Past Time to Scuttle Guilt-Edged ‘History’

The campaign against Australia Day persists. In addition to the usual academic twisters of history, the grievance industry and rent-a-mob types, a number of local government councils across the country continue to wage war on January 26, the day in 1788 when First Fleet Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Port Jackson,  proclaimed a new colony and played midwife to the birth of the nation to come.

The councils, mainly inner-city bastions of the Left, claim Australia Day is insensitive to indigenous Australians and should be changed. I’m sure many will agree that councils would be better off sticking to their knitting — the three Rs of  local government: roads, rubbish and rates — instead of engaging in divisive historical revisionism.

Whether one likes it or not, modern Australia is a product of British settlement. This is an immutable fact and we should not remove January 26 from our calendar in an effort to appease virtue-signalling activists who argue the First Fleet’s arrival is nothing but a source of shame. They are, in effect, asserting that our entire national existence is lamentable. They are declaring that Australia itself is illegitimate.

Most ordinary Australians will take a very different view. Upon the foundations laid by the early settlers, Australians have built one of the world’s most prosperous, stable, fair and free societies. It has provided a high quality of life for tens of millions and become a magnet for migrants from across the globe. Even though our political system is now suffering due to the venal major party duopoly, Australia can still claim to be one of the world’s oldest continuous democracies. It is a country with one of the world’s most admirable human rights records.

And it is also worth noting that Australia was no ready-made bonanza; the early settlers and their descendants had to summon sheer grit and employ much resourcefulness to build a nation. The transformation of a collection of remote penal colonies into a successful and attractive society within the space of a couple of generations is a remarkable feat.

Commemorating January 26 is not to deny that indigenous Australians have suffered loss, displacement and hardship in the past. It should be a day that is marked with humility and reflection as well as respectful pride. There is no country on the planet with an unblemished record, nor too many — Japan is the exception that immediately springs to mind — which has not seen waves of conquest and migration. Nearly every square kilometre of Europe has been stained with the blood of different peoples fighting for territory. The same situation applies across Asia and other continents. The various Aboriginal tribes themselves engaged in long-running warfare – conflicts that continued in some cases after the arrival of Europeans.

We should cease pretending that the relatively peaceful colonisation of Australia at the hands of the British makes the country uniquely tainted or that erasing monumental events from our national calendar will somehow change the past. In his book The Strange Death of Europe, British author Douglas Murray explores how Western liberal elites have lost confidence in their own culture and have been swept up in a tsunami of guilt over past national and civilisational sins. For such people, guilt has become, as Murray puts it, “a moral intoxicant”. In what might be called auto-masochism they appear to get high on it. In Australia’s case, Murray notes that the historic treatment of the Aborigines is a subject that has in recent decades “moved from the margins of public debate to the core – to the country’s deepest, founding sin.”

But what can actually be achieved by wallowing in guilt over this purported “founding sin”? Murray writes:

Even if Australia had been born in sin, there is nothing that can be done to rectify it, other than – centuries after its founding – for everyone in Australia to be divided out by race and those believed to have descended from the earliest settlers ordered to hand over their wealth to anyone believed (after appropriate genetic testing) to be descended from indigenous peoples. The genetic codes of those of mixed race would perhaps be adjudicated by a genetics court, which – depending on the findings – might then order people to give up some wealth, get a cash windfall or keep a precise amount, depending on their DNA results.

Murray’s point, of course, is that such a scenario is as absurd as it is hideous. Clearly, we are going to need to find new ways to deal with our past, ways that don’t involve perpetual remorse and self-flagellation. A country run by people who don’t see the merit in their nation’s own foundation probably doesn’t have much of a future. We should also stop pretending that pre-1788 Australia could have remained forever hermetically sealed off from the outside world. At some point settlers or migrants from other lands were going to arrive on Australian shores, bringing with them radically different customs, traditions, beliefs and ways of life and disrupting the Aborigines’ long-standing cultural isolation. How much would today’s blacktivists have to complain about were it the Spanish or French who planted their nation’s flags at Botany Bay?

As Geoffrey Blainey observed in A Shorter History of Australia:

The shrinking world was becoming too small to permit a whole people to be set aside in a vast protected anthropological museum where they would try to perpetuate the merits and defects of a way of life that had vanished elsewhere, a way of life that — so long as it continued — would deprive millions of foreign people of the food and fibres that could have been grown on the land.

While often couched in the language of “justice”, it is hard not to draw the conclusion the push to change Australia Day is part of the wider, sustained assault upon our heritage, designed and promoted to undermine the legitimacy of mainstream Australia and make Australians, particularly those of European descent, feel guilty for simply existing. This tiresome and misguided self-loathing is particularly evident in the education system, where the black armband view of history reigns almost completely unchallenged. Internationally, Australia is seen as a success story. Domestically, however, the leftists who dominate education and the media assert that our country is irreparably tainted by past and enduring misdeeds. Anglo Australians in particular are told they have no history worth celebrating. Indeed, according to an indigenous woman who was part of the team negotiating a “treaty” with the Victorian government of Premier Daniel Andrews, all trace of European presence and influence on this continent needs to be “burned to the ground”.

Such an unbalanced interpretation of our history is not only wrong but harmful to our prospects as a nation. How can we expect the vast number of new migrants who arrive every year to embrace our country when we teach that mainstream Australia is sinful and illegitimate? Newcomers are unlikely to assimilate into our national community and adopt our culture if we keep telling them that the nation to which they have come has very little of which to be proud, being a construct of racist and rapacious interlopers. There is a real risk we will end up with less New Australians and more resentful characters like Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, the self-proclaimed “brown, Muslim, migrant, feminist” who used her maiden Senate speech to attack Australia’s very legitimacy. In that address she quoted a favourite verse in Urdu by the poet Mohammad Iqbal, never bothering to translate the stanza. Well here it is in English, and do notice the final line

Beyond the stars there are worlds more
Our quest yet has more tests to pass
This existence alone does not matter
There are boundless journeys more
Do not rest on what you have
There are paradises more to explore
Why worry if you have lost one abode
There are a million addresses to claim

And “claimed” Australia will be unless those quietly proud of our past reject and combat the campaign of a relative few to slander and erase the justifiable pride we are all entitled to take — Aborigines, convicts’ descendants and relatively new arrivals alike — in our history, mostly honourable conduct and unique culture.

Charles Smith is the leader of the Reform Party of Western Australia and represents the East Metropolitan Region in the Legislate Council

12 thoughts on “Past Time to Scuttle Guilt-Edged ‘History’

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    ‘Australia’ did not exist before European settlement, but historians agree about 250 individual nations did.
    And that was the trouble. The ‘races’ of Aborigines had 250 nations, at least as many languages, and no federation.
    19th C anthropologists identified three separate and distinct Aboriginal ‘races’; not one. These were the Tasmanians (negritos), the Murrayans (more solidly built and stocky) and the Carpentarians (taller and more ‘gracile’). The original ‘invasion’ appears to have been made by Tasmanians, with indirect evidence pointing to arrival from 110,000 years BP. The continent was presumably dominated for some time by them, if not wall-to-wall with them.
    Then after a pattern to be found elsewhere in the world, they were driven south by the incoming Maurrayans, who were in turn displaced by the penultimately-arriving Carpentarians. Last of all, of course were the Europeans.
    There is no book up in the sky in which God has written “Australia belongs to the Tasmanians.” Nor one that says “The Australian mainland belongs to the Murrayans and Tasmania, to the Tasmanians, into which they were pushed overland before the last glaciations ended and the Bass Strait rose.”
    There is only one rule operating on the question of nations and their territories: ‘If you can’t defend it, you don’t own it.’
    Sad, but true.

  • Ted says:

    “There is no country on the planet with an unblemished record, nor too many — Japan is the exception that immediately springs to mind — which has not seen waves of conquest and migration.”

    Before the ancestors of today’s Japanese arrived from the mainland, the Ainu inhabited the northern parts of modern Japan. Ainu culture and identity still exists in limited form.

    Iceland is probably one of the only places that hasn’t ‘changed hands’ at some point.

  • Ilajd says:

    Ian, Any arrival dates Older than 60kya should be treated with great suspicion.

  • john.singer says:

    Actually the 26th January is the perfect Day on which to celebrate the Founding of Australia because it was on the 26th January 1788 that the British Flag was raised at Sydney Cove while the French were kept from landing on Botany Bay.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “The original ‘invasion’ appears to have been made by Tasmanians, with indirect evidence pointing to arrival from 110,000 years BP.”
    I will stand by that until I am convinced otherwise. Actually it comes from the pollen studies made by the ANU researcher Gurdip Singh in the bed of Lake George, NSW ie hard physical evidence.

  • sirtony says:

    My readings suggest that there seems to be evidence of human habitation in parts of Australia dating to 60-70,000 years B.P.. The earliest human remains we have uncovered (Mungo Man) date to around 45,000 B.P. This was discovered in the 1970s and before that the supposition was that modern humans arrived around 20-25,000 B.P.
    The evidence at Lake George is that there is a sediment layer zone F that contains increased amounts of charcoal and it was suggested that it was likely that this was due to the arrival of humans in the area with a fire-stick culture. The dating of zone F was put at 120,000 years but this was disputed and Dr. Richard Wright puts it around 50,000 – 60,000 (and maybe even 40,000) years ago. Tim Flannery wrote in his book “An Explorer’s Notebook: Essays on Life, History and Climate” that this later date would be found to line up with mega-fauna extinction events.
    In further work at the lake, in1980 a number of small amorphous quartz flakes were found in a gully. The site would have been the lake shore during the Ice Age. They were found in aeolian sand subsequently dated to 26,000-22,000 BP. In 1983 more were found in a perched sand dune on top of Butmaroo Hill near the highest former eastern shore of the lake.
    “Evidence” beyond about 60,000 years B.P. is very sketchy.

  • rosross says:

    If Australia represents sin because of its foundation in 1788, what does that say for Israel, the State imposed on Palestine in 1947 through military violence, occupation and continued colonisation? More to the point, unlike Australia, Israel has not given the indigenous people of the land it colonised full and equal rights in one State, nor has it admitted to the wrongs inherent in its foundation and made redress. So, in terms of the ‘sin’ of colonisation we are being very selective.

    The focus on Australia is hardly fair given that colonisation has been a critical part of human evolution and no doubt a required part. Aboriginal peoples also migrated to and colonised this land, no doubt some wiping out earlier arrivals. It is the worst kind of racism to attribute more blame to people with pale skin.

  • rosross says:

    Anyone who bothers to read the definition of nation can be left in no doubt that when the British arrived in 1788 there were no nations here. Between 350 and 500 different groups, tribes, often no more than clans of a dozen, yes, nations no.

    Neither Germany nor Italy were nations until the 19th century and the nation-state is a Western concept which had no relevance or existence amongst stone-age Aboriginal peoples. It is ridiculous to pretend that any of the groups of Aboriginal peoples here when the British arrived could be even remotely defined as a nation.

  • Tricone says:

    Adopting from North America the term “nations” for tribal clans and groups of Australia has led to often deliberate confusion with the concept of “nation state” .

    You might as well talk about the rights of the nation of MacDougall.

  • Tricone says:

    The extinction of megafauna presumably coincides with the arrival , or spread, of dogs – dingoes – at that time, with one of any number of human arrival groups.

    It seems they found baby giant wombats very tasty.

  • Tricone says:

    Ian Mac:
    “Last of all, of course were the Europeans.”
    Last, schmast – European arrivals are now greatly outnumbered by Asian arrivals.

    The bigger question posed by the author of this piece remains:
    How can you expect anyone to do anything good for Australia if they don’t believe in the legitimacy of the nation and its institutions?

  • bomber49 says:

    Hey, if will appease some Aboriginals then I’m happy to abandon 26th January for Australia Day, Let’s make it the 25th. After all, unless you live in NSW then what relevance does does the landing at Botany Bay have for the rest of Australians? Nicolas Baudin had given French names to the SA coastline. Had it not been for the battle of Trafalgar then the Australia continent may have been divided between the French and English. The same goes for the flag. I’ve raised the Flag in Vietnam, and carried on the Anzac Day March, but if it gives offense to a minority then lets get another. Chuck in the National Anthem. I’d hum along to didgeridoos if it brings peace. But there is one proviso for all of the above; when we change all of these things that give offense then can you just shut the F up.

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