Bruce Pascoe’s Impossible Challenge

Melbourne University is bracing for another debacle involving its would-be Aboriginal and recently appointed Professor Bruce Pascoe. Actually it’s not “bracing” at all – that’s a nonsense word hack journos fling about with gay abandon. But there is a fresh debacle in the offing.

Pascoe, Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture, is the university’s exemplar of business success.[i] He stands tall with UoM’s other Enterprise Professors, like business/technology titans Len Sciacca, Hugh Williams, John Pollaers, Dr Andrew Cuthbertson AO and Greg Foliente.

The university announced in September, 2020 the appointment of Pascoe to the $200,000 a year post. That’s assuming Pascoe’s full-time. The university declines to be transparent on this question.

The university also vouched that Pascoe is a genuine First Nations guy, describing him as “Indigenous author and advocate”, [ii] a description that seems lately to have been rowed back more than somewhat. On its “Find an Expert” page one discovers merely that “Bruce Pascoe is a “writer and farmer”. He has published 36 book (sic) including Dark Emu which won the NSW Premier’s Award for Literature in 2016 and Young Dark Emu which won the both the Booksellers Association Prize and the CBCA Non-fiction award in 2020.” Quadrant’s Peter O’Brien exposed an entirely different picture of the richly garlanded fauxborigine with his Bitter Harvest in 2019, and then came  respected academics Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe with their Melbourne University Press tome last June, Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate. Pascoe’s weird but immensely lucrative thesis is that pre-contact Aborigines were agriculturists living in sizeable stone towns and keeping their livestock (bandicoots? dingos?) in pens.

That’s all old news, you might well complain. But I do have fresh news for UoM Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell, who I’m sure has the university’s reputation close to his heart.

The university’s appointment announcement, in bigging-up Pascoe’s credentials, included his directorship of Twofold Aboriginal Corporation at Eden, NSW.

Twofold at the time of its 2019-20 annual report was in a precarious state indeed.

The corporation is a $3 million-income charity servicing the low-income Aboriginal community of Bega Valley Shire with housing, aged care and a plethora of other subsidised and disability services. Auditor Colin Salt of Tanner Salt, Pambula, last March 11, 2021 testified (emphasis added):

Material Uncertainty Related to Going Concern

We draw attention to Note 1 in the financial report, which indicates that the Corporation incurred a net loss of $466,107 during the year ended June 30, 2020, and, as of that date, the Corporation’s current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $542,937. These events or conditions, along with other matters set forth in Note 1, indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern. Our opinion is not modified in respect of this matter.

 So, naturally, I went fishing for the 2020-21 accounts, but they were running badly late. It emerged that Pascoe and his fellow directors have been blaming COVID for the delay and obtained permission from the Office of Aboriginal Corporations (ORIC) to run an AGM and file accounts by January 31, 2022.

So on February 8 I checked Twofold’s website to access the new accounts. No joy. The website was down for maintenance. I then checked Twofold’s filings at the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations site – no 2020-21 accounts there either. I sent ORIC this email:

Could you tell me please whether Twofold has been granted a further extension to file, if not is ORIC taking any action to expedite the filing?

ORIC’s response from Lisa Hugg, Section manager, ORIC Communications Section, lobbed at the sprightly time of 7am on February 10. Here it is:

The corporation has lodged it’s (sic) general report and financial report. You can see these in the corporation’s documents on the public register:https://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=100028

Call me an egotist but my email might have caused the sudden appearance of the long-delayed Twofold accounts at ORIC’s website. I asked Ms Hugg about it and she replied 

The reports were received on 3/2/2022 by email. We do not instantly publish reports when they are received, they are uploaded into the registry and some data entry occurs too.

I’m sure UoM’s Dr Maskell and Associate Provost Professor Marcia Langton are dying to know whether the biggest company of their Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture is now out of the woods, its precarious fortunes turned around and Bruce Pascoe’s reputation as an exemplary businessman no longer in any doubt. I wish this Quadrant Online article could comfort them, but no, fertiliser is still hitting the fan at Pascoe’s Twofold Aboriginal Corporation. After its $83,398 loss in 2018-19, and $466,107 loss in 2019-20, its loss in 2020-21 was an even more impressive $498,690.

The audit report by partner J.G.Ryan of Thomas Davis & Co[iii] of Sydney says (my emphasis):

Material Uncertainty Related to Going Concern

We draw attention to Note 1 to the financial report, which indicates that the Corporation incurred a loss of $498,690 for the year ended 30 June 2021 and, as of that date the Corporation’s current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $894,957. Due to these conditions this indicates a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern. Our opinion is not modified in respect of this matter.

There’s nothing better than killing two birds with one stone, so when I had emailed ORIC’s Ms Hugg in regard to the accounts, I added a question to clear up once and for all, officially, whether Bruce Pascoe is the genuine Aboriginal article. The Twofold Corporation’s constitution requires all its members to be Aboriginal. Pascoe is a member and therefore he must have persuaded the board he is Aboriginal.

ORIC is very down on any non-Aboriginal joining Twofold. Back in 2019, the Registrar appointed as Examiners of Twofold Mr Alan Eldridge, Ms Vickie Newton and Ms Barbara Eldridge of Australian Indigenous Business Services Pty Ltd. Their job was to check Twofold’s accounts and management since 2017. They reported on March 11, 2020,  that things there were generally sound and satisfactory. But they found some flaws and wrote,

The weaknesses and minor matters are important enough to be brought to the attention of the directors but not so serious as to require a formal compliance notice to be issued by the Registrar under section 439-20 of the CATSI Act.

There followed:


Member eligibility

    1. Contrary to rule 3.1, the corporation has accepted a non-aboriginal person as a member.

The examiners reported that:

  • there is a non-aboriginal person entered on the register of members. They were advised at the time that this person was on the register due to work she had previously done in the past for the corporation.

Since the examination, the corporation has advised that the member in question will be removed from the register of members in accordance with section 150-20 of the CATSI Act.

Given that the ORIC Registrar and Examiners are so interested in Twofold members’ Aboriginality, my further emailed question to Ms Hugg was:

Mr Bruce Pascoe is stated as a member of the Corporation, and members are required to be Aboriginal. I note you have previously required a non-Aboriginal member to be taken off the Twofold Corporation’s member roll.

Mr Pascoe has never been able to name an Aboriginal ancestor and all his relevant ancestors appear to have been British residents.

He has made multiple claims to ancestry from various Aboriginal nations but has never named such an ancestor.

In view of your previous action disbarring a non-Aboriginal from Twofold membership, can you please tell me whether you have taken any action regarding Mr Pascoe’s membership, if so with what result?

 Thanks, Tony Thomas

Ms Hugg replied:

The rule book of Twofold Aboriginal Corporation says that if a member is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person their membership can only be cancelled by members at a general meeting passing a special resolution to do so. The corporation has 14 days from the date of a decision about membership to reflect the change in the corporation’s register of members.[iv]

So, or as it seems to me, ORIC is sidestepping the very issue its examiners were so concerned about in their 2020 report, when they forced Twofold to kick a different (non-Aboriginal) person off the Twofold register. I think ORIC needs to attend to its charter to promote good management at Aboriginal entities. Specifically, it needs to ensure Twofold is abiding by its own constitution and enrolling only Aboriginals. Of course, Professor Pascoe might indeed be a First Nations stalwart with stacks of Aboriginal ancestors and, if so, doubtless he will promptly name them to the Registrar and Twofold. I will then have a dark emu’s egg all over my face.

Maybe this saga won’t make any impression on Melbourne University. When I checked six months ago with the uni’s PR, Amelia Swinburne, UoM was clutching Pascoe to its bosom as if with Super Glue: 

Bruce is a respected member of our Faculty and makes a valuable contribution to our academic community, and we will not be reviewing his appointment.

Tony Thomas’s collection “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available from publisher Connor Court

[i] As the university’s official guidelines say,

Alongside and distinct from traditional academic appointments, Enterprise appointment titles are a mechanism to enable the University to recruit industry leaders and experts who can enrich and offer valuable contributions to the University’s teaching, research and engagement activities through their industry knowledge, expertise and practice. 

Enterprise appointments are highly selective to ensure appointees bring distinctive knowledge and skills that would be otherwise unavailable to the institution. Professorial-level Enterprise appointments are highly distinguished positions.

[ii] Mainly Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian, Pascoe’s said. But he’s also said he’s Wiradjuri, Punniler Panner, Koori, a descendant of the Ballarat and Geelong Aboriginal communities, and from a tribe bordering the Wathaurong of Geelong and Colac Victoria, along with a South Australian Aboriginal connection. He discovered he was Aboriginal at the age of 30 — no, make that 18, — no, make that 9, when he was speaking the Wathaurong language with his family.

[iii] Twofold disengaged from its previous auditor Colin Salt../

[iv] Ms Hugg’s reply included a point that ORIC’s cited document showing Pascoe to be a member of Twofold might be obsolete. He was certainly listed at Twofold a couple of months ago, and the website is now unavailable during maintenance.

18 thoughts on “Bruce Pascoe’s Impossible Challenge

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Well done Tony. Apart from Piers Akerman, Sunday morning is usually a wasteland as far as current affairs commentary is concerned, so it was great to imbibe my first coffee of the day in contemplation of another of your stalwart efforts to expose the Ersatz Professor. It staggers how much of a protected species he is. I often wonder if it has occurred to his cheer squad to themselves wonder why Pascoe has never taken it into his head to commence legal action against all those who have called him out. We have given him plenty of justification. If it were just me, he could say O’Brien is just a nonentity not worth the trouble. But it’s not just me or you. Andrew Bolt is hardly a nonentity and he has been burnt by racial discrimination legal action before. Of course they know he is a fraud. They just have too much invested in him – an intellectual Ponzi scheme.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Tony as usual. Your exposès are always a pleasure to read for me, not only for the prose style but the back up references. The whole rotten Pascoe saga has also reinforced in my mind just how much effort has been put into the destruction of our historical national beginnings by the various left wing educational departments. The non mention, or playing down of all the great work and sacrifice of our settlers and explorers ,who of course were the real builders of our little Nation Australia, and sneaky sort of replacement of it all with a fictional aboriginal history came home suddenly to me, when I read that supposedly grown responsible men like Tim Paine and Pat Cummins, our old and new beaut Captains of the National Test Team….actually believe the nonsense in Dark Emu, at least the article I read in the paper reported it as such. They obviously haven’t had the wit to read Peter’s book Bitter Harvest, at least if they have I haven’t read anything about it ?

  • DougD says:

    Given Pascoe’s protected status, perhaps all that can be done is to ensure that he is always described, [respectfully, of course, and accurately], as ” Melbourne University Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture”. Our premier University needs to have him permanently and publicly hung around its neck as a constant reminder of the true level of its current academic and intellectual standards.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Tony should beware a face full of Dark Emu egg. One of the most salutary lessons of my otherwise mostly idyllic youth was to treat emu eggs with great respect. For some reason beyond my ken, my father had found an emu’s nest on the farm and had brought home an emu egg. It lay on a bench in the kitchen for months, presumably waiting for him to get a round tuit and to drill it out and remove the contents. He never did.
    So, on one extremely hot western NSW summer day, I was dozing on my bed in my room adjacent to the kitchen when I was startled by a loud explosion. I immediately thought my father had fired the shotgun at something from the adjacent verandah. But I was soon overcome by the most powerful literal rotten egg stench, emanating from the kitchen which had been thoroughly redecorated by the exploding emu egg. It took hours to clean the floor to ceiling mess, and weeks for the stench to disappear.
    Beware rotten emu eggs.

  • rod.stuart says:

    One suspects that Professor Pascoe caught the Chancellor doing something very very naughty.

  • subrosa says:

    The rot set in at Melbourne University long ago. Some may disagree, but the Melbourne Model changed the MU from an institution that valued the pursuit of knowledge, with all of its obscure disciplines, to a degree machine without any depth. They say it themselves: “[the Melbourne Model] streamlines the way staff work at the University of Melbourne.” Streamline always means cuts and if my memory stands correct, many idiosyncratic academics were fired…along with their dedication to truth. Universities now turn out deranged activists and ideologues, and who better than Bruce Pascoe to serve those ends?

  • wdr says:

    Pascoe is the tip of the iceberg of a truly gigantic misrepresentation of the actual nature of pre-Contact Aboriginal society- and probably not the only one to profit from this gigantic distortion. How many “real” professors of history here, and other senior academics, to say nothing of public servants, etc. are distorting the actual nature of the societies of these nomadic hunter-gatherers?

  • geoff_brown1 says:

    I’ve seen the withering contempt that Aborigines, who in less enlightened times were described as “full – bloods”, can display to those who they regard as falsely claiming to be Aboriginal. Why has Bruce Pascoe escaped such contempt, so far?

  • Tony Tea says:

    “Why has Bruce Pascoe escaped such contempt, so far?”

    Because Progressive Australia have overinvested in what they hoped was a golden goose, and now don’t know how to concede the goose is a dead duck.

  • Daffy says:

    There are a couple of pointers to untruths in any claim: change of story is a big red flag. Another big red flag is over-elaboration, particularly when it reaches the depths of Baroque complexity that Pascoe seems to have reached. The intricacies and wild diversity of his claimed lineage are getting more and more complex and unverifiable the longer he talks. And that’s the reason for complexity in most unreliable witnesses: avoiding verification. Just sayin’.

  • abrogard says:

    The whole thing from go to whoa is just a scam. They all know that. We should all know it but ‘we’ include many sadly deluded and carefully, slyly, self serving people.
    I thought of a way of putting it the other day:

    There’s a person of typical mixed DNA staring out at a typical Australian scene anything from main street in a rural town to Sydney’s CBD.

    And they are saying, today, everywhere, essentially:
    ‘This all should be ours’
    Isn’t that right?
    That’s what it boils down to.
    They are just looking at any part of today and saying:

    ‘This should be ours’

    Because they claim to have partially descended from some people who lived here when it was a stone age place.

    And the refutations are simple and obvious, surely?
    We’re all descended from people who lived when it was stone age land somewhere. Gives none of us any rights.
    For instance.

    Why would you ever, ever think it might?

    Never said but, I believe, the logical heart of the matter is the assumption that the newer tribes from Europe having made this it has robbed those tribes (and their partial descendants) of their opportunity (right?) to make this themselves.

    And that’s the hub and the rub. For there’s no way in a million years they would ever have made this.

    ‘This’ modern world can only be made, was only made, by the complicated evolution commensurate on world wide interaction between peoples, civilizations, technologies, sciences.

    No one people ever made ‘this’. No one people ever could have.

    It is pathetic and ludicrous and childish to argue that they ever could have/would have and have ever been denied their opportunity.

    Rather the truth is exactly the reverse and what’s due is overwhelming gratitude and thanks giving that they were found and incorporated into the ‘wealth of nations’ that put together all this and is still hard at work trying to make it better.

    What they are is utterly false. Utterly ridiculous and nonsensical. So why, then? Well simple self interest in the particular.

    Overall they profit not. But individuals and groups here and there profit mightily.

    Remember ATSIC ? As was ever will be.

    A collection of warring tribes devoted to opportunistic hunter gathering doesn’t change its nature wholly in a few generations.

    Mainly, yes, in the main, yes. The vast majority of mixed bloods are totally assimilated and outside of all this nonsense.

    But there’s a minority, a vociferous minority of clever activists and provocateurs who know a good band wagon when they see one.

    It is very sad that Universities, supposedly the epitome of reason and learning have fallen into that category but apparently they have.

    It’s a simple nonsense. Populated entirely by scoundrels. Entirely. From our point of view. From their own point of view: cunning, skilful, self interested hunter gatherers. All the way to the top of the university.

    And that’s why it’s pointless to engage in debate with them in an attempt to enlighten them. They need no enlightening. They know full well what they’re doing and every earnest attempt you make to ‘sit down’ and discuss with them is another simple victory for them.

    The whole thing hides a massive ‘elephant’ :

    When are these people going to give thanks ?

  • gilmay97 says:

    It is obvious why he is wearing a nappy, His books are full of it.

  • glenda ellis says:

    Sad really. So many Aboriginal groups do need help/care/support. But it means the end of their traditional ways, and they simply have to get on board the bus of progress or be left to wither and die. Pascoe and his ilk will fight tooth and nail to maintain the ‘old’ ways because that is their livelihood. UoM is being used as are a whole lot of institutions. How much does a Welcome to Country cost?

  • pgang says:

    One of the key goals of socialism is cultural destruction. Our socialist establishment (which includes top tier industry, all major political parties, the news media, places of ‘learning’, and churches), will of course elevate anybody who is willing to re-write cultural history to its detriment.
    From the socialist perspective the ‘Pasco-Fiasco’ makes perfect sense. He has become an untouchable of the inner sanctum of Chosen Ones.

  • DougD says:

    Glenda – from the National Tertiary Educational website:
    There are no relevant agreements that
    suitably cover Welcome to Country, A&TSI
    artistic performances and ceremonies.
    For a Welcome to Country ceremony, the rate
    of payment should be no less than $500
    (2019 rate).

  • wstarck says:

    That Pascoe is an Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture is intriguing. However,
    creating an entire new academic discipline out of a subject which appears to have little or no established body of knowledge, nor even any evidence of actual existence must surely deserve recognition as an exceptional achievement of academic enterprise.

  • Stephen says:

    Tony, if Pasco has received any Government money as a result of falsely claiming to to be an Aboriginal he should be jailed for fraud. The Commonwealth should be asked to investigate.

  • en passant says:

    As Peter O’Brien and Marc Hendricx(?) well know, we three challenged a ‘well-respected’ real scientist on the ancestry of the Cornish Pascoe to no avail. She would hear no evidence of rebuttal, no matter how factual.

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