Insights from Quadrant

Schizophrenia at
the Parkville Asylum

You couldn’t make this up.

In what is to be hoped will be the near future, Melbourne University Press will be publishing  Australia Before Conquest: An Assessment of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu by the anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe. The galleys are now being fitted with maps and other illustrations and, all going well and no COVID-19 complications intervening, it should be available before year’s end. Need it be said that a noted authority on Aboriginal Australia past and present — Professor Sutton, is the author of The Politics of Suffering — is likely to be extraordinarily critical of a fauxborigine’s immensely lucrative piffle, a species of nonsense now being foisted on Australian children as – such gall! — “a truer history“?

That is happening in one corner of the university campus. Elsewhere at the Parkville Asylum, a nice office is being prepared for the Charlatan of Gypsy Point, who has been appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences.

So, with one hand Melbourne University exposes a monumental fraud. Meanwhile, the other hand rewards those same lies with the prestige and remuneration of an august professorship.

This was too much for Peter O’Brien, whose Quadrant book, Bitter Harvest, belled the cat of Pascoe’s whoppers. His letter to Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell, written in the ink of disgust, is reproduced below:

Dear Professor  Maskell,
I read with astonishment that Mr Bruce Pascoe had been appointed by the University  of Melbourne as Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences. My astonishment is based on the fact that Indigenous (in the sense of Australian Aboriginal people) agriculture is a contradiction in terms.  There is no such thing as Aboriginal agriculture.

Mr Pascoe claims to have proved that, contrary to 200 years of accepted wisdom, Australian Aborigines were not essentially nomadic hunter/gatherers but sophisticated agriculturalists.  He has published that claim in his hugely successful polemic Dark Emu.  I have shown comprehensively, in my own book Bitter Harvest – The illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Dark Emu, that Mr Pascoe’s claims are based on a litany of lies and misrepresentations. In fact, the very paucity of what genuine evidence he does provide simply reinforces that Aborigines were, in fact, nomadic hunter/gatherers as we have always, hitherto, believed.

Certainly, Mr Pascoe is a vocal practitioner and advocate for the use of native Australian flora as a sustainable substitute for more traditional crops but, in this respect, he is no more qualified than any other small-scale boutique farmer to aspire to the status of ‘professor’ at a leading university.

I have no real hope that this ludicrous appointment will be reversed but could I suggest that you advise senior staff to be more rigorous and circumspect in making such appointments, which seem to be based more on ideology than academic excellence.

Yours Sincerely,
Peter O’Brien

Bitter Harvest can be ordered here

— roger franklin

7 thoughts on “Schizophrenia at
the Parkville Asylum

  • L Louis says:

    Melbourne Enterprise Professors ( introduced in 2015)
    2. Criteria for appointment
    2.1. “In order to be appointed to the position of ‘Melbourne Enterprise Professor’ or ‘Honorary Melbourne Enterprise Professor’, individuals must:
    • Have an eminent and sustained record of peak level leadership, entrepreneurship and influence;
    • Be widely recognised for their outstanding achievements in industry, business, professions and/or government; and
    • Demonstrate specialist expertise and a highly developed industry/business knowledge base that matches in breadth and depth what is expected of all professors of the University”.
    I have sent protest emails to the professors in the faculty.
    Dear Professor Fazakerley
    As you are not an archaeologist or an anthropologist, you can be excused for not being aware that Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu is a concocted travesty. Those who have been intimidated into silence or misguidedly believe “he is doing a good job” to help indigenous people, if they retain a shred of self respect, will be acutely embarrassed when the book is demolished by the eminent social anthropologist and linguist Professor Peter Sutton in Sutton, Peter, and Keryn Walshe (in press 2020). Australia Before Conquest: An Assessment of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. : Melbourne University Press. In the meantime, if you are interested in the truth, you could read my critique of Dark Emu, attached.
    As Pascoe has not been able to produce any evidence to support his claim to Aboriginality, I leave it to your science colleagues to comment on your enthusiasm for his appointment as a professor, and about the greater potential for collaboration with first nations people to shape the direction of teaching and research within the Faculty.
    Yours Sincerely
    Leslie Louis ( retired associate professor of history).
    The email to Professor Leury referred to his opinion that with Pascoe’s appointment as a professor “We have an opportunity here to focus our scientific research on what has historically been an underserved area by incorporating Indigenous knowledge and culture.”

  • lhackett01 says:

    Sent via web form to Melbourne University, Ref. 200913-000025, on 13 Sep 20.

    As an alumnus of Melbourne University, I am appalled that the University has appointed Bruce Pascoe ‘Melbourne Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture’. Pascoe is an Aborigine only because he says he is. He has no Aboriginal lineage. His book, “Dark Emu” is not academic. It is fiction. I have studied the journals of Mitchell and Sturt that Pascoe ‘quotes’ in his book of fiction, Dark Emu. There is no evidence in those journals, nor anywhere else in legitimate sources, to support Pascoe’s claims that Aborigines were agriculturalists before the British settled this country in 1788. Therefore, there seems no reason at all why the University should accord him a platform to spread his myths.

    My concern about Pascoe’s appointment is that he will be able now to indoctrinate perhaps several generations of students to believe his fantasies. The consequence will be the same as that for all the present ‘woke’ platforms, the advancement of ideologies based on emotion and beliefs rather than science and truth.

    Permitting such post-modernist and deconstructionist teaching seems to indicate that Melbourne University has lost its focus on intellectual rigour and integrity.

    The University should terminate Pascoe’s appointment immediately, unless his teaching is restricted to examining the foods prepared and eaten by early Aborigines as hunter-gatherers. The University must not permit Pascoe, or anyone, to teach the lie that Aborigines were agriculturalists.

  • lhackett01 says:

    A footnote to my comment above. I sent my objection to Melbourne Uni before I was aware of Peter O’Brien’s article. Interesting it is that we both spoke similarly.

  • L Louis says:

    Even more worrying than Melbourne University’s betrayal of science by promoting Aboriginal agriculture is its facilitating the teaching of Aboriginal Astronomy.
    A web site “Australian Indigenous Astronomy” has announced “that the new National Curriculum incorporating Indigenous Astronomical Knowledge is now available for teachers and educators via the University of Melbourne Indigenous Education web portal. The 14 Units are aimed at Years 5 & 8, and show how Indigenous Astronomy can be incorporated into the seven learning areas of Science, Mathematics, The Arts, English, Technologies, Humanities and Health”.

  • lhackett01 says:

    L Louis, please tell me this is a joke, a scam. I wonder, with despair, when we will see that Aborigines really did invent the wheel but did not use it because the ground in Australia was too rough. Australian anthropologists really do need to work harder. Surely, with enough digging , they can unearth the undoubted evidence of the many technological marvels for which we need to thank the Aborigine. The British and the rest of the Caucasian civilizations ‘obviously’ have so much to learn from Aborigines.

  • lbloveday says:

    Cindy Berwick, President of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultation Group, was on her ABC’s Q&A 8 October 2018.
    Here is what Ms Berwick had to say about the lessons she delivers on her ancestors’ pioneering work with chords, cambers and dihedrals:
    “We actually look at mathematics and science and technology through a cultural lens, and so we actually teach aerodynamics through the boomerang, ‘coz the boomerang actually led to the invention of propellers, which then led to flight, then led to, you know, the invention of drones, which now patrol our coastlines, and save us from sharks…”
    The nonsense was unchallenged, of course.

  • Karnjirrwala says:

    All these specious studies are not coming from reputable anthropologists working in Australia. Far from advancing Aboriginal interests, it demeans their past mode of life as hunters and gatherers, narrows the public imagination for human difference and for the natural history of our species. It is true that anthropologists have not done nearly enough to stop the spreads of this virulent tide of nonsense. This may change upon the publication of Peter Sutton’s and Karyn Walshe’s critique.

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