Bruce Pascoe, Tribal Elder of the Seagull Mob

I have been astonished at the reaction of the Twitter mob to the latest development in the Bruce Pascoe Affair.  Astonished but not surprised, if you can appreciate the subtlety of this apparent paradox.  I am astonished that so many people, many not obviously cretins (pathologically at least), can so readily and deliberately misinterpret the clear-cut issues underlying the referral of Bruce Pascoe’s aboriginality to the AFP. But I am not surprised because they have form in this respect on many other issues, from climate change to free speech and every other issue on which remaining in good standing with the mob trumps reasoned argument, facts and truth.

Order Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

I have pored through the Twitter record to see if there is any support for Josephine Cashman’s  (not Peter Dutton’s) initiative and could find just one instance – Mark Latham.

Here’s a sample of the other side.

Jonathan Green:
Coloured clothing patches will be issued shortly for various racial groups …

Nova Peris:
A sad indictment on the government whilst this country is incinerating. Layers & layers of colonial, genocidal attacks continue upon Aboriginal Peoples. FYI @PeterDutton_MP Unk Bruce Pascoe has No Power, No phone as he is fighting fires saving lives & houses in #Mallacoota

Mike Carlton:
I don’t read The Australian.  But I gather from Twitter that the odious Dutton has sooled the AFP onto Bruce Pascoe to determine if he has indigenous heritage. Staggering.  It has the acrid stench of the Third Reich’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws

Jenna Price:
AFP eyes case of author Bruce Pascoe’s indigenous identity. This is actually terrifying. 

Father Tilty McJesus of Gosford (with acknowledgement to Tim Bair):
To be fair Mr #Dutton may have just been too busy looking for a way to put Bruce Pascoe in jail for writing a book he didn’t like.

All this takes me back to the days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his reference to ‘feeding the chooks’.  Except that these people aren’t chooks — they’re seagulls, screaming and shrieking over whatever rancid morsel the events of the day tosses their way.  But unlike seagulls, they have no self-control and only the most shallow concept of right and wrong, true and false. Toss a piece of lettuce at a seagull and it will investigate briefly, conclude it has no substance, then show no further interest. The twittering seagulls of the pile-on Left aren’t anywhere near so smart. Questions are raised about Bruce Pascoe, one of their own, and they rise in a flock to shriek in his defence.

Were you to believe this baying mob, the jackbooted Dutton has targeted Pascoe as a test case in a reprise of Nazi population control methodology. There is very little mention on Twitter of Josephine Cashman, the actual instigator of this legal action.  It was she who asked Dutton to refer the matter, and it was she, a bona fide Aborigine of undoubted and unquestioned heritage, who suggested the establishment of the ‘register’ of Aboriginal people that so outrages and ‘alarms’ the Twitterati.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has stated that a register is not part of the ‘Voice’ consideration.  However, for many Aboriginal activists, including Professor Marcia Langton (who has expressed her support for Pascoe), the Voice is just the first step towards treaty and eventual sovereignty.  If Aboriginal people gain that sovereignty, such a register will be unavoidable.  Aboriginal sovereignty means that an Aboriginal governing body will make laws that apply only to Aboriginal people.  The only way to identify which people are governed by Aboriginal law and which are not, will be by means of some form of register.

However, in the meantime, I think Carlton, Green et al will be disappointed by their new cause du jour.  Call me a cynic, but there is no way I can believe the AFP will proceed with this action, not given its recent history and what some might conclude is a keen appreciation of political policing. Readers might recall how, when a gay activist attempted to blow up the Australian Christian Lobby HQ in Canberra, the AFP refused to reveal any details whatsoever of the crime or its perpetrator, not even informing the ACL of who it was who attempted to blow them up and why.

To establish if a crime has been committed in Pascoe’s presentation of himself as an Aborigine, they would need to prove that Pascoe is not Aboriginal and, further, that he knew he was not.  As far as I am aware, there is no legal definition of Aboriginality in any of our statute books, which poses an almost insurmounytable problem from the get-go.  The generally accepted criteria are that a person must identify as Aboriginal, be accepted by an Aboriginal community and have Aboriginal ancestry.  Pascoe meets the first two and it would be very difficult to prove that he knew he was not Aboriginal. Even if DNA testing proved he wasn’t Aboriginal, he could claim he had a good faith belief that he was.

It’s hard to imagine that a policing ethos which saw a softly-softly approach to the ACL bombing and, before that, refused to prosecute anyone for the 2013 Australia Day riot, which threatened the physical well-being of both the then prime minister and opposition leader, is likely to pursue a darling of the Left and the Aboriginal establishment. This is suspicion on my part is  further bolstered by the Indigenous Affairs Minister stating that he accepts that Pascoe is Aboriginal.

It would be nice to be surprised, but my money is on the proposition that the AFP will almost certainly decide this is a matter for the Aboriginal community to resolve. In other words, chalk one up for the seagulls.

10 thoughts on “Bruce Pascoe, Tribal Elder of the Seagull Mob

  • lhackett01 says:

    Peter, unfortunately, I agree. The “politics” of taking any action against aborigines is fraught. The media fills with rage if the WA government suggests it should close non-viable aboriginal townships. Likewise, if one suggests aborigines should be taught English as their first language to enable them to integrate better with Australian society. And, how dare anybody infer from the appalling break-down of law and order in Aurukun (as one example) that aborigines are demonstrating would might be if they are given a Voice, control over their communities, a Treaty, and Sovereignty. I dare.

    The AFP must investigate fully whether or not Pascoe has committed fraud, or similar. If so, Pascoe must be penalized accordingly.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Won’t happen – no way, no how!

  • Michael Fry says:

    Another thoughtful piece Peter, thanks. I am curious as to which “Aboriginal community” has “accepted” Pascoe. My understanding is that the three tribal groups to whom he claims affiliation have all said he is not one of them.

    BTW It is not a matter of whether there should be some register. A de facto register already exists. I am quite sure that if I were to “identify” and seek admission, then I would not be allowed in.

  • Lonsdale says:

    Bruce Pascoe has said that he has birth certificates which prove his aboriginal claims. Either he has or he is lying.

  • PT says:

    lhackett01, I suspect that at least some of the opposition to closing those remote communities were those you didn’t want them to be relocated to Perth or major country towns, and bring such a “breakdown in law and order” to those places. Of course they’d much rather accuse the State Government of “racism” than say something that would lead to them being accused racism (particularly if it were true!).
    I suspect that Mr O’Brian (should I refer to you as Lt. Col.?) is right regarding this investigation, as I’ve said in the previous thread. Wyatt has condemned it straight out (apparently simply saying you’re “aboriginal” is “good enough” for him). Not to mention the usual suspects, who are more hysterically over the top than usual on this subject. Clearly, apart from virtue signalling, they’re trying to intimidate the AFP into dropping the case. I think the fact that they find Pascoe’s theories ideologically convenient has a great deal to do with this. I suspect that if someone questioned Bess Price’s aboriginal heritage, they’d be happen enough to “let the investigations take their coarse” since it would please them mightily if they didn’t have to see her as an aboriginal woman. I wonder if many of them were amongst the throng of “progressives” who demanded that Helen Darville be stripped of the Miles Franklin when it turned out she wasn’t Ukranian?
    My suspicion is that the investigation will be on the backburner, until such time it’s quietly dropped for more urgent cases. Political/media connections matter in these cases. Take the Wilson/Gillard AWU saga. There are quite prominent figures that don’t want that particular can of worms opened, including on the other side of politics who may have their own skeletons in the cupboard that pursuing this may provided an incentive in exposing. Which is why, once the Royal Commission was over (and it did not exonerate Gillard, it didn’t recommend charges on the basis that the evidence was not likely strong enough to secure a conviction – although it was surely as strong as that used to convict Pell), the matter was quietly dropped. The only way for Pascoe’s apparent lack of aboriginal ancestry to be exposed would be if a close family member went public, or a significant aboriginal organisation (as opposed to a few individuals) came out. But right now they can claim he’s the victim of “racism” trying to silence him, and not have to consider any inconvenient facts.

  • DG says:

    The flip side of this is that anyone can confect aboriginality for their own purposes, just by pulling a few strings. This is derogatory of people who are aboriginal and should not be permitted. The law needs to define aboriginal as both having more than, say 1/16th aboriginal blood and active participation in an aboriginal social network, and/or recognition by a reasonable number of ‘elders’. It has to be both.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Pascoe will get away with his aboriginality claim reinforced because it will have been tested (at least in theory) by the legal system. Then it will be all systems go for his lying Dark Emu narrative, bolstered by a newly burnished victimhood, to fully infiltrate our schools and become forever a part of our national story.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Comment from Les Louis, via myself
    As issues of national significance are involved, the allegations of deception against Pascoe should be given high priority. But it is imperative, especially with the likelihood that they will be allowed to fizzle out, that it not be a distraction from the exposure of the distortions in Dark Emu before they become entrenched as the established version of the pre history of Australia in schools, museums and universities.
    At the Adelaide Botanic Garden there is a Bunha-bunhanga Exhibition which “highlights the scale of Aboriginal agriculture… This exhibition complements the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Bunha-bunhanga display of landscape paintings and Aboriginal agricultural tools, inspired by the ground-breaking research of award-winning author Uncle Bruce Pascoe, of Bunurong, Yuin and Tasmanian heritage…”
    “This project is presented in association with The Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney”.
    The pre history of Australia was written after decades of rigorous field work and scholarship by archaeologists and anthropologists of international stature, including John Mulvaney, Isabelle Mc Bride and Rhys Jones. But according to Pascoe, there has been a conspiracy by professional historians to hide the truth about Aboriginal society which he (Pascoe) has now uncovered. Bruce Pascoe a writer of literary fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays and children’s literature is Professor, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney. Universities have experienced a proliferation of professors and lecturers of “Indigenous Studies”. Where are the archaeologists and anthropologist of the calibre of Mulvaney to critically evaluate Dark Emu ?.
    To repeat my argument of a previous post: however extreme the notion of “farming” is stretched it does not constitute agriculture. As a first hand account explains: “White settlement in the Kimberley occurred much later than over east, many missions just starting up around 1900, so when I arrived in the Kimberly in 1970, there were still people around who remembered life before white contact and many were still practising traditional hunting and burning. My father in law spent his childhood in a very remote mission that saw white people for the first time in 1912 and his stories of their culture were fascinating and horrifying.
    I have been told by many aboriginal people, including my husband and father in law, that burning bush was done for hunting purposes.The benefits were many. The initial burn flushed out animals into the waiting spears, boomerangs and clubs of combined tribes in a communal hunt. After the fire had cooled, there were some edible, dead animals in the burnt area, waiting to be collected by the women.
    The long term benefits were that the undergrowth was cleared away, making hunting much easier. After a few weeks, small green grass shoots appear in the burnt area and these attract insects like grasshoppers. The insects attract bush turkeys, goannas, etc.
    As the grass gets longer, the larger animals appear. Kangaroos, wallabies, emus etc.
    So one burnt area provides an ongoing food supply for some time. Not once did I hear anyone speak of any other reason for burning off.” L J Louis

  • PT says:

    If being aboriginal meant nothing more than saying “I’m of Scots descent”, or “I have a First Fleet Ancestor” or “I had an ancestor/relative at ANZAC Cove”, then “self identification” would be an issue for any clubs formed amongst those groups, and not of much matter to wider society. But when claiming to be aboriginal can give benefits at the expense of the rest of the population – which activists and their virtue signalling backers (yes you, Kerry O’Brian) want to drastically expand, then who qualifies is everyone’s business!
    Pascoe has an academic appointment, but no higher degree, and apparently not a lot of academic publications in lieu of this. It’s inconceivable he’d have such an appointment but for his claim to be an aboriginal man. In my case, I know full well that if I were to identify as an aboriginal on a job application, I’d go to the top of the list in positions with FMG (“Twiggy” Forrest is very keen to hire aboriginal people, most of the aboriginal people I’ve encountered in mining in WA passed through Murrin Murrin when he was still in charge) with my qualifications and experience, but unlike some, I’m sure they’d want to know that I really was aboriginal rather than just “identifying” with them. As well as an academic appointment that would in all likelihood not be open to someone who wasn’t aboriginal (especially with this academic qualifications), Pascoe has been awarded prizes for aboriginal authors, that are not open to 98% of the population. These prizes exist to encourage aboriginal people to write, and reward those who do. As with all literary awards we can argue about the relative merits of various works, but an award supposedly reserved for aboriginal authors surely needs to have a higher threshold that the author “identifies with aboriginal people”!
    And for Wyatt and the rest. Let’s say they get their recognition, their “voice” and even the “Treaty” (and the Treaty was supposed to give aboriginal people 10% of Australia’s GNP by forcing everyone else to lease the land from them in exchange for surrender of sovereignty – I’d rather think the demand would ultimately be 10% of GNP and no surrender of sovereignty given the opposition to the deal over the Noongar claim). Given that, there’s a big economic incentive to claim to be “aboriginal”. Pascoe’s case is difficult from the earlier Bolt vs Eatock case. That one was questioning why people with relatively limited aboriginal ancestry so identified, and whether they should be able to claim public monies on that basis. In the case of Pascoe, there is doubt he has any aboriginal ancestry at all! If a man can claim prizes, and jobs supposedly reserved for aboriginal people without have any evidence for aboriginal ancestry, then we’ll get millions of fauxboriginals if these supposed Treaty arrangements ever occur. These “aboriginals” will already be in possession of more than 10% of GNP, and even if individual earnings isn’t counted, how likely is it that there will be those willing to call themselves “aboriginal” to get out of paying leaseholds, or squeezing money out of the Treasury?

  • lhackett01 says:

    PT, keep in mind also that right now aborigines have tenures of various sorts to about 46 percent of the Australian mainland. If all present claims for additional tenure were to be granted then aborigines would have involvement in about 74.4 per cent of the Australian mainland. I have explored this matter extensively. These tenues include exclusive possession, State Rights and non-exclusive possession. Some of this data comes from http://www.nntt.gov.au/assistance/Geospatial/Pages/Maps.aspx. Even in some areas of non-exclusive possession, non-aborigines can only enter in company with aborigines. North Stradbroke Island in Queensland is an example.

    This benefits about 800,000 people who claim to be aborigines at the expense or partial expense of about 24 million other Australians.

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