A Minister in Need of Remedial Education

To: The Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC,
Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning

Dear Minister Mitchell,
I have received a copy of a response that you provided to a question by the Hon Mark Latham MLC concerning the use as a history resource in NSW schools of the book Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.  In your response you state:

Dark Emu advances an argument by Professor Bruce Pascoe for reconsidering the hunter-gatherer description for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. Professor Pascoe’s bibliography cites a range of primary and secondary source material to support his claims, including a number of colonial diaries.

Dark Emu is not a mandated text. If used, it is treated as a secondary historical source and is taught through a critical lens. History teachers provide opportunities for students to interrogate claims as part of the discipline of history.

The fact that Dark Emu is not mandated is neither here nor there.  Dark Emu, as I have demonstrated in my book Bitter Harvest – a copy of which I have included, is largely a work of fiction and should not be allowed anywhere near the history syllabus.  It is true that Mr Pascoe cites a range of sources but his use of them is deliberately deceptive.  In fact, his bibliography lists 295 titles, suggesting a work of great authority.  But Mr Pascoe makes use of only a third of those titles in his explanatory notes.   The remainder appear to be included in the bibliography merely for show.  That, alone, gives you some idea of the seriousness with which Mr Pascoe approaches his ‘research’.

But to return to the Pascoe argument itself, let me assure you that it is overwhelmingly ‘smoke and mirrors’.  Pascoe routinely and deliberately misrepresents his sources.  In one example, detailed in pages 17-20 of Bitter Harvest, Pascoe claims that, on one occasion, Thomas Mitchell counted the houses in a ‘village’ and estimated a population of 1,000.  That is simply not true. That detail does not appear in Mitchell’s journal.  This claim is a pure and deliberate fabrication on Pascoe’s part.   Pascoe further claims that both Sturt and Mitchell, on a number of occasions, noticed villages of 1,000 or more people.   That, also, is untrue, as I show in the Appendix to my book, which lists every occasion in which Sturt and Mitchell encountered ‘villages’ of more than six or so huts.  There is not one instance of a village of anywhere near 1,000 people in any of both explorer’s journals.

Another egregious example of the deceptive technique used by Pascoe is covered in pages 23 to 25 of Bitter Harvest.  In this instance he conflates two quite separate incidents to create a false impression of a vast multitude of people harvesting a cultivated field.

Another of Pascoe’s trademarks is to greatly exaggerate the extent of Aboriginal engineering accomplishment.

He claims that the Aborigines ‘built a vast fish trap near Bermagui’ and that it ‘comprised massive boulders, which were moved into position using long poles lashed to the stones – the natural buoyancy provided by the full tide helped move the boulders to create walls.’  This improbable story is attributed to Max Harrison, although he is not quoted directly.  I have shown in pages 91-94 of Bitter Harvest that this story is almost certainly a fabrication.

One final example.  Pascoe describes one native dam as ‘an extraordinary construction’ comprising a ‘clay and granite wall 1.8 metres high … and the catchment was so good that even the slightest shower would result in a substantial collection of clean water’.  The discovery and description of this dam in WA is attributed to SG Hubbe.  What Pascoe fails to include in his description is that Hubbe also observed that the dam was only 1.5m long and 1.5m wide, giving it a volume of about 4,000 litres, about the same as an average back yard water tank.  Also, Hubbe did not talk about a ‘substantial quantity of fresh water’ but merely that ‘the slightest shower would add to its contents’.  This is not, by any measure, an ‘extraordinary construction’.  This example of Pascoe’s deception is covered in page 67 of my book.

I hope you will forgive me for going into so much detail, but I feel it is necessary in order to dispel the misconception that Pascoe is, at worst, misguided in his interpretation of his source material.  My contention is that he routinely misrepresents it.  When Mark Latham describes Dark Emu as a ‘work of fiction’ that is not hyperbole.  It is a fact.

There are many examples of this type of misrepresentation but more importantly is the direct evidence that Pascoe provides in support of his contention that Aborigines were essentially sedentary agriculturalists rather than nomadic hunter/gatherers.  That evidence is scarce to non-existent. Within Dark Emu:

There are no eye-witness accounts of Aborigines actually tilling soil.

There are just three accounts of sowing of seed, all small-scale broadcast by hand and all within the twentieth century.

There is no evidence presented of Aborigines irrigating crops – merely some suggestion that, on occasions, they did.

There is not one instance of an Aboriginal tribe permanently occupying a village adjacent, or in close proximity, to a cultivated field.

There is no evidence of domestication of animals, except dingoes, probably used for hunting.

You say that ‘History teachers provide opportunities for students to interrogate claims as part of the discipline of history.’  I would like to believe that is true of Dark Emu but given the extraordinary lengths to which Pascoe’s apologists have gone to protect him, I am not confident.  Pascoe has also been authoritatively challenged on the Dark Emu Exposed website but, as far as I am aware, at the moment there is only one serious text which challenges Dark Emu and that is my book Bitter Harvest. I ask that you read it, or at least those sections I have outlined above. 

A full reading would, I hope, convince you that Dark Emu is a serious fraud perpetrated upon the Australian public and, more reprehensibly, upon the education sector.  However, if you judge Dark Emu as suitable to remain as a recommended text in the history curriculum, then might I suggest that Bitter Harvest should also be included, in the spirit of history teachers providing opportunities for students to “interrogate” claims as part of the discipline of history.

Yours Sincerely,
Peter O’Brien

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here                                             

21 thoughts on “A Minister in Need of Remedial Education

  • nfw says:

    Yeah right, primary school chidren are going to question the lies in Dark Emu. As Jim Hacker would say: the minster is completely house trained. House trained by the Marxists running for what passes as education.

  • padmmdpat says:

    The Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC? Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning ? She wouldn’t have had a place in Nancy Mitford’s warming cupboard where only the hons – as opposed to the counter hons were admitted. And those gels weren’t sent to schools! But they set society on fire. La belle Mitchell? Counter Hon.

  • Blair says:

    “Dark Emu is not a mandated text. If used, it is treated as a secondary historical source and is taught through a critical lens.”
    Who provides these critical lens and who wears them?

  • Harry Lee says:

    The marxist/greenist/anti-Westernists control all the education systems, and the mainstream media.
    Suggestion: Groups of non-marxist/pro-Western parents and other supports can establish weekend schools which help kids develop their knowledge bases and their intellectual-emotional systems -so that they can find their way through the Terrible Anti-Westernist Wasteland that the ALP-union-Greenist-Woke-ist forces have created.
    There is no easy, magical way out of this marxist-inspired Anti-Human Abyss. Hard work and sacrifice are required -by Ordinary People.

  • garryevans41 says:

    The Minister’s recommendation of “Dark Emu” to provide opportunities for students to interrogate claims as part of the discipline of history is a sad commentary on the gullibility of our political class.

    Robert Charroux’s “One hundred thousand years of man’s unknown history” (1963) is another work, which without verifiable facts, or scientific method is hard to prove or disprove.

  • Wyndham Dix says:

    In the West at least we are bearing the fruit of growing and now overwhelming female control of the education system.

    It is little to be wondered that those of us of riper years are now surrounded by more than one generation of mostly beta males, dominated by females of the same era driven by the doctrine “anything you can do I can do better”. Such as aborting more foetuses than the combined deaths of two world wars, in the process refusing to breed at replacement levels which, if continued, ensures extinction of the species.

    ‘We are not baby machines’ is their cry in an age when the lure of money is irresistible to them and the sheath at the base of their abdomen is almost exclusively for pleasure.

    Where now the males who taught Grade III boys eight years old about Pheidippedes and the plain of Marathon, Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules, and others?

    And those who by word and deed taught boys that in adulthood they were to defend the virtue of women, and if needs be, defend hearth and home against would-be invaders? Contrast the feminised apology for a defence force we have today.

    Coincidentally, Sunday night was the 78th anniversary of Operation Chastise, one of the great feats of arms of World War II. No female known to me would have the physical and mental stamina to endure that mission which cost the lives of 53 of 133 airmen who took part. Nor would one of them, or I, have willingly exposed any female to such hazards. Call me passé if you must.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    Yes he’s been proved a fraud for a good five years now – with Peter O’Brien’s scholarly treatise – ‘Bitter Harvest’ delivering the final ‘coup de grace’. Yet he persists, it seems, in the mediocre minds of the blessed – Ministers for Education prevaricate for him (at their peril) Melb University makes him a ‘Professor” of Aboriginal Agriculture (as if he were Gillian Triggs receiving the Voltaire award for Free Speech) Marcia Langton swears by his references and academic scholarship (at her peril). Geoffrey Blainey says that the ‘agricultural revolution’ never reached Australia – it got to New Guinea and New Zealand and even the Torres Straight Islands – but not Australia – That why the Maori were able to negotiate the Treaty of Wytangi and the Aboriginals could not. As if by faith, they worship him as their new found hope – yet he is clearly a fraud – from top to bottom. Not just mistaken – but a deliberate calculated fraud with more front than Myers.There is a large chip on Bruce Pascoe’s shoulder and a heavy weight of resentment weighing down his vision. He is a false prophet of the most dangerous kind and should be banished from our land as an enemy of the people .He betrays us.

  • Stephen Due says:

    The assumption that everything previously taught as history by generations of reputable historians needs to be questioned by school children is ludicrous. The favorite mantra of the Woke is that everything is a matter of opinion – unless it is their opinion, in which case it is the ‘expert consensus’.
    Consider the idea that every argument, no matter how illogical or ill-informed, deserves consideration. This is about the most extreme anti-intellectual position an educator can adopt. It means that no subject can be taught without wasting hours in serious consideration of views that are not worth the time of day.
    In reality this position is only a smokescreen to obscure the anti-Western agenda that prevails in the education system and the media. After all, anyone who questions ‘global warming’ is not welcomed as a contributor to debate, but is classed as a ‘denier’ and excluded from the public arena. A teacher who fails to affirm the trans agenda is liable to be sacked, rather than promoted, for presenting an alternative viewpoint. Whoever questions the official narrative on Covid is accused of spreading ‘misinformation’. And anyone who suggests (what is actually most likely) that the virus was made in a lab is labelled a ‘conspiracy theorist’ whose opinions do not deserve to be taken seriously.
    This anti-intellectual mindset is what is really behind the promotion of Bruce Pascoe. It has nothing to do with reason, evidence, or debate – or real education – and everything to do with promoting progressive ideology to children.

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    There are two possible explanations for Minister Mitchell’s response. The first, and most likely, is that it has been written by a bureaucrat who, being a civil servant in the Education Dept. inevitably subscribes to identity/woke politics. In other words Minister Mitchell is either ignorant and/or lazy. The second possibility is that Minister Mitchell herself subscribes to identity/woke politics and, very much like NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, doesn’t belong in a Coalition government, let alone as a Minister. The dismal reality of the NSW Liberal Party is best illustrated by the fact that the only MP pushing back against this poison is the former leader of the federal ALP.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Ian, I agree with your first proposition, which is why I wrote the letter. Not that I think she’s going to push back against bureaucrat who snowed her – unless, of course, she’s of stronger mettle than all her other colleagues in the Lib/Nat coalition with the possible exception of Matt Canavan. And your point about Mark Latham is spot on. Who’d have thought back in 2004 he would emerge as the hope of the conservative side?

  • Peter Dare says:

    I interpret the Minister’s reply to Peter O’Brien as meaning, “The matters you have raised are receiving attention.” And that will be the last you will ever hear of it. You are right Mr O’Brien. She has been “snowed” by her bureaucrats.

  • pgang says:

    I don’t think the socialists who have taken over the nation particularly care that it is a fabrication. Rather, what is important is the damage it can do to our social fabric and historical perspective. The aim is to destroy our society, not to nurture it. Dark Emu is the perfect tool.

  • Greg Williams says:

    The problem with Mark Latham is that he has a brain, and plenty of common sense, a most unusual pairing in today’s pantheon of politicians. In the early years of this century, the government here in WA attempted to bring in Outcomes Based Education to all levels of primary and secondary schooling. A fellow teacher and I started a lobby group (PLATOWA) opposing this planned introduction to high school curricula. In the few years that the protest ran, until the government finally came to its senses and canned it, I got to meet with the Education Ministers of the day and their opposition counterparts. What staggered me was how little they knew of their portfolio, and how reliant they were on the agenda of the bureaucrats running education. They (the politicians) were essentially echo chambers for the bureaucrats. The COVID response, the Renewable energy response, and others all seem to be pretty much the same.

  • Harry Lee says:

    To me, it is evidence that actually Western Civ has already collapsed -that those who can see the destruction caused by the Left believe that it all can be halted. perhaps reversed, simply by publishing articles that note the destruction.
    For evidence that public notification can halt Leftist destruction of our economy and social order, note that, over the brief history of Australia as occupied by a people who can read and write and count beyond three, esp since 1918, there have been many public warnings that the marxists were moving into all the institutions. Yet this fact drew no decisive counter-action.
    Oh and look at the leftist-caused non-functionality of the criminal justice system. We are forced to pretend that confiscation of guns from law-abiding citizens has eliminated threats to public safety that are caused by the weak punishments and non-incarceration of persons of violence, including drunk, drugged and otherwise insane drivers, child rapists and yer plain sadistic murderers.
    Really, we are sunk -already.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    Stephen Due – welcome to the Post Modernist Intellect , if you can credibly call it that. And the politicians scratch around wondering why our measured education levels are slipping well behind many countries around the globe, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe. Indeed, research indicates the average IQ of millenials in western countries has fallen below that of previous generations – and with Critical Race Theory now in vogue it will only get worse with a generational cohort of activist sheeple blinded through their victimhood prism.

  • Harry Lee says:

    Ian MacKenzie -the third and most likely explanation is that the Lib-Nat politicians – at Fed, State, Council levels- are simply following the Great Greenist Idiotic vote. Just as they are following the multiculturalist, anti-Westernist parasite vote.

  • James Franklin says:

    A lot of Cornish patsies about, aren’t there?

  • DG says:

    How the minister’s office typically works:
    Mail arrives from non-donor: junior clerk (called an ‘advisor’) put it in routine pile. Another (or the same clerk) then gives it a quick scan (as in ‘read’) and drafts reply: ‘minister thanks you for your interest, the matters you raise are under active consideration.’ If the clerk has any nerve will write ‘and will then be ignored’. Minister signs letter without reading, as its in the ‘routine’ pile, confident that the chief of staff is managing the corro (as we call it).
    This might change if there are many letters making similar points.
    So, don’t hold your breath.
    Occasionally my fellow public servants and I would entertain ourselves by writing ‘real’ letters: either the one that represented the true reply, or the one that represented OUR true response. These often went like. ‘Thank you for your interesting and amusing letter. The minister has no interest in ideas that the CoS or Director-General has not come up with. The minister suggests you put your next letter at the bottom of the budgie cage instead of mailing it.’

  • lhackett01 says:

    Peter, what was the Minister’s response? If it were unsatisfactory, as I expect, please submit all correspondence to the Premier for her action. If still no satisfaction, involve the press in the public interest.

    Surely, the time has come when polite correspondence and conversations must be put aside and stronger action taken. We can bleat all we like and remain ignored. Sometimes concerted efforts are needed to overcome entrenched ideological fixations as in this matter.

    NSW is not the only supplicant to Pascoe that must be educated. An Australia-wide campaign is needed to save our children from an education based on touchy, feely, emotional clap trap. How about Quadrant organizing a petition? Can Quadrant get enough people interested in demonstrating at some significant event or place? We would need Peter or someone equally cognisant of Pascoe’s distortions and elaborations to be spokesman, able to forensically destroy Pascoe’s ‘lies’.

  • Peter OBrien says:


    yet to receive a response but to be fair, the Minister has probably only just got my letter. Will keep you posted.

    As to your suggestion about an event, I think that merits consideration. I will give it some thought.


  • paerobin says:

    Ode to Bruce Pascoe

    Hunt blackfella genes.
    Puff dreamtime culture.
    Don aboriginal sheen.
    Scorn modernity’s wonder.
    Dub indigenous myth spiritual pith –
    a balm for horror and shame,
    guilt and blame,
    despair, waste and blunder.
    Drill us all. Lock us in lore.
    Strut fantastic claim;
    brand ‘racist’ any gainsay.
    Tout grog, spirit souled,
    pitched with your school book name.

    Fiddle Mitchell’s diary –
    join clauses days apart
    herding hunter-gatherers
    into fields of Neolithic nirvana.

    Did racial spite made you write
    “Europeans stare at the stars,
    but Aboriginal people also see
    the spaces in between …”?

    Dark space, a stellar actor
    Worldwide, many roles:
    Phaethon’s wild path in Helios’ chariot;
    sacred dark Inca constellations –
    Yacana the llama is our Emu spirit;
    E.E. Barnard and Max Wolf saw
    dust clouds fermenting stars
    obscure night light from galactic core.
    E.E. Barnard – Tennessean;
    Max Wolf, Helios, Phaethon – European.

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