go through Quadrant’s mailing list to find out who received at least one copy of the subversive publications disseminated by the blacklisted authors. Woe is me … Just received my 2 copies of Bitter Harvest – one will be a Christmas present! Oops .. did I just write 2 forbidden words?

  • NFriar says:

    Thank you for bringing this together hot on the heels of Saturday Post.
    I am part of the ‘just quiet Australians’ researching for dark.emu.exposed.org
    Andre was able to use our research to refute firstly Pascoe’s indigeneity.
    We are amazed at how quickly everything has catapaulted from the 12 November.
    Thank you for Bitter Harvest.
    Together we must hold on to our shared history in this country.
    Dark Emu and Young Dark Emu MUST be removed from schools and the curriculums.
    It is clearly indoctrintation for a political agenda.
    The price is too high.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Irisr and NFriar,

    thank you for your comments and purchase of Bitter Harvest. My wife just mentioned to one of her oldest friends about the book and got an angry tirade in response. So there you go. And thank you NFriar for your work on Dark Emu Exposed. Looks like we might need to keep the pressure up for a bit longer yet. Cheers

  • john.singer says:

    Rick Morton writes in the “Saturday Paper” yesterday:

    “”As one prominent Indigenous leader tells The Saturday Paper, on the condition of anonymity, the argument against Pascoe’s work is an extension of “19th-century race theory”, which once espoused the view that race is the major indicator of a person’s character and behaviour.

    “Any suggestion that Aborigines are anything other than furtive rock apes has to be destroyed by these people,” the leader says.”

    Firstly I find it despicable that you use a comment from an anonymous “indigenous leader” to idenigrate people with genuine concerns and play the “race card”.

    Secondly Bruce Pascoe has many questions to answer. These are not questions posed by Bolt but by many people . Some of these questions are enunciated by Peter O’Brien in his recently published book “Bitter Harvest” where the author spends 240 pages devoted to “The illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu”. Bolt has at least interviewed O’Brien. I wonder if Rick Morton and his other sources have.

    Thirdly, any observations made by Mitchell some 50 years after settlement and by David Lindsay 95 years after settlement are of little evidence as to a structure existing before settlement. If anyone believes that such a well for instance could be dug with stone implements or the necessary shoring also be performend by stone implements then they seem too gullible to be doing such research. Also the existence of animal pens at the home of a people (not known to have domesticated any animal other than a dog but readily adapted to working with horses, cattle and sheep after settlement) could be a later addition to an existing structure, and needed some explanation.

    I find Morton’s article unhelpful in the search for truth and offensive in his denigration of people who are genuinely seeking it. In support of his argument he relies on two professors who have been teaching alternate history for enough time to have a need to support Pascoe. I wonder if they have read Peter O’Brien’s book or the articles by many people spending some of their retirement seeking truth for the benefit of future generations.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    There is gardening, and there is following on that, agriculture. A gardening revolution began in Sahul (the Australian mainland, Tasmania and New Guinea before the seas rose as the Pleistocene Ice began to retreat about 10,000 years BP.) Gardening can be as basic as weeding out undesirable plants and ‘weeding in’ desirable ones. A number of nut species were involved in Sahul agriculture, but no grasses. There were no suitable species for cultivation beyond basic gathering in the wild.
    In the ancient Middle East there were the ancestors of the three modern staples: wheat oats and barley. In the Americas, ancestral maize and potatoes. Surprisingly few species are involved in modern horticulture, as a visit to any greengrocer’s will attest.
    Grain crops have the advantage that they self-preserve as long as they are kept dry. Viable seeds thousands of years old have been recovered from Middle Eastern tombs.
    Grain created a need for granaries, which meant settlements and military organisation against non-agricultural bandits. These in turn brought domestication of horses and other draft animals, and the move from the Stone Age into the Bronze and Iron Ages, which also stimulated military developments, and the rise of towns and cities.
    The Australian Aborigines, to their credit, took hunter-gathering about as far as it could go given the resources they had; all set out in Geoffrey Blainey’s excellent book. Triumph of the Nomads. But lacking any knowledge of metallurgy and domesticable animals, they could go no further.

  • Lacebug says:

    Tried amending Bruce Pascoe’s Wiki page. Unfortunately it’s protected.

  • hartpaul says:

    HI Peter ,
    Thank you for your book. I note on page 8-9 you cover the quote of Pascoe about large huts . But there is more:
    I note that Mitchel said:
    “We had this day noticed some of their huts, which were of a very different construction from
    those of the aborigines, in general, being large, circular, and made of straight rods
    meeting at an upright pole in the centre; the outside had been first covered with
    bark and grass, and then entirely coated over with clay. The fire appeared to have
    been made nearly in the centre; and a hole at the top had been left as a chimney.
    The place seemed to have been in use for years, as a casual habitation.”
    And from that Pascoe ‘quotes’
    “(S)ome huts … being large, circular, and made of straight rods meeting at an upright pole in the centre; the outside had been first covered with bark and grass, and then entirely coated over with clay. The fire appeared to have been made nearly in the centre; and a hole at the top had been left as a chimney.”

    1. By adding the capitalised (S) makes it look like it is the start of a sentence – and leaving out ‘of their’ makes it look like all the huts were this style and shape whereas it is an observation of some huts only, not the whole encampment.
    2. Leaving out ‘which were of a very different construction from those of the aborigines, in general,’ suggests that these huts were an exception to those of other aborigines in other parts of Australia – yet Pascoe would have us believe thes huts were the norm.
    3. Leaving out ‘The place seemed to have been in use for years, as a casual habitation.’ ignores the fact that they were not permanent habitations for this group of Aborigines. Perhaps they were a meeting place for large groups to do their dances and trade – but not permanent farmer habitations.
    Thanks again and keep up the good work.
    The real Truth needs to be told and taught in our schools.

  • brandee says:

    Australian aborigines were clever hunter gatherers but we need to keep reminding the grand revisionists that aborigines could not boil water.
    So no tea, coffee, soup, or regular hot baths!

  • jimriddell says:

    Here are some quotes from the above treatise published in Australian Journal of Anthropology, 1997..

    The Australians were so backward that they needed to change their definition of humanity. (My bold.)
    “Dampier’s description was based on the ‘fact’ that, unlike ‘the great variety of savages’ he had encountered, the Australian Aborigines had ‘no Houses and skin Garments, Sheep, Poultry and Fruits of the Earth’
    Here are some quotes from a 1997 treatise in the Australian Journal of Anthropology entitled “The Miserablest People in the World”. (a Dampier quote.)

    (Dampier 1927 [ 16971: 312). What Dampier, and later many others, saw as the Aborigines’ utter lack of improvement and, most significantly, their failure to have cultivated the land, ensured their singular place in nineteenth century racial discourse. For, previously, racial differences among the world’s people had been understood within an ontology that, supporting the very assumption of human unity, defined and distinguished ‘the human’ exactly in its separation from, and capacity to rise above, nature.”

    “Precisely, then, our central argument is that the non-cultivating Aborigine precipitated a crisis in eighteenth century ideas of what it meant to be human. The Aborigines’ utter lack of development posed a fundamental challenge to the assumption of human unity. And, insofar as the Aborigine could not be assimilated to the conception of race as a subdivision, or mere variety, of the human, the elaboration of polygenism in the mid- nineteenth century can be understood as a reaction to this crisis: as an attempt to account for the ontologically inexplicable difference of the Australian Aborigine. ”

    “In the context of this more general problematisation that Australia posed for existing classificatory schema, and ultimately for the idea of a single creation, the apparently incomparable Aborigine posed a similar challenge to prevailing conceptions of the human. Following Dampier, Lord Monboddo had called attention to the Aborigines’ extreme miserableness in the 1770s. Noting that their ‘huts are not near so well built as those of beavers’, he described Aboriginal ‘society’ as that of ‘Man in his original condition’ (cited in Smith 1985: 170). And, in Australia, it was the failure of the Aborigines to have surpassed a state of nature-a state that apparently no longer needed to be imagine&which preoccupied both Cook and Banks, as well as many of the early settlers.”

    “To these observations can be added many others: including those of George Barrington, who observed that ‘These people certainly have fewer ideas of building a place to shelter than any savages ever discovered’ (1802: 20); of David Collins, who described their habitations to be ‘as rude as imagination can conceive’ (1804: 306); and of Surgeon-General John White who argued, more generally, that ‘in improvements of every kind, the Indians of this country are many centuries behind’ (1962 [ 17901: 204-5).”

    “Above all, though, it was the absence of cultivation among the Australian Aborigines that the Europeans remarked upon repeatedly. In Louis Freycinet’s words: ‘as for cultivation properly so-called, nature is the sole contributor’ (2001: 173). Or in Watkin Tench’s account: ‘to cultivation of the ground they are utter strangers’ (cited in Williams and Frost 1988: 190). Or again, as William Bradley put it: ‘we never met with the smallest appearance of any kind of cultivated ground’ (cited in Williams and Frost 1988: 191). And so on. “

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