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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

Respect: Let’s show it

Back when Gough Whitlam won the election a few of us guys from the local football club went along to our pub, and on this day we thought we’d drink in the lounge, rather than our regular spot; the front bar.

We talked about Gough’s win when a bloke started chatting to us about how bad it was that Labor won.

He would have been in his mid-fifties, and he was clearly a right-winger.

We gave him hell. Not just on that day, but whenever we saw him again in the lounge bar of the pub.

We were quite nasty, actually. Our language was appalling, splattered with such terms as; “F#ck off, idiot”, Go f#ck yourself”, “What the f#ck would you know”, or “Go and talk to your f#cking friends over there”.

And as we were disgusting people, the “c” word was used liberally.

You get the picture.

And of course we enjoyed it. We were bloody heroes.

After that our lives took us down different paths and 25 years later I was working for ATSIC in Port Augusta.

One evening on ANZAC Day an old WW2 veteran was interviewed by one of the local Adelaide news channels.

This bloke was in the air force and had been shot down over Germany. Parachuting (luckily) to safety, he hid from the German forces for over three weeks, managing to find his way to the Allies.

It was a tormenting, harrowing experience. At any time he might have been only a minute away from capture, or worse, death. This man – probably in his early twenties at the time – was a true Aussie hero who gave up everything to go and fight for his country.

Can you imagine the guilt I felt when I recognised him as the bloke me and some footy mates used to throw the most vile, disgusting abuse to whenever we saw him in the pub all those years ago?

We knew nothing about this bloke when he was the victim of our insults.

It’s a bit like social media. How often do we see abuse hurled at someone that the abuser – in all likelihood – knows nothing about. The abused person may be someone with a mental illness, or someone who is a hero as a community worker, or someone who had just lost their partner. The list goes on.

Sadly, very sadly, I’ve been one such perpetrator. I remember on one occasion suggesting that a very annoying person was drunk. Little did I know that this person was a non-drinker after years of fighting alcoholism.

The little things we say that we think are funny, might just be shattering to our target.

Tempers have been demonstrated this year, not just on The AIMN, but Facebook and Twitter. The looming election gives us the opportunity to focus on the true enemy, and not just each other.

From what I’ve seen elsewhere the government (and their mates in the MSM) are watching social media like a hawk.

Let’s not give them anything to swoop on.

At The AIMN we’re fortunate to have fantastic writers and commenters who lead by example.

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What is it with some people and longer cords?

Here’s a little gem (which I published years ago on another site) from the now defunct Originz podcast about a teacher in Western Queensland some time back.

The said teacher was in a very small community which consisted of a hotel (of course), a police station, a small school and a few houses. He was the school’s only teacher and the school had only a dozen students. Even in Queensland – his region at least – Winters can be cold. Some heating was needed so he wrote to the Education Department requesting that some kerosene heaters be supplied to the school.

They wrote back advising that electric heaters only would be provided, to which he responded that electric heaters would be unsuitable for the school’s generator.

Again he requested kerosene heaters, thinking that his reason for needing them was well spelled out. His argument, unfortunately, was unconvincing even though it was logical. The Education Department continued to insist that only electric heaters would be provided.

Our teacher conceded and agreed to be supplied the electric heaters. And they duly were.

Our teacher then wrote back to the bright folk at the Education Department requesting … a 700 kilometre power cord so he could plug the heaters in somewhere!

So why am I mentioning this now?

Well, because it reminds me of our illustrious prime minister.

 

 

What is it with some people and longer cords?

 

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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 5)

Conclusion

Intellectual fashions in Social Darwinism and eugenics sought to ‘purify’ and secure a white Australia. The Indigenous population (and what was seen as the hordes of Chinese entering the colony from the 1850s) were perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’. This thesis has reviewed a number of writers who conclude that the ideology of Social Darwinism was to become dominant in the public discourse, and that the ideology shaped the White Australia Policy.

Prior to colonisation, yet amid aggressive imperial expansion, much of the European knowledge of Indigenous people was constructed in their absence. In Australia, as in other colonial frontiers, Europeans imagined the indigenes as the Other and a collective identity was forged through a discourse that set them apart from Europeans. However it is recognised that the discourse of racism does not consist simply in descriptive representations of others. It included a set of hypothetical premises about human kinds (eg the Great Chain of Being and the aforementioned Social Darwinism) and about the differences between them both mental and physical. Such racial ideas went hand in hand with British imperialism and were to be embedded in colonial thought.

It is understood that early in colonisation the succession of British Governments declared Aborigines their subjects, and as British subjects, were entitled to all the rights of protection, as well as the responsibilities afforded by British law. However the rhetoric of the British Government was to become “ineffectual” (Kalantzis, 1998a) in the Australian colony with an opposing and dominant ideology. To the colonial observer Aborigines were certainly not British subjects. They were perceived as something far less superior.

Social Darwinism, based on Darwin’s concept of natural selection (The Origin of Species, published in 1859) provided validation for this perception of inferiority and subsequently for the predicted extinction and destruction of such ‘inferior races’ in the wake of colonial progress. The colonists readily accepted themselves as superior and considered Aborigines far less travelled along the evolutionary path. As such, this thesis has examined the argument that under the pretext of Social Darwinism the extinction of Aborigines was proclaimed and that this became the underlying basis for government policy in the shadows of Federation, and was ultimately justification of a perceived strong and ‘pure’ white state in the young Australian nation.

However the real strength of the idea of inevitable extinction lay not in the empirical evidence but in the theoretical constructs of evolution. Fuelled by this doctrine, the Australian colonists were anxious to maintain ‘white purity’ which was considered to be under threat from the Indigenous population and the growing population of non-Europeans. This perceived threat to the emerging Australian type was an active agent in promoting the discourse of Social Darwinism in popular consciousness. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was increasingly to the writing of natural science that Europeans turned to find the most credible and compelling support for their racist suppositions. In this regard, the Aborigine was the victim of an intellectual “hiatus” (Kearney, 1973:12). The task was not to find out whether the Aborigine was inferior to the European, it was instead a task of confirmation. Scientific applications such as craniology and phrenology provided conclusive evidence to the colonial observer that the Aborigines were indeed lowly in terms of evolution.

‘Race’ as a biological issue in the Australian colonies structured class inequality and an ideology justifying the colonial situation. In its most strident form, Australian racism argued that Aborigines and other non-Europeans were not only inferior but would debase the white population. Thus, the opposition to non-white immigration and hostility to the Indigenous residents in the latter half of the nineteenth century, both based exclusively on racial grounds, laid the basis of Australian racism. The popular press in the latter part of the nineteenth century was active in promoting the discourse that the Australian type and Australian society had evolved into something worth protecting. The beliefs, attitudes and values which underpinned the White Australia Policy were such things as Social Darwinism and feelings of racial superiority.

Markus, Pettman, and Evans are among a large group of historians who attest that the need to maintain a British ethnicity was the prime motive for the colonies to federate. Identification as British and as a part of a great empire was obviously a convenient basis upon which to define the identity of Australians at the time of Federation. White (1981:64, 71) argues that this racial element formed the belief in the emergence of the Australian type and the maintenance of racial purity or homogeneity. These racist attitudes and sentiments towards non-Europeans were similar to the already existing racist attitudes towards the Aboriginal people. Unlike the indigenous Australians, who nature had supposedly chosen for extinction, the Chinese threat came not only from the racial conflicts that inspired the doctrine of Social Darwinism, but from a media inspired regime of propaganda.

In summary, this thesis examined that the desire to remain one people without the admixture of other ‘races’ was one of the most powerful forces that impelled the colonists towards Federation and the ‘pure race’ that could be codified. Historians are in no doubt that a central policy of the movement towards Federation was the exclusion of all people considered inferior and unfit for a white country. Federation was the rationale to maintain white superiority and racial homogeneity, and subsequently the first act of the new parliament was the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act (1901). Racial discrimination in entry, residence and citizenship provisions were sanctified, and a unified White Australia established. This policy confirmed the racist ideologies based on white supremacy and the dominant perception of Indigenous inferiority and their low evolutionary progress.

 

References

Akmeemana, S; and Dusseldorp, T. (1995), ‘Race discrimination: where to from here?’ in Alternative law journal, Volume 20, Number 5, pp 207-211.

Bird, Greta (1992), editor Racial harassment, Aristoc Press, Melbourne.

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.

Goodwin, Craufurd (1964), ‘Evolution theory in Australian social thought’ in the Journal of the history of ideas, Volume 25, pp 393-416, in Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (Level 1) Readings, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Jupp, James (1991), Immigration, Sydney University Press, NSW.

Kalantzis, Mary (1998a), ‘Reconsidering the meaning of our Commonwealth (part 2)’ on the Women’s constitutional convention website (Online, accessed 9 Apr. 2001). URL:http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au/kalantz2.htm

Kearney, G. (1973), editor The psychology of Aboriginal Australians, John Wiley and Sons, Sydney.

Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.

McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Yengoyan, Aram (1999), Racism, cultural diversity and the Australian Aborigine, University of California, Davis.

Link to Part 4

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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 4)

The other threat

With the discovery of gold in 1851, the influx of Chinese became a major focus as the intensity and institutionalism of racism increased, and this continued to agitate throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Forewarning of the ‘Asiatic hordes’ as early as 1879, Blaire wrote that:

Among the motley population attracted to the colony by the gold discovery were the Chinese, who, about two years after Ballarat and the sister goldfields were published to the world, began to arrive by thousands, and swarmed like locusts at the chief mines. They have called up already a social and political problem in Australia. The proportions of Chinese immigration threatened far to exceed all the usual experiences of international intercourse (Blair, 1879:423).

These largely inoffensive and hard-working people were perceived as representing an implicit threat to white Australians. Just when the colonial population had begun to feel comfortable in their new surroundings and had written the Aborigines off as a dying race, the large Chinese presence “… raised the spectre of the European Australians following their black predecessors along the path to historical oblivion” (David Day, 1988:10).

Subsequent anti-Chinese paranoia was also fuelled by intellectual fashions in Social Darwinism. This led to pressure in colonial parliament to limit the flow of Chinese entering the colonies, and culminated in the White Australia Policy as formulated in legislation in 1901. Indeed, fear and loathing of all non-Britannic Australians, and a firm belief in ‘white superiority’ could be expressed in the uniform immigration laws. The colonists, being mainly Britannic Australians, wanted it kept that way.

Australia’s geography, positioned close to the heavily populated Asian countries, resulted in the evolvement of a xenophobic, isolationist worldview, in which Social Darwinism justified the construction of psychological barriers against the near neighbours. Discernment, or rather, paranoia of the Asian ‘hordes’ to the north, and a tenet that Social Darwinism served to create an awareness of struggles between races, was a source of civic anxiety in colonial Australia.

A forewarning that mass Chinese migration was as great as the threat of Indigenous insurrection was an issue that was not lost on the press of the day. European racial ideals and preoccupations are indeed well exemplified by editorials and correspondent’s features in a number of journals, both influencing and reflecting public opinion. Hollinsworth examined that these journals were filled with articles of provocative issues that popularised scientific racist theories and provided plenty of examples to support these theories. Collectively, Markus (1979:84-85), Evans and others (1993:15), and Hollinsworth (1998:102) report that a number of popular journals such as The Age and The Bulletin, and local and national publications all harangued the public with sensational articles and cartoons warning of the threat to the social and moral well-being of – and in particular – an emerging Australian type. Evans and others note that these journals were:

Filled with articles of substance and lively debate on provocative issues provided their readers with a wealth of illustrative material which both popularised scientific racist theories and provided plenty of local examples to bear these theories out (Evans et al, 1993:15).

In particular, adaptation of evolutionary theory to the defence of radicalism was well ‘illustrated’ from the 1880s in contributions to the Sydney Bulletin. As one of the more influential journals of the period, a number of historians are of the accord that the ferociously nationalistic publication unleashed itself as the most persuasive and effective journal in the country for promoting the discourse that the Australian type and that Australian society had evolved into something unique and worth protecting. The Bulletin showed constant enthusiasm for the things it admired most about Australia – egalitarianism, democracy, masculinity, the bush tradition of mateship, and the emerging Australian type. It contributed:

… more than a little to the belief so clearly stated in the first federal parliament’s White Australia Policy that the Australian type and the Australian society had evolved into something unique and worth protecting (Kingston, 1993:106).

From 1893 The Bulletin’s banner declared ‘Australia for the White Man’ and continued with suppositions that both the Chinese and the Aborigines (or any peoples considered racially ‘inferior’) were to be absolutely excluded. It would be pertinent to review the extent of its propaganda during 1901; the year when nationhood was nominally proclaimed. Evans and others (1993:352) identified that throughout this year the journal carried over fifty racially oriented cartoons that threw scorn upon Aboriginality and the threat to white Australia from coloured immigrants. They also suggested that on the minds of the patriotic British-Australians, with their special aversion to miscegenation and race consciousness, the impact of The Bulletin’s propaganda was most likely quite immense.

Hollinsworth (1998:75) was one of the few historians to observe that the development of the White Australia Policy “has often been presented without reference to the position of Aborigines in colonial Australia.” His observation of the Chinese threat is recognised as comparative to the threat that the Indigenous people posed to the heredity succession of the emerging Australian type. He infers that the attempts to prevent or restrict non-European immigration to Australia can be seen as a parallel process to the construction of the various colonies’ segregation and protection systems applied to Aborigines in the late nineteenth century. Both movements sought to purify and secure a ‘White Australia’.

If the White Australia Policy was a matter of national ‘security’ in relationship to what was perceived as a racial threat, the adoption of the White Australia Policy also had an ultimate impact on Australia’s first inhabitants. Not only did Aboriginals become wards of the State under the policy, but it promulgated and enhanced all of the attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism which have firm foundations throughout all of Australia’s colonial history. While they could not be removed from Australia (or denied entry), it was confidently felt they would follow the evolutionary path of all extinct races.

Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race

In the late 19th century, particularly, considerations by white Australians of Aboriginal welfare were dominated by the ‘doomed race’ theory. Since colonisation, observations of declining Aboriginal numbers, combined with the evolutionary theory, led white Australians to the conclusion that nothing could be done to save the Aborigines from extinction. Furthermore, their demise was merely in accordance with the unchallengeable laws of nature. Such ideas, supported as they were by scientific certainties, found ready acceptance in a society founded upon the dispossession of the Aborigines and loudly proclaimed the dedication to a white Australia.

Peterson and Saunders suggest that accordingly, the Australian Constitution was drawn up at a high point of racism when there was mounting pressure for the adoption of a policy that would exclude Aborigines (and non-Europeans). In this environment, it is hardly surprising that Aboriginal people were paid very little attention by the drafters of the Constitution and in fact were effectively excluded from the merging nation. The Commonwealth Constitution had only two minor exclusionary references to Aboriginal people. These references were at section 51 (xxvi) and section 127. Section 51 listed the powers of the Commonwealth and, at subsection xxvi, included a power with respect to:

The people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. The second reference to Aboriginal people was at section 127 and stated that: “In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted” (Peterson and Sanders, 1998:7-8).

This thesis has reviewed writers who have identified a link between Federation, the growing sense of nationhood, and the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity. For most of the nineteenth century there was no strong evidence of distinctively Australian identity, Australians saw themselves as part of a group of predominantly Anglo-Saxon emigrant societies. A sense of national distinctiveness only grew stronger towards the end of the century, and this was accompanied by a more explicitly racial element, based on being Anglo-Saxon, as confidence in the new society grew. It was further possible to isolate the Australian national type founded on the structure of ideas about national character, which witnessed the construction of hegemonic ideas of racism and superiority among the European-Australians.

It was believed that as long as racial purity could be maintained then there was confidence that the future of the British-Australian type was secure. Colonial Australians were confident that Australia could maintain the purity of its British old stock, and this gave them confidence in the future of the Australian type and the maintenance of what was identified as its racial homogeneity. White (1981:81) argues that Social Darwinist concern about the future of the race as a whole was used to justify the racism of the immigration and exclusion policies of the fledging Australian Government. Raymond Evans and others further comment that the desire to remain one people without the admixture of other ‘races’ was one of the most powerful forces that impelled the colonists towards Federation and the ‘pure race’ (Evans et al 1997:26). There is no doubt that a central policy of the movement towards Federation was the exclusion of all “inferior creatures unfit” for the new white nation.

Federation was the rationale to maintain white superiority and racial homogeneity, and subsequently the first act of the new parliament was the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act (1901). Racial discrimination in entry, residence and citizenship provisions were sanctified, and a unified White Australia established.

The beliefs, attitudes and values that underpinned the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act were such things as Social Darwinism and feelings of racial superiority. This Act came to be known as the White Australia Policy and as the name implies, was a policy that confirmed the racist ideology based on white supremacy and subsequently complemented the “laws that denied citizenship to the Aboriginal people” (Pettman, 1988:3).

This broader, Social Darwinist concern about the future of the race as a whole was used to justify the racism of the White Australia Policy. According to the Bulletin in 1902, the policy was fundamental to Australia’s existence. It was based on:

The instinct against race-mixture which Nature has implanted to promote her work of evolution … Once a type has got a step up it must be jealous and ‘selfish’ in its scorn of lower types, or climb down again. This may not be good ethics. But it is Nature … the Caucasian race, as a race, has taken up the white man’s burden of struggling on towards ‘the upward path’, of striving at a higher stage of evolution … If he were to stop to dally with races which would enervate him, or infect him with servile submissiveness, the scheme of human evolution would be frustrated (Cited in White, 1981:81-82).

White Australia, simply, was designed to serve as “… an ideological function in reinforcing the concept of an all-white nation” (McGrath, 1995:365). It composed a policy of the most persuasive and effective journal in the country: to preserve the future of the white Australian. The broad consensus of aims and values that led to Federation for a homogenous society were based on ‘race’ and racial superiority. On this basis national identity was enshrined in the White Australia Policy, the sentiments of which are summarised by Evans:

Upon the very isolation of this vast island continent … a unique human experiment might be attempted. As with nowhere else upon the globe, here a distinct biological community might be established, maintained and nurtured within a single geographic entity. If the indigenous peoples continued their perceived decline towards extinction and other migrant races were excluded or expelled, a ‘pure race’ could logically result (Cited in Evans et al, 1997:26)

It was an ‘experiment’ – to borrow a word from Evans and others – that was achieved to the approval of the young nation. David Day reveals that at the laying of the foundation stone for the new capital in 1913, Labor politician Billy Hughes, pronounced with apparent satisfaction on the absence at the ceremony “of that race we have banished from the face of the earth.” Again in 1927, when the Federal Parliament assembled to open its new building, the Prime Minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, predicted a future for Australia in which “millions of the British race will people this land” thereby setting the seal on its occupation (Day, 1988:13).

 

References

Akmeemana, S; and Dusseldorp, T. (1995), ‘Race discrimination: where to from here?’ in Alternative law journal, Volume 20, Number 5, pp 207-211.

Blair, D. (1879), The history of Australasia, McGready, Thomson and Niven, Glasgow.

Buggy, T; and Cates, J. (1982), Race relations in colonial Australia – an enquiry approach, Thomas Nelson Australia, Melbourne.

Day, David (1988), ‘Aliens in a hostile land: a re-appraisal of Australian history’ Journal of Australian Studies, Number 23, pp 3-15 in Constructions of Aboriginal Studies 1 Readings Part 3, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Evans, R; Moore, C; Saunders, K; and Jamison, B. (1997), editors 1901 our future’s past; documenting Australia’s federation, Pan Macmillan, Sydney.

Gibb, D. (1973), The making of ‘white Australia’, Victorian Historical Association, West Melbourne.

Goodwin, Craufurd (1964), ‘Evolution theory in Australian social thought’ in the Journal of the history of ideas, Volume 25, pp 393-416, in Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (Level 1) Readings, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Kingston, Beverley. (1988), The Oxford history of Australia volume 3: glad, confident morning 1860-1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Kociumbas, J. (1992), The Oxford history of Australia volume 2: possessions 1770-1860, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Peterson, Nicolas; and Sanders, Will (1998), editors Citizenship and Indigenous Australians, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Stratton, John; and Ang, Ien (1994), ‘Multicultural imagined communities: cultural difference and national identity in Australia and the USA’ in Continuum: the Australian journal of media and culture, Volume 8, Number 2, pages 1-20.

White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Yengoyan, Aram (1999), Racism, cultural diversity and the Australian Aborigine, University of California, Davis.

Continued tomorrow: Conclusion

Link to Part 3

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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 3)

Ideology and the Indigenous Australians

Racial preconceptions had 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 that suggests that in January 1788 amicable relations between the Europeans and the Aborigines were established with comparative ease. Among them, Bradley (1969:1-9) wrote liberally of pleasant interactions. “They will soon discover that we are not their enemies” wrote Hunter, who also noted that the Aborigines were treating the whites as their equals (Cited in Kohen, 1993:48-49). However:

As Aboriginal people … had nothing the invader wanted but their land … attempts to maintain diplomatic relations with them were abandoned (Kociumbas, 1992:55).

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.

Peterson and Sanders (1998:4) have examined the legal status of Aborigines in the early days of colonial settlement. Official correspondence, they note, frequently drew a distinction between British subjects and the Aborigines, treating the two groups differently. (See R. v. Bonjon regarding the trial of an Aboriginal person for the murder of another Aboriginal person. The legal status of Aborigines in Australia was certainly a subject of legal argument). But Peterson and Sanders also recognise that 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” (Castles and Harris, 1987:1-28). Taplin noted that 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 later 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. White (1981:70) observes that:

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 (Hofstadter, 1955:38). 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 cited by Hofstadter, 1955:41)

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 (Hofstadter, 1955:39).

Baker (in Cashmore and Troyna, 1990:35) observes that Darwin precipitated the development of this new perspectives 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 (Goodwin, 1964:393).

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 (Cited Hofstadter, 1955:33).

The doctrine of Social Darwinism had thus produced a set of ideas that were to be very engaging to the colonial society. Previously Europeans had been convinced of the inferiority of the Aborigines, but that did not justify their extinction, whereas Social Darwinism did. White explains that 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. (White, 1981:69).

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 Australian 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 (Blair, 1879:237).

McConnochie (1998:44,48) and Stephenson (1997:2) argue 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’, debatably 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 onwards.

Evans and others (1993:77) suggest that a strong correlation can 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” (Evans et al, 1993:77). In his discussion on Aboriginal-European relations, which he titled Natural Phenomena and the Australian tribes, Rusden acknowledged that the violence and rapid population decline, especially focussing 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 (Maykutenner in McGrath, 1995:363)

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. Chase and von Sturmer (in Kearney, 1973:13) consider that 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.

Goldberg (1990:301) suggests that 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. Goldberg continues 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 (Goldberg, 1990:302).

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” (Chase and von Sturmer, cited in Kearney, 1973:7) For example, their instinctive mating habits and the eating of raw meats – to an ethnocentric observer – clearly represented diminished intellectual development. Archaeologist Josephine Flood reports that 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.

Reynolds argues that 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 the 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” (Evans et al, 1993:74) 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 (Reynolds, 1987:118). Such conclusions served to support the view that the Australian Aborigines are a “relic of the oldest type of mankind [sic]” (Chase and von Sturmer, cited in Kearney (1973:11), or indeed, even “living fossils” (Kingston, 1988:60).

The science of phrenology was credited with to 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 (Girling, 1983:307). 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.

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” (Reynolds, 1987:122)

McConnochie and others (1993:49) conclude that the relationship between the colonisers and the Aborigines was fundamentally based on the social evolutionary theory. Goodwin (1964:398) had earlier wrote that 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 Protection, Segregation (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 undergirded the White Australia Policy, which was sanctioned by the adoption of the Immigration Restriction Bill in 1901. Pettman comments that 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 (Pettman, 1988:2).

Jan Pettman notes that 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, or as Pettman suggests, provided encouragement to hurry on the inevitable result of colonial contact. Such acts, it was 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” (Hollinsworth, 1998:38). Destruction of the weak was the only way to assure success for the strong. (See Reynolds [1987]) regarding the destructive acts that were practiced to hasten the demise).

 

References

Beckett, J. (1988), editor Aborigines and the state in Australia, The University of Adelaide, South Australia.

Blair, D. (1879), The history of Australasia, McGready, Thomson and Niven, Glasgow.

Cashmore, E; and Troyna, B. (1990), Introduction to race relations, 2nd edition, The Falmer Press, London.

Castles, Alex; and Harris, Michael (1987), Lawmakers and wayward wigs: government and law in South Australia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.

Donaldson, Ian; and Donaldson, Tamsin (1985), editors Seeing the first Australians, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Edwards, W.H. (1988). An introduction to Aboriginal societies. Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls, NSW.

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Flood, J. (1995). Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Collins, Sydney.

Girling, D. (1983). Editor New age encyclopedia. Volume 22. Bay Books, Sydney.

Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.

Goodwin, Craufurd (1964), ‘Evolution theory in Australian social thought’ in the Journal of the history of ideas, Volume 25, pp 393-416, in Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (Level 1) Readings, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Hofstadter, Richard (1955), Social Darwinism in American thought, Beacon Press, Boston.

Kalantzis, Mary (1998a), ‘Reconsidering the meaning of our Commonwealth (part 2)’ on the Women’s constitutional convention website (Online, accessed 9 Apr. 2001). URL:http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au/kalantz2.htm

Kearney, G. (1973), editor The psychology of Aboriginal Australians, John Wiley and Sons, Sydney.

Kingston, Beverley. (1988), The Oxford history of Australia volume 3: glad, confident morning 1860-1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Kociumbas, J. (1992), The Oxford history of Australia volume 2: possessions 1770-1860, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Kohen, J. (1993). The Darug and their neighbours: the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Sydney region. Darug Link: Blacktown and District Historical Society, NSW.

McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Peterson, Nicolas; and Sanders, Will (1998), editors Citizenship and Indigenous Australians, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Reay, M. (1964), editor Aborigines now, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Reynolds, Henry (1987), Frontier: Aborigines, settlers and land, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Stephenson, P. (1997), ‘Race’, ‘whiteness’ and the Australian context, (Online accessed 28 Sep. 2001). URL:http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/MotsPluriels/MP297ps.html

Stratton, John; and Ang, Ien (1994), ‘Multicultural imagined communities: cultural difference and national identity in Australia and the USA’ in Continuum: the Australian journal of media and culture, Volume 8, Number 2, pages 1-20.

Taplin, G (1879) 1997 Extracts from ‘The Native tribes of South Australia’ facsimile edition, The Friends of the State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, pp xli-xlii, 6-9, 98, 102-103, 118-122, 136-137 and 145-150 in Australian Ethnography Readings Part 1, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Continued tomorrow: The Other Threat

Link to Part 2

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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 2)

The Early Thought

Many historians argue that the celebrations of our centenary of Federation masked several truths about why the colonies chose to federate. Among a variety of reasons, these historians declare that one of the prime motives behind federation was the emerging sense of nationhood. Or rather, that the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity was possibly more of a factor. This thesis explores the level of significance accorded to ethnic identity in Federation.

The Australian colonies were always unequivocally a part of the British Empire, but it is well documented that they did not share the Imperial Government’s views about ‘race’. The position of Aborigines is herein important. Whereas Aborigines were considered to be subjects of the British Empire, and as such free to claim the same privileges that this citizenship availed, to the colonial Australians the Aborigines were a doomed people who were to hold no place in a landscape of an emerging Australia.

The then British Governments had made a serious effort to ensure that Aborigines – as British subjects – enjoyed certain rights. Conversely, this imperial framework of rights was discarded in the era of Federation. This thesis considers arguments that identify the competing ‘racial’ discourse between the British Government and the colonists related ‘racist’ ideology, and that the ideology held by the colonies become dominant within Australian political and intellectual life.

Whilst the British endeavours are indeed pertinent, this thesis does not give this issue much coverage. Preferably, this paper considers the ideological issues – both popular and perceived – held by the colonial Australians. Subsequently, it is recognised that Federation offered the opportunity to categorically doom Aboriginal people.

Many historians have demonstrated that the popular media of the day endeavoured to exhibit that the Chinese were a threat comparable to that the Indigenous people posed to the heredity succession of the emerging Australian type. ‘White Australia’ as a national ideal reflected public consciousness and echoed the sentiments of the popular press. This thesis only briefly comments on this position. Nonetheless, the attempts to prevent or restrict non-European immigration to Australia can be seen as a parallel process to the construction of the various colonies’ racially motivated political and social systems that were applied to Aborigines in the latter half of the 19th century. It was argued that both movements sought to secure a White Australia, and this thesis examines this argument.

As indicated (in Part 1), one of the moves behind federation was the emerging sense of nationhood, or rather; the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity was conceivably more of a factor. As it were, towards the end of the 19th century racism and nationalism had become almost synonymous, and the fundamental reason for the adoption of the subsequent White Australia policy, tellingly, was the preservation of a British-Australian nationality.

Notions of ‘race’ and the mythology of white supremacy had helped shape early constructions of nationhood. “Central to the move towards Federation of 1901 was a class accord around race and nation” (Mary Kalantzis, 1998b:2). Kalantzis does not doubt that the ideologies held in colonial Australia were based upon an indulgence of racial superiority. The ebullient, nationalistic rhetoric of the 1890s and the period of Federation clearly established national unity on the basis of race, defined as essentially white and British. To define their unity as a nation, Australians had to define themselves against others of lesser races. The Australian of 1901 was reportedly a racist construction.

Identification as British and as a part of the British Empire was obviously a convenient basis upon which to define the identity of Australians at the time of Federation. The colonists, being principally British Australians, wanted it kept that way (Markus, 1979:xiii). Federation was the vehicle. Subsequently, “… 1901 was a moment of nationalism, and with that came racism, isolationism, and the exclusion of Aboriginal peoples” (Mary Kalantzis, 1998b:2).

‘Race’ and nation – and racism and nationalism – were theorised in their modern forms, significantly, around the period leading up to Australia’s Federation. Racism was interpreted – which fits the construct of this thesis – as the doctrine that the world’s population is divisible into categories based on physical differences which can be transmitted genetically. Invariably, this leads to the conception that the categories are ordered hierarchically so that some elements of the world’s population are superior to others. David Goldberg (1990:295) fittingly identified that: “The link between racism and race is generally considered to be discrimination against others in virtue of their putatively different racial membership.” Such an ideology justified the Australian colonial situation.

It is also pertinent that the emergence of racism was prevalent in the age of European expansion. As the indigenous peoples of other continents were encountered, Europeans categorised them into racial groups and sought to explain the diversity of relative social or industrious achievements of humankind. In its most strident form, Australian racism argued that Aborigines (and other non-Europeans) were genetically inferior; less advanced, and would only debase the British-Australian population.

The publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859 had a further profound impact on European thought. Darwin suggested that all species were not permanently fixed: they were under-going change by natural selection. Darwin argued that if a species did not adapt successfully it was doomed to extinction. Only the favoured survived and prospered in the struggle for life. Herbert Spencer’s theory of evolution in the social sciences – Social Darwinism – indoctrinated that the principles of biological evolution should also be applied to human society. Spencer, a laissez-faire liberal argued that societies evolve from simple to more complex forms based on Darwin’s concept of natural selection – survival of the fittest and suggested that the nineteenth century perceptions of Aboriginal intellect and active powers was ‘remarkably consistent’ with this theory and provided powerful rationalisation for European supremacy.

 

Image from slideshare.net

 

The ideology of Social Darwinism subsequently caught the imagination of the public and entered the discourse (in particularly through the popular media) of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Intellectual fashions in Social Darwinism and eugenics, it was argued, sought to purify and secure a white Australia. The Indigenous population was perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’ and thus considered dangerous to the colonial society and an emerging Australian identity. The Indigenous Australians, who nature had supposedly chosen for extinction, inspired the doctrine of Social Darwinism.

Contemporary scientific techniques were also adopted to classify the physical characteristics of the Indigenous Australians: skull shape, bodily proportions, and other variables. Not surprisingly, researchers who were convinced of the superiority of the European type found data to authenticate their assumptions.

It is important that in Australia, as in other colonial contexts, Europeans imagined the indigenes as the Other, those fashioned or constructed which is outside and opposite, and a collective identity was forged through a discourse that set them apart from Europeans. White (1981:64) suggests that the idea that it was possible to isolate national types was one of the most important mainstays supporting the colonial ideas about national character that developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Similarly, Pettman (1988:3) argues that:

Aborigines were constructed as ‘the Other’ in ideologies of race and nation … they were not only placed outside of the nation, but also outside humanity, by virtue of their supposed primitiveness, and the inevitability of their demise … in accordance with Social Darwinism.

It is pertinent that European institutionalisation of scientific research and methods took place at a time when rapid and aggressive imperial expansion necessitated a devaluation of Indigenous cultures. Not surprising, much European knowledge of Indigenous people was hence dependent on representations that construct the Aborigines or the ‘first natives’ in their absence. Attwood and Arnold (1992) pursued the idea of discourses, drawing on Said’s Orientalism as the basis of discussion. Said’s study examined the way in which Europeans constructed a range of essential ‘truths’ or stereotypes about the East (Orientalism); Attwood and Arnold applied a similar analysis to Western constructions of knowledge about Aborigines (Aboriginalism). They defined a number of different Aboriginalisms and also proposed to subject Aboriginalism to a Foucaldian discourse analysis so that the value of the knowledge it produces can be critically assessed and the relationships of power in which this is embedded can be revealed. In introducing their book Power, Knowledge and Aborigines Attwood and Arnold write that their book was indeed:

… concerned with European Australians and our ways of knowing the Aborigines. In particular it considers both Aboriginalism as a mode of discourse which, like Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’, produces authoritative and essentialist ‘truths’ about indigenes, and which is characterised by a mutually supporting relationship between power and knowledge (Attwood and Arnold, 1992:i).

They suggested that knowledge is acquired for a purpose, contingent, and constructed by relationships of power and that we need to consider who has produced this knowledge, when and where, for what purpose, in whose interests, how and in what form. This is pertinent when looking at the reasons behind Australia’s Federation. As a parallel, in his study of how Europe constructed an archetypical image of the Orient, Edward Said argued that, far from reflecting what the countries of the Near East were like, ‘Orientalism’ was the discourse by which Europeans were was able produce the Orient sociologically, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively. Within the framework of western hegemony over the Orient, Hall argued that there emerged a new object of knowledge, a:

… complex Orient suitable for study in the academy, for display in the museum, for reconstruction in the colonial office, for theoretical illustration in anthropological, biological, linguistic, racial and historical theses about mankind (Hall, 1997:259).

This form of power is closely connected with knowledge, or with the practices of what Foucault called ‘power/knowledge’. For Foucault power is productive of knowledge. Power forms knowledge and produces discourse. Edward Said’s discussion of Orientalism closely parallels Foucault’s power/knowledge argument: a discourse produces, through different practices of representation a form of racialised knowledge of the Other deeply implicated in the operations of power. Identifying the power/knowledge relationship to Said’s argument, Stuart Hall summarises that power:

… produces new discourse, new kinds of knowledge (ie Orientalism), new objects of knowledge (the Orient), it shapes new practices (colonisation) and institutions (colonial government). Power is to be found everywhere. Power circulates (Hall, 1997:261).

Even before colonisation, the construct of the Aborigine – the Other – was seen as 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 [sic] people in the world” (Donaldson and Donaldson, 1985:37). And the image of the Aborigine was to leave no impression of excitement or significance on 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. (Bourke et al, 1994:4)

Historians suggest that such reports simply confirmed prejudices based on doctrines of evolutionary and intellectual difference. These reports were to lend support to the European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Being, which arranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being ‘intelligent and God-fearing’ – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the ape. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards the Aborigines. So dominant was the concept that it helped … “develop pre-conceived attitudes towards – and arguably the fate of – the Aborigines even before the colonisation” (Henry Reynolds, 1987:108). Reynolds argues that the image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on doctrines of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority. These prejudices, he endeavours to suggest, were based on a construction of Aborigines where the Europeans were more credited with knowing more about the Aborigines than the Aborigines knew about themselves.

 

References

Attwood, B; and Arnold, J. (1992), editors Power, knowledge and Aborigines, La Trobe University Press, Bundoora, Victoria.

Bourke, C; Bourke, E; and Edwards, B. (1994). Editors Aboriginal Australians. University of South Australia.

Bourke, E; and Edwards, B. (1994), editors Aboriginal Australia: an introductory reader in Aboriginal studies, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland.

Cashmore, E; and Troyna, B. (1990), Introduction to race relations, 2nd edition, The Falmer Press, London.

Castles, Alex; and Harris, Michael (1987), Lawmakers and wayward wigs: government and law in South Australia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.

Donaldson, Ian; and Donaldson, Tamsin (1985), editors Seeing the first Australians, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Evans, R; Moore, C; Saunders, K; and Jamison, B. (1997), editors 1901 our future’s past; documenting Australia’s federation, Pan Macmillan, Sydney.

Gibb, D. (1973), The making of ‘white Australia’, Victorian Historical Association, West Melbourne.

Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.

Hall, Stuart (1997), editor Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices, Sage Publications, London.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Hofstadter, Richard (1955), Social Darwinism in American thought, Beacon Press, Boston.

Jupp, James (1991), Immigration, Sydney University Press, NSW.

Kalantzis, Mary (1998a), ‘Reconsidering the meaning of our Commonwealth (part 2)’ on the Women’s constitutional convention website (Online, accessed 9 Apr. 2001). URL:http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au/kalantz2.htm

Kalantzis, Mary (September, 1998b), ‘Working to our cultural advantage’ in hotTYPE, volume 2, (Online, accessed 8 Aug. 2001). URL:http://www.rmit.edu.au/About/hotTYPEv2/

Kearney, G. (1973), editor The psychology of Aboriginal Australians, John Wiley and Sons, Sydney.

Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.

Markus, A; and Rasmussen, R. (1987), editors Prejudice and the public arena: racism, Monash University, Melbourne.

McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Reynolds, Henry (1987), Frontier: Aborigines, settlers and land, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Russell, P; and White, R. (1994). editors Pastiche 1: reflections on nineteenth century Australia. Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Stephenson, P. (1997), ‘Race’, ‘whiteness’ and the Australian context, (Online accessed 28 Sep. 2001). URL:http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/MotsPluriels/MP297ps.html

van Toorn, Penny (1995, July), ‘Mudrooroo and the power of the post alternative inscriptions of Aboriginalist discourse in a post-Aboriginalist age’ in the Southern review, Volume 28, Number 2, pages 121-139.

White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Willard, M. (1967), History of the white Australia policy to 1920, 2nd edition, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Yengoyan, Aram (1999), Racism, cultural diversity and the Australian Aborigine, University of California, Davis.

Continued tomorrow: Ideology and the Indigenous Australians

Link to Part 1

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Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 1)

Over twenty years ago I submitted my Honours thesis in Aboriginal Studies, that had the (academically proper but) gangling title of:

A review of the racist ideologies of Social Darwinism and eugenics in colonial Australia in the formative years of Federation, and how these ideologies were applied to purify and secure a White Australia.

When reading it recently I couldn’t help but ponder that there is so much of our colonial history that remains unknown, especially the cruel effects colonialism had on the First Australians.

Australia is, sadly, considered a racist country. But that’s how the country was born. My thesis – which was researched for twelve months – indicated strong evidence of this.

Over the next five days I will be publishing a shortened (and a less academic) version of my thesis, and of course, with a shortened title.

Here we begin:

White Australia and Federation

There has been much debate surrounding Federation over the past year. Recently, Mary Kalantzis in the Barton Lectures (The Australian, 21/2/01) introduced a concept that is indeed timely in the context of this thesis. For her, the timing is also critical (having just passed our centenary of Federation celebrations), asking her readers to face the racist origins of our nationhood. Kalantzis also noted the British position in the colonies’ desire federate. Namely, British colonial rule had made a serious effort to ensure that Aborigines – as British subjects – enjoyed certain rights. Bearing this, subsequent research sought to identify the British position (and its ineffectuality) in the frontier nation. She comments that as we approached Federation in the late 1890s:

Australia was ethnic-British by consciousness now, less than it was Colonial-Imperial and this changed the character of government fundamentally. Whereas an open Empire promoted unrestricted immigration and allowed no explicit discrimination between its subjects, the emerging Australian nation moved towards a white Australia Policy – in deliberate defiance of the edicts from London. Whereas the Empire had established fundamental rights for indigenes, [Federation] removed these (Kalantzis, 1998b).

The desire to remain one people without the admixture of other races was arguably one of the most powerful forces that impelled the colonists towards Federation. The thesis reviews key writers in Aboriginal Studies who have argued that the ethnic distinctiveness of colonial Australia could be ‘purified’ though a unified Australia, and that the Indigenous population was perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’. The discourse of this racist ideology included a set of hypothetical premises about human kinds (eg, the Great Chain of Being and the evolutionary theory of Social Darwinism), and about the differences between them (both mental and physical). In the formative years of Federation the racist ideology of social evolutionary theory was used as justification of a strong ‘white’ state in Australia. Colonists proclaimed that:

… human improvement had occurred in the past through beneficial struggle wherein the fittest alone had survived. Intervention by the state with the natural growth process of the economy, they concluded, could lead only to stagnation and race deterioration (Goodwin, 1964:415).

Emergent scientific thoughts in Social Darwinism and eugenics ultimately sought to purify and secure a White Australia. The Indigenous population, and the hordes of Chinese entering the colony, were a perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’. Unlike the Indigenous Australians, who nature had supposedly chosen for extinction, the Chinese threat came not only from the racial conflicts that inspired the doctrine of Social Darwinism, but from a media inspired regime of propaganda that exposed Chinese social habits as immoral, and more importantly, dangerous to the colonial society.

The research has purposely been directed to a review of the secondary sources. Secondary sources are seen as a valuable source of both data and analyses of theoretical contexts. Whereas the primary data can describe ‘what happened’ and as it happened, the secondary sources can provide some valuable analyses and interpretation of ‘why it happened’. The use of secondary sources is also pertinent as one endeavours to identify the knowledge and ideas that have already been established in the field of research.

Many historians provide works with a representative sample of literature (and opinion), as well as a broad ambit of material from popular journals of the late nineteenth century. In particular, the Sydney Bulletin – one of the most influential journals of the period – is a widely cited journal. It is proclaimed that the adaptation of evolutionary theory to the defence of radicalism was illustrated well from the middle of the 1880s in contributions to the Bulletin.

European racial ideals and preoccupations are indeed well exemplified by editorials, staff and correspondent’s features in a number of other journals as well, both influencing and reflecting public opinion. These publications harangued the public with sensational articles and cartoons warning of the threat to the social and moral well being of – and in particular – an emerging Australian type. These journals, they wrote, being:

Filled with articles of substance and lively debate on provocative issues provided their readers with a wealth of illustrative material which both popularised scientific racist theories and provided plenty of local examples to bear these theories out (Evans et al, 1993:15).

Most writers examined conclude that the ideology of Social Darwinism subsequently caught the imagination of the public and entered the discourse through the popular media, and that the ideology shaped the White Australia Policy. In summary:

  • The doctrine of Social Darwinism produced a set of ideas that were very engaging to the colonial society.
  • Popular literature of the nineteenth century depicted an image of the Australian Aborigine that reinforced these colonial ideals.
  • 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 (Cited in Evans et al, 1997:26).

White Australia, it is inferred, was designed to serve as ‘an ideological function in reinforcing the concept of an all-white nation’. It composed a policy of the most persuasive and effective journal in the country: “to preserve the White Breed pure” (Evans et al, 1993:358). With Federation, an immigration policy gained in salience and the logical sequel to the thinking of the fathers of Federation was the passing of racial exclusion legislation – The Immigration Restriction Act (1901). This Act came to be known as the ‘White Australia Policy’. Literature is examined that contends that this policy confirmed the racist ideology based on white supremacy and was used to deny citizenship to the Aboriginal people.

 

References

Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.

Evans, R; Moore, C; Saunders, K; and Jamison, B. (1997), editors 1901 our future’s past; documenting Australia’s federation, Pan Macmillan, Sydney.

Gibb, D. (1973), The making of ‘white Australia’, Victorian Historical Association, West Melbourne.

Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.

Goodwin, Craufurd (1964), ‘Evolution theory in Australian social thought’ in the Journal of the history of ideas, Volume 25, pp 393-416, in Knowledge, Ideology and Social Science (Level 1) Readings, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

Kalantzis, Mary (September, 1998b), ‘Working to our cultural advantage’ in hotTYPE, volume 2, (Online, accessed 8 Aug. 2001). URL:http://www.rmit.edu.au/About/hotTYPEv2/

Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.

McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.

McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.

Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Continued tomorrow: The Early Thought

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Sometimes you wonder if the government gives a damn

I’m in the middle of a dilemma. A very worrying one, actually.

My rural Victorian city has been lucky – full credit to our townsfolk and the tough measures from our state government – in that COVID-19 has not yet pierced our invisible walls. Nonetheless, I am very keen to be vaccinated.

But there was a problem. AstraZeneca, which you have probably read, has been related to clotting deaths. The chances of dying from AZ clotting is infinitely small, but unfortunately, because of a hereditary condition (which I won’t go into), my doctor said that I’m one of that infinitely small number who is definitely at risk.

Naturally she wants me to be vaccinated, so her advice was to stay safe until Pfizer became available (which at that point, was not far away).

When Pfizer was available, I was in that age group – the wrong side of 60 – that could not have access to it.

Concerned, I wrote to Minister Hunt asking for an explanation of why – based on my condition and my doctor’s advice – I could not have access to Pfizer.

A few weeks later I received a polite two-page reply from the Department of Health telling me of the wonderful job the Federal Government was doing in response to the pandemic, and concluded that whilst they could not comment on my own condition, that if I had any concerns then I should consult my GP.

That last bit was rather odd, I thought, as I had consulted my GP… which was the reason I contacted Minister Hunt in the first place.

To satisfy myself about AstraZeneca – ie, whether it was safe for me – I sought a second opinion (same clinic, different doctor). After looking at my medical records, her advice was the same: AstraZeneca was too great a risk and she would be seeking approval for me to have Pfizer, as of course, she wanted me vaccinated.

She was unable to get that approval.

Nobody, it seems, gives a damn.

You can imagine how distressing this is; the constant government appeal to go get vaccinated yet I am not allowed to obtain the only vaccine currently available that has been recommended as suitable for me. Surely a mechanism might be available for those whose GPs do not recommend AstraZeneca in order that I might be vaccinated.

 

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The saddest thing

My father rarely talked about the war, though when he did it would be no more than a few words.

I’m sure that after spending three years in the steamy jungles of New Guinea he would have much to complain about, but I only ever heard a couple of complaints: It was wet, and it was “bloody” hot (“bloody” being the strongest profanity that would pass his lips). On another occasion he told of going without food for three days, and as an added inconvenience people were trying to shoot him. It was a comment, not a complaint.

After the war ended the first thing he did was to forgive the enemy. Like him, they were guys sent to war by their government. He even respected the enemy, for in his mind as soon as you lost that respect… you were off your guard and you were vulnerable.

No, he didn’t hate the enemy. But he did hate their government for sending them – and ultimately us – to that bloody war in New Guinea.

(But he would have done it again, without complaint. When he was 63 he told me that even at his age he would sign up to fight for his country if he could. My father always had this sense of duty).

It was not until he was 90 that I heard his first complaint. It was one that sickened and angered me.

Happy to have his brand new walking frame, he was out and about in the mall of his regional Victorian city. (I accompanied him once. He would walk as close to the corridor walls as he could, so not to impede other pedestrians). But on this day he was alone, hobbling down the mall with three teenage schoolgirls heading towards him. They stopped, but they didn’t move. They refused to move. My father – by now the subject of an earful of abuse – had to move for them. This poor old bugger who had left behind a wife and young son to fight for his country and his freedom, this old bugger who had watched his mates die, this poor old bugger – barely mobile – had to get out of their way as well as tolerate their abuse. It was too much of an inconvenience for them to take a skip to the right.

(They didn’t know my father, or anything about him. Would it have mattered if they did? Probably not. One thing they certainly would not have known – and perhaps not even bothered about – was that all his life he regarded all Australian equal).

My blood boiled. I so wish I had have been there.

But I am there. I’m there now. We all are.

We see it every day.

Just replace my father with a Baby Boomer, or a rape victim, or a refugee, a homeless person or an Indigenous Australian.

And replace that group of school children with our government, or with sexists or racists, or with our mainstream media.

My point is, in today’s world we are encouraged to turn against those who are different. And we are encouraged to blame someone else for our woes and we are unmoved when they need our help. And we judge them, without even knowing them.

We have a federal government who are masters at creating this divisive society, doing so, of course, to deflect the anger of their failures back onto Australians who are different because … (fill in the blanks).

Do you have any blanks you can fill in for me?

Happy 104th birthday, Dad (4/08/1917 – 19/12, 2008).

And thank you for your service to your country.

 

 

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Helen Haines: Could progressive Independents be the way of the future?

Australians want and need to be represented in Canberra by someone who understands their values and concerns, and will fight for these. It’s all too often that Australians are denied any choice because of the dominant two-party system. In the two-party system the voice of their elected representative is that of their party and often poorly reflects the electorate’s views. However, in some areas often known for their conservatism they come to elect progressive candidates. Such a person is Dr Helen Haines; as was her predecessor Ms Kathy McGowan.

Dr Haines did not come from the usual political background but grew up on a dairy farm near Colac, Victoria, trained as a nurse and midwife later moving to NE Victoria. Dr Haines subsequently completed a Bachelor’s Degree at Deakin University and holds a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of NSW. She also has a PhD in Medical Science.

In 2019, Dr Haines decided to stand for election

“… because I believe our communities need real representation on what matters to us: education, healthcare, getting rid of corruption in politics, harnessing clean energy for Australia’s future, and building jobs and prosperity.”

As an independent member of Parliament representing a rural and regional electorate such as Indi, Dr Haines has embraced what people are telling her and has encouraged this communication. As she expresses it, her experiences are those of the people of her electorate. On being asked which issues she believes are the most important, Dr Haines stated:

One of the most common enquiries I get in this office are mobile phone and internet issues – the NBN.

… having reliable connectivity to the internet is more than a fundamental need, it is absolutely crucial. We know that in order to undertake business, education and health care you need connection to the internet, and by not having a connection to the internet you are disadvantaged.”

Dr Haines explained that a key job of a representative of an electorate is to make sure that the people represented are not disadvantaged and they have all the needs that are fundamental to living a high quality, safe and enjoyable healthy life. Dr Haines believes that the Covid Crisis has made it even clearer that unless you have full connectivity you can’t access all those things in a way you should be able to.

EFTPOS machines go down. People can’t make business transactions, Business people get frustrated. As the member of Parliament my job is to make sure the people I look after have the access that they need, and right now many of them do not. I sit on the NBN Parliamentary Committee and I deliberately joined that committee as I knew that it’s a big challenge to us.

Dr Haines also stated that she believes that if as a representative and you are working closely with the people you serve, then your actions in Parliament will reflect more accurately the needs of your electorate.

One of the key things is to use all the parliamentary tools that are there. I can give speeches, I can pass motions in the House, I can introduce private member’s bills, I can ask questions in Question Time and I can use parliamentary committees … this is good democracy … to make sure that the people I represent – that those issues make it all the way through to the federal government. That’s what I do. Everyday that I’m in Parliament, and my job when not in parliament is to be out there talking to people and hearing directly what their issues are

On the issue of Climate Change and Climate Action Dr Haines pointed out that:

We are the in the middle of a renewal energy boom so why the heck aren’t we benefitting from it. All big renewal energy projects are in regional Australia but where’s the money going? The money’s going offshore. I want to see the money going into the pockets of regional communities. I want to see them having lower power prices and having the capacity to make money from this.

Dr Haines is of the opinion that Australia has “… the greatest capacity in the world to generate renewable energy.”

I look at this from the perspective of young Australians probably more than anyone. The opportunities for them to truly benefit from a renewal energy boom through skills and opportunity. They’re missing out.

I hear this loud and clear from my electorate. People are sick of the politics, they’re sick of so-called leaders just sticking in their corners. We need to come together on this issue.

Irrespective of how you see the world we are led by business people [who are essentially] putting aside their moral obligations to do something that is compelling science, and from an economic perspective we are getting so left behind on this and the opportunities that are missing now I think is negligent of the government.

Dr Haines believes that regional communities have the ability to harness the potential for renewable energy and in May this year launched a renewable energy plan for regional Australia, inviting public consultation about how the Federal Government can support “community energy” in regional Australia. “From Wodonga and Wangaratta to Euroa and Alexandra, these groups are working on building rooftop solar, wind turbines, batteries and pumped hydro to generate their own cheap, clean and local electricity,” Dr Haines said.

Australians have the smarts and the grit to tackle climate change – we just need the politics to catch up. (helenhaines.org).

I just want to say…

There are a few things I’ve been meaning to say, and now is as good a time as any.

Donations

I don’t always get the time to thank people individually for their donations to The AIMN, so I’ll take the opportunity here and now to thank everybody who has, and who continue to donate. I know it’s an old cliché, but we would be lost without you.

The mere fact that you support The AIMN honours us. We must mean something to you and I trust you are being rewarded with your investment.

Getting locked out of The AIMN

Just a reminder that you do not need to login to The AIMN to make a comment. Login is only for authors and admin.

We notice that a number of people are still getting locked out of The AIMN due to login failures. One of our admin unlocks you if that happens.

It dawned on me that some people may be getting locked out when they attempt to click on “Like” at the bottom of each article and they are asked to login first. This facility isn’t run by The AIMN, but by our blogging platform, WordPress. As such, only those with a WordPress profile can successfully click on “Like”. Yes, it is an oddity but not one I can work around.

My apologies if you are one of those people who keep getting locked out through this method.

Please note that this only locks you out of logging in. You may still comment if locked out.

What’s in a name?

Why are we called The Australian Independent Media Network?

When we began in 2013 we were a group of six independent social media sites who came together as one. The name explained exactly who we were, though the name was only going to be a temporary one.

Eight years later nothing has changed: We are still The Australian Independent Media Network.

Is it too late to change it now? Probably. And besides, we remain split over this. But nonetheless I’ve spent eight years trying to come up with something a bit more catchy (like The Political Sword, New Matilda or Independent Australia) but I always hit a blank.

So – just for the fun of it – I thought I’d put it to you. Do you think we should keep our name? If not, do you have any suggestions?

PS: Keep it clean. We would like to keep our “G” rating. 😉

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2020 is over! And it’s about time, too!

Oh what a miserable year!

Bush fires, recession, a pandemic causing death and economic destruction, social upheaval, the country being run by a hopelessly incompetent government… 2020 had it all.

The AIMN has written widely on all of these disasters – as have all media and news sites – so I see no need to revisit them here. Let’s look forward, not in the rear-view mirror.

What might 2021 bring? I like to believe it will bring hope. Hope that our governments and our people have learnt from the disasters of 2020 and that we can all be better prepared for when disasters might strike again, be it 2021 or the years beyond.

Yes, the pandemic will still be with us but we all hope that in 2021 we can defeat it. 2020 has been a wasted year, but let’s not waste what we have learnt from it.

I feel for our friends in lands beyond, though, who will enter 2021 in turmoil. In the USA it is apparent that Donald Trump will not depart from the the White House willingly or peacefully, and he has stirred his base up to the point where violence may erupt. All will be revealed in the next couple of weeks as we see which path the country takes. And in the UK the Brexit deal will have the member countries in a state of confusion. Boris is a master at that.

Moving on…

In 2019 the readership of The AIMN increased by 8 per cent over 2018, and in 2020 it grew by another 6 per cent. Clearly we have had much to write about! It would be different in a perfect world – what would we have to say? It is ironic that our two consecutive years of growth have been driven by the wrongs of the world, the disasters that have befallen us, and poor governance.

Whatever path 2021 takes you on we hope it is filled with good health and happiness. After the miserable year just passed, it can only get better.

We look forward to seeing you all again in 2021. We always enjoy and treasure your good company and the contribution you make to The AIMN.

Michael and Carol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All I want for Christmas is a New Year

Despite it being a slow, cruel, tortuous year, Christmas seems to have came at us in a rush.

Christmas is but one day a year, and in 2020 perhaps it can be the one day of the year that we can draw breath.

Many of us will be celebrating Christmas at home, just as we’ve spent most of the year since the pandemic wrecked 2020. At home, but of course, with thoughts of our loved ones who cannot be with us. Some of our team at The AIMN family have suffered tragic losses during the year and our thoughts are also with them, as Christmas is the day – more than most others – that these losses are felt the deepest.

But we wish not to speak of sadness.

Christmas, by all traditions, should be a day of joy. And this is what we wish for you.

To all who share our dreams for a better world – our writers, admin, readers, commenters and those who donate to this site – we wish a wonderful Christmas. Please stay safe, and enjoy this day. Your day.

And maybe if we ask nicely, Santa will bring us all the perfect present; a better year next year.

Michael and Carol.

 

BTW, here’s one little lady from the Taylor household who couldn’t wait for Christmas:

 

 

PS: Please, if you have a chance, visit one of our sister sites, The Political Sword for their Christmas message.

 

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Pandemic preparedness: who has responsibility?

With the COVID-19 blame game and finger pointing so evident lately, my recent article; An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all needs repeating. With the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria people are lining up to saddle the blame on the premier, Daniel Andrews. Some, borrowing Donald Trump’s claim that COVID-19 is the “China virus,” are now disgracefully calling COVID-19 the “Victoria virus.”

There’s no denying that many new outbreaks across the nation have links to Melbourne, but how did the virus get to Melbourne in the first place? Did it come from Sydney? Canberra? Queensland? The USA? China? The UK? The fact is, it came from somewhere. There’s a body in this country responsible for doing its best to control the import and spread of the virus in this country. It’s called the Australian government.

When you read the extract from my earlier post below, keep in mind that Scott Morrison “declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national pandemic on 27 February” and approximately two weeks later passengers from the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

Here is my extract:

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.

Here is Howard’s original pandemic plan: 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.

* * * * *

Those who are adamant that Daniel Andrews is to blame for the recent outbreaks … may want to think again.

Now I wish to draw your attention again to the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, dated August 2019.

Two major issues we hear much of are 1) whether schools should be closed, and 2) the risk of outbreaks from aged-care facilities. Who should make the decision to close schools? If it is a State decision, can the Federal Government intervene? Who is in charge of the aged-care facilities? Is it a State responsibility or a Federal one?

Again, I apologise that due to copyright I cannot reproduce the content, but the following sections in the report answer these and many more questions:

Page 31: Section 4.1.4: Implementation of public health measures (second paragraph).

Page 32: Section 4.1.6: Communication (first paragraph).

Page 145: Timing (relates to school closures).

Worth reading, weren’t they?

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What do the major impacts on Aboriginal people today tell us about the history of Australia?

What do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

It is difficult to isolate any of these issues. Each issue weaves into another: identity; health; housing; education; self-determination; recognition of sovereignty; gender issues; custodial issues and racism can all be connected. For example, discussions on identity can be traced to forced removal (through pastoral expansion or the policy of assimilation) which in turn can be traced to racism. Discussions on health lead to housing, which can also be traced to racism. Black deaths in custody is one of the major concerns in custodial issues, again, racism is a key element. Land rights are an issue linked to self-determination and recognition of sovereignty. Denial of these is also racist.

It is evident that the first European colonisers in Australia declared their belief in white supremacy, and this declaration is unchanged by the majority of white Australians today (1). Over the last two hundred years this attitude has been lodged into our history.

To many Aborigines their identity has been shrouded due to the forced removal from their lands, or the forced removal from their families. This alienation from the land disrupted ceremonial life and eroded Aboriginal identity.

Children were removed from their families as governments pursued a policy of assimilation, cast in the hope that Aboriginal children would assimilate into European culture. However, these children – now as adults – remain unsure about their own identity though wanting to return to their Aboriginal families.

Aboriginal people suffer from many disadvantages in our society, and the most damning indicator of the disadvantages is their rate of illness and shorter life expectancy. Statistics provide the evidence: The mortality rate of Aboriginal babies is three times that of other Australian babies; Aboriginal mothers are up to five times more likely to die during childbirth; and life expectancy is up to 12 years less than other Australians.

Poor health correlates with poor housing, and the living conditions of many Aborigines reflects their status in Australian society and their low income potential (2). Their resultant segregation provides limited access to facilities such as sewerage, rubbish removal, or clean water. The health and housing conditions of Aborigines are a result of their marginalisation in society.

Elements of racism are also accountable for the low education standards attained by Aboriginal people (3). Statistically, it could be argued that Aborigines do not consider education to be important (4). The statistics summarise that their achievements in literacy and numeracy are substantially below average levels, as is their participation rates in compulsory schooling. The argument for the racist element, however, is stronger. It is questionable whether the education system is catering for the needs of Aboriginal people. The education system inhibits Aboriginal learning styles with Aboriginal values being replaced with our own values, and our way of understanding and doing things. This in itself assumes that our culture is superior and Aboriginal children are conditioned into accepting the culture of the dominant white society.

The rights to maintain self-determination have been denied to the Aboriginal people since white colonisation; itself an act of discrimination that places Aborigines in a subordinate position in Australia today (5). The denial of self-determination, which is a denial of a people to identify with their own history and the perpetuation of their culture bears a strong connection to the reasons behind a lack of identity.

The attitudes of discrimination rife in Australian society have left their scars on the matriarchs of the Aboriginal people: Women are also victims of chauvinism as well as being placed in the lowest status positions (6). This contributes to a lack of awareness of how dispossession, racist practices, incarceration and violence have fragmented their position in society (7).

The statistics on custodial issues reveal further imbalances: Young indigenous people are eighteen times more likely to be held in detention than other Australian youths (8). The imprisonment rate of Aborigines is the highest in the world, leading to a conclusion that Indigenous people face discrimination within the legal system.

More telling however, is that over-representation is shadowed by a more disturbing statistic in the issue: Aborigines are dying in custody. No suitable reason can be found to explain the deaths. It is at the grass roots level that prevention should be focused. In the 1980s, 67% of Aborigines taken into custody were jailed as a result of alcohol-related detentions (9). The Commissioner of the inquiry into Black Deaths in Custody reported the abolition of the offence of drunkenness should reduce our prison populations without threat to public safety. This advice has been all but ignored.

But the issue still needs further examination. Forty three per cent of Aborigines who died in custody had, as children, been forcibly removed from their families under the policy of assimilation, and only 1% had finished their formal schooling (10). It is relevant to ask: Is Australia’s past treatment of Aborigines central to their current rates of arrest and imprisonment? (11)

All Aboriginal people suffer in every aspect of their lives from racism. The denial of self-determination is racist (12). Racism is evident in the education system, the legal system and the political structures of Australian society (13). It exists at the legislative and bureaucratic levels and weaves down into public opinion. Aboriginal people have had to contend with the European attitude of white supremacy. The issues I have discussed are all bound together with racism (14).

These major issues indicate that a history of racist views and policies began in Australia in 1788 and still manifests society today. History books account of the struggles of Europeans to claim this continent as their own, whereas a curtain of silence has shielded generations of students from recognising how European expansion swept away the land rights of the original inhabitants.

In the advancing colonisation the Aboriginal people were conveniently treated as part of the country’s past. ‘History,’ proclaimed an old uni lecturer of mine, ‘treated Aboriginal people as little more than impediments standing briefly in the way of inevitable white progress across the nation’ (15).

So I ask, dear readers, what do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

References

(1) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(2) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(3) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(4) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(5) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(6) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(7) Miller, L. (1993), ‘The women’s movement and Aboriginal women’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(8) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(9) Lippmann, L. (1994), Generations of resistance, 3rd edition, Longman Australia, Melbourne.

(10) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(11) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(12) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(13) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(14) McGrath, A. (1993), Women and state, LaTrobe University Press, Bundoora.

(15) Edwards, W.H. (1988), An introduction to Aboriginal societies, Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls, NSW.

 

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