Letters from the Queen’s secretary on a touchy…

To people of my vintage it seems like yesterday that these events…

Change and difference

I would like to amend the statement "The only certainties in life…

Robodebt: Part man. Part machine. All crap.

Ok, I paraphrased one of the tagline from Robocop for the title…

Sinister Flatulence: Trump versus Twitter

Sawing off the branch you sit on can hardly be the best…

Covid 19 has hit the economy hard; But…

COVID-19 has hit the Australian economy hard. By some estimates the Australian economy…

2020 becomes 1984: Trump, Twitter and the Ministry…

Prologue: Trump as Big Brother  You do not need me to tell you…

Known problems

Spokesmodel Christian Porter has been all over the airwaves announcing the government’s…

Lies, lies and more lies

On May 25 2020, the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (PM&C)…


Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN these days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.

Website: https://theaimn.com

Stuff from way back when

Home-isolation … it’s come to this. I’m prepared to write about anything, even stuff I wouldn’t normally admit to. Such as:

When I was a kid on the farm on Kangaroo Island I’d do things that these days I wouldn’t do for any amount of money. Here’s my first example:

Playing Biggles in the scrub behind the milking shed was hard, hungry work. The good thing about a farm was that food was always within reach. Such as eggs. Raw eggs, that is.

How lucky was I that a few chooks used to lay eggs in the milking shed!

Yum, fresh raw eggs.

There’s a knack to drinking them. All that is needed is a sharp nail – never a problem finding them in any farm shed – and you prick a small hole in the ‘blunt’ end of the egg and a slightly larger one in the ‘sharp’ end of the egg. Wrapping your lips around the sharp end you then suck out all the contents.

Disgusted yet?

Have you ever seen a freshly laid egg? Before it has been cleaned? It’s quite evident that it was born from a chook’s bum! And I used to wrap my lips around the bloody thing … a thought now more disgusting than sucking out the raw contents.

(As an aside, we had an exercise in the army … groups of three with the two largest running a hundred metres carrying the smallest person on their shoulders. Further instructions were at the finish line. The smallest in my team thought it was rather funny that she had the easy job … until she saw the next instructions: eat a raw egg. While she was vomiting up said egg I thought to myself; “What’s so bad about eating a raw egg?”)

Back to the farm …

We were never short of roast lamb dinners, prime steak, the freshest of veggies, a big feed of yabbies from the river or fresh crayfish caught by a family friend. But the rest of the time we were stuck with Dad favourites: tripe, heart and kidney stew, ox tail soup, white pudding, black pudding, boiled cow tongues (a big tongue would feed a small family), and I’d even had possum stew and roast wallaby.

But the raw eggs I ate by choice. Dirty eggs, direct from the chicken’s bum. Which leads me to my next story …

It was always an exciting time for me when cousin Jenny from Adelaide would come and stay for the school holidays. We had 1500 acres to play on, dozens of scrubs to play in, a river to swim in – yet there’s one game we enjoyed the most …

The farm had an abundance of cow pats. Do you know how well a dry cow pat frisbees when thrown right? Jenny and I had hours of enjoyment chasing each other around the paddock frisbeeing cow pats at each other.

Splat! I sure could frisbee those cow pats around with pinpoint accuracy.

I can promise every reader that two things I no longer do are eat raw eggs or throw shit around!

Speaking of cows, one particular dairy cow was the meanest thing born with four legs that God ever blew guts into. Her name was Trurio (as in “goodbye”). Trurio didn’t like me, and I didn’t like her.

One day I decided to let her know that I didn’t like her bad attitude, so I sneaked up behind her with football in hand and fired off a magnificent kick aimed and the part just below the tail. Bullseye. I then quickly scampered up the nearest tree when it was obvious that vengeance was sought.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never kick a footy at an angry cow’s arse five hours before milking time. Unless, of course, you don’t mind sitting in a tree for five hours while a nasty piece of work with long horns waits below for whatever came first: milking time or when I fell out of the tree.

One more story, if I may, that you will never, ever hear of happening these days. Never.

Our area school was just outside of a town called Parndana: a population of about 150, boasting a general store and not much else. It didn’t even have a pub back in those days.

It was in 1967 (when I was in First Year) that our new Deputy Head Master, Mr Lloyd Bennett (who looked a cross between Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard – a fearful fellow) came into the classroom asking who the fastest runner was. We all pointed to Terry May, who was called by Mr Bennett to come forward.

Handing Terry some money he said; “I want you to run into town and buy me a packet of Craven A and hurry back as fast as you can.”

As Terry was about to dart off, a smiling Mr Bennett called out; “Terry, I want the cellophane left on the packet!”

Just another normal day at school, way back when.

Me as a young lad feeding the pigs (I’m the one in the back). Shorts pulled up past the belly button must have been fashionable back then.

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Is this the end of the road? Never!

When I posted Is this the end of the road? two days ago I was hoping that over the next couple of weeks Carol and I would learn that The AIMN had been saved.

We didn’t have to wait two weeks.

We didn’t even have to wait two days. Already we have achieved 80 per cent of our goal.

So is it the end of the road? Never!

The fantastic support from our readers has ensured that The AIMN will not only see another year, but many, many after that.

Carol and I have been completely overwhelmed. It has been a humbling experience.

We struggle to find enough words to show our appreciation.

The last two days has shown us just how much The AIMN means for so many people. But that’s not because of the efforts of Carol and I. It’s because of the tireless work of all our authors, without whom there would be no AIMN.

Take a bow, everyone. Carol and I salute you.

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Is this the end of the road?

If there is one thing – and only one thing – that we can take out of the LNP’s win in the 2019 election is that conservative governments are a boon for independent media sites. Particularly so in Australia, where the mainstream media becomes more and more the mouthpiece for the conservatives.

That leaves the independent sites and social media as the only available platforms where the government can be challenged for their lies, their rorting, their incompetence, and their failure to address the important issues of the day.

As such, 2019 was a very good year for The AIMN with our readership increasing by 8 per cent over 2018. And after the government’s mis-handling of the disastrous bushfires in the New Year, 2020 started, for us, with a bang. With a bit over a third of the year now passed, our readership is already 65 per cent of what we achieved in 2019.

But then the pandemic reached our shores, the government downed tools, and ‘everything’ stagnated. The government would have us believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but we wiser heads have our reservations.

Nonetheless, this has adversely affected The AIMN. While we’re all spending this ‘quiet time’ rejuvenating and catching our collective breaths for what government incompetencies await us … our operating costs continue to accrue.

Within the next few weeks – when our annual (and hefty) web fees are due – Carol and I must decide whether or not we can afford to keep The AIMN open. At the present rate, we cannot. We always operate at a loss, but there comes a time where Carol and I have to admit that we can’t always afford to carry them.

The remainder of 2020 – once the government awakens from their slumber – will awake us all. As will the remainder of the Morrison government’s term. I cannot recall our country having a worse prime minister or such an ineffective government. We love to fight them. As do our wonderful authors, commenters, and readers.

We would dearly love The AIMN to lead the charge (along with the other independent sites). We’ve been doing so for over seven years. It’s in our blood.

But the income this site generates is way below what is needed to break even, and we can no longer afford to sustain these losses. We’ve made it this far thanks to the fantastic contributions from readers who donate to the site, plus of course, from the adverts you see on our site.

To survive another year and beyond would only require a hundred people signing up to contribute $5 a month. That at least would cover our monthly web hosting and designer costs. More would give us the opportunity to take on a bit of help for our already flat-out team.

I know that The AIMN means a lot to many, many people, Carol and I included. And without the efforts of so many tireless authors we would not be one of the leading independents sites in this country. Carol and I are proud of our standing, and proud of every one of you – authors, admins, commenters and readers – who have been in the engine room of this great site.

We now ask you to drive us into the coming years.

Without you there is no AIMN. It will be the end of the road.

(Will will provide you with regular updates to let you know how we’re travelling.)

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An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all

This government’s preparedness and response to emergency situations fails every test.

I highlighted this in my recent article; ‘We were once prepared for this‘ in which I wrote:

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it…

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

You may wish to read the whole article. It is not crucial that you do, but I encourage you as it provides a glimpse into the Coalition’s indifference to the threat of a pandemic.

Let’s now go back to 2007. I refer you to Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic. Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.

What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:

In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.

A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.

Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.

I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.

Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.

Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.

What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?

I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.

On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:

But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.

… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.

Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.

Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?

It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.

Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.

Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.

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We were once prepared for this

I must be a prophet. Of doom, unfortunately.

I began writing this article on January 11, with the title ‘Are we prepared for a pandemic?’ I wrote:

The memories of the recent bushfires will haunt us for many years, as will, perhaps, our anger at a government warned of impending disaster yet who failed to act on this prediction.

The cost of doing nothing is immeasurable, but that is another story.

Not all governments have been as ignorant and as ill-prepared to impending danger.

I have worked with governments – both Labor and the Coalition – who would have been prepared for when disaster strikes.

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it.

Today, now two and a half months later, such a pandemic has arrived. And our government was not prepared.

But we were once prepared for this.

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

My area of expertise was in social security legislation. (No doubt we were just a small cog of a big wheel. A pandemic, obviously, effects more than just those on income support, but I can’t speak for those who focused on health, employment, education, immigration etc).

We had to consider what the worst-case scenario of the pandemic might be. To put it bluntly: we had to expect massive loss of life or illness in the Australian community and how to work with that.

What we needed to prepare for – in the event of a pandemic and its expected disruption – were issues that would be faced by income support recipients.

Above all else, the health and safety of income support recipients – including those who needed to apply for income support – was the number one priority. We needed to provide them with an environment where their dealings with Centrelink was one that was devoid of the carriers of disease: humans. The social security legislation of the day didn’t provide that environment. We needed to change it.

At the time, Newstart recipients were required to report to Centrelink each fortnight. What would be the requirements during a pandemic? How would we cope with the expected increase in applications for income support?

Without going into too much detail (of which there was plenty), the answer was clear: all dealings between Centrelink and the recipient/applicant would be over the internet. There was no other choice. (With an NBN that was FTTP this could be handled). Centrelink doors would be closed.

That was over ten years ago.

Where are we now?

See below:

Where else are we?

Newstart recipients are still required to fulfil their mutual obligations – of which there are calls to suspend.

The MyGov website – the ‘link’ between Centrelink at the income support recipient/applicant – crashed. I cannot say if this was the blame of our inferior NBN. Neither can I say if this would or would not have happened with a better NBN.

We once had a plan. It appears that now we don’t. But it begs the question: What happened to it?

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My Kangaroo Island

The looks of excitement on our faces was sure evidence that Mr Borham’s idea was met with class approval.

It was 1966. Trevor Borham was our class teacher at the Parndana Area School on Kangaroo Island.

Mr Borham had instructed us to move all our desks to the back and sides walls – in a “U” formation – and in the centre of the room we were going to make an Aboriginal campsite, including our very own wurley and hearth.

My proud contribution was a tool from an old Aboriginal campsite that I’d found on the farm. A tool that I was to later learn was a hammer stone. A tool, that thirty years later, was to send me on a journey.

But this wasn’t just any hammer stone. This was the finest I would ever see. It was so symmetrical, and a better specimen than any I would ever see again; at university, in museums, or from photos in university text books.

At the end of the school year we packed up our campsite, my hammer stone was returned to me, and I put it back near where I first found it, never to see it again.

For decades I regretted not keeping that stone. (It certainly would have impressed my professor in Aboriginal Archaeology). But the more I learned of the cultures and traditions of the First Australians, I slowly accepted that I’d made the right, although hasty decision to leave the stone where I’d found it. It belonged on the island. It belonged to the ancestral spirits that dwell there, and I had no right to take it. I’m happy with that.

But what was that journey?

I yearned to know more about the people who made and used that hammer stone. The answer surprised me.

I’d like to share that journey with you.

Kangaroo Island, or Karta, ‘island of the dead’ – the name given to the island by the mainland Ramindjeri people – is a large land mass 15 kilometres off the South Australian coast. The island is approximately 150 kilometres long and 50 kilometres at its widest point, and has 450 kilometres of coastline enclosing an area of 4350 square kilometres. Lying across the mouth of St Vincent Gulf, it is separated from mainland South Australia by Backstairs Passage and Investigator Strait.

The island was declared uninhabited upon European ‘discovery’ in 1802. Matthew Flinders chronicled that the native animals being unmindful of human beings and human predation ‘concurred with the absence of all traces of men [sic] to show that it [the island] was not inhabited’ (1) (Cited in Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:275). He also noted that the island’s vegetation was overgrown as if untended by firestick farming, and though having declared the island uninhabited, had observed ‘puzzling signs of fire within the previous ten to twenty years’ and, foremost, speculated human agency. It was not an observation that was to occasion him any great distraction, merely recording that persons unknown – perhaps shipwreck survivors or whalers – may have been the cause.

European settlement of the island began shortly after Flinders’ visit: escaped convicts seeking refuge, or wandering sealers and whalers bringing as company a number of Indigenous women abducted from the nearby mainland or from Tasmania. By 1826 the permanent population of the island numbered upwards of two hundred, still predominantly sealers, whalers, and ‘native’ women who continued to be stolen from their tribal homes. Recognised for its potential for primary industry, in 1836 the island became an official British settlement and large tracts of land were systematically cleared for agriculture.

Previous habitation was never assumed until the discovery of stone tools in 1903 denoted a prehistoric population.

It was not until 1930 when Norman Tindale (2) and his associate Harold Cooper discovered archaeological campsites around the stranded shorelines of Murray’s Lagoon – and dismissed the theory of Tasmanian or mainland origin – that serious research began.

Hammer stone

Further campsites were documented, and the incidence of quartzite implements – nearly all of which were heavy pebble choppers or hammer stones – suggested the existence of a considerable previous population. Tindale identified that these implements belonged to a ‘pure’ industry which he termed the ‘Kartan’. The lack of material remains with these discoveries implied considerable antiquity, possibly of Pleistocene age when the island was a peninsular of the mainland.

Of this find, a ‘mystified’ Tindale (1930-74:4) recorded that ‘the implements are not associated with the usual signs of recent occupation’ noting the absence of ashes, charcoal, ruddle, bone and shell fragments (Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:278), adding that:

The evidence of the distribution of the artefacts suggests that the five-metre shoreline, or thereabouts, was a relatively stable one during one of the last periods of such occupation, and … as it was then, was a favoured campsite. Few inferences can be made concerning the people who fashioned the artefacts found on these sites. It is evident that they used very crude cutting, scraping, and hammering implements, and were living on the island sufficiently long ago for traces of organic camp debris to have disappeared. The primitiveness of the stone implements and the absence of all traces of the dingo may suggest that the former islanders were … a Pre-Australoid people who have become extinct. (Tindale and Maegraith, 1931:284).

Of their origins Tindale postulated that the Kartan was of Pleistocene age and had drawn similarities – and cultural connections – between pebble choppers from Kangaroo Island and Upper Paleolithic tools from the Malay Peninsula known as ‘Sumatra-type’ implements

To establish the antiquity of the occupation Ron Lampert surveyed the island in search of stratified occupation deposits. One site, Seton Cave, produced evidence of occupation dated to 16,110 BP. This site also provided strong evidence for a temporal overlap between humans and megafauna.

The existence of an ancient people on the island raised questions of their origins and their eventual fate. Neither of these questions can be confidently answered, though nonetheless they are widely speculated.

The disappearance of the prehistoric inhabitants from an island favoured with an admirable climate and an abundance of fish, animal, and bird life is far more difficult to understand than is the manner of their coming. In the absence of the appropriate data to answer this question there appear to be only two logical – yet purely hypothetical alternatives: ‘their departure or extinction in situ’ (Cooper, 1960:496).

Tindale and Maegraith suggested that the difficulties that early European settlers met with in obtaining water supplies during dry seasons might well have been experienced by the original inhabitants: a severe drought being quite capable, they argue, of reducing the food resources to a point that extinction was inescapable. Others offer evidence against this. Bauer’s description of a favourable palaeoenvironment (Bauer in Pilling and Waterman, 1970:198-199, 212-213) fits with Neil Draper’s observation that the locations of archaeological sites meet the ‘basic camp-site requirements of fresh water and proximity to a food supply’ (Draper in Robinson, 1992:9). There are also indications that the climate was more favourable for human populations for much of the recent past. For example, the presence of Tasmanian devils as reported by Draper is striking evidence of damper conditions favouring lush vegetation and permanent water. Further, by far the greatest number of artefacts have been found in association with higher shorelines of lagoons, suggesting that these bodies of water were larger at the time of occupation. Bauer adds that:

The wide distribution and numbers of implements found suggest that a moderately large population occupied the island for a considerable period of time. In terms of food and water resources, Kangaroo Island could be presumed to support a population of a few hundred almost indefinitely. Most of the mainland animals, such as kangaroos, wallaby, and opossum must have been present, and bird life, especially waterfowl, must also have been plentiful, for lagoons appear to have been larger and more numerous during at least some stages of the occupation. Sea foods, especially shellfish and fresh-water fish, must have furnished a nearly inexhaustible food resource. (Bauer in Pilling and Waterman, 1970:212).

In the absence of the appropriate data – including the complete lack of skeletal remains (3) – it is difficult to answer the question regarding their disappearance from the island. It is most likely that they succumbed in the land where they had lived, albeit the reasons for their extinction are not clear. Archaeologist Josephine Flood suggests that as a human habitat Kangaroo Island steadily deteriorated during the Holocene through demographic imbalances. Indeed, pollen analysis shows a change in vegetation towards drier shrubs and increasingly arid environment between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago.

Habitat isolation – a further argument considered – and the consequent reduction in landscape connectivity can lead to the decline and eventual extinction of local populations. Small, isolated populations are particularly vulnerable to random variation in the environment, population parameters, and genetic processes. Given a restricted population and a long period of time, genetic changes in the Kangaroo Island population itself could have been such that extinction was inevitable.

Kangaroo Island was again the island of the dead.

 * * * * *

The recent tragedies on the island; the ecological devastation, and the loss of human life and property have cut deep into me. What are also lost are the hundreds of undiscovered ancient campsites of the Kartan people.

Perhaps one day – a hundred years from now, or even a thousand – a young boy might stumble upon a hammer stone. It may or may not be the one I found long ago. But when he does pick up that ancient tool, I hope it lures him on the same journey that I took.

(1) The time of the demise of the Kartan people was originally thought to be 5,000 years ago, which was later updated to around 500 years ago. On our farm – for a time – we had an old bloke by the name of Dougal McIntyre (Old Mac) work for us. Old Mac was well into his 80s when he died around 1967. He told me that he knew the last surviving Island Aboriginal, who lived at Flinders Chase and had died at the beginning of the 20th Century.

My Aboriginal Archaeology professor found it hard to believe my story, arguing that he was surely a Tasmanian Aborigine, and reminded me of Flinders’ observation that the kangaroos where he landed (Penneshaw) did not fear humans. A salient point. My argument – knowing the geography of the island – was that Penneshaw was close to 80 miles from Flinders Chase, which made Flinders’ point irrelevant. However, it was an argument I was never going to win.

Then … at the end of the year he called me into his office. I was right after all. Neil Draper had discovered a cave at Cape Borda that had archaeological evidence of human occupation that preceded the arrival of Tasmanian Aborigines to the island, and ending about a hundred years ago.

(2) I was given permission to read through Norman Tindale’s diaries in the Adelaide Museum. Tindale noted that as old stone tools had been unearthed after ploughing and that old campsites were on the ancient shorelines of lagoons, he realised he had discovered an ancient civilisation. To read that discovery, in his own words, in his own diary, sent a chill through me. It was as though I were there with him.

His diaries, as an aside, also mention a Tasmanian girl named Suke, who was stolen and taken to the island. After the death of Truganini in 1876 it became legend that the last ‘real’ or ‘full-blood’ Tasmanian Aborigine was now gone. This was not true, however, as Suke lived on the island until her death in 1888.

(3) The island was home to the Kartan people for over 16,000 years, with a population of over 200 people at any one time. Hundreds of Kartan campsites have been discovered, as have the remains of their prey, yet the remains of not one individual have ever been found. Not one.


Cooper, H. (1960). ‘The archaeology of Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 13, number 4, pages 481-503.

Cooper, H; and Condon, H. (1948). ‘On some fragments of emu egg-shell from an ancient camp-site on Kangaroo Island’ in The South Australian ornithologist. Volume 18, number 7, pages 66-68.

Cooper, H. (1960). ‘The archaeology of Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 13, number 4, pages 481-503.

Cooper, H. (1966). ‘Archaeological stone implements from a lagoon bed, Kangaroo Island, South Australia’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 15, number 2, pages 309-327.

Draper, N. (1988). ‘Stone tools and cultural landscapes: investigating the archaeology of Kangaroo Island’ in South Australian geographical journal. Volume 88, pages 15-36.

Flood, J. (1995). Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Lambert, R. (1981). The great Kartan mystery. The Australian National University, Canberra.

Mulvaney, D; and White, P. (1987). Editors Australia to 1788. Fairfax, Sydney.

Nunn, J. (1981). Soldier settlers: war service land settlement, Kangaroo Island. Investigator Press, Hawthorndene.

Nunn, J. (1989). This southern land: a social history of Kangaroo Island 1800-1890. Investigator Press, Hawthorndene.

Pilling, A; and Waterman, R. (1970). Editors Diprotodon to detribalisation: studies of change among Australian Aborigines. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, USA.

Robinson, A. (1992). Editor Biological survey of Kangaroo Island. NPWS, Adelaide.

Tindale, N; and Maegraith, B. (1931). ‘Traces of an extinct Aboriginal population on Kangaroo Island’ in the Records of the South Australian Museum. Volume 4, number 3, pages 275-289.

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Never has there been a greater need for Aboriginal fire-stick farming

As the bush fires rage so too does the debate on how land should be managed, specifically to prevent the repeat of these catastrophic fires.

On the Left we have the realists who believe the scientists that have warned there is a link between bush fires and climate change; and on the Right we have those who deny the link and so are furiously looking for someone to blame. They are blaming the usual suspects: Lefties and greenies, for they are the ones – apparently – who have stopped hazard-reduction burning in the cooler months. I’ve never known it to happen (which is not to say it hasn’t) but the Right want someone to blame regardless.

We all know that fires kill wildlife, whether it’s through hazard-reduction burning or through uncontrolled fires. Ideally, what we want is bush fire prevention with the absolute minimum (or no) loss of wildlife, and which also reduces the future loss of all life, including human life.

This can still be achieved through hazard reduction burning. It’s by ‘who’ that is the key.

Aboriginal Australians hold that key.

As traditional Aborigines were not land owners they felt that they had a responsibility to the environment. The environment, the land, and even the sky were created in one – as were the people – and all were related. With this attitude (belief) is it any surprise that the Aboriginal people never took anything from nature? Aborigines were the original conservationists and their use of land management promoted ecological health.

An example of this was fire stick farming: The low-intensity burning of undergrowth in wooded areas that would promote the germination of new plants, and thus attract the animals that were an important part of an Aborigine’s diet. This burning was carried out before the dry season and was done carefully and systematically. No more was burned than necessary. Burning was also more than just sound land management; it was evidence that the land was healthy and being fully utilised. There was also a religious significance to burning: As the Ancestral spirits of the Dreaming still inhabited the land, the burnings provided these spiritual inhabitants with lands on which they could hunt. But fire-stick farming had another purpose: to decrease the risk of the wild fires now all too common in modern Australia.

Conservation was also extended to all practices of hunting and gathering. No more food was taken than required and no food source was over exploited. In some societies prohibitions were placed on the taking of immature plants or animals. In times of crisis, such as drought or flood, land ownership need never be relinquished. The resources have been preserved. Critics of fire-stick farming would argue that forest burning kills wildlife. This was not the case. For example, the koala – the tragic face of the current bush fires – was an important source of food for traditional Aborigines, so the areas chosen to be burned would not have contained a population of a valuable food source. It defeated the purpose of their land management practices. Why kill what they were trying to preserve? After burning, the regrowth of vegetation attracted wildlife to the area, so Aborigines were actually producing an environment that was more suited to them. As an Adnyamathanha man told me today of those practices; “Burn an area of scrub where there’s no koalas, within 5-6 years the koalas would be there.”

Conversely, the western attitude to the land did not encourage sound management or preservation techniques. Whereas the Aborigines were careful in their exploitation of resources, the westerners unwittingly created vast tracts of land devastation. For instance, the over grazing of stock has rendered many areas infertile. The senseless chopping down of forests has destroyed delicate eco-systems. The salinity of the waterways is largely due to pollution. It is evident that no consideration had been given to the protection of natural resources. Land exploitation was used to advance British colonisation and became the rationale for European land ownership.

And slowly, as land was seized from the Aborigines, the land management techniques of our First People and the practice of fire-stick farming were discarded.

In his book Aboriginal Environmental Impacts, James Kohen explains the demise of the latter:

While Aboriginal people used fire as a tool for increasing the productivity of their environment, Europeans saw fire as a threat. Without regular low-intensity burning, leaf litter accumulates and crown fires can result, destroying everything in their path. European settlers feared fire, for it could destroy their houses, their crops, and it could destroy them. Yet the environment that was so attractive to them was created by fire (p 42).

In fearing fire, they – and we – have succumbed to it. We need to turn back the clock two hundred years and return the keys to the Aborigines to manage this delicate continent. We have failed.

The author has a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, spent three years as a Project Officer for Aboriginal communities in the Flinders Ranges, Batemans Bay and Eden, and three years as a Policy Officer in ATSIC, Canberra.

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What a competent government would have done …

Who said there’s no difference between Labor and the LNP? I thank Henry Johnston for pointing me to this media release by Bill Shorten (on 17 March, 2019) which provides us with one glaring difference. Read on, and be the judge:

A Shorten Labor Government will boost Australia’s firefighting capabilities with a national fleet of aircraft and dedicated smokejumper units to keep Australians safe from bushfires.

All Australians understand the devastating impact that bushfires have. Lives are lost, homes destroyed and communities shattered.

Our firefighters and emergency services personnel are among the best in the world, and they do a tremendous job, often putting their own lives at risk. But they need more support from government.

At the moment, Australia doesn’t have a government-owned fleet of water bombing aircraft – making us reliant on borrowing from private companies domestically and from overseas.

The bushfire season in Australia is lengthening and already overlapping with the northern hemisphere, increasing the risk that we won’t be able to access the aircraft we need at times of peril.

At the same time, the Federal Government’s contribution to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre has plummeted from 50 per cent of funding to just 23 per cent, reducing our overall firefighting capability.

The Bureau of Meteorology has identified this summer as Australia’s hottest on record, which included devastating bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania. Now is the time to invest in giving our firefighters the resources they need to keep us all safe.

Labor’s national firefighting package will deliver:

$80 million to establish the National Aerial Bushfire Fighting Fleet of aircraft

This fleet will provide standing aerial firefighting capacity that can be used on demand in emergencies.

It will include retro-fitted Black Hawk helicopters as they are phased out from active use by the Australian Army and Erickson S-64 Air-crane helicopters (or ‘Elvis’ as they are commonly known) which has a 2,650 gallon tank capable of snorkelling or scooping fresh or salt water.

It’s expected that the national fleet will include a standing capability of up to six Large or Very Large Air Tankers, and up to 12 heavy rotary wing helicopters.

The benefits of aerial firefighting are clear. Aircrafts offer speed, access and observation advantages over ground crews. Containment is more effective and the final fire burned area minimised using aerial capability, thereby reducing demand on ground crews.

Australia’s first ‘smokejumper’ units

Smokejumpers are firefighters trained to be rapidly deployed by helicopters at remote fires during the short window during which those fires can be contained.

Smokejumpers usually rappel from helicopters and use chain-saws, hoes and other dry firefighting tools to establish a containment perimeter around the fire. They then patrol the perimeter to ensure the fire does not jump containment lines while working with water-bombing aircraft to ensure the contained fire is fully extinguished.

California and other US states currently have a number of smokejumper units which have proven successful.

As part of the $80 million commitment to establish a fleet, Labor will work with the states and territories to establish smokejumper units across the country.

$21 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC)

A Shorten Labor Government will stop the Federal Government’s reduction in funding for our firefighting capabilities by returning to a 50-50 funding split between the states and territories and the Commonwealth.

Labor’s investment will ease the burden on state and territory governments, develop new national programs including a national risk management model, and national research and development programs including trials of new aircraft and night firefighting activities.

Labor can pay for new firefighting aircraft the smokejumper units because we are making multinationals pay their fair share and closing tax loopholes for the top end of town.


Well, at least people who receive franking credits are happy and Clive Palmer will get his mine.


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Some simple questions for Scott Morrison that nobody has thought to ask

What else but Scott Morrison’s belief in the words of Donald Trump would have been the inspiration behind his decision to expose Australian troops to a possible armed conflict in the Strait of Hormuz?

Is it the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ all over again? Same players: the US, the UK and Australia and an oil-rich nation. Same catalyst: believe whatever a POTUS says.

But more to the point, why does Morrison feel we need to join the US in Iran on Trump’s “say so”?

Is Morrison one of the few remaining individuals on the face of the Earth who believes anything Trump says? It appears as though he is.

Perhaps Scott Morrison could tell us what else he believes from the mouth or mind of Donald Trump.

This should be easy.

Tell us, Scott:

Do you think that Donald Trump should be able to buy Greenland?

Do you agree that nuking hurricanes is a sound idea?

Do you agree with Donald Trump that windmills cause noise cancer?

Do you agree with the Trump Administration locking up children? (No, wait, forget it. We can guess your answer to that one).

Do you agree with Trump’s trade war with China?

Do you agree with Donald Trump that the moon and Mars are the same?

Do you agree with Trump that Nazis are fine people?

Do you agree with Trump that Hilary Clinton should be locked up over “her emails”?

Do you agree that the media is the enemy of the people?

Do you agree with Trump that he was exonerated by Robert Mueller?

Do you think it ridiculous that Trump believes he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize? (For what?)

Do you believe any of this rubbish?:

Do you agree with Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico?

Do you agree with Trump’s claim that global warming is a hoax created by China?

Do you believe him when he says he’s a stable genius?

Do you believe that he receives beautiful letters from Kim Jong-un?

Do you really believe he’ll “make America great again”?

Do you believe his claim that he knows more about ISIS than his generals?

Do you believe Trump when he said that he knows the best words?

Do you agree with Trump that Obama spent too much time playing golf when he was POTUS?

Do you believe his claim that he has “statistically been proven right” that the concept of shaking hands is “absolutely terrible”?

Did you believe him when he said; “I look very much forward to showing my financials, because they are huge”?

This one’s a doozie – and please don’t take it personal – but do you agree with his statement that; “The worst thing a man can do is go bald. Never let yourself go bald”?

Do you believe him when he said he is “the chosen one” (by God)?

Now for a more serious question …

If you don’t believe any of them, then why do you believe him on Iran?

Maybe appeasing “the chosen one” takes priority over the safety of Australians.

As The Donald would say; Sad.

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It’s just one of those days I feel ashamed to be Australian

What more can I say?

Children are already dying under the Trump Administration’s watch.

Children are being separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border.

Children as young as five months old are sleeping on concrete floors.

Children are being denied tooth brushes, toothpaste, and soap.

They aren’t even allowed to take a bath or a shower.

Some are detained in a large warehouse that has no windows.

Most children are lice infected.

Horrified Americans are sending tooth brushes and sanitary products but they are being returned by government agents.

The man nominated by Trump to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security told Fox News that these children are only going to grow up to be criminals so we might as well leave them locked up at the border.

But Trump wants more … and he turns to Australia for inspiration.

How do you feel about that?


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Donald Trump and the tweet that stopped the world

Some events, catastrophic or otherwise, have been known to stop the world. They are events that captured the eyes and ears of the entire planet.

I can think of a number of them in my lifetime:

The Cuban missile crisis

The assassination of JFK

The first moon landing

The Apollo 13 drama

The Tiananmen Square massacre

The Chernobyl disaster

Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

The fall of the Berlin Wall

The death of the Princess of Wales

The events of 9/11

A tweet by Donald Trump.

”What! A tweet by Donald Trump?” you ask.

“Yes indeed. His tweet of this morning has stopped the world.”

A tweet so stupid, that the whole world has stopped in stunned, gob-smacking amazement. You just have to see it:

Well there you have it.

You can now pick yourself up from the floor and carry on with your life safe in the knowledge that this “stable genius” is the apparent leader of the free world, and that everything you ever knew about the moon was wrong.

Oh, and by the way, here’s a screenshot of one of his tweets from three weeks ago, proposing, of all things, that we should go back to the moon.

Sometimes … just sometimes … I am lost for words.

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January 1: Exclusion and the White Australia Policy

Is there a day on the calendar that draws as much debate as January 26? While a large proportion of Australians celebrate this as Australia Day, there is a growing number who refuse to celebrate what they refer to as ‘Invasion Day’. On January 26, 1788 the Union Jack was raised on our shores, and Aboriginal ownership of the land was usurped.

The call to change the date of Australia Day from January 26 has been growing louder each year, to one where all Australians could feel included. January 26 does not offer this to the First Australians. The obvious choice espoused by many is January 1, which celebrates our federation in 1901. But history reminds us that this is as equally insulting to the First Australians as January 26.

Let us look at that history and build a case why January 1 should not be considered.

This is not a short read, but I hope for those who have the time and patience to read through it will gain an appreciation of why January 1 should not be the day we celebrate Australia Day. (Please note, for this article I have drawn together much of two of my previously published articles: Federalism and why we have it on Cafe Whispers, and Aborigines: They’re gonna die out anyway here on The AIMN, however, here they are presented with a different intent).

Perhaps the most debated reason behind Federation was the (then) popular concept of a common policy on immigration. The colonists, being mainly Britannic Australians, wanted it kept that way. Australia’s geography – further from the colonist’s ‘home’ than almost any place on earth, and separated by only a narrow sea passage from the teeming millions of Asia – resulted in the development of a xenophobic, isolationist world view, in which psychological barriers were erected against near neighbours, and intervention in foreign affairs was only at the behest of Mother England.

Arguably, the cornerstone in the foundation of Australia is racism; and that Federation was the opportunity to maintain white superiority. (England was, at the time, anti-racial). In drafting the Constitution the intention was to grant the Commonwealth power over the limited rights of immigrants, and subsequently the first act of the new Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act: better known as the White Australia Policy.

But what concern is this to the First Australians, and why should it be offensive to them to adopt January 1 as the date to celebrate Australia Day?

Colonial Australia was determined to maintain what it believed was its racial homogeneity. If the Indigenous peoples continued their perceived decline towards extinction (and other migrant races were excluded or expelled), a ‘pure race’ could logically result.

Even before colonisation, the construct of the Aborigine saw them positioned in the landscape as a savage: a subsequent depiction that evolved in the minds of European imagination. The English, especially, considered themselves well-credentialed. As the first Englishman to encounter Aborigines, William Dampier instilled in other Englishmen’s minds the preconceptions about these people when he wrote that they were “the miserablest people in the world.” And the image of the Aborigine was to leave no impression of excitement or significance on James Cook, a later visitor, merely accepting the Aborigines as Dampier had earlier reported. Cook had also brought with him images of Indigenous peoples as noble savages, largely the antithesis of Europeans. Cook was probably influenced by the writings of Rousseau, whose saw native peoples as unadulterated by the evils of civilisation. These idealistic views were modified after 1788, however these early explorers saw no, and reported no positive attributes among the Aboriginal people and believed in their own superiority. The land was declared terra nullius … and the various Aboriginal nations declared uncivilised.

Earlier constructs of Aboriginal people were no less flattering. Constructed by Europeans in their absence, Australia’s Aborigines were placed low in the order of humanity based on their perceived lack of intellect and active powers. These conceived attitudes were carried throughout colonial Australia and helped secure the fate of the Aborigines.

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The preconceptions had thus germinated by 26th January 1788 when the history of European-Aboriginal interactions began as the British flag was raised at Port Jackson. Accordingly, Governor Phillip and others brought their own preconceptions about Aborigines and also their intentions of their future. Based on these preconceptions they would be considered a part of Australia’s past.

Contemporary writers offer a picture suggesting that in January 1788 amicable relations between the Europeans and the Aborigines were established with comparative ease. They wrote liberally of pleasant interactions, confidently suggesting that the Aborigines would soon discover that the colonists were not their enemies, and noted that the Aborigines were treating the whites as their equals. However, as Aboriginal people had nothing the invader wanted but their land, attempts to maintain diplomatic relations with them were abandoned.

Nevertheless, Aborigines were to be treated as equals of British subjects – without actually being British subjects – in order to allow the Governor some semblance of control over actual British subjects.

Regarding the legal status of Aborigines in the early days of colonial settlement, official correspondence frequently drew a distinction between British subjects and the Aborigines, treating the two groups differently. However, as interaction between the groups increased, Aboriginal people came to be treated as if they were British subjects, albeit for some purposes.

At the outset of white settlement the British government claimed ownership of all land for the crown. London espoused the ethnocentric viewpoint that Aboriginal peoples who did not cultivate the land and who showed no signs of permanent homes were not accorded any legal rights to the lands. Instead, the Aboriginals were to be treated as coming under British dominion, subject theoretically to the same laws which applied to the European settlers. Just as the colonists were allowed to manage their own affairs, so the Aborigines were left to themselves to do as they like so long as they do not interfere with the colonists. If an effort was made by the government to benefit them by trying to induce them to adopt a civilised life, it is left entirely at their option whether they permitted themselves to come under the provisions made for their benefit or not.

However, as the colonies later became self-governing in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the influence of London declined, Aboriginal people were increasingly displaced, legally and physically, as a distinct people. This change was to be dramatic in the latter half of the nineteenth century when the distinctive differences could be explained, classified, and sanctioned.

The year 1859 saw the publication of a rather important book: Charles Darwin’s The Origins of Species. In his book Darwin suggested that species were not permanently fixed, that they were all undergoing change by natural selection. If a species did not adapt successfully, it was liable to become extinct. Only the favoured survived and prospered in the struggle for life.

Darwin’s theories also suited the social order. Even before The Origin of Species, the idea of ‘the survival of the fittest’, a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer, was being used to justify ruthless competition between individuals, classes, nations and races. Although The Origins of Species did not relate natural selection to humanity, it seemed to give a scientific – and therefore moral – sanction to repressive social relationships. For the remainder of the century, Social Darwinism, as this misapplication of Darwin’s ideas came to be called, was used to justify the oppression and exclusion of the Aborigines. Darwin’s ideas seemed to justify what happened when the British expanded their empire, populated new lands and dispossessed Indigenous peoples. Before Darwin had published The Origin of Species, the extinction of the Aborigines was being explained away as ‘the design of Providence’. Darwin’s theories gave such sentiments an aura of scientific legitimacy.

Following the publication of Darwin’s book the view of evolution was quickly applied to the study of racial groups. Herbert Spencer considered the development of society and human intellect in evolutionary terms and argued that the dominant races overrun the inferior races. Spencer’s premise that a general law of evolution could be formulated led him to apply the biologic scheme of evolution to human society. The doctrine of social structure and change, if the generalisations of his system were pertinent, must be the same as those of the universe at large. In applying evolution to human society, Spencer, and after him the Social Darwinists, was adding integrity to its origins. The survival of the fittest was a biological generalisation of the cruel colonial processes at work in late nineteenth century society. Spencer himself wrote that the whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better. Nature is as insistent upon fitness of mental character as she is upon physical character.

Spencer, significantly, was more concerned with mental than physical evolution. This doctrine confirmed his evolutionary optimism. For if mental as well as physical characteristics could be inherited, the intellectual powers of the race would become cumulatively greater, and over several generations the ideal person would ultimately be developed.

Spencer’s theory of social selection was written out of his concern with population problems. In two articles that appeared in 1852, seven years before Darwin’s book was published, Spencer had set forth the view that the pressure of survival upon population must have a beneficent effect upon the human race. This pressure had been the immediate basis of progress from the earliest human times. By placing a premium upon skill, intelligence, self-control, and the power to adapt through technical innovation, it had stimulated human advancement and selected the best of each generation for survival.

Darwin precipitated the development of this new perspective on ‘race’. If the human race had evolved, it was perhaps natural to suppose that the human races might represent evolutionary stages. Social Darwinism was subsequently to become one of the leading strains in conservative thought and was used to defend racial conflict. Although Darwinism was not the primary source of the belligerent ideology and dogmatic racism of the late nineteenth century, it did become a new instrument in the hands of the colonial theorists of race and struggle.

Spencer’s theory had considerable influence in European social evolutionary thinking. Within a few years of the publications of Spencer’s work he was known to a considerable body of American readers and the following article from The Atlantic Monthly 1864 draws parallels to the ideologies of the colonial Australian and articulates the influence of his work:

Mr. Herbert Spencer is already a power in the world . . . He has already influenced the silent life of a few thinking men whose belief marks the point to which the civilisation of the age must struggle to rise. . . . Mr. Spencer has already established principals which, however compelled for a time to compromise with prejudices and vested interests, will become the recognised basis of an improved society.

The doctrine of Social Darwinism had thus produced a set of ideas that were to be very engaging to the colonial society, and colonial Australia proved an attractive spawning ground for Social Darwinist ideas since it was an area of new Anglo-Saxon settlement where racial conflict needed to be explained away. Although Darwin only gained real acceptance in Australian scientific circles towards the end of the century, at a more popular level his ideas enjoyed a very wide currency. In the first place, they provided a comforting, seemingly scientific explanation for the actual destruction of Aboriginal society. Previously, Europeans had been convinced of the inferiority of the Aborigines, but that did not justify their extinction. Social Darwinism did.

In a period that witnessed Aborigines being hunted like animals, dying in their thousands through imported diseases, and reportedly murdered at the hands of punitive colonials, the emergence of a law which not only justified the extermination of Aborigines but argued that it was beneficial to the human race, was gratefully accepted and enthusiastically endorsed by many sectors of colonial society.

Popular literature of the nineteenth century depicted an image of the Australian Aborigine that reinforced these colonial ideals. We are to assume that the contemporary reader of the following extract from David Blair’s History of Australasia, when published in 1879, foreshadowed, perhaps demanded, the inevitable extinction:

As a race the aborigine is a savage in the strongest sense of that term.  Alike cruel and treacherous, he loses no occasion of wreaking his vengeance on an enemy, and indulges in the most bloodthirsty propensities.  The practice of cannibalism is general among the natives: for a long time this was doubted, but it has been proved, beyond the reach of question, and the practice often found accompanied by the most revolting ferocity – as the sacrifice of an infant by its own mother for the mere pleasure of eating its flesh.

It is arguable that evolution and survival of the fittest, per se, supported the colonial racist ideology of white dominance and the biological inferiority of the dominated (or displaced). The laws of evolution, it was confidently assumed, were not only pushing the Aboriginal race to the brink of extinction, but there was nothing that should, or could be done about it. Such demands, it was debatable, influenced by publications such as Blair’s as well as the dominant ideology, were being called for throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. In colonial discussions about the Aborigines references to racial struggle and the survival of the fittest became commonplace from the 1860s onward.

A strong correlation can hence be seen between racist thoughts and the racialist practices that developed. A definite inner-relationship can be drawn between the structure of a contact situation and the ideas and the theories which evolve from, and in turn, serve to strengthen that structure. The violence and rapid population decline, especially focusing on their apparent trend towards extinction in Tasmania, confirmed the emergent ideology of Social Darwinism, proving the inevitable consequences of colonisations … Australians were told not to trouble themselves about the disappearance of the Aborigines.

This doctrine conveniently helped justify colonialism and the favourable tenet that Aborigines would eventually disappear under the impact of civilisation and hence supported the ideal of white dominance and the biological inferiority of the dominated. To support this convenient doctrine it became a task to provide evidence as to whether the Aborigine was inferior to the European. This was already known. It was instead to become a task of confirmation. The Australian Aborigine thus became the victim of an intellectual hiatus. During the latter half of the century, it was increasingly to the writing of natural science that Europeans subsequently turned to find the most credible and compelling support for their racist suppositions.

The data that lent themselves most readily were clearly those of biology and natural history. Extended to human affairs, the pervasive spirit of simplicity sought to reproduce for social relations the sort of simple order thought to be inherent in nature. Hence there was an application of categories of racial classification to human groups on the basis of natural characteristics. This racial ordering also implied a behavioural expectation and that perhaps the major assumption underlying classification was that identification of races in terms of their differentia is adequate to establish the laws of behaviour for their members.

Early applications of this theory were none-too-soon observed in the behaviour of the Aborigines. Behaviour, it was argued, that was driven by primitive instinct and without the habits of forethought or providence. For example, their instinctive mating habits and the eating of raw meats – to an ethnocentric observer – clearly represented diminished intellectual development. Even the absence of nets or fish-hooks in some coastal Tasmanian societies was taken as an indication that the local Aborigines had not yet evolved to the point were they needed one of the most basic of human foods. Hence terms such as ‘the childhood of humanity’ were liberally and needlessly applied and the evolutionary theory enforced.

At this time, and certainly based on observation, few Europeans in colonial Australia doubted that other races were inferior, but many felt the need to establish some scientific basis for their belief. The evolutionary notions of Aboriginal inferiority were then founded on scientific racism. The most conclusive evidence to support the Aborigines’ low level of intellectual development was thus obtained through scientific proof. Science found a way to satisfy the ideology that primitive intellect was confirmed through recognisable primitive characteristics. One such conclusion was derived through the study of craniology: the examination and measurement of crania.

The crania of the Aborigines supplied fertile ground for evidence of their primitiveness: long heads with a sharp, sloping brow; prominent ridges and heavy bone structure; and significantly, a smaller, lighter (and presumably less complex) brain than that of a European. These structural features were considered ape-like, to which other physical similarities were unduly drawn. Such conclusions served to support the view that the Australian Aborigines were a relic of the oldest type of humankind, or indeed, even living fossils.

The science of phrenology was credited with further advancing consistencies of primitiveness in that the astute European could now – through even more elaborate scientific reasoning – develop a model for character analysis also drawn from cranial properties. Popular in the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century, phrenology was a pseudo-science based on the twin assumptions that specific areas of the brain were responsible for particular moral and intellectual characteristics and that the shape of the skull reflected the inner structure of the brain.

Phrenologists professed to discover an individual’s mental faculties from identifiable peculiarities of skull formation. With racist suppositions the colonial scientists elaborated Aboriginal inferiority based on phrenological evidence. Their prominent bumps or ridges on the skull – as an example – were a signature of depravity or other abstract qualities; and the smallness of their brain (or internal capacity of the skull – as compared with an average European) was the cause of miserable manifestations of mind; and even the mere thickness of the skull alone was a sure indicator of low mental ability, moral character, benevolence and conscientiousness. The conclusion was drawn, that based on the evidence of phrenological interpretation, the Aborigines possessed only a few of the intellectual faculties so evident in white Australians.

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The colonisers therefore had no compunction in applying erroneous scientific theories as justification for extermination. Science had confirmed the inevitable: that the Aborigines as primitives faced extinction and every assessment of their situation, every evaluation of policy, took place in the shadow of that certainty.

The relationship between the colonisers and the Aborigines was fundamentally based on the social evolutionary theory. This theory justified European colonialism, summarising that destruction of the weak was the only way to assure success for the strong. Subsequently, government policy-making in Australia embraced these racial beliefs. These government policies took on a short-term palliative nature to ‘protect’ Aborigines by isolating them on state regulated reserves away from European contact and abuse in wait of their demise and by removing most of the rights they had enjoyed as citizens. The policies of ProtectionSegregation (and Assimilation which was sanctioned in the twentieth century) reflected this ideology.

Protection was influenced by the theory that Aborigines were certain to die out as a result of the European contact. Subsequently, all that could be done for them was to protect them until this inevitable demise. However nature had not yet selected Aborigines for extinction – only the colonisers had – and the policy of protection underwent a subtle change to Segregation. Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: Aborigines were a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

Whilst the Aboriginal race had survived, government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the twentieth century they had still failed to progress since European contact. Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white purity. Such practices would not only expedite the demise of the Aborigines, but would hasten the emergence of the Australian national.

The Australian type was believed to be a new product of the multiplying British stock, the race which, in the heyday of British imperialism and legitimated by the now immensely influential ideology of Social Darwinism, saw itself as superior to all other races and therefore possessing the duty and destiny to populate and civilise the rest of the world.

Interest subsequently increased in using evolution theory for justification of a strong state in Australia. It is this racialist concern with a distinctively Australian type that under-girded the White Australia Policy, which was sanctioned by the adoption of the Immigration Restriction Bill in 1901. The Imperialist and racist ideology drew on generations of conquest, slavery and exploitation, and on a whole language of black inferiority and white superiority, bolstered in the nineteenth century by the new sciences. This ideology proved useful and flexible in rationalising the bloody violence, dispossession and incarceration of Aboriginal people, necessary to clear the way for the white nation.

The Darwinist explanations of evolution asserted that given equal competition, the fittest societies would survive and the inferior would die out, and links the attempted and hastened destruction of Aboriginal societies based on this theory. The British, being industrious and capital driven, accepted themselves as superior to the improvident Aborigines and accepted that as racially doomed and undesirable were destined to die out, and provided encouragement to hurry on the inevitable result of colonial contact. Such acts, it could be argued, sidestepped issues of morality by assertions that such conflict was beyond the reach of normal moral or social concern, being driven by irresistible forces of species survival. Destruction of the weak was the only way to assure success for the strong.

And from that doctrine … Australia was born on January 1, 2001.

As January 26 will always be remembered as Invasion Day, perhaps January 1 can be remembered as Exclusion Day: the date the First Australians were officially excluded.

The First Australians were no longer considered Australians.

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The true guardians of Australia

History, so goes the old saying, tends to repeat itself. But the tragedy unfolding in the Murray-Darling basin is unprecedented. This is new. You won’t find a parallel in the history books. It is a tragedy caused by human intervention. It is a tragedy caused by today’s governments trying to alter the course of nature.

Oh what poor custodians of this land white Australia has been. The Murray-Darling is but one example.

But why?

To answer, we must look at the attitudes of land, from a non-Indigenous and Indigenous perspectives. It’s not a simple case of black and white.

In most western societies land ownership is considered a form of security or an expression of status. Most non-Aboriginal Australians aspire to own a piece of real estate, and to meet that dream they work, they save, borrow and mortgage their lives away. Land ownership is confirmed with a Title Deed which is identified with a Volume, Folio and sub-section number on which the land dimensions and boundaries are clearly marked. On this land the owner may build a dwelling, grow or raise produce for income, or rent out the land for profit.

In rural Australia most land is used for growling cereal crops or raising live-stock. This is done within the boundaries of the owner’s land. These ventures are filled with risk: Dramatic seasonal changes; fluctuating market prices for the produce; diseases; cash flow problems; farming on unsuitable land (poor land management) and a host of other variables could force ownership to be relinquished.

Image from library.ststephens.wa.edu.au

Traditionally, Aboriginal people do not own land. Instead, they are a part of the land and this link was formed during the Dreaming. In the Dreaming, people were created from the land and this is the land they still inhabit. It is on this basis that Aboriginal people are claiming legal title to land, supported by the belief that the spiritual ancestors who shaped the land still inhabit it; the land still embodies the sacredness of the Dreaming events. Traditional ownership was validated if your Dreaming Ancestors inhabited a particular area of land. Traditional ownership certainly does not shield Aborigines from some of the dangers that face western land owners. However their land management techniques and their attitudes to the environment make the land more sustainable.

As Aborigines are not land owners they feel that they have a responsibility to the environment. The environment, the land, and even the sky were created in one – as were the people – and all are related. With this attitude/belief is it any surprise that the Aboriginal people never took anything from nature? Aborigines are the original conservationists and their use of land management promoted ecological health.

An example of this is fire stick farming: The burning of undergrowth in wooded areas that would promote the germination of new plants, and thus attract the animals that were an important part of an Aborigine’s diet. This burning was carried out before the dry season and was done carefully and systematically. No more was burned than necessary. Burning was also more than just sound land management; it was evidence that the land was healthy and being fully utilised. There was also a religious significance to burning: As the Ancestral spirits of the Dreaming still inhabit the land, the burnings provided these spiritual inhabitants with lands on which they could hunt.

Conservation was also extended to all practices of hunting and gathering. No more food was taken than required and no food source was over exploited. In some societies prohibitions were placed on the taking of immature plants or animals. In times of crisis, such as drought or flood, land ownership need never be relinquished. The resources have been preserved.

The western attitude to the land did not encourage sound management or preservation techniques. Whereas the Aborigines were careful in their exploitation of resources, the westerners unwittingly created vast tracts of land devastation. For instance, the over grazing of stock has rendered many areas infertile. The senseless chopping down of forests has destroyed delicate eco-systems. The salinity of the waterways is largely due to pollution. It is evident that no consideration had been given to the protection of natural resources. How little are the changes of attitudes since 1788? Land exploitation was used to advance British colonisation and became the rationale for European land ownership. It is ironic that most European-Australians view Aboriginal lands as inhospitable, barren or unforsaken, when it could be argued that the reverse could apply. Need we say more:

Image from finterest.com.au

Whose guardianship do you trust?

It has only taken Europeans 230 years to destroy what the First Australians preserved for over 60,000 years. In another 230 years there may be nothing left to preserve.

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This is why I vote Labor

The first time that I published this post was in 2012 on the old Cafe Whispers blog, and republished it on The AIMN prior to the 2013 federal election. I hesitate to publish repeat posts but on this occasion I have made an exception, and present it again (slightly edited).

Why am I doing this?

Two reasons. Firstly, I want people to know the LNP that I know and from what I’ve seen this makes Labor a better alternative.

Secondly, to shut the critics up. I am a Labor voter, despite some noisy people thinking otherwise. And to those critics who might ask; “If you’re a Labor voter then why are Greens voters given a voice on this site?” My short answer is; “They are allowed to and they’re welcome to. It is their site too.” We are a left-leaning site – I won’t hide from that – and we all do our bit to put an end to the horror nightmare currently governing us. My bit is to vote Labor.

Here’s my story …

I was too young to vote for Gough Whitlam in 1972 and until then I had no interest in politics, but it wasn’t hard to get swept up in the wave of excitement of his anticipated victory. I would have voted for him. The Vietnam War was still raging and kids my age and older were dreading their 20th birthday and the subsequent prospect of conscription. We didn’t like the idea of fighting another senseless war. I think we were the first generation to take that stand.

Although my short-lived interest in politics was well behind me, in 1975 I voted for Gough as I wasn’t happy at the way he was dismissed by John Kerr (with the help of Fraser, in my opinion). In fact, I was rather angry at the whole affair.

I stayed with Labor until the early nineties. Yes, I voted for Hewson and I voted for Howard. Hewson’s loss disappointed me, probably because at the time I was not a big fan of Keating’s, while Howard’s victory brought out the champagne, as by this time I quite despised Keating (for his arrogance). In my eyes Howard couldn’t do anything wrong. He was perfect. But again, my interest – or knowledge – of politics was not vast. Rather small, actually.

It wasn’t long, however, before I would mumble to myself: “Come back, Paul. All is forgiven”.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at their prime ministerships both history and I will/have judged Keating to be the far better of the two. And by a country mile!

But I digress.

After securing work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1999 it soon became obvious to me that Howard was nothing but a political opportunist. Aboriginal people became political footballs and he soon caught on that ATSIC bashing provided him with the Midas touch. Despite having at his disposal hundreds of skilled and experience policy makers and Aboriginal people with their pulse on community needs and real contemporary issues, he found it was better politics to be driven by media demands and editorials. There were more votes in helping with the bashing than formulating some really beneficial programs to help these marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society.

It was sad having to visit remote Indigenous communities and make excuses as to why they were continually being ignored by Canberra. “Oh how different it might have been under Keating” I would silently mutter.

The disappointment I detected in the Howard Government in remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia was nothing compared to the detestation of him I felt within the Public Service when moving to Canberra. Frankly, it was quite a surprise and one that found me asking questions as to why.

The answers weren’t that complex.

From working closely with him and his government, Public Servants saw first hand what a mean-spirited, conniving, lying bunch of individuals those in the LNP government were. And it t didn’t take me long to discover this too! Policies were formulated to ensure their own political survival while ignoring the needs of wider Australians. Lies were told to the media about how successful their policies were when in fact they were failing miserably, and public servants were bullied into providing them with confidential information in order to secure a political advantage over the then Opposition. I am not at liberty to disclose what I witnessed, but let me say that in my eyes Howard was still perfect. The perfect a###hole, that is.

I often wished that those people interstate who worshipped him in their millions could come to work in the Public Service and see first-hand for themselves what a miserable #### he actually was. It’s a pity that the truth never ventured past the boundaries of Canberra.

On the Monday morning after he lost office, the sight of public servants going about their business with a spring in their steps and a smile on their faces gave Canberra a good feel about it. The bullying had stopped and the Public Service was again apolitical, which is how it should be.

But it was after they lost office that I saw how miserable and mean-spirited the Liberal Party was (and still is).

I am not at liberty to give exact details, but I was involved in formulating many policies for the Rudd/Gillard Governments that were aimed at assisting both disadvantaged and mainstream Australians. To see something finally being done for the wider community was inspiring. Sadly, the programs went nowhere or somewhere at a snail’s pace, keeping disadvantaged Australians disadvantaged. Why? Because the Abbott Opposition made every attempt possible to ruin these programs because the delivery of them would bring credit to the Labor Government. And naturally, the Opposition would then shout to the media that this Government was doing nothing for the average Australian … and the wider community started to nod in agreement. If the wider community knew of the billions of dollars that were wasted because of the Opposition’s tactics they might not have nodded so obligingly.

At about this time it was very easy to become demoralised as a public servant; working your arse off to get this country moving then watch everything crumble because the Liberals didn’t want it to move. They exhibited no interest whatsoever for the community or its needs. Adopting Howard’s manipulative trait, they were only interested in ruining a duly elected government and having parties in The Lodge. They haven’t changed much, have they?

I saw enough of the Liberal Party in my dozen or so years as a Canberran to carry a hatred for them for many years yet. I’m definitely Labor to the core and not afraid to admit it.

In my opinion, however, I think that since 2007 Labor have done a lousy job selling itself. Here they could take a leaf out of John Howard’s book of telling anybody with a microphone or a TV camera how good he was. Howard drummed it into us, and we heard it that many times that many actually believed it.

It’s the same manner Tony Abbott used to shout to everybody how bad the Gillard Government was. And the friendly media were happy to keep printing his lies.

Again, I’m digressing.

The point is, I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment: the Australian Labor Party.

Can I really believe that the LNP would put ordinary Australians first? Can I really believe they’d be a better alternative for pensioners, parents or minority groups? Can I really believe they’d offer a better system for education, health or technology? No. Of course not. I’ve worked for them and not once did they convince me that ordinary Australians matter.

Can I believe that they would offer a better form of government for the upper class, the media barons or the mining giants? Yes.

I repeat: I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment … and that’s the Australian Labor Party.

It’s time. Again.

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Christmas comes but a hundred times a year

For my school holidays in 1965 I was staying with my newly-wed brother and his wife’s family in country NSW. On Christmas Eve my brother drove me to the town’s telephone booth for the obligatory call home.

Wow, a telephone booth! As a kid growing up on Kangaroo Island a telephone booth was an invention ahead of its time. I’d never seen one, let alone ventured into one. Exciting steps indeed.

Back in those days the making of a long-distance telephone call wasn’t as ‘modern’ as the booth we were making it from. One was required to book a trunk call, and the waiting time – on this occasion – was two hours.

Two hours of picking up stones and throwing them at fence posts.

It was, you could say, a ‘remote Christmas.’

Fifteen years down the track every Christmas the parent’s house was packed to the rafters with family and friends. It was the only true annual get-together that we and others families would enjoy, and everybody made every effort to share it.

“Christmas comes but once a year,” so went the old saying. And it was that once in a year opportunity to see family from afar and actually speak to them face to face.

And that was the Christmas scene for the next few decades. Christmas 1965 seemed many lifetimes ago.

But is 1965 catching up to us?

Over the last few years I’ve heard more and more people announce with a sigh of relief that “our Christmas will be spent with just the two (or three or four) of us. Quiet and relaxed.”

With more than a touch of irony, one wonders if modern technology is the vehicle that has allowed 1965 to catch up.

Through modern technology we no longer have to wait for Christmas for the rare get-togethers. Phone calls are a breeze to make, we can Skype (or face-time) friends and family afar, we email each other what seems a hundred times a week, we can share family photos on Facebook or Instagram, and we can now fly interstate relatively cheaper than we once could. Friends and family are with us … always … and not just in our thoughts. Some would say they are in our faces!

After a year of constant communications and visitations … Christmas is the opportunity for some to take a break, wind down, and put the feet up.

And that’s what a lot of people from our generation propose when we ask; “Whachya doin’ for Chrissy?”

Maybe that will one day become the new tradition. After all, we can now have (a sort of) Christmas about 200 times a year.

History will, of course, prove me absolutely wrong, so in anticipation of my complete failure in predicting one of the greatest social upheavals of our lifetime all that is left for me to say is …

Merry Christmas, everybody, from Carol and I.

Kaye Lee once said that we at The AIMN are all a family, and it is a family that Carol and I are proud of, whose company we cherish 365 days a year. If you’re not doing anything on December 25, this is one family you are welcome to spend some time with.

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