QED

The ABC Flips Me the Bird

In the June 2020 issue of Quadrant, I published an article examining the ABC Education website contribution by Bruce Pascoe. In that article, I noted:

Some weeks ago I asked the ABC the following questions: What was the 2019 operating cost of the ABC Education unit? Who heads the unit? How many staff are devoted full time to this endeavour? Who decides what resources are suitable for inclusion in the webpage? What qualifications do they have to carry out this function? What methodology is employed to select resources published and to ensure that they are suitable? What liaison is carried out with various curriculum authorities to ensure that resources conform to their needs? How much was paid to Mr Bruce Pascoe for his contribution on “Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity”? What process was undertaken to determine that Mr Pascoe’s work was rigorous and suitable for inclusion?

To date I have not yet received a reply from the ABC, but I look forward to sharing it with Quadrant readers when I do.

Well, finally, the response has arrived. Here is how the ABC answered my queries:

What was the 2019 operating cost of the ABC Education unit?

The financial year 2019–20 operating cost was $1.16m. This figure solely represents costs associated with the creation of content for the ABC Education portal. It does not include:

# costs associated with acquired content or technological infrastructure for the portal

# any costs for BtN, which is a part of the News division

# TV education acquisition costs and associated transmission licences and costs (for ABC ME)

Who heads up the unit?

Annabel Astbury.

How many staff are devoted full time to this endeavour?

There are currently 7 full time employees in ABC Education (overall staffing for the financial year 2019–20 was 8.6 full time equivalent).

Who decides what resources are suitable for inclusion in the webpage?

The whole team but the Head Education has final editorial sign off.  For clarification it is not just one webpage but an entire site with 4000 resources. 

What qualifications do they have to carry out this function?

The staff are qualified to match and map content to the Australian Curriculum. 

The Head Education has a Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education (Secondary teaching History and English), former Executive Director, History Teachers’ Association, awards include various recognising contributions to education: from Council of Professional Teaching Associations, History Teachers Association of Victoria, The Australian Council of Educational Leadership, finalist in Telstra Women’s Business Awards. 

What methodology is employed to select resources published and to ensure that they are suitable?

Resources have to match the Australian Curriculum

What liaison is carried out with various curriculum authorities to ensure that resources conform to their needs?

We follow the Curriculum Guidelines as provided by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and work closely with NSW and Vic Departments of Education, schools, professional teaching associations and teachers. 

How much was paid to Mr Bruce Pascoe for his contribution on Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity?

Nil

What process was undertaken to determine that Mr Pascoe’s work was rigorous and suitable for inclusion?

Documents assessed as program material; exempt from the operation of the FOI Act – see decision

As to the cost that ABC Education inflicts on the long-suffering taxpayer, $1.16m seems a modest enough amount, although it is not clear to me exactly what that amount represents.  I assume it includes salaries.

Tony Thomas: Another Load of Emu Droppings

I see now that many of my questions were not specific enough.  For example, I had imagined that the ABC Education team might have operated under a methodology more comprehensive and rigorous than ‘resources having to match the Australian Curriculum’.  And as to the liaison between the ABC and curricula authorities it is telling, is it not, that only the Victorian and NSW Departments of Education are included in this cosy arrangement?  From which we must assume that those education departments are comfortable that Dark Emu is a suitable teaching resource.

Unfortunately, the decision throws little light on the matter that principally concerns me – Bruce Pascoe’s faux history Dark Emu.  The fact that they paid him nothing for his material prompted the initial thought that they got it at the correct price but further reflection suggested to me that free publicity of this nature is money in the bank for Pascoe.

As to how a work so egregiously fraudulent, as I have shown comprehensively in my book Bitter Harvest, could deceive these apparently highly qualified gatekeepers must, for the moment, remain a mystery.  But I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised given that these same education experts could produce a ‘resource’ so vacuous as Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity in the first place.

Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest can be ordered here

4 comments
  • Ian MacKenzie

    No one should be surprised by any of this – its been going on for decades. I remember arguments about Cleopatra’s ethnicity from last century. Of course she was the product of generations of incest within the Greek Ptolemys, rather than the African princess some claimed. The truth, however, is never the main purpose of these kinds of propositions, but rather the political advantage and prestige which might be gained. After all, the author so favoured by the ABC, as described by Peter O’Brien above, can’t even be honest about his ancestors, let alone his subject matter. The politics involved are, in essence, the same as those which resulted some Melbourne security staff recently being trained in diversity, rather than quarantine protocols. That’s why the books produced by Quadrant are so important; they expose left-wing falsehoods, be they about politics (Winschuttle, Stone) or history (O’Brien, Colebatch) or both (Bendle).
    That said, this topic isn’t going away. I recently received an emailed ad for a new book by Dennis Foley and Peter Read – “What the Colonists Never Knew”, claimed to be “a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up Aboriginal in Sydney, alongside the colonists, from 1788 to the present” and available from the National Museum of Australia. A familiar voice was appended to the blub, writing “”This is a mesmerising read. It flows from rich anecdotal remembrance loaded with song and lore to incisive commentary about legislation and then slips seamlessly into detailed evocation of pre-colonial life. I have always loved Foley’s ability to bring a story to life and Read’s measured but uncompromising analysis … I love this bloody book” Bruce Pascoe author of Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture. Perhaps we should add “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”, Vladimir Lenin.

  • Forbes

    I read Quadrant articles because I share the values of the contributors and the commenters.
    My physician says I should only skim the headlines of all other “news” sites lest I become even further disenchanted with life.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Having Young Dark Emu on the curriculum has significant spin-offs for Bruce Pascoe in book sales, for his book is widely displayed in bookshops, museum shops and other places of similar authority. Bruce also gets the general publicity of the ABC program and no doubt he can spin a yarn or too in personal paid appearances. I am sure Bruce is doing quite nicely overall as a writer of fables, but there are many much better aboriginal tales of the dream to make children aware of aboriginal culture without descending to levels of fable about aboriginal material life. Mary and Elizabeth Durack’s marvellous children’s book ‘The Way of the Whirlwind’, entranced a previous generation of children. It was told with skill for children about aboriginal children, and with Elizabeth’s absolutely stunningly imaginative illustrations, would be a much better choice if reprinted to today.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    the dreamtime, that is.

    If teachers read Elkin’s ‘Aboriginal Men of High Degree’ or TGH Strehlow’s works on aboriginal religious concepts, they could much better explain to children that a high level of material existence isn’t everything (although it’s not nothing either) and doesn’t stop human beings from working on stories, just as our TV does today.

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