The Silence of the Shams

Yes, it’s me again.  Sorry!  But I’ve got something I need to get off my chest and, yes, it concerns fauxboriginal charlatan Bruce Pascoe and how, ever since his scholarship, ethics and general honesty were revealed by myself and others to be conspicuous by their absence

I guess any organisation will receive many letters that can be safely consigned to the rubbish bin with not more than a cursory glance but when I was younger, it was regarded as de rigeur to at the very least provide a polite acknowledgement of receipt of any letter that was not obviously junk mail, abusive or malicious.   That would apply even more so if the letter were accompanied by some sort of gift.  Clearly, as in so many other areas, this simple courtesy is no longer seen as necessary.  The logic seems to be ‘If we don’t reply, you can assume we are not interested’.  Admittedly, that has been the case in the publishing industry for some time – presumably for pragmatic reasons – but I cannot think of any reason why this logic should apply in government, taxpayer-funded organizations or the university sector.

I have sent copies of my book Bitter Harvest to:

♦ The NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell

♦ The heads of history at ANU, Melbourne, Monash and Sydney universities

♦ The Australian newspaper

♦ ABC Chair Ita Buttrose

♦ Mark Latham and Alan Jones

Guess which ones bothered to respond?  Wrong, not just Alan Jones and Mark Latham.  I have to give the ABC credit because it acknowledged receipt of the book, but that’s where it ended for them.

Let me begin with the ABC.  Ms Buttrose acknowledged receipt of the book and advised that she had passed it onto Managing Director David Anderson.  In December 2020, Anderson also acknowledged receipt of the book and said the national broadcaster would take it into consideration.  Having heard nothing since, I sent a follow up letter in May.  Here is the text of that letter:

Dear Mr Anderson,
Some time ago I sent to ABC Chairman Ita Buttrose, a copy of my book Bitter Harvest, which critically examines Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.

She forwarded it to you and you also acknowledged receipt of it.  I would be interested to know if you have had a chance to read it, or if you tasked somebody else to do so.  If so, I would also be interested to know how my book was received.

A thorough reading of my book would, I hope, reveal conclusively that most of Dark Emu is specious nonsense. 

I note that the two-part documentary of Dark Emu, heralded as early as 2019, has still not screened on the ABC, so possibly you have realized the truth about it and have decided to just let it slide.  If that is the case, you might like to consider withdrawing the Dark Emu digibook from the pages of ABC Education as well.

I have noted that when it comes to Pascoe, most of those to whom I have sent a copy of my book – which includes The Australian newspaper and the heads of history at four major universities – simply choose to ignore me.  I ask for a more substantive response to this letter than a mere acknowledgement of receipt.


I still haven’t heard anything so recently I sent the following email, personal for David Anderson:

I write for Quadrant and Spectator magazines and am the author of Bitter Harvest which comprehensively critiques Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu’.  In 2020 I sent a copy of my book to Chairman Buttrose, who forwarded it to you.  You acknowledged receipt of it in December of that year and said that you would take it into consideration. 

I heard nothing further, so in May this year, I sent you a follow up letter, asking if anyone had actually ‘taken it into consideration’.  

In almost a month I have not had a reply.  That seems a reasonable length of time in which to expect, at least, an acknowledgement of receipt.

But apart from this discourtesy, the main reason I am writing is to ask if the ABC now has cause to re-examine its commitment to Mr Pascoe, in the light of the recent publication of ‘Farmers or Hunter Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate’ by Drs Sutton and Walshe?

I note that the Dark Emu digi-book is still online at ABC Education.  It contains the following disclaimer:

Note also that since 2019, Pascoe’s work has been evaluated differently by some people, who don’t agree with his interpretations of historical sources. This resource contains excerpts from the original texts and scientific evidence that Bruce draws on. We encourage you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of all historical sources.

That disclaimer is not a result of recent revelations.  It was put there last year, thanks to representations from Quadrant contributor Marc Hendrickx.  But it is interesting to note, the digi-book has a page titled ‘Additional Resources and Links’ in which you might expect to find a reference to some of those other historical sources students are encouraged to explore.  Not a bit of it!  The only link is to ‘A recent scientific study in south-west Victoria suggests Aboriginal Australians may have been living on the continent for 120,000 years’.   So much for balance, ABC-style.

Readers will already have seen my first letter to NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. Here is the text of my follow-up email:

Dear Minister,
two months ago, I sent you a copy of my book Bitter Harvest, which debunks Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.  I don’t know if you had a chance to look at it – indeed I don’t even know whether you received it since I have had no acknowledgement of receipt – however I wonder whether now, in the light of recent revelations concerning Dark Emu viz the publication of another book which totally discredits it, you will consider directing that Dark Emu be withdrawn from any participation in the NSW curriculum.

Here’s my correspondence with The Australian‘s editor, Michelle Gunn:

Dear Ms Gunn,
Last week The Australian ran an article by Peter Lalor reporting, inter alia, that Australian cricket Captain Tim Paine had his views on racism changed by the BLM movement and that bowler Pat Cummins had ‘his views about racism and Indigenous culture’ hugely impacted by reading Bruce Pascoe’s amazingly successful book, Dark Emu.

That story attracted 391 on-line comments, almost all of which were critical of BLM and Dark Emu.  Given that The Australian is far and away the most balanced newspaper in the country and reflects a range of opinion amongst its readership, that result is astonishing.  My particular concern is Dark Emu.  I have written a detailed rebuttal of Dark Emu in my own book Bitter Harvest, a copy herewith.

My book has received virtually no recognition from any mainstream media outlet, although it has sold out its first print run and a new expanded edition is also selling well.  It has been ignored by even those such as The Australian, whom we count upon to canvass both sides of any argument.   Despite this, 10 of the commenters on the above article specifically referenced my book and received a total of 350 ‘likes’.  Professor Geoffrey Blainey has described Bitter Harvest as a ‘powerful critique’.

Given that my book apparently reflects the views of a large majority of your readers, you might like to have someone review it.  Chris Kenny would be the ideal person, if he is willing to undertake the task.  My book has an ideological component, in which I examine the political agenda behind Dark Emu, and a purely academic element in which I simply audit Pascoe’s claims, most of which I have proven to be either deliberate misrepresentations or outright fabrications.  I doubt that Chris Kenny, for example, would agree with some, or even all, of my ideological argument but I believe he would find the audit component compelling.

At some point in the near future, Australians will be asked to vote on the subject of Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.  I know that Chris supports that proposal.  I do not. Nonetheless, I am sure that Chris would agree that Australians should be able to base their consideration of the question on correct information.  Dark Emu has reached an enormous audience and has already shaped public opinion towards what I believe is a false narrative – as witness the comments of Pat Cummins, who is himself an influencer. 

I hope you will consider my request and I wish all at The Australian the very best for 2021.

Having had no reply, I followed up:

On 27th December 2020, I sent you a copy of my book Bitter Harvest, which examines Bruce Pascoe’s popular book Dark Emu, requesting that it be reviewed in the pages of The Australian.

My book is meticulously researched and has been described by Professor Geoffrey Blainey as ‘a powerful critique’.  Given the influence that Dark Emu has garnered and its political ramifications, it seems to me that the contents of my book are worthy of consideration by the nation’s most important newspaper.

However, disturbingly, I did not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement of my letter.  I have been a reader and subscriber to The Australian since 1967 and I take this disrespect personally.

(Quadrant Online readers should take note of the Update at the foot of this page)

Here is the letter I sent to the history professors:

Dear Professor _______,
I have sent you a copy of my book Bitter Harvest – The illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.

Mr Pascoe has received considerable accolades for his book Dark Emu, which purports to be a ‘truer history’ of Aboriginal Australia than previously taught.  That is the sub-title of the children’s version of his book.  He is now widely feted within the tertiary establishment and on the ABC.  His book has insinuated itself into our education systems.

But Dark Emu is primarily a work of fiction, as my book comprehensively shows.  Let me be clear, I am not arguing that Mr Pascoe’s interpretation of facts and events is incorrect.  Since I am not, myself, a historian, that would be a bold claim on my part.  What I am saying is that he, routinely and deliberately, misquotes or misrepresents his sources.  Many of his claims are unsourced and much of what he writes is pure invention.   The real evidence he presents in support of his thesis is so threadbare that its very paucity serves to establish the counter argument.

I am not aware of Mr Pascoe ever having claimed to be a historian, but others have claimed that on his behalf.  For example, The Australian newspaper described him as ‘our most influential Indigenous historian’.  Mr Pascoe has never disowned that label.  And his book is widely accepted and promoted as history.

I hope you will find time to read my book and judge for yourself the worth of what I am claiming.  I accept that you may not agree with some of my polemical positions but I hope you will find my rebuttal of Mr Pascoe’s purported history to be compelling.

If you do, I hope you would accept that prominent historians such as yourself have a duty to protect the integrity of your discipline by calling out this charade and making it quite clear that Dark Emu has no place in the history section of any library.

I look forward to your response.

As far as the history professors are concerned, I deplore their discourtesy but have too many other things on my plate than to bother following up with them.

Recently I have sent the following emails to Professor Marcia Langton:

Dear Professor Langton,
I am the author of a book, Bitter Harvest, which critically analyses Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.  Because I am not an academic my book has been largely ignored.  However, I wonder if, in view of the publication of Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate by Drs Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe, you still hold to your view that Dark Emu “is the most important book on Australia and should be read by every Australian”?

And to Magabala Books, publishers of Dark Emu:

I am the author of a book, Bitter Harvest, which critically analyses Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and I write for Quadrant and Spectator Magazines.  I would like to know if, in view of the publication of Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate by Drs Peter Sutton and Kerryn Walshe, you now have any doubts about the quality of Mr Pascoe’s work.  How do these revelations sit with the testimonial published on your website:

Magabala Books is Australia’s leading Indigenous publishing house.  Aboriginal owned and led, we celebrate and nurture the talent and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.

Would you be prepared to publish another reprint or edition of Dark Emu?

If I ever get a reply from any of the above, I’ll let you know.  I’m not holding my breath. 

And by the way, why hasn’t Professor’ Pascoe sued me? Let me repeat for the record: he is a knave and charlatan who has profited mightily from a grand deception.  The fact that I haven’t heard from his lawyers speaks volumes.

UPDATE: In today’s Australian, indigenous scholar and human rights adviser Hannah McGlade joins in the dismantling of Pascoe’s ill-deserved reputation, describing Dark Emu as ideological, subjective and offensive. Subscribers can view her piece behind the paywall via this link

38 thoughts on “The Silence of the Shams

  • Alistair says:

    I have to say Peter there is another silence that you haven’t mentioned that absolutely staggers me – and that is, apart from the usual suspects (good on you Jacinta!), we have yet to hear a peep out of the Aboriginal “Voice”. It would appear from the almost universal ringing endorsement of Pascoe’s book, and almost complete silence now, that either the “Voice” has no idea at all about traditional Aboriginal culture, Or they are so venal that they are willing to sacrifice their integrity as a “nation” (!) in favour of a short term political outcome. Once more, as always, it is white people who are setting their agenda for them because it appears that they have nothing whatever to contribute. This tells you all you need to know about how an Aboriginal “Voice” can be expected to operate in the future.

  • Harry Lee says:

    Here are the main reasons why the anti-marxists are losing to the marxists:
    The marxists use anti-factual, slimy, scummy “Alinsky tactics”, and lie about everything by presenting fantasy as truth, while presenting themselves as the “compassionate, caring, humane” side in the war for power, aka the “cultural” war.
    But actually, the marxists are slimy, scummy, power-mongering, evil people who seek to enslave the productive classes.
    Meanwhile, anti-marxists lack the knowledge bases, lack the conceptual and analytical skills, lack the organisational skills, and lack the willingness to sacrifice their own time and their own money to fight back against their evil marxist enemies.
    Civil and measured debate and discussion will not defeat the Marxists.
    And the marxists will act all upset and outraged, and deeply saddened and victimized, and marginalized and oppressed, if anti-marxists do not give marxists and their dummy, parasitic, anti-Westernist clients what they want, for free.
    And these are some of the reasons why the marxists now dominate all of our institutions.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    More power to your pen, Peter.

  • Tony Tea says:

    I’m 0-3 at the Australian today:
    “Enterprise Professor” so not really a proper professor, more of an honorary professor.
    Pascoe has to say things like that because he is not within a bull’s roar of qualified enough to debate them on merit.
    Great to see proper experts lining up to belt Pascoe’s fantasy.

  • Adelagado says:

    My comment to the Australian today…
    “Paul Barry on Media Watch was pretty good on this on Monday night. He clearly sees the writing on the wall for this hoax. Has anyone else on ABC TV covered this latest turn of events? The Drum for example?”
    You can see Barry here…

  • ianl says:

    As the Federal Court decided on JCU’s appeal against the initial decision in the Peter Ridd case: “Consensus over-rides truth”. Pre-Enlightenment …

    I can hope the High Court following today’s hearing of appeal by Peter against the Federal Court’s disgraceful decision reverses this.

  • March says:

    Great piece. It shows up the hypocrisy of media outlets and others that supposedly are open to a range of views but in practice are as bad as the ABC when it comes to balance. I experienced similar lack of response when I sent copies of my book “A guide to climbing Ayers Rock” to numerous media outlets including some you have mentioned above. Zero response.
    The historical record indicates that the Old people, those mentioned a lot by Sutton and Walshe couldn’t give a hoot about tourists climbing to the summit of Ayers Rock. They acted as climbing guides and encouraged people to take in those magical views. Yet their views have been surplanted by outsiders who play the post modernists game is Aboriginal politics all too well. The same goes for Mt Warning. I am thankful for Quadrant for providing an outlet for the truth.

  • Harry Lee says:

    But I wonder why no nominal non-marxists are commenting on the marxists’ assault on the SASR via Ben Roberts-Smith. Perhaps they lack stomach for what it takes to hold back the forces who want to obliterate Western Civ?
    All a bit icky, yucky, smelly to support publicly the kind of work that the SASR, the Commando Regiment and the ADF generally must do to defend this Dummy Country? Be cancelled from too many dinner parties? Lose access to ALP and Green politicians?

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Peter, the Media pack is a disgrace. They are now piling-on re Dark Emu debunking, having ignored your book and all the evidence in plain sight for years. They now appear to be deliberately “disappearing” you and Quadrant from their narrative, or to be more charitable, they are yet to master the art of internet searching.I must say Paul Barry on Media Watch on Monday (from 6.30mins) gives Andrew Bolt credit, in a sneering sort of way. The Media’s “speaking truth to power” is such a joke, they stay silent until they know it is safe to write because there are two academics they can shelter behind if there’s any backlash. .

  • Peter OBrien says:

    But typical of Barry to conclude the segment with the totally trivial mistake of SMH using an ostriche, not an emu, as the cover of their article.

  • DG says:

    I feel quite content with cancelling my subscription to the Oz. I miss a few of its writers, but will survive. After, all, there’s always Quadrant to accompany my morning coffee.

  • L Louis says:

    The blanket of silence that has enshrouded Bitter Harvest has been a remarkably effective denial of free speech and an impediment in educational institutions. Peter has persisted with admirable fortitude, but the fraudulent Dark Emu has become entrenched in schools and Indigenous Studies Courses in universities. In this, it has been shamefully aided and abetted by the support or acquiescence of academics and influential organisations like The Children’s Book Council of Australia, to whom I have sent the email:
    Dear Ms Flamsteed
    On 21 July, 2020, I emailed you as The National Executive Officer,CBCA, pleading the case that, “as your stipulation is that “Entries in this category[the Eve Pownall Award] should be books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material”…Young Dark Emu [ by Bruce Pascoe] does not qualify, as it is a travesty of pre-history. Its basic arguments are not supported by archaeologists and pre-historians- typically, Professor Peter Hiscock, chair of archaeology at Sydney University, regards his claims as “ridiculous”. And as a university academic with over 3 decades of research and teaching experience, I appended my critique exposing Dark Emu as a fabrication. You ignored this advice and the award was made to Pascoe.

    As has been widely publicised, the eminent anthropologist Peter Sutton and respected field archaeologist Keryn Walshe have in a work of meticulous scholarship,
    Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate, demolished any shred of credibility in Dark Emu. As they demonstrate with overwhelming evidence, while
    Dark Emu “purports to be factual”, … “it is littered with unsourced material. It is poorly researched. It distorts and exaggerates many old sources. It selects evidence to suit the author’s opinions, and it ignores large bodies of information that do not support the author’s opinions. It contains a large number of factual errors, a range of which we analyse here. Others we could not include for want of space” .“Dark Emu is actually not, properly considered, a work of scholarship. Its success as a narrative has been achieved in spite of its failure as an account of fact”.(p.23)
    As I warned in my email, “The Eve Pownall Judging Panel bears a heavy responsibility as Young Dark Emu is being introduced into schools, and its opinions will influence teachers ill equipped to make a critical evaluation of the book.” As serious damage is being inflicted in schools, will the CBCA attempt to ameliorate the consequences of its error and rescind the award?
    Yours sincerely, Leslie Louis.

  • lbloveday says:

    Just read on MorningMail:
    NSW Parliament has voted not to remove Pascoe’s Dark Emu from schools. Liberals, Nationals, Labor and Greens voted for the work of fiction and fibs to remain!

  • NFriar says:

    @lbloveday – Mark was interviewed both Tuesday – pre presenting Parliament yesterday.
    Here he is Wednesday.


    Here he is on 2gb this morning.


  • Harry Lee says:

    Silence of the shams? Blankets of silence?
    How about these non-noted issues:
    1. The anti-effectiveness of the criminal justice systems that put persons-of-violence, including child rapists, back on the streets and back into homes-of-the innocent, asap?
    2. Ditto the non-justice systems that wave through looters, arsonists, and “demonstrators” who waste the time and block the movements of productive, contributing citizens?
    3. And the careful ignoring of the efforts of anti-Westernist lawyers, and PR and media people who are trying to emasculate the ADF, esp the Special Forces?
    4. And the idiotic, so-called but very fake and false “humane/caring/compassionate” groupthink that brings in large numbers of certain kinds of immigrants/refugees to boost the numbers of home-grown parasites and uneducable/untrainable/violent anti-Westernist peoples?
    What is all this?
    It’s the Silence and Inevitable Death of the Dummy Country and its excessively-boozed, over-fed, over-drugged, over-entertained populace, all encouraged by 18C, the AHRC, and the marxists who dominate all the public services including the legal and education systems, and the ABC, SBS, and 90% of the commercial media, and all as allied with the ALP and Greens, and the fast-increasing numbers of careerist Libs.

  • Peter OBrien says:


    yes it’s true. What a cop-out to conflate removing a proven work of fiction from our history curriculum with banning books. Anyone can still buy and read the book but it should not be given implicit endorsement by our Education department. This is a disgrace

  • Peter Smith says:

    Only just read your post Peter. Wonderful.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Should have said. Assume it was Roger’s titling at work. Brilliant.

  • lhackett01 says:

    Peter O’Brien, your experience with the ‘Woke” ignoring you when trying to raise important issues about Aborigines is similar to that of many others, including me. Today, I have tried yet again to have a letter published in The Australian newspaper about Aborigines. Tomorrow will show whether that newspaper is prepared to publish such critical comment. I wrote:

    Aboriginal ‘issues’ continue to be presented in the news as suffering victims of ‘white’ oppression (The Australian, June 24, 2021, most of page 2).

    Two themes predominate. First is the Aboriginal disadvantage caused by the ‘Gap’. The second is the imperative for Aboriginal self-determination. Both are based on highly questionable grounds and on the overwhelming acceptance by activists and most of the media that Aborigines must be treated differently from all other Australians.

    As to the first, The ‘Gap” exists only because of the Aborigine himself. Today, many of the more remote Aboriginal groups live in conditions that most non-Aborigines would describe as unsatisfactory, if not appalling. These townships are notable for decent housing and infrastructure provided by the Government. However, with some exceptions, there is obvious social disadvantage and disintegration. Inhabitants usually have no work because they insist on living in places where there is no work, they are often sick because they live in self-generated unhygienic conditions, they and their children are under-educated because they have not gone and their children do not go to school, drug and alcohol addiction is rife, and physical and sexual violence seems in many places to be endemic. Aborigines have created those conditions, and they seem content to live as they do because it takes little effort and the Australian taxpayer funds their life-style.

    As to the second, Elliott Johnston, the Commissioner for the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, addressed the matter of self-determination by presenting his personal view in the Report. In sections 1.7.8 and 1.7.9 he declared, “There are three essential pre-requisites to the empowerment of Aboriginal society, to Aboriginal people having control over their lives and their communities. The first and the most crucial is the desire and capacity of Aboriginal people to put an end to their disadvantaged situation and to take control of their own lives. There is no other way. Only the Aboriginal people can, in the final analysis, assure their own future.” This belief assumes Aborigines are different from other Australians and must be accorded special powers and a separation from society as a whole. This is a deplorable premise.

    Aborigines must be treated as Australians, with all the benefits and responsibilities of other Australians, without discrimination.

    I ask readers of Quadrant, “Am I alone in this thinking”?

  • Tony Tea says:

    I chose to see the ostrich as a head-in-the-sand metaphor.

  • lbloveday says:

    Looks like I’ve broken the habit – 8 days without a comment to The Australian or any other News Corp site.

  • Harry Lee says:

    The practical discipline of strategy says:
    Focus on your enemy’s technical capabilities and ideology and work unceasingly to comprehend what your enemy is doing to defeat you. This includes the requirement to understand what your enemy does to divert your attention from all the threats you face.
    Chuckle, and first you must recognise and accept that you do indeed have enemies whose great purpose is to defeat you, to confiscate your assets, and to enslave you, or to wipe you out.
    Australia is now The Dummy Country because it suffers from a severe lack of strategists and a severe lack of people who could be bothered to expend effort to save the joint, even if they could see that the enemy is now within the gates and now controls most of the commanding heights.

  • Stephen Due says:

    lhackett01: You are not alone.
    The only practical course is to promote the integration of people of Aboriginal descent into the mainstream of Australian society. There is no excuse for government policy that discriminates on the basis of race, Yet that is what is happening, creating in effect a separate Aboriginal society, fully-funded by the taxpayer. This has been most damaging for the very people it is supposed to be helping most.
    A lot more could be said. A perpetual irritation for me is the sight of the Aboriginal flag being flown beside the Australian flag outside state and federal government buildings. The message this sends is that Australia comprises two separate nations – one of Aboriginals, represented by their flag, the other of everybody else, represented by the Australian flag.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Stephen Due, couldn’t agree more

  • Lonsdale says:

    Stephen Due, ditto

  • lbloveday says:

    Nyunggai Warren Mundine in The Australian:
    “The university should move his writings to the fiction section of its library and change his title to professor of fiction literature.”

  • lbloveday says:

    The moderators must have been half-asleep – they allowed 4 references to “Bitter Harvest” (as at 08:30)

  • Tony Tea says:

    Mundine puts Pascoe on the canvas in today’s Australian.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Yes, they published my comments too. The mods must be reading the room.

  • lbloveday says:

    For those without The Australian access, Mundine’s article is available without paywall at:

  • john2 says:

    Just posted this comment to TheOz Mundine article: “Where were voices like Mundine’s back in 2019 when the fact-checks had been done and the verdict was already in? By then, Dark Emu’s revisionist “facts” had been comprehensively dismantled and exposed as creative fiction in Peter O’Brien’s “Bitter Harvest”. It is only now that a critique has come from the Left that the privately sceptical feel safe enough to join the growing pile-on of public Emu denunciations, assuring us that they “knew it all along”.”
    Will be interesting to see if it gets up.

  • john2 says:

    Yay, my comment to TheOz got up!
    A further thought:

    The magic formula that enabled the Sutton and Walshe critique to cut through into the MSM and (hopefully) initiate the long overdue unravelling of Pascoe’s spun yarn, was two-fold:
    1. They are card-carrying “progressives” (would have been a non-starter otherwise), and
    2. They exposed Pascoe’s “euro-centrism” in valuing the agricultural paradigm over the now beatified (posthumously, as ever) hunter-gatherer culture. This was the clincher.

    It appears that Pascoe’s only misstep was inadvertantly to assume that positing a settled agricultural existence for Australia’s ancient inhabitants would help to finally banish any vestigial Terra Nullius arguments, and that it would lead to greater respect for the original inhabitants as being more “advanced” than had hitherto been acknowledged.

    Pascoe must have missed the first commandment of Revolutionary Historical Revisionism:
    Thou shalt cast no aspersions (whether directly or indirectly, express or implied) on the (neo-Rousseauian) nobility of the hunter-gatherer.

    It is not surprising, in hindsight, that a person lacking the sophistication and political correctness of a professional historian should have misjudged this subtlety. Perhaps one day, indigenous people may wonder whether they need enemies when they have friends like Pascoe.

  • rosross says:


    There is no group called Aborigine. There are Australians with Aboriginal ancestry ranging from 100%, very few of those, to less than 1%, plenty of those, with most so minimally Aboriginal in ancestry they are not Aboriginal.
    They are descended from between 350 to 500 different groups/clans, some tribes, here in 1788, without a common language, generally at war with each other and in turn descended from earlier and different waves of migration and colonisation.
    There was not one Aboriginal group in 1788 and there most certainly is not today with thousands of variations now existing on the 18th century theme.

  • rosross says:

    @ Stephendue,

    The vast majority of the roughly 700,000 Australians who register Aboriginal ancestry are well and truly assimilated into the broader community and have been for generations. Most are more Anglo-European in ancestry than Aboriginal and most are in mixed marriages. Most are doing fine, many better than the average.

    The ones still struggling, a tiny minority, are those in remote communities who are least assimilated into the modern world and remain trapped in backward tribal belief systems. There are some others still struggling because they are welfare-dependent, but they too are a small group. The majority have been integrating and assimilating for more than two centuries.

    The British considered anyone half Aboriginal and half European to be European unless they opted to live a tribal life, in which case they came under different regulations and were eligible for different and additional benefits. The goal was assimilation into the modern world and that actually succeeded very well until the more recent decades of division and separation, created by the well-intentioned but deluded.

  • lbloveday says:

    Thanks (for the second link; I don’t have a FB account, necessary to access the first).

  • jbhackett says:

    Tony Tea and others: my attempts to have a letter published in the Oz is at 3:0. Apparently any mention of Peter O’Brien and Quadrant results in an immediate trip to the rubbish bin. Any mention of a 7-year battle for truth likewise. Sorry everyone-we’re all banished to the naughty corner.

    L. Louis: Today I too have contacted the Children’s Book Council requesting that the Eve Pownall Award be removed from Young Dark Emu and Bruce Pascoe as it is fiction and was not eligible.

  • Harry Lee says:

    Sure, the Pascoe thing is bad.
    And my respect to those who are petitioning their libraries and literary bodies to even things up in the fantasy Vs fact debate.
    But next time you hear a public servant or journalist or academic, of whatever rank or formal role, say that the major terrorist threat is from White Supremacists, know that a sham/scam/diversion operation is in progress.

  • lhackett01 says:

    rosross, I use the term Aborigine as defined to be a person, animal, or plant that has been in a country or region from earliest times. You are absolutely correct in your description of the history and variability of Aboriginality in Australia.

    It is the definition of Aboriginality that is a problem. It is so loose as to be almost meaningless. For accessing government benefits, Aboriginality is defined as:
    a. being of Aboriginal descent,
    b. identifying as an Aboriginal person, and
    c. being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly
    All three criteria must apply.

    However, the Courts use various definitions depending on circumstances. Some judgements have declared that, “Aboriginal descent alone is sufficient,… that once it is established that a person is ‘non-trivially’ of Aboriginal descent, then that person is Aboriginal within the ordinary meaning of that word. Neither self-identification nor community recognition is necessary.”

    “The courts, in interpreting statutory definitions in federal legislation, have emphasised the importance of descent in establishing Aboriginal identity, but have recognised that self-identification and community recognition may be relevant to establishing descent, and hence Aboriginal identity, for the purposes of specific legislation.”

    I state these and many other facts about Aborigines in my paper, “Aborigines, the Constitution, and the Voice”, freely available at https://www.scribd.com/document/458064355/.

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