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An open letter to Pauline Hanson

Dear Pauline,

I’ve read that you have been confused and outraged that the number of people laying claim to Aboriginal ancestry is increasing. If you bear with me, I think I can explain.

I’m a middle-aged white woman who was raised in a very white-seeming rural community. As far as I knew, I had minimal contact with anyone who was of Aboriginal descent. Looking back, I can remember families who were darker than the Spanish, curlier haired than the black-haired Welsh and Irish… and I now know many of these people had Aboriginal ancestors because, while they didn’t ever speak of it back then, they’ve spoken about it now, or written about it in their family trees.

But when I was growing up, if someone’s Nanna was one of the tens of thousands of brown skinned young women who’d been taken from their Aboriginal homes, raised on a mission, and sent to serve as domestic help in the homes and farms of our country, most avoided talking about it. If they were fair enough to pass as white, they never mentioned their Aboriginal family origins because they saw and heard the nasty treatment that their darker-skinned relatives got. They saw that they were less likely to be treated decently. Less likely to get a job, more likely to be bullied, bashed, arrested, or even killed. They were very quiet about their family tree, or they invented a family mythology that explained the darker features of their complexion.

It was discrimination that they wanted to avoid, and fear that fascism could return and see whole sections of society being marked out as inferior, even marked for genocide. It wouldn’t be the first time. Nobody wants that kind of horror visited on their children, or their grandchildren. They watch the news, and see the surges of fascism, racism, neo-Nazis wearing swastikas in public and throwing salutes at rallies. I don’t think their fear was unreasonable.

Sadly, they thought it best to let the heritage be lost – so much of it was destroyed already; what was the point of putting a target on your family’s back in an effort to preserve or re-claim a cultural heritage that was mere scraps of what it had once been, when the risks were so clear, and so harsh? Loving parents quietly allowing their children and grandchildren to become completely assimilated into white society is a safe, if tragic, option.

Whole generations have arisen while the elders of these nominally white families are still holding to their resolution to bring their descendants into the safety of the mainstream.

There are many in these families who know the truth. It’s a bit of an open secret, and as time passes and the old people pass away, the secret becomes a dilemma; should the children know? We’re in a safer society now. Most of the younger kids pass as white without question, and the darker skinned members of the family look well-tanned and maybe… nobody really cares about their skin colour anymore. Or nobody who matters. Only a handful of white supremacist dickheads think anything of it if their nurse, vet, retail assistant, or magistrate isn’t obviously pasty-white. Aboriginal heritage doesn’t carry the risk of bringing an automatic social downgrade anymore, especially for people who pass as white enough not to get brutally discriminated against by police, bouncers, nurses, security guards, employers, prospective in-laws etc.

This brings another dilemma for the younger generations: if they “come out” as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, they will also “out” their family members. What if their cousins don’t want to be identified as anything but generic white people? Is it fair to claim your own cultural heritage and ancestry if doing so will expose your cousin or siblings to nasty racist discrimination?

So, Pauline, I think that the increasing number of people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a great reason. It’s because racist fearmongering is having a diminishing impact. Despite the best efforts of racists everywhere, Australia is smarter and more knowledgeable about race now. Not as many people are as deeply racist. Not as many people fear the resurgence of genocidal fascism in this country. Not as many people feel it’s necessary to hide their heritage.

More Australians now accept that “white looking” Aboriginal people have every right to ‘tick the box’. It’s becoming normalised that regardless of whether a person with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage has been raised on country in their ancestor’s ancient traditions, or whether they grew up in bland suburbia, the people who are claiming or re-claiming their cultural heritage should do so freely. Sure, they may get a job or a scholarship that’s been designated for Aboriginal people – but guess what? Aboriginal people now come in all shades. Some of the palest people I know (and I mean kids so white they have no visible eyebrows, and you get snow-blind just looking at them in sunlight) are first cousins to some who are quite noticeably brown and of obvious Aboriginal descent.

And for the Aboriginal people who are quite obviously of Aboriginal heritage, there’s no point in not marking the ‘of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent’ box. It’s not like the discrimination against your dark skin goes away if you deny your genetic heritage.

So then there’s the people who are in-between. Most of the time, nobody cares about their skin colour. They might or might not be marked as Aboriginal for the purposes of discrimination. They may or may not have been raised in households of intergenerational trauma and poverty caused by the destruction of their originating culture. Should they tick the box or not? I’d say it’s up to them.

It’s certainly not up to you or me, Pauline.


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  1. uncletimrob

    Well said, thanks.

    We recently discovered that the maternal great grandmother of my daughters was an indigenous woman. You would not know from their blonde hair and pale skin.

    Enough aboriginality in them for you Pauline? ….

  2. Roswell

    That is outstanding.

  3. Phil Pryor

    That repulsive broomflyer, a skinful of repellant excremental stuffing of a coating of humanoid manifestion in similarity, remains a huge blot on our political landscape and history. Surely, as with us all, one of her ancestors was an indigenous person, somewhere. But, if one has an ideal, excellent piece of furniture, or even a car, does the colour matter? The content and quality of character is what counts. But, one of the family connected rellies voted for her previously, and for blobbo Clive also. Fair Ducking Finkum.

  4. GL

    Stop confusing poor ickle Paween with relevant truths. You know it gives her headaches and causes one of her two brain cells to seize up when things that aren’t part of her reality sneak through.

  5. Clakka

    Great letter.

    However, I doubt she could have heard it over the sizzle of her cooking. She probably recognised it as being long enough to wrap around one of her battered savs, with or without ‘source’. Waste not want not.

  6. Teiresias

    the conversation “What it means to identify as Indigenous in Australia, and how this might have contributed to the increase in the census” (5/7/2022) comes up with some numbers:

    2021 Census Snapshot
    812,728 people, 3.2% of the population
    identified as First Nations

    3,2% of the population! 3.2% of the population!

    Pauline Hanson has said: I am fed up with being told ‘this is our land’. Well, where the hell do I go? I was born here, and so were my parents and children.” And “…I draw the line when I must pay for something that happened 200 years ago.” (Buzzfeed)

    She has no idea about when First Nations people were attacked, for how long and how many died. Jared Diamond in his book “Guns, Germs and Steel” tells us ( in general terms) that there was in 1788 an Indigenous population of somewhere between 750,000 and one million or so. Within 140 years or about 6 generations Australia’s Indigenous population had collapsed to about 6 – 8% of 1788 levels – or a mere 60,000 people.

    Only now has the Indigenous population grown back from 60,000 to close to one million people. That is 3.2% of the Australian population.

    Jacinta Price refuses to believe the colonists had any bad effects on Indigenous people. Pauline Hanson refuses to acknowledge any connection with Indigenous loss of land.

    In The Australian (8/9/2023) is an article “Truth-telling body using ‘make believe history’:Blainey”.
    “Eminent historian Geoffrey Blainey says Victoria’s “truth-telling’ commission has favoured a Bruce Pascoe version of history.”

    So let us see what Peter Sutton says about Bruce Pascoe in his book “Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The DarK Emu Debate.”

    And so to Pascoe, the author of ‘Dark Emu’, Sutton says, “Pasco, by consistently gilding the lily that needs no gilding, suggests that he sees a foraging way of life as inferior. Its own practitioners saw it as the Law, sanctioned by the ancients…They left a far better Australian environment than we have now, given that so many native species are now extinct, so many feral introduced species are creating havoc, and huge regions have been domesticated under mono-culture cropping and thereby degraded in ecological richness,” (p’200)

  7. Michael Taylor

    ”Jacinta Price refuses to believe the colonists had any bad effects on Indigenous people.”

    That’s my next article, Teiresias. 😀

  8. Terence Mills

    Pauline Replies

    “Why do you think I call my party Pauline Hanson’s One Nation ?
    It’s a business that’s why and I own it.
    Each time I put up a raft of no-hopers at a federal election I get paid by the AEC on the
    number of votes I get. The fact that I didn’t get one House of Representatives seat
    in the 2022 federal election doesn’t matter one little bit.
    I still received over $3 million from the AEC.
    And where does that money come from ? Look in the mirror, sucker..
    Now who’s the mug ?”

  9. Clakka

    Teiresias, well said.

    Ha, Blainey, warped to justify the blatantly cooked history peddled in my school years. Surprised he still exists, despite being ignored as an irrelevance for many many decades. Undoubtedly, Sutton will become a wretched footnote to pedantry in due course.

    Michael, looking forward to your next article.

  10. leefe

    “It’s certainly not up to you or me, Pauline.”

    And that is the crux of the whole identity politics debate. It’s not up to people who aren’t in a sub-group to define or to decide for that sub-group. It’s not even up to other members of the sub-group to decide for any specific individual member.

  11. Teiresias


    thank you for your support.

    Just to make your comment about Sutton clear, Sutton is of course supporting Pascoe. There are some things which Pascoe does not understand about the Old People and their sacred Law, but in the end the Sacred Law left a better Australian environment than we have now.

    Some Murdoch propagandists were highly delighted when Sutton’s book was published (2021) because it criticised Pascoe, but they obviously did not read Sutton because they would have seen that Sutton criticised them more than Pascoe – which is what that last paragraph is about.

    Murdoch propaganda, which is full of lies, as Murdoch himself has confessed, and which has cost him a billion dollars so far and more cost to come. Third generation collapse.

  12. wam

    A beaut read, Michael. In Darwin, last century there was a poster of Aboriginal people’s faces with a great range of shapes and shades. ps Her speech, praising the white fellows’ endowment to Aboriginal people of a tap to go with the sugar, flour and tea, reflects her need for political survival, as an Uncle Tom.
    She says no it has no power, dutton says no it has power?
    They are idiots???
    Vote YES

  13. Gaye Foster

    Pauline,the ugly Australian

  14. Cool Pete

    One person here mentioned Geoffrey Blainey. Take heart, old Geoffrey is around 93, and unless he is some kind of superman, is probably not likely to be around in about 10 years’ time.
    My own letter to Poo Lean,
    I had been led to believe that my great-grandfather was a remittance man from Scotland, whose father, my great-great-grandfather, had worked at a family whiskey distillery, and got drunk one night and did something to embarrass the family, and was sent over here as a face-saving measure. That’s a great story, but he was actually born in Armidale, in 1875, the youngest of 8 kids, one of whom died at less than a year, to a woman who immigrated from Dorset at the age of 16, with her siblings, parents and maternal grandmother, and a man who was born in St Vincent’s and the Grenadines. My great-great-grandfather had never set foot in Scotland, and his father (my great-great-great-grandfather) was born in Bristol and went there as an infant, and there had been a connection between those ancestors and St Vincent’s and the Grenadines before that. Now, shock horror, my great-great-great-grandfather married a woman from St Vincent’s and the Grenadines, and at the time her mother was born, shock horror, there were only 16 white men on the island of St Vincent’s. So, shock horror, my great-great-great-grandmother was St Vincentian!
    My joke in the family is that had my grandmother lived to see me turn 20, conversation in the family would have gone like this, had we known. My grandmother walks down the hallway, when I’m in sensory overload, and hears Aswad’s “Don’t Turn Around,” and says to my father, “I don’t believe it. My grandson’s in there listening to some interesting music, that sounds like Aswan.” “You mean Aswad, Mother.” “Yes, Love.” “That’s getting in touch with his roots.” “What do you mean?” “Aswad is a reggae band and your ancestry was West Indian.”
    Even though I have never been to the West Indies, I embrace my West Indian roots with pride, but I am not proud of the fact that my ancestors were the overseers of the Bristol Triangle (they grew fine cotton in St Vincent’s, sent it to Bristol to be made into articles which were later sold to West African chieftains in exchange for slaves).
    Here is something that needs to be remembered. There are at least 22 families in modern Australia, who have a parent in their late 30s-early 40s, and that parent might be able to say, “My maternal or paternal grandfather joined the Australian Army in 1943. He didn’t see active service, and as he wasn’t due to be discharged until 1947, decided to be part of BCOF. He arrived in Japan in 1946 and stayed there for nearly five years. After spending nine months in Korea, he returned to Japan (he went there for R&R, too) and told my grandmother, “We can marry!” He married her in September, 1951, and they returned to Australia the following year. My grandfather contracted cancer from exposure to radiation from the bomb, and died when I was young. My grandmother taught me so much about Japan and found the time to teach me Japanese. I feel a strong connection to Japan.” Sadly, with the Stolen Generation, there’s a generation of Australians who may have had an Aboriginal grandparent or great-grandparent, who may be able to say, “I (or a forebear) was adopted, so I do not know much save to say that a forebear was Aboriginal.”
    A final message to Poo Lean, however, is, and yes, this may be extreme, but there is a man who has served time in prison in Western Australia, for his part in violent attacks, that include firebombing Chinese restaurants, who had a Javanese great-grandmother. When he was interviewed on A Current Affair 21 years ago, and this was mentioned, he replied that he has assimilated very well into Australia. A violent white supremacist with an Asian great-grandparent or a fair-skinned person who embraces their Aboriginal or Asian heritage, I know who I would choose to spend time with and it isn’t the former!

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