QED

Bruce Pascoe, Dumped Upon from a Great Height

In a very well researched paper titled ‘Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture’ published in  Anthropological Forum, ANU academic Dr Ian Keen, has brought some academic rigour to the debate over Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.

When I wrote Bitter Harvest, I did not do so as a purported historian or anthropologist.  I did it as an auditor.  My primary purpose was not to demolish the theory that Aborigines were sedentary agriculturalists but to show that Pascoe, recently appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at Melbourne University, had failed dismally to establish that theory in any meaningful way.  Not only that, but that he had advanced his case by means of egregious, comprehensive and deliberate deception. Keen says:

Many critiques of Dark Emu have come from the political right. They include the writings and broadcasts of Andrew Bolt; articles in, and a book published by Quadrant magazine, whose editor Keith Windschuttle engaged extensively in the ‘history wars’; and the Dark Emu Exposed (Anon. 2020) as well as the Quadrant online (quadrant.org.au) websites (sic). Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct. The forthcoming book by the anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton and the archaeologist Keryn Walshe, brings a high standard of scholarship in scrutinising Pascoe’s claims, and adopts a non-political stance.

Defences of Dark Emu have come from the political left. Rick Morton of The Saturday Paper, for example, writes: ‘after reading the explorer journals on which the book is based’ he was ‘unable to find any errors’ in Dark Emu . This is quite surprising, as we shall see. Professor Marcia Langton is reported to have said that Dark Emu ‘is the most important book on Australia and should be read by every Australian’. Again, coming as it does from an eminent scholar, this is an unexpected judgement.  (My emphasis)

Order Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

‘Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct’.   I’m not sure if Keen’s disappointment is due to the fact that it is the ‘political right’ that has exposed Pascoe (as the context might suggest) or that a work so enthusiastically received by a well-meaning public should turn out to have feet of clay.  I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

Critics of Dark Emu have come from the political right, and its defenders from the left, because Dark Emu is essentially a political tract, not ‘a history’ as its author claims.  At least half of its content is a catalogue of Aboriginal grievance.  And I believe that is the reason why Professor Marcia Langton has pointed failed to notice its shortcomings.

As I have gone to great lengths to explain, both in Bitter Harvest and on this website, the aim of Dark Emu, in promoting the idea of a sedentary agricultural society in pre-colonial Australia is to undermine the legal basis for settlement and call into question the sovereignty of the nation of Australia over this continent.  I suspect Keen is perfectly aware of this as, earlier in the paper, he writes:

The ostensible motivation for promulgating arguments that at least some Aboriginal peoples were farming at the time of British colonisation has been to counter the idea that Aboriginal people were ‘primitive hunter-gatherers’. (My emphasis)

His use of the word ‘ostensible’ suggests he is aware that there is another and hidden motive.  However, be that as it may, his examination of the theory itself is compelling. Keen defines agriculture as:

Agriculture has been defined in terms of cultivation and domestication. Cultivation involves preparation of the soil through a variety of means including swidden, tillage, and irrigation, as well as propagation through the sowing of seeds and vegetative reproduction … The domestication of plants results from cultivation over an extended period.

One of the themes that Pascoe develops is that repeated harvesting of, for example tubers, caused them to domesticate to some extent.  He takes that as evidence that Aborigines were cultivators.  One of the sources he relies upon is ethnobotanist Beth Gott.  Here is Keen’s take on this:

The ethnobotanist Beth Gott argued that systematic and repeated digging up of edible roots by Aboriginal people aerated the soil and loosened it, so facilitating germination and root penetration, and incorporating ash and composted vegetable matter into the soil. ‘[T]his regime of firing, gathering and digging might well be regarded as a form of “natural cultivation” on the part of the southern Australian Aborigines’. Perhaps this is so, but the process did not include all the procedures required to constitute horticulture, in particular the deliberate selection of plant varieties for planting, and the reservation of seed for propagation.

This whole question of human intervention in plant development as it pertains to the idea of agriculture is bedevilled by semantic considerations, but Keen handles it in an even-handed and objective way.  For example, sowing of seed is a necessary aspect of agriculture and Pascoe provides a (very) few examples of this activity in Dark Emu.  I address them all in Bitter Harvest.  Pascoe also makes much of the fact that Aborigines stored grains, citing it as evidence of agricultural practice. Keen summarises his detailed response to the idea of cultivation in this passage:

Key features of grain cultivation are not reported in the sources appealed to by Gerritsen, or indeed by Pascoe. Grain does not appear to have been stored for future use as seed. Indeed, Norman Tindale reports that storage of grains ‘was always for use and never for returning to the soil’, that is, it is was not stored as seed for cultivation. The ground was not tilled, and where there are reports of the deliberate sowing of seed it was on a very small scale, and perhaps mainly for ritual purposes such as species maintenance. Thus, Aboriginal people appear not to have cultivated seed-bearing plants but rather harvested and stored wild grains.

And later in the paper:

According to Pascoe, R.G. Kimber ‘compiled an enormous body of evidence from people who observed Central Australian Aboriginals engaged in seed propagation, irrigation, harvest, storage, and the trade of seed across the region’. This seems overblown. Fiona Walsh (1990, 34) reports the dispersal of seeds of Solanum diversiflorum (‘bush tomatoes’), broadcasting the seed over burnt ground near the camp , while Latz reports the planting of Nicotiana species. Kimber (1984, 16–17) recorded Walter Smith’s reminiscence of broadcasting the seed of grasses (possibly Panicum decompositum) and ngardu (Marsilea drumondii). The planting of Ipomea species was recorded by Yen (1989, 60). Gerritsen (2008, 23) argues that at least seven species were probably propagated deliberately and independently of outsider influence. Pascoe quotes Kimber’s informant Walter Smith:

They chuck a bit there [at a favourable locality]. Not much you know, wouldn’t be a handful. [They] chuck a little bit, spread it [broadcasting fashion] you see – one seed there, one seed there…[of] course they chuck a little bit dirt on, not too much though. And soon as first rain comes…it will grow then.

As noted, Sutton and Walshe argue that these practices of seed dispersal had a religious rather than horticultural significance, as an aspect of so-called ‘increase rites’. If such reports are correct, this suggest that Indigenous practices contributed to the maintenance and distribution of seed-bearing food plants in Australia. However, they did not take place in a context of gardens or field systems, seed selection and preservation, tillage, planting, and tending. It would be extraordinary, of course, if Aboriginal people in 1788 had possessed little or no knowledge of the properties of seeds, soil and water, their forebears having occupied the continent at least 50,000 years. Small scale and incidental sowing, however, does not constitute agriculture(My emphasis)

I address Pascoe’s use of Kimber in the latest edition of Bitter Harvest and have come to the same conclusion as Keen.

One fascinating contribution to the debate will, apparently, be presented in the forthcoming book by anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe.  From Keen:

As Sutton and Walshe show, Dark Emu ignores the extensive anthropological corpus of ethnographies based on long-term fieldwork among groups still reliant on hunting and gathering, in favour of the casual observations of particular groups by travellers passing through the country, as well as early settlers. In a very strong argument against the thesis that Aboriginal people were farming in 1788, Sutton and Walshe show comprehensively that, with the exception of some clearly introduced examples and recent modifications of local expressions, Aboriginal languages lack vocabularies associated with gardening and agriculture. This evidence for the absence of agriculture among speakers of the languages examined appears to be conclusive, since one would expect the languages of peoples who have practised agriculture over a long period to have adopted or developed a specialised vocabulary for food species, implements, procedures, etc., as is the case in proto-Korean and proto-Japanese. 

Unsurprisingly, despite a seven-page dissertation on language in Dark Emu, which I have described as ‘somewhat rambling, consisting of a series of non-sequiturs, that makes it look a bit like a cut and paste exercise’ Pascoe has not managed to stumble upon the above gem.

Keen’s paper comprehensively covers the major sections of Dark Emu relating to agriculture, aquaculture, housing, storage, irrigation and settled communities.  It is not possible in this essay to cover his treatment of all these topics, so let me content myself with one more example. I refer to the ‘eel farms’ at Lake Condah, a complex now known as Budj Bim.  Again, Pascoe’s treatment of this site is another issue that I cover in some detail in the new edition of Bitter Harvest.  From Keen:

The most egregious claim for large settlement in Dark Emu is the case of supposed towns in the Western District of Victoria, supposedly based on aquaculture. Pascoe draws on a study by Heather Builth (2000, 2002) according to whom the extensive fish and eel canals found in the Western District were built by Aboriginal people for aquaculture. There is in fact no evidence that the structures were used for breeding fish or eels. Rather the structures channelled waters along the natural drainage lines and so guided the migration of aquatic species, and provided the infrastructure for the insertion and use of woven fish traps. The stone work has been dated at up to 7–6000 years old.

Pascoe also uncritically accepts Builth’s proposal that a hierarchical society with a very high population density and large villages and towns was based on the large scale smoking and storage of eels and fish taken from the canals and traps. The inference of large settlements was based on interpreting the majority of stone circles found in the region as the bases of dwellings, leading, together with assumptions about household size, to an estimate of a population of some 10,000 people. The problem is that stone circles in the region frequently occur naturally, formed by large stones being clustered around the bases of large trees, and left after a tree has burnt and rotted away. Builth claimed to have eliminated such cases through statistical analysis of the distribution of stone in the circles, but Sutton and Walshe cast doubt on the adequacy of her methodology. Annie Clarke (1994) has commented that the sites of Lake Condah and surrounding properties have become mythologised in the archaeological literature and in the realm of public knowledge.

Furthermore, Sutton and Walshe question Builth’s interpretation of evidence of the presence of fatty acids in the remains of hollow trees, purportedly from the smoking and storage of fish and eels. Not all such fatty acids derive solely from aquatic species, and fatty acids could have been deposited in a variety of ways, for example by predators of fish, including birds and quolls. There is also no evidence of structures used for smoking and drying inside remaining hollow trees.

In an additional methodological flaw, traces of fatty acids inside hollow trees were not compared with traces in the general area, so that it is not clear that more eels and fish had been located inside trees than outside. In support of her story Builth (2002, 208) presents a cropped image of an 1862 painting by Blandowski, purporting to show a man smoking eels in a hollow tree. The uncropped image shows people smoking possums out of trees, and preparing possum skins for cloaks. The image therefore appears to have nothing to do with smoking eels.

Much of what Keen says above, I have included in Bitter Harvest, however I was unaware of the doubts concerning the provenance of the fatty acids found in the hollow trees and the touch of cropping an image to remove inconvenient elements, well that would seem to be Pascoe’s standard operating procedure in miniature.

Keen summarises his position thus:

The article finds that while the boundary between foraging and farming is a fuzzy one, Aboriginal people were indeed hunters, gatherers and fishers at the time of the British colonisation of Australia.

The strategy Keen employs is, for the most part, to indirectly critique Dark Emu by exposing shortcomings in Pascoe’s sources, in particular, the works of Rupert Gerritsen and Bill Gammage, upon which he relies heavily.  In my view this was the correct strategy, since these two are often the fall-back position of those (admittedly few) Pascoe defenders who actually read any critiques of their hero, but it has meant that, unavoidably, he has let Pascoe off lightly.  Let me re-iterate, Pascoe is not merely wrong or misguided or misinterpreting his sources.   He is a charlatan who needs to be exposed.

Nonetheless, it has been a long wait for the groves of academe to produce a serious challenge to Pascoe and to buttress the work of myself and the researchers at the excellent Dark Emu Exposed website.  So bravo, Dr Keen.

You can order the new edition of Bitter Harvest by clicking here

29 comments
  • sabena

    Poor Ian Keen.He is about to get the Peter Ridd treatment.

  • Karnjirrwala

    Based in this improbable prehistory, with a large push from the Andrews government and the complicity of the Australian government, the Budj Bim cultural landscape has been inscribed in the World Heritage List. The Victorian government blurb reads:

    ‘ A truly fascinating place, Budj Bim is one of several places in this area’s rich cultural landscape formed by powerful ancestral creation forces. Many visitors return to explore and relax in the tranquil surrounds. The wider Budj Bim Heritage Landscape dates back thousands of years and shows evidence of large, settled communities systematically farming and smoking eels for food and trade. The Heritage Landscape area is considered one of Victoria’s earliest and largest Indigenous aquaculture ventures, and has recently been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List recognised solely for its Aboriginal cultural values’

  • gary@erko

    Is there any record of Aboriginal methods of boiling eggs, pre-settlement ?

  • DougD

    Why isn’t Budj Bim – World Heritage listed “solely for its Aboriginal cultural values’ – a sacred site that visitors are banned from exploring and relaxing in, in its tranquil surrounds? Is it less sacred than the Grampian climbs and Uluru?

  • DG

    We are truly in a sad state if sabena is correct. I hope the serious academics refuse to sacrifice knowledge and open discussion on the altar of an insulting (to Aboriginies, as well as the rest of us Indigenies) tract (Pascoe’s mendacity).

  • lhackett01

    Peter, perhaps you could alert the Victorian Government about this critique, including as it relates to the Budj Bim National Park. Indeed, all Governments in Australia need to know about this critique of Pascoe’s fantasies.

  • PT

    I think it’s pretty clear that the self appointed gatekeepers on the Wikipedia articles on Pascoe and Dark Emu will refuse to allow any substantive criticism of the book to be posted. They’ve refused to post anything that Dr Keen has said, partially because it’s paywalled, and they incredibly insist that the available abstract doesn’t contradict Dark Emu as Pascoe supposedly didn’t deny the aboriginals were hunter-gatherers as well as settled agriculturalists! Supposedly they’ll “wait for the book”, but as this won’t be free on the internet the doubtless will claim the contents can’t be verified and block quoting it too if it is critical of Dark Emu’s assertions. Still it’s good academia is finally coming out with a real response to Pascoe’s fantasy.

  • Patrick McCauley

    But they won’t ‘de’ – professor him from Melbourne Uni will they. So I guess that he (and the vacant professorship ?) will remain, in name at least, as a testament to an academic folly and vain leftist hubris “Bruce Pascoe, Professor of Aboriginal Agriculture” written above the door to an empty office somewhere in their increasingly empty university (just down the hall from Gillian Triggs – Voltaire professor of Free Speech.

  • MungoMann

    I have spent a week trying to get Dr Keen’s work listed in DE’s wikipedia page as a valid academic critique but to no avail so far. Too much push back from some editors. If others want to try engaging on the Wiki Talk page that would be good. I’m having a rest for a few days and then will launch a Wiki independent editor assessment which Should get Keen approved. I hope!!

  • Peter OBrien

    PT and MungoMann, you beat me to the punch. After I wrote this article, I checked to see if Keen had made it into Wikipedia and, as you say, some deranged editors are still holding out. For other readers, just for fun, I suggest you look at the ‘talk’ page of the Wikipedia Dark Emu article. You will see what MungoMann is up against.
    And, as a general rule, every time you consult Wikipedia on any topic that might be at all controversial, have a look in the ‘talk’ page before you unquestioningly accept anything other than known fact from the article itself.

  • Peter OBrien

    PT, by the way I object to your implication that Bitter Harvest is not a ‘real’ response to Pascoe’s fantasy. Just joking.

  • jbhackett

    Joanna Hackett
    In the July/August edition last year Quadrant published an article of mine about the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu. This little book of bias and untruths was in the short list for the Eve Pownall Award, a prestigious award for books documenting factual material. As YDE is fiction and not eligible, I requested, politely, that the judges remove the book from the short list. I advised them , again politely, to do some research, referring them to ‘Bitter Harvest etc. Many others wrote to the CBCA on the same subject. Sadly, we were all ignored and incredibly, YDE won the Eve Pownall Award. The once-great reputation of the CBCA was trashed, our children are now being presented with lies posing as truth, and Pascoe continues on his merry way to fame and fortune. The judges refused to discuss the matter.
    It is with great joy that I now read this article of yours, Peter. Perhaps at last a tiny chink of common sense has entered the debate, with some academics brave enough and professional enough to say it as it is. I will be sending a copy of this article to the CBCA but won’t hold my breath while I wait for a response.

  • lbloveday

    Peter OBrien wrote:
    .
    I suggest you look at the ‘talk’ page of the Wikipedia Dark Emu article.
    .
    Using VPN, I get:
    .
    This user is currently blocked. …..
    .
    Turn off VPN and I get:
    .
    “Please do not add inappropriate external links to Wikipedia, as you did to Nusa Ceningan. Wikipedia is not a collection of links, nor should it be used for advertising or promotion”……… Wasn’t me – my IPS changes when I reboot the modem, so I assume someone else got the IPS banned.
    .
    Looks like I’d have to open an account with Wikipedia to read Talk; very reluctant to do so and can’t work out how to anyway – blocked from doing so because my actual ISP is blocked for 2 years, and my VPN is “within a range that has been blocked on all Wikimedia Foundation wikis”.
    .

  • Peter OBrien

    lbloveday, that’s weird. I’m afraid I have nothing useful to offer but Roger might.

  • rosross

    Let us hope Keen is not a lone voice in the wilderness and that his integrity encourages others to find their own.

  • john.singer

    Pascoe and the Aboriginal Industry (they are engaged in profitable manufacture and fabrication) have actually proven “Animal Husbandry” by producing a ‘Milk Cow’ that keeps giving. You cannot blame Pascoe for the abundance his original novel produced. If Governments and Organisations threw money and fame at him, why should he (more than most people) not surrender to them and continue the embroidery.

    Why should the Aboriginal Academics contradict his words. People experienced with the ‘onus of proof’ know it is always easier to support something than to deny it. In fact that is the common thread through all the “dark history of Australian Aboriginal people” and its exploitation.

    We will not overcome the misuse of ‘Cash Cows’ until the will of Government focuses on the futility of such waste of public resources and genuinely focuses onto the real problems faced by people emerging from the Stone Age into this technological age. Their lifestyles have had a much shorter peeriod to adapt than most societies and we are letting them down. (Governments more so)

  • Elizabeth Beare

    “Many others wrote to the CBCA on the same subject.”
    Yes, I was one of these pointing out some anthropological truths. Didn’t receive any reply at all.
    It is good to see a few academics have cautiously emerged. And why is it so problematic to academics if something ‘comes from the right’? Truth has no left or right to it, but I expect the academics are nervously looking over their shoulders at retribution approaching. One has to be a retired academic, as I am, to even begin to speak freely in this world of deplatforming cancel culture we struggle with daily.

  • vicjurskis

    Pascoe wrote:
    Mitchell also recorded his astonishment at the size of the villages. He noticed: some huts … being large, circular; and made of straight rods meeting at an upright pole in the centre; the outside had first been covered with bark and grass, and the entirety 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.
    He counts the houses and estimates a population of over one thousand. He’s disappointed that nobody’s home; it’s obvious they have only just left, and the evidence is everywhere that they have used the place for a very long time.

    Here’s what Mitchell actually wrote:
    On that side, I saw two natives at a distance, making the best of their way to the southward. 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 … chimney. The place seemed to have been in use for years, as a casual habitation. … The natives invariably fled at our approach …

    Mitchell did not count the houses or estimate a population of over one thousand. In fact he estimated that the entire Australian population was less than 6,000:
    The native population is very thinly spread over the regions I have explored, amounting to nearly a seventh part of Australia. I cannot estimate the number at more than 6000 ; but on the contrary, I believe it to be considerably less.(Mitchell 1839 Vol II p. 351).
    This is but one example of very many false claims in Pascoe’s multi award-winning book.

    It is difficult to reconcile Pascoe’s claim that Howitt “was scornful of Aboriginal culture” with the fact that Howitt wrote an 817 page treatise on the subject.

  • Blair

    “‘Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct’. I’m not sure if Keen’s disappointment is due to the fact that it is the ‘political right’ that has exposed Pascoe (as the context might suggest) or that a work so enthusiastically received by a well-meaning public should turn out to have feet of clay. I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.”
    You’re too kind.

  • leabrae

    “Unfortunately” and ‘the right”—meaning what? As with the ABC no public money should go near the so-called universities. How many, like those in Adelaide, South Australia (the state where the geniuses blew up the power station), have wrecked their libraries and, thus, the very concept of university? Learning counts for nothing.

  • Gabrielle

    Yes, I also wrote to the CBCA politely expressing my serious misgivings about such a contested piece of writing being listed for prizes. No reply.

  • Tricone

    You have to realise the sheer number of rocks lying around in SW Victoria, including the Stony Rises and districts around.
    .
    It’s classic hunter-gatherer tactic to maneuver some of these into streams etc to help with fishing. Once there, they aren’t going anywhere for millennia. It’s not exactly the Angkor Wat.
    .
    There’s nothing demeaning about your ancestors being hunter-gatherers, recent or not so recent. We all come from there.

  • gary@erko

    “Unfortunately” creates a more gentle entry into the sentence. Try reading it without “unfortunately” – it’s too explicit, too clearly damning. It could have begun with “however” or any other multi-sylable conjuntion for the same effect.

  • jbhackett

    Joanna Hackett
    I expect that the directors of the newly refurbished WA Museum ($400m + of refurbishment) will be concerned to hear that cracks are appearing in the Pascoe saga. I have been told that Pascoe is prominently acknowledged for his contribution to some of the new displays, particularly the ones concerning those amazing aboriginal agriculturalists. Apparently, Pascoe also sorted out the National Museum in Canberra on the same subject some time ago.
    Perhaps Dr. Keen’s words are the start of a storm that will give those bullshit trees a good shaking.

  • wstarck

    There is a complete absence of any good evidence for:
    • Domesticated plants or animals
    • Agricultural implements
    • Food storage
    • Agricultural terminology in Aboriginal languages
    • Agricultural subjects in rock art
    • Permanent habitation
    All render the claim of any extensive agricultural practice to be utter nonsense.

    In addition, the division of the indigenous population of Australia into some 300 or more languages clearly indicates a long standing separation into small isolated populations.

    That despite being conflicted by sound reason and multiple lines of evidence , the dubious claims of Pascoe have been so readily accepted by so many academics exposes a malignant corruption of intellectual rigor now widespread in our academic system. Even worse, is the integration of this kind of thinking into the educational system and its use to indoctrinate students. Under such influence, one cannot help but wonder about the ongoing viability of a system of governance based on a popular vote.

  • PT

    Well wstarck, I think we all know the reason why the academic response to Pascoe’s book has been “muted” or somewhat praiseworthy. Firstly it is politically expedient: either directly for academics to back the various aboriginal nationalist movements, or to show how they’re “revisionists” and not merely defending “patriarchal, colonialist history” – welcome to the world of identity politics in academia. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is Pascoe’s claim of being aboriginal himself. I have little doubt that if Pascoe just called himself “Cornish” who knew some aboriginal languages etc. his work would have remained obscure (certainly Magabala books would never have published a book by someone who wasn’t purporting to be aboriginal). And to the extent his work was raised in academic circles, it would have been given no more consideration than Gerritsen’s earlier claims were. At most an “interesting idea” but “lacking in facts” – that sort of thing. But as an aboriginal: it you disagree with him, you are likely going to be accused of racism – and specifically lecturing the aboriginal people on their own culture and history etc. Hence the interest in how real Pascoe’s claims of being aboriginal are. So they keep quiet, or make comments about how the book “raises debate” and has interested the public in prehistory or some such stuff. I would have thought there would have been more criticism, but it seems as if its finally beginning.
    .
    I think it will be difficult to get this past the cheerleaders on Wikipedia who block any negative appraisal of his work (and fought tooth and nail to block any mention of the fact that his aboriginal descent was disputed). However, hopefully it may get Dark Emu, and it’s derivatives either removed from the School Curriculum, or at least countered by other material. With convincing counter arguments/evidence is presented in an academic form by actual experts in the field (Pascoe is neither a trained historian or archeologist), it will be difficult for education departments across the country to be able to justify its current level of promotion, although they’ll no doubt hold out as long as they can.

  • Adelagado

    “… gary@erko – 9th January 2021
    Is there any record of Aboriginal methods of boiling eggs, pre-settlement? …”

    There is no record of boiling… full stop.

  • PT

    I think I should say that I own a copy of “Bitter Harvest” and appreciate the work that has gone into it and the clear exposing of the dishonesty of Pascoe’s polemic. (Just in case anyone thinks otherwise). The problem is that in the absence of rebuttals in academia, the likes of “HiLo”, “Laterthanyouthink” not to mention those oft-quoted school teachers (and I’m sad to say my ex-gf) will just assert that everyone who knows about this stuff supports the accuracy (it’s been positive reviews don’t you know). Quadrant has been written off as “ultra right wing and an unreliable source”; and our esteemed Lt-Col O’Brian is dismissed as some deranged right-wing extremist due to being a regular contributor to this magazine (and further accused of being obsessed with Pascoe). Oh and he has no “expertise”! Of course Pascoe’s only qualification (apart from claimed aboriginal ancestry) is as a school teacher (and not at university level) – certainly not history or archaeology: but apparently only those who work professionally in those fields can assess Dark Emu! I think the next phase (as opposed to saying the work is unavailable and the abstract doesn’t contradict Pascoe’s claims – although it does) will be ad hominem attacks on Keen and the authors of coming book. They’ll either be just jealous that an “amateur” has embarrassed an established orthodoxy (ironic); or white racists thinking they know more about aboriginal people than aboriginals themselves; and some former statements will be trawled (and doctored) to discredit them, or they will be represented as “fringe views”! I think Dark Emu will be worn down: it’s fantasy and half truth written by a “charlatan” whose main prior work was writing fiction! But it’ll be a long fight, and there will be hold outs long into the future. Al Fayed still believes in the fraudulent Ossian!

  • yofus

    Just to strike a chord with Bruces’ very own white man dreaming vivid flourish of the imagination, could it not be said he looks more like an aging advanced in years hipee showing signs of a trip or two too many on the magic-mushrooms, a supranatural wonderment to behold and championed as we have come to expect from the left as yet another of the many want to be Oz Mandellas’ seemingly hell-bent on stopping at nothing less than full indigenous National sovereignty to be able to be constitutionally enshrined with the right to lord it over all the rest of us for ever and a day afterwards.

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