Bert Kelly, “A new look at Aboriginal policies,”
The Bulletin, February 21, 1984, p. 99.
My political training has made me careful not to get into unnecessary trouble. For instance, for years I have had an uneasy suspicion that modern poetry, like modern art, is a great confidence trick — perpetrated by poets who cannot write verse which scans or rhymes. But I have not said so because I am frightened of being sneered at.
I have also nurtured suspicions that our Aboriginal policies were wrong but I have been too nervous to say so lest people brand me a racist.
However I have borrowed some courage since reading Red Over Black by Geoffrey McDonald, from Veritas Publishing in Western Australia. McDonald was a member of the Communist Party for many years and he tells how he and other communist cadres were instructed how to use the Aboriginal problem to further their cause. He says:
It was while attending the secret communist school in Minto, in NSW in 1959, when I was engaged in painting Aboriginal murals on the lecture room walls, that I first heard top communist leaders like J. B. Miles and Lance Sharkey remark how, one day in the future, if the party worked correctly, the first step towards making Australia a communist country would be the establishment of black republican areas of Australia inhabited by Aboriginals.
After leaving the Communist Party, McDonald represented the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (RANF) as an industrial officer and made many visits to Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory where RANF nurses were working.
During these visits he got to know, respect and understand many Aborigines and he also saw, in the raw, the way the Federal Government was tackling these problems. Let me give an example: there was trouble at Yuendumu, about 200 kilometres from Alice Springs. The nurses there were being threatened because of drunken brawls and violence dictated by tribal laws of the past.
When McDonald went there with officers of the Department of Health, he says:
We were confronted by a deputation of Aboriginal men and women who explained why they needed the assistance of the police on the reservation. Some of them protested vigorously at the interference of the Aboriginal Affairs Department in Canberra and urban Aborigines from Melbourne and Sydney who were visiting Alice Springs and other parts of the Territory, using the authority of the Aboriginal Affairs Department to interfere in their affairs and to unjustly claim to be speaking on their behalf. This, they told us, was leading to a breakdown of order and progress on this and other reservations in the Territory.
The Department of Health and the Aborigines themselves were powerless to influence the bureaucracy in Canberra which was centred around the influence of the Leftist Charles Perkins and his radical compatriots. In all my investigations, I found Perkins to be the last person who could claim to be representative of Aborigines.
Now that is what many of us have been thinking for a long while but which I at least have been too frightened to say.
The late Professor T. G. H. Strehlow was reared among Aborigines and was a recognised authority on Aboriginal culture, law and language. In his book The Struggle For Power, John Grover quotes the professor as saying:
Nor will the exploits of the many new … professional admirers of Aboriginal art and civilisation, money-hungry lawyers, red-hot activists and so on, help Australians to arrive at any just solutions of the near-insoluble “Aboriginal problems” of the present. If the future is to be redressed at all, the present hate campaigns must be ended; and then thoughtful black and white leaders must look at the real problems of the present and the future in a spirit of helpful co-operation.
Most white Australians are today at least conscious of the injustices of the past and are willing to provide at least some of the finance to make amends for these injustices, provided that the money goes to the real sufferers or surviving disabilities and not to the stirrers, the activists and the self-appointed (or government-appointed) “experts”, “advisers” and “spokesmen” for the Aborigines.
Now if I had said that, Al Grassby and all the do-gooders would have branded me a racist. However Strehlow had an advantage over the rest of us: he knew what he was talking about, which made him almost unique.
McDonald’s comments about our immigration policy worry me but what he says about our administration of the Aborigines in the NT makes me ashamed that I have kept my head down below this parapet for so long.
I suggest that you read the book for yourself.
Bert Kelly, “Focus on ‘the good old ways’,”
The Bulletin, February 28, 1984, p. 90.
As I get older, I find that everything in the past tends to take on a rosier hue. The good old days get better.
I worked even harder then and ran even faster, made more runs and shore more sheep.
I have also noticed that distance seems to lend enchantment to the view when some people dabble with the Aboriginal problem.
When Captain Cook came here, the Aboriginal population was small. There were many reasons for this but Aboriginal laws and culture were most important. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, in his book The Triumph Of The Nomads, tells about the effects of these quaint old traditions:
The conclusion seems inescapable: over a long period of time, millions of newborn Aboriginals must have been deliberately killed by their mother or father. Infanticide was almost certainly the strongest check on the increase of the population of Aborigines.
Yet many do-gooders want the present Aborigines to return to these good old ways.
Blainey goes on to tell about the Aboriginal tradition of fighting one another:
While epidemics came irregularly, armed fights were more an annual event in many parts of the continent and Tasmania. Violent death by spearing and clubbing was a restraint on the growth of population. Occasionally, there were pitched battles or raids in which many men took part. The casualties might not, at first sight, seem large but the death of two men in a battle involving 40 meant that casualties were approaching the scale of the Battle of the Somme. An Aboriginal fight could absorb a large proportion of the adults within a radius of 80km, could involve a far higher proportion of able-bodied adults than any war of the 20th century could possibly involve.
So, do not let us have so much talk about the gentle savage. Some of them were gentle some of the time but really there were just as ruthless as our forefathers were.
Those who urge our present-day Aborigines to go back to these good old days should realise, as Geoff McDonald says in his book, Red Over Black:
The facts are that the overwhelming majority of Aborigines do not want to keep their “laws” at all because they are horrible and are the cause of murder and death by bone pointing and create a constant obligation for spearing each other — if not for the purpose of causing death, then, injury to various parts of the body for the most unimportant breaches of custom … Apart from the white neophytes, it is mainly the part=Aborigines who have been brought up in the cities and who live on considerable public service salaries who are telling the full-blood natives to go back to a system of carnage which helped keep this continent virtually unpopulated until the settlement of the white man.
Other do-gooders urge the Aborigines to return to the good old traditional health remedies. Cures such as putting witchetty grubs in spear wounds, covering burns with caterpillar bags, curies scabies by crushing and soaking twigs in blood from a goanna’s nose, cutting off the top of a termite mound, mixing it with water and drinking it to cure stomach ache — are these the remedies these people want? Would they want their children to use them?
I think we are becoming bemused by sloppy thinkers who are trying to build up a guilt complex in us.
Big, kind-hearted Ginger went to see the film King Of Kings. When he came out, he belted the daylights out of his friend Benny Cohen. When asked why, Ginger replied: “Look what the Jews did to Jesus!”
Sir Paul Hasluck put it more genteelly in his book An Open Go. In the chapter called “The Future of Aborigines” he said:
Nor am I willing to move to a glib and easy confession of all the sins of our fathers. It seems to me that quite a number of those who continue to enjoy the physical comforts and cultural amenities of urban Australia today and have no intention of doing without them find too easy a path to virtue by perpetually talking about what an abominable set of scoundrels their pioneering fathers were. Let them remember that there is a link between enjoying a symphony concert in Sydney or earning a salary for being cynical in an air-conditioned television studio in 1970 and the long, hard, hot and painful years of endurance of past generations when the foundations of settlement were being laid in the discomfort and danger of the outback.
I get a little tired of the sort of public speaker who is forever beating his breast for the nation’s shame and then indulging himself with a share of the nation’s profits.
What do you think of that? Yet I have heard it said that governors-general have nothing much to say.
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hang on to his ear
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- Why flaunt what others flout?
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- Bert Kelly on market predictions
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- Clarkson crowned Deputy Government Whip
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- 1959 return of Dave's Diary
- Bert Kelly in 1966 on developing northern Australia
- Successful government intervention can [sic] occur
- Vernon Report upholds Clarkson
- Quiet Man Makes An Impact
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- To save Australian clothing industry women must all wear same uniform
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- Speech only for public
- Catchy Tariff Circus Extravaganza
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- Bert Kelly pep talk to politicians
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- Recipe for disaster: Freeze!
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- Recipe for industry destruction: Blanket market signals
- Mavis writes!
- Bert Kelly's empiricism is not kneejerk reaction kind
- The $2,000 song of the shirt worker
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- Difficult to be fast on your feet when you've got your ear to the ground
- It would surprise people to see how sensible MPs behave if they think they are not being watched
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- Growing bananas at the South Pole
- Car components tariff protection under fire
- Why carry a $300m car subsidy?
- Tariff feather beds for the foreign giants
- Bert Kelly says end compulsory voting to stop donkey vote
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- Fire in their guts and wind in ours
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- Sound advice from a modest farmer
- A tottering monument to intervention
- Cunning meets wisdom
- Competition, Aussie-style: Who's the bigger parasite?
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- Welfare State Destroys Society
- 1980 Bert Kelly feather bed series
- The White Mice Marketing Board
- Government intervention and advice can be harmful, even when right, even for those it tries to help
- One small step on the compulsory voting landmine
- The free & compulsory education sacred cows have no clothes
- Holding a loaded wallet to an economist's head
- Political No Man's Land
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- Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
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- Bert Kelly's 1984 two-article quote-collection on Aboriginal policies
- Hitting out with a halo
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- A happy story about Aborigines
- The Govt's helping hand often hurts
- Handouts for big boys only
- Hugh Morgan's heroic fight against constrained politeness
- Thomas Sowell, McGuinness, Aborigines and other minorities
- Genocide with kindness
- Imagine a unionised household
- Being loved by all is not always a good thing
- Paddy McGuinness defends comparing IQ of races