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Category Archives: AIM Extra

The new invasion of the Northern Territory (Part 1)

Part Six of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Turning ‘protection’ into ‘assimilation’

In 1928 the Australian Government asked J. W. Bleakley, Queensland Protector of Aborigines, to report on policy, including ‘half-caste’ policy, in the Northern Territory. His report proposed “blood quotas” as a guiding principle. Those who possessed fifty per cent or more of ‘native blood’ would “drift back” to the black “no matter how carefully brought up and educated.” Those with less than fifty per cent of ‘native blood’ could “avoid the dangers of the blood call” if they were segregated as the prelude to “their absorption by the white race.”

In 1937, 1951 and 1961 official conferences adopted policies aimed at the assimilation of Indigenous People into the ‘mainstream’ of society.

Tatz points out that these policies were directed towards ensuring the disappearance of Indigenous People ‘as a race’. Terms such as “breeding them white” indicated a biological solution.

‘Assimilation policies’ were not entirely new. Under the Victorian Aborigines Protection Act 1886 “aid” was restricted to ‘full-bloods’ and ‘half-castes’ over the age of 34. All others, regardless of their marital or sibling status, were forcibly expelled from missions and reserves. Children were not exempt. They faced relocation to white foster parents, white adoptive parents and ‘half-caste’ or ‘assimilation’ homes.

Tatz cites three senior officials to illustrate the thinking behind ‘assimilation’. One was O. A. Neville, the Chief Protector in Western Australia between 1915 and 1940. He could do nothing for Indigenous People, “who were dying out.” However, he could “absorb the half-castes”. Neville had a three-point plan. First, the ‘full-bloods’ would die out. Second, the ‘half-castes’ would be taken from their mothers. Third, ‘half-caste’ marriages would encourage intermarriage within the white community. The Chief Protector promoted the attractiveness of such arrangements. “The young half-blood maiden is a pleasant, placid, complacent person as a rule, while the quadroon [one quarter ‘native’] is often strikingly attractive, with her oftimes auburn hair, rosy freckled colouring, and good figure.” Elevation of these people “to our own plane” he deemed wise. To this end, Neville established, in 1933, Sister Kate’s Orphanage. Its guiding principle was to take in hand those “whose lightness of colour” could lead to assimilation and intermarriage.

The indignities suffered by those taken in hand would have been obvious and many, but a proverbial carrot was dangled before them. The Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944 (W.A.) made it possible for an Indigenous person to apply, before a magistrate, for a Certificate of Citizenship. The successful applicant would have to show how ‘white’ he or she had become. Dissolution of tribal and native association was only the beginning. He or she had to have an honourable discharge from the armed forces, or be deemed a “fit and proper person”.

“Fit and proper persons” had to have “adopted the manner and habits of civilised life” for two years and be able to speak and understand English. They had to be of industrious habits and be of a good reputation and correct behaviour. Those suffering from active leprosy, syphilis, granuloma and yaws (framboesia) were denied citizenship.

This outlook formed the basis of Commonwealth policy from the 1930s. The Northern Territory Administrator’s report of 1933 said: “In the (Northern) Territory the mating of an Aboriginal with any person other than an Aboriginal is prohibited. The mating of coloured aliens with any female of part Aboriginal blood is also forbidden. Every endeavour is being made to breed out the colour by elevating female half-castes to the white standard with a view to their absorption by mating into the white population.”

The diabolical plan was to give way to ‘the stolen generations’.

Under this new ‘policy’ Indigenous children were taken from their families. In a 1983 monograph, historian Peter Read cited annual reports of the New South Wales Board: “This policy of dissociating the children from [native] camp life must eventually solve the Aboriginal problem.” By placing children in “first-class private homes”, the superior standard of life would “pave the way for the absorption of these people into the general population.” Further, “to allow these children to remain on the reserve to grow up in comparative idleness in the midst of more or less vicious surroundings would be, to say the least, an injustice to the children themselves, and a positive menace to the State.”

Tatz commented: “In sharp contrast were the memories of the salvaged ones: there was little that was wonderful in the experience; there was much to remember about physical brutality and sexual abuse; and for the majority the homes were scarcely homes, especially in the light of the then healthy practices of kinship, family reciprocity and child rearing in extended families. There is considerably more recorded and substantiated evidence of abuse in the safe homes … In 37 years of involvement in Aboriginal affairs, I have met perhaps half a dozen men who liked Sister Kate’s or Kinchela Boys’ Home. I have yet to meet an Aboriginal woman who liked Cootamundra Girls’ Home or Colebrook. No one failed to mention the incessant sexual abuse, or the destruction of family life.”

In 1990 the Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care demanded an inquiry into child removal. A blank spot in Australian history was referred to: “the damage and trauma these policies caused are felt every day by Aboriginal people. They internalise their grief, guilt and confusion, inflicting further pain on themselves and others around them. We want an inquiry to determine how many of our children were taken away and how this occurred. We also want to consider whether these policies fall within the definition of genocide in Article II (e) of the United Nations Convention.”

On 11 May 1995 the Attorney-General of the Keating Labor government established the “National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.” It was aimed at informing a wilfully ignorant public of the history of forcible removal which was contributing to hindering the recognition of the needs of its victims and their families and the provision of services.

Tatz pointed to the ambiguities of this inquiry. The use of the term “separation” presupposed a degree of agreement by the families with the removal of their children. Further, “separation” suggests that the removals were of a temporary character with a door remaining open for reunification. This could not be farther from the truth. The Bringing them Home Report was tabled in Parliament on 26 May 1997. It concluded that between 1910 and 1970 between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities.

It marked a pivotal moment in the controversy which has come to be known as ‘the stolen generations’.

By 11 March 1996, however, there had been a federal government of different persuasion: the Howard Government which would last until 3 December 2007.

On 15 April 1997 the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission published the results of the inquiry in Indigenous deaths in custody. (Indigenous Deaths in Custody, 1989 to 1996. A Report prepared by the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, 1996).

In a powerful editorial endorsing all 339 recommendations, The  (Melbourne) Age called the Report “a judgment in black and white.” At the time, a distinguished prominent barrister, Ron Merkel Q.C., who was also the president of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, sounded one note of caution. In a letter to that newspaper, he wrote that the inquiry delivered a “unique catalogue of the destruction of the culture, spirit and lives of Aboriginal people”; examined a wide range of policies designed to avoid the failures of the past; and proposed a “blueprint” for tackling the underlying causes of the disintegration in Aboriginal society.

In particular, what outraged Merkel was that a mere 150 copies of the report were made available for public sale – while another 200 were offered in response to complaints, denying an invaluable resource to the scores of agencies, government departments and organisations which desperately needed one.

“It is no small irony that the principal finding as to the cause of so many of the problems investigated was the failure to educate the Australian public about Aboriginal people,” Merkel wrote.

The vast majority of Australians – the word being henceforth used in a generic fashion, from the original invaders, to their followers, down to the so-called old Australians and ‘new’ Australians – are only vaguely aware of the grim reality, and most of the politicians, particularly those in the anti-Labor Coalition, seemed comfortable and relaxed with things as they have been ‘traditionally’.

The Howard Government remained unmoved.

The new invasion of the Northern Territory

In June 2006 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme Lateline aired a sensational interview with a man whose face was concealed. He was described as a “ former youth worker” who had lived in the Indigenous community of Mutitjulu, a tiny town of around 400 situated, literally, in the shadow of Uluru. He made a series of bizarre, false, indeed lurid allegations.

The man in disguise, and whose voce was digitised, purported to have been once based in Mutitjulu and to have worked in a joint community development project for the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments. He was interviewed at his new home on the outskirts of Canberra. As it turned out, the man was never a youth worker, and he had never lived in Mutitjulu.

For the truth, he was one Gregory Andrews, an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, and the senior public servant who was advising the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough – who is reputed to be of partial Indigenous ancestry – specifically on violence and sexual abuse in remote Indigenous communities, and in Mutitjulu in particular.

Andrews wept openly on camera as he described how he had made repeated statements and reports to police about sexual violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and children during his time in Mutitjulu. But, he claimed, he had withdrawn those statements after being threatened by men in the community. Nothing of this turned out to be true.

Despite having moved several thousand kilometres away to Canberra, Andrews maintained that he feared for his safety, and that of his family.

Chief Minister Clare Martin later revealed in parliament that during his employment, Andrews never once made a single report to police about violence against women or children.

His ‘withdrawn police statements’ were not the only part of his story which collapsed.

Subsequently, Andrews would be exposed and discredited by the Australian Crime Commission and by the Northern Territory Police.

Actually, Lateline had taken an early interest in Indigenous affairs in the Northern Territory. In early 2006 the A.B.C. broadcast an interview with Dr Nanette Rogers who had been Crown Prosecutor in Alice Springs for more than 12 years.

Dr. Rogers outlined shocking cases of sexual abuse of Indigenous children which, over a period of more than a decade, had made their way through the Northern Territory courts. She described toddlers and babies being raped; cases of incest; men using traditional law to escape serious punishment. Dr Rogers referred to a case in which an 18-year-old petrol sniffer simultaneously drowned a young girl while he was raping her.

For many Australian television viewers the interview with Dr Rogers appeared seemingly ‘out of the blue’. It sparked massive media interest, which continued for a while. That was rather surprising, having regard to the paucity of government reports on Indigenous affairs. Dr Rogers’ revelations came as nothing new. They were in fact no news.

In 1989 (now Emerita) Professor Judy Atkinson, whose heritage derives from the Jiman people of the Upper Dawson in Central West Queensland and the Bundjalung of Northern New South Wales, wrote a landmark report on Indigenous violence, and in particular child sexual abuse. She wrote another one for the federal government in 1991.

Professor Boni Robertson, who has held the position of Director of the Gumurrii Centre, Griffith University since 1995, also completed substantial reports throughout the 1990s, and headed a major inquiry in 1999 which involved fifty senior Indigenous women and represented every community in Queensland.

Both Atkinson and Robertson warned politicians on numerous occasions of the problems in Indigenous communities, and showed that the causes of family violence were rooted in a failure of government to provide basic services, investment and infrastructure.

Their reports were largely ignored, although, of course, they were not the only ones trying desperately to focus national attention on the growing problems in Indigenous communities.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, an Indigenous-elected government agency which would to be abolished by the Howard Government, had also prepared numerous reports in the 1990s, and in 1999 Dr Paul Memmott had released a major report into violence in Indigenous communities, revealing precisely the sorts of cases detailed by Dr. Rogers, including the rape of young babies.

Dr Memmott’s report was simply ignored by media, due in no small part to the fact that when it was finally made public it was not saying anything new. The Howard Government in which Senator Amanda Vanstone, at a time Justice minister, would serve as Indigenous Affairs minister, practically ignored the report for eighteen months.

A few years later, in July 2003, the Howard Government organised a ‘roundtable summit’ of Indigenous leaders to address the issue of family violence. It turned out to be another gesture without consequence or follow up.

Indigenous communities themselves, of course, had been crying for help for decades. But for whatever reason, in 2006 the Australian media – and the Howard Government – suddenly found violence in Indigenous communities compelling.

Maybe what generated renewed interest in violence amongst Indigenous People was the kind of sensationalism which covered the issues. In addition, Dr Rogers revelation found a new wind, as it were, which took the news overseas. That also encouraged Lateline in pursuing the original interest; more stories followed the original interview.

Commercial television realised the value of such subjects as Dr Rogers had touched. The media frenzy around sexual violence in Indigenous communities grew. And this attracted the attention of political representatives who had done absolutely nothing about the problems for decades.

Six weeks into the frenzy, on 21 June Lateline broadcast perhaps the most horrifying as well as titillating revelation of them all: it dealt with ‘Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community.’ The programme alleged that young Indigenous children were being held against their will in Central Australia, and traded between communities as sex slaves. Some of the children were given petrol to sniff, in exchange for sex with senior Indigenous men.

The story centred on the community of Mutitjulu.

Lateline claimed that senior men in the community had created an environment where a predatory paedophile was able to abuse women and children with impunity. The elderly man relied on his kinship connections for protection, claimed Lateline, and was one of the men trading petrol for sex with young children.

Media coverage had thus far been feverish, but with Lateline’s fresh ‘revelations’ it went into overdrive. And so did the Northern Territory Government, which was bearing the brunt of critical media reporting. The Howard Government, in office for more than a decade, and at the time responsible for the funding of remote Indigenous communities, was escaping media scrutiny largely unscathed.

In August 2006, the morning after Lateline’s latest claim, Ms Clare Martin, the first female Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, announced that her government would hold a major inquiry into violence against children in Indigenous communities. The Chief Minister commissioned research into allegations of serious sexual abuse of children in Indigenous People communities.

The resulting report, ‘Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle’ Little children are sacred, took almost a year to complete, ran to more than 300 pages, and contained 91 recommendations, and was released on 15 June 2007. The title ‘Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle’ is derived from the Arrandic languages of the Central Desert Region of the Northern Territory.

Though its investigations were launched on a fraudulent pretext, the report itself was excellent. Responsible for it were Rex Wild Q.C. and Ms Pat Anderson, an Alyawarre woman known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate with a particular focus on the health of Indigenous People. Pat Anderson and Rex Wild dealt with the issue of sexual assault in Indigenous communities competently, respectfully. As reported, they were “impressed with the willingness of people to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse, even though it was acknowledged as a difficult subject to talk about. At many meetings, both men and women expressed a desire to continue discussions about this issue and what they could do in their community about it. It was a frequent comment that up until now, nobody had come to sit down and talk with them about these types of issues. It would seem both timely and appropriate to build on this good will, enthusiasm and energy by a continued engagement in dialogue and assisting communities to develop their own child safety and protection plans.”

Continued Friday with: The new invasion of the Northern Territory (Part 2)

Previous instalment: A constitution for the 19th century (Part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


A constitution for the 19th century (Part 2)

Part Five of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

A quick look of the Australian Constitution reveals that it is technically an act of the British Parliament passed in 1900, the last vestiges of British legislative influence in Australia to be eliminated with the passage of the Australia Act in 1986.

The Constitution is in fact contained in Section 9 of “An Act to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia.” The first 8 sections of the Act record that the people of the Australian colonies have agreed to unite in a federal commonwealth and that the new system of government was not imposed on the Australian people by the British Parliament.

Something else should be further said about this document, which is regarded – mostly by people who have not read it, or perhaps not understood it – as the foundation of a modern, liberal democracy. At best that is sheer nonsense.

One is reminded of Humpty Dumpty appearing in Lewis Carroll’s Through the looking-glass (1872), discussing semantics and pragmatics with Alice, and saying in a rather scornful tone: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

First, a brief overview of the document in question.

The document is structured on eight chapters.

Chapter 1 – on The Parliament, establishes the Commonwealth Parliament as the Legislative Branch of government. In that Chapter, Part 1 establishes its legislative power in Australia and provides for a Governor-General, representing the Queen, with power to summon Parliament; Part 2 provides for the composition and election of the Senate, and the filling of Senate vacancies. It details quorums, voting arrangements and the procedure for election of a President of the Senate; Part 3 provides for the composition and election of the House of Representatives and the filling of House vacancies. It details quorums, voting arrangements and the procedure for election of a Speaker of the House of Representatives; Part 4 deals with matters applicable to both houses of Parliament, particularly the qualification of members and the privileges of the Parliament; and Part 5 deals with the powers of the Parliament and provides a list of 40 paragraphs of specific powers. This part also deals with the joint powers of the houses and the means of resolving disagreements between the houses.

Chapter 2 – on The Executive Government, deals with that branch of government which carries out and enforces the laws. It provides for the exercise of executive power by the Governor-General advised by an Executive Council. Section 64 stipulates that Ministers are to be Members of Parliament, the only section of the Constitution which refers to the system of ‘responsible’ government.

Chapter 3 – on The Judicature, provides for the establishment of the branch of government dealing with the courts of law. Section 71 provides that the judicial power of the Commonwealth is vested in the High Court of Australia and other federal courts established by the Parliament. Other sections deal with the appointment, tenure and removal from office of judges of the High Court and other courts. Section 76 confers power on the Parliament to determine the jurisdiction of the High Court.

Chapter 4 – on Finance and Trade, deals with these matters. One of the most important sections is Section 83 which provides that no money is to be drawn from the Treasury except under an appropriation by law. Other sections deal with customs duties, requiring that they be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.

Perhaps the most important section in the whole chapter, maybe in the Constitution, is Section 92 which requires that trade and commerce amongst the states shall be absolutely free.

Section 96 empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to grant financial assistance to the States.

Section 105A, inserted by referendum in 1929, deals with the taking over by the Commonwealth of States’ debts.

Chapter 5 – on The States, provides for the continuance of their constitutions, parliamentary powers and laws.

Section 109 provides for Commonwealth law to prevail over State law, but only in those cases where State law is inconsistent with Commonwealth law.

Other sections prohibit the States from coining money, raising armed forces or discriminating against the residents of other States.

Section 119 also requires that the Commonwealth is to protect the states against invasion or domestic violence.

Chapter 6 – on New States, deals with the procedures for the establishment of new States and provides for the surrender of territories to the Commonwealth by States.

Chapter 7 – on Miscellaneous, is made up of two sections, one dealing with the establishment of the seat of government, the other providing for the appointment of deputies of the Governor-General.

Chapter 8 – on Alteration of the Constitution, provides that proposals for constitutional alteration be initiated by the Parliament and approved in a referendum by a majority of voters Australia-wide and a majority of voters in a majority of States.

A Schedule attached to the Constitution contains the oath or affirmation to be taken by Members of Parliament before they take their seats. Presently, Members of Parliament who select to take an oath will say: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God !” Members who instead choose to make an affirmation will say: “ I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty et cetera … ”

A Governor-General swears allegiance to the English monarch of the time, not to the Australian Constitution, as one would expect in a modern, liberal, democratic country.

The Constitution is interpreted and operates in two ways: literally – some sections of the Constitution are taken literally and followed to the letter; conventionally – other sections operate through a series of ‘constitutional conventions’ which vest real power in the hands of elected politicians.

Alongside the text of the Constitution, and Letters Patent issued by the Crown, such Conventions are an important aspect of the Constitution; they have evolved over the decades and define how various constitutional mechanisms operate in practice. Conventions are unwritten rules, not laws. They express an accepted way of doing something. The ‘Westminster parliamentary system’ is built around these kinds of unwritten rules. They presume that people of good reputation and character behave in an honourable way. By and large Australian ‘conservatives’ do not respect ‘Labour people’ as persons of honour. This is one of the reasons why ‘conservatives’ have been preferred to ‘Labour people’ = rabble on a three/fourth basis since federation.

Conventions play a powerful role in the operation of the Australian Constitution because of its set-up and operation as a ‘Westminster System’ of ‘responsible government’. That means responsible to everyone but the Australian people. Some notable Conventions include the following: 1) while the Constitution does not expressly set up the office of Prime Minister of Australia, such an office developed a de facto existence as head of the cabinet. The Prime Minister is seen as the head of government. And that seems a small matter. 2) while there are few constitutional restrictions on the power of the Governor-General, by convention the Governor-General acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.

However, because Conventions are not textually based, their existence and practice are open to debate. Real or alleged violation of a convention has often led to political controversy.

The most serious and damaging case, so far, was the Australian so-called constitutional crisis of 1975, in which the operation of Conventions was seriously tested and Conventions were violated. The ensuing constitutional crisis was resolved dramatically when the Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed the Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, appointing Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister with a tacit understanding that there would be a 1975 general election. A number of Conventions were broken during this malpractice episode. These include:

1) The Convention that, when a senator from a particular State vacates her/his position during the term of office, the State government concerned would nominate a replacement from the same political party as the departing senator. This Convention was broken first by the Lewis ‘conservative’ government of New South Wales and then by the Bjelke-Petersen ‘agrarian socialist’ government of Queensland which both, ‘properly’, filled Labor vacancies: the first, with an independent and the second, with a Labor member notoriously opposed to the Whitlam Government, respectively.

The Convention was codified into the Constitution through a national referendum in 1977. The amendment requires the new senator to be from the same party as the old one and would have prevented the appointment by Mr Lewis, but not that by Mr Bjelke-Petersen. However, the amendment states of the appointee that if “before taking his seat he ceases to be a member of that party … he shall be deemed not to have been so chosen or appointed.” Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s appointee had been expelled from the Labor Party before taking his seat and would therefore have been ineligible under the new constitutional amendment.

2) The Convention that, when the Senate is controlled by a party which does not simultaneously control the House of Representatives, the Senate would not vote against money supply to the government. This Convention was broken by the Senate controlled by the Liberal-Country Party coalition in 1975.

3) The Convention that a Prime Minister who cannot obtain supply must either request that the Governor-General call a general election, or resign. This Convention was allegedly broken by Prime Minister Whitlam in response to the Senate’s unprecedented refusal.

In moment of need, the ‘constitutional monarchy’ of Australia could not lead to a ‘responsible government’ in November 1975. The unmentioned consequence of that Royal Ambush is that the Labor Party has lost the courage even of a possible antagonistic manoeuvre coming from ‘Yarralumla’, which is the official seat of the Governor-General.

There, an unelected Governor-General, appointed by the Queen in London, surreptitiously dismissed an elected prime minister. If there was a resulting fault in the ‘System’ it was due to the firm adherence by Mr Whitlam to the constitutional practice followed in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps Mr Whitlam was unaware, when he proposed to the Queen the appointment of John Kerr, that Kerr had supported anti-Communist, anti-Labour organisations and parties; had dabbled in ‘intelligence’ long before becoming an ‘asset’ of the Central Intelligence Agency; and that, in addition to such a politically compromising situation, he had serious problems of drunkenness, and a proven reputation for sexual preference for ‘young flesh’, propensities which in themselves could open him to blackmail. Many Labour members who could read, write and correlate information were appalled at the appointment. The best which may be said about this monumental mistake by Mr Whitlam is that the Prime Minister – as a man of honour – firmly believed that “The Governor-General would do his duty.” And so he was telling his supporters.

In that Mr Whitlam was perversely correct: Kerr remained ultimately loyal to the Seat of Privilege, in London.

In those circumstances, a populace accustomed to conceive of equality as at the lowest possible common denominator, where unpardonable ignorance is cheerily shared and enjoyed by all, where freedom consists of defaming politicians, belittling intellectuals – a word which then becomes a term of abuse, spelled purposely between inverted commas, and where a Prime Minister too educated, too erudite, standing even physically above the execrable crowd, devoted to carrying out a programme of modernisation, reform and melioration of the country, too conscious of his abilities – hence defined as ‘arrogant’, was constantly challenged by people surviving in a society swarming with predacious banksters, real estate artists, shysterish solicitors, nostrum peddlers, and priestly paedophiles and who transfer their revenge on persons who genuinely, honourably and competently seek public office with an aggressiveness which testifies to their inverted servility.

So, long as the s/governing regimes let those people free to make some ‘authorised’ fun of Mrs Elizabeth (soi-disante Windsor, but in fact Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha), married to Philip (soi-disant Battenberg-Mountbatten, but in fact Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg), Australians – males in particular – are satisfied with their subsistence in bigotry – and ultimately racism – at home, nominal manliness of course in the house, and a confluence of those ‘qualities’ in vicarious imperialism abroad. Result? An official loss of 102,825 lives in sixteen wars fought – except for the second world war – at the request of outside powers, at different times ‘motherly’ otherwise ‘great and friendly.’ Helotry comes to mind.

Curiously, there is never a reference to losses in the ‘wars on the Blacks’ – or their victims, for that matter: 20,000 of them before federation, and another 10,000 after.

Only theoretically, therefore, and when applied in good faith by honest men/women, that barbaric piece of paper which is the ’Australian’ Constitution can be sustained by Conventions which underpin its operation and that of the Executive Government.

Some reference to the out-datedness of that piece of paper should persuade the sceptics. Alas, it can do nothing for the illiterate, the imbecile and the ‘conservative’.

The Australian Constitution makes no mention of the position of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, or political parties. With the Governor-General as a viceroy, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are just glorified real estate agents.

There is no rule which stipulates that the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Representatives.

A literal reading of the Constitution suggests that the Governor-General runs the government.

As Section 2 of the Constitution recites: “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth …”

Here is where a Convention comes in.

In practice, the Governor-General is chosen by the Prime Minister of the day, possibly – but not necessarily – in conjunction with Cabinet.

In the early years of the Federation, the Governor-General was appointed from Britain. In the early 1930s Labor Prime Minister James Scullin visited London in order to apply pressure on the British Government to allow the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General, and thus overcoming the anti-Semitism ingrained in the English Court. Isaacs eventually became the first Australian to hold the position. Since the 1960s all Governors-General have been Australian-born. This is a requisite which may amount to nothing in the frequent cases of sycophancy.

Section 5 of the Constitution reads: “The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to time, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives.”

Not so – in practice the government of the day decides when Parliament will sit. These are intensely political decisions made by the Prime Minister and the most senior members of the government and its advisers.

Section 24, on the constitution of the House of Representatives, provides that: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. [Emphasis added].

The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective members of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner:

(i.) A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of senators:

(ii.) The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the number of people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State. …”

The provision, and particularly the real meaning of the words “chosen by the people” was tested in Attorney-General for Australia (at the relation of McKinlay) and others v. Commonwealth of Australia and others (1975) 135 C.L.R. 1 at 63. The central issue was whether the electoral boundaries set under the Commonwealth Electoral Act contravened the requirement of Section 24. The plaintiffs claimed that the section required that as nearly as practicable, the number of electors in each electoral division in a State be equal. The full court ruled that the section did not require equal number of people or electors in electoral divisions.

Mr Justice Murphy powerfully dissented. He began by saying that the main question before the Court was whether the Australian Constitution guarantees electoral democracy. The response was a sounding ‘no’. He shared the plaintiffs’ contention that the words emphasised guarantee equal representation – one head, one vote, with consequent honestly administered results.

The position has not moved one single centimetre forwards in the last 42 years.

The two factions of that cabal which is the ‘Westminster System’ have a shared interest in keeping things as they are: parliamentary democracy(?) well, yes – sort of, representative democracy(?) to be avoided like the pest in favour of an alternative of almost similar parties. Out of this mafia political system Labor may be given a chance, in moments of distress, in time of war, when the ‘conservatives’ have been sent home for Rest & Recreation – at the expense, of course, of Labor people, the overwhelming majority of the population, minorities and the eternally forgotten: the Blacks.

The Westminster System’? ‘Parliamentary democracy’? One wonder what a modestly educated member of the Indigenous People or Torres Straits Islander would make of such concept.

Perhaps it is worth anticipating some consideration about the way in which the ‘invader culture’ distorts that of the invaded. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, has dealt with the subject in a famous and influential work: Pedagogy of the oppressed. In it he affirmed that the ‘invader culture’ would only succeed if the invaded people ended up believing in their own cultural inferiority. The Indigenous People as fauna ? When convinced of their own inferiority they would see the invaders and their culture as being superior. In time, as people become more alienated from their own culture they would see only positives in the culture of the invaders; they would then desire to become more and more like them, to the extent that they would “walk like them, dress like them, talk like them.” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed (Penguin, London, 1990 at 122).

Talk like them – how else would one explain the preoccupation with “the sovereignty of the Crown”?

Continued Monday with: The new invasion of the Northern Territory (Part 1)

Previous instalment: A constitution for the 19th century (Part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


A constitution for the 19th century (Part 1)

Part Four of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

A constitution for the 19th century

In the intention of the occupying colonists their work was to provide a modern constitution – for the nineteenth century!

As early as the 1840s there had been some attempts to promote the formation of an inter-colonial General Assembly to deal with matters of common inter-colonial interest, but the proposals did not meet with support from the colonists, whose interests were competing. The movement towards the formation of a single unity ultimately came from some of the more enlightened colonists. It was driven by concern about foreign affairs, immigration, defence, trade and commerce and industrial relations, and an obsession about the maintenance of the ‘white race’ against ‘coloured races’ within and the threat of immigration or invasion. Australia would be born with this feeling – as a frightened country.

There also developed in the 1890s a perception of ‘people’ or ‘race’ embedded in the concept of nationality. Australians of the nineteenth century, and beyond, would use the terms ‘people’ and ‘race’ interchangeably.

It was for Henry Parkes, recognised later as one of the ‘founding fathers of the Constitution’, to speak rather rhetorically of “The crimson thread of kinship [which] runs through us all.” That Constitution would grow out of moves towards a federation of the six self-governing colonies. Before 1901 ultimate power over these colonies – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia – rested with the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster.

During the 1890s a series of conferences were held to discuss federation.

A Constitutional Conference in 1890 led to a Constitutional Convention in 1891. A Constitution Bill was adopted by that Convention but did not gain much acceptance. For a short time the move towards federation lost its momentum.

The move was started again with a conference held in Corowa in 1893, organised by the Australian Federation League. That conference proposed that the legislature of each Australian colony pass an Act providing for the election of representatives to attend a statutory convention or congress to consider and adopt a Bill to establish a Federal Constitution for Australia. That plan was considered by a Conference of the colonial Premiers held in Hobart in 1895. The six premiers of the Australian colonies agreed to establish a new Constitutional Convention by popular vote. The Premiers decided that each colony would pass enabling Acts to choose ten delegates each to meet at a Convention to draft a Federal Constitution for consideration by each colonial parliament.

The new Convention met in Adelaide in March 1897 and then in Sydney in September 1897 and finally in Melbourne in January 1898. A proposed Constitution Bill was reconsidered and revised by a drafting committee. It was adopted by the Convention in March 1898. Referenda were subsequently held in each of the colonies and ultimately a majority of people in a majority of the colonies approved the proposed Constitution. Western Australia’s referendum was not held until July 1900, but it ended up supporting the Constitution.

A Constitution Bill incorporating the proposed Constitution was submitted to the United Kingdom Parliament. Subject to some changes, relating to appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court, the Bill was passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and on 9 July 1900 received the Royal Assent. The proclamation establishing the Commonwealth was signed by Queen Victoria on 17 September 1900 to take effect from 1 January 1901.

The Australian Constitution came into existence as a section of an Act of the United Kingdom Imperial Parliament. One of Australia’s famous jurists of the twentieth century, Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, would describe the Constitution as not being “a supreme law purporting to obtain its force from the direct expression of a people’s inherent authority to constitute a government.” but as “a statute of the British Parliament enacted in the exercise of its legal sovereignty over the law everywhere in the King’s dominions.”

On that 1 January 1901 federation of the colonies was proclaimed at Centennial Park in Sydney by Australia’s first Governor-General, John Adrian Louis Hope, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow. Australia’s first Prime Minister was Edmund Barton, who held the position from January 1901 to September 1903.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia came into effect at federation, but this did not mean that Australia was now independent of Britain. When the United Kingdom approved colonial federation, it simply meant that the six self-governing states of Australia allocated some functions to a federal authority. Australia gained the status of a Dominion, which meant it remained a self-governing colony within the British Empire, with the Head of State being the British monarch. Until very recently the British Government appointed Australia’s Governors-General and State Governors, who answered to the British Government.

All Dominions within the British Empire were declared “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations” at the Imperial Conference of 1926. The Statute of Westminster 1931 ratified the discussions of the Imperial Conference. This meant that Australia and other Dominions such as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa could now conduct treaties and agreements with foreign powers, and manage their own military strategies. No longer – it seems – were the Australian Governors-General, Parliament and individual governors answerable to the United Kingdom. The British monarch could only act on the advice of the Australian Government.

On 9 October 1942 the Australian Parliament formally adopted the Statute of Westminster 1931 under the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942.

Only on 3 March 1986 Australia reached the next stage towards independence: on that day the Australia Acts came into effect. The Australia Acts declared that Australia had the status of a sovereign, independent and federal nation. Yet, the nation still retains Elizabeth II as head of state, but her position as Australia’s head of state is completely separate from her position as the head of state of any other country, including the United Kingdom. What the Australia Acts effectively did was remove the ability of the British Government to make laws for Australia, and remove the last legal link with the United Kingdom by abolishing the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It was not until 1988 that the last state, Queensland, removed this from its statutes.

Some might very well say, as at least a powerful Indigenous movement proclaims, advocating for a republic, that Australia is still on a path to independence, because the country is still technically ruled by the British monarchy, even though that monarchy does not have – at least ostensibly – any right to interfere with Australian laws.

As far as the Indigenous Peoples were concerned, the view shared by the overwhelming majority of the Convention delegates was that the ‘Aboriginal race’ was on the way to extinction. Their calculations were comforted by the reduction of the ‘native’ population from some 750,000 to less than 100,000.

Two sections of the Constitution dealt with ‘the aboriginal race’ or ‘the aboriginal natives.’ Another, Section 25, dealt with them only by way of inference.

Section 25, on ‘Provisions as to races disqualified from voting’, in Chapter 1, Part 3 of the Constitution, which deals with The House of Representatives, read and presently reads: “For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of the race resident in that State shall not be counted.”

A specific provision was contained in Section 51, on the ‘Legislative powers of the Parliament’, and provides that: “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: … (xxvi) The people of any race, [other than the aboriginal race in any State,] for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:” The words in square brackets were removed by the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act [No. 55 of] 1967, n. 2.

And Section 127 – Aboriginal natives not to be counted, provided that: “In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.” This section was repealed by the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act [No. 55 of] 1967, n. 2.

The Convention debates of the 1890s make clear that section 51(xxvi) was intended to authorise the enactment by the Commonwealth of racially discriminatory laws. In the original draft Constitution Bill of 1891, the proposal was for a grant of exclusive legislative power to the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to: “[t]he affairs of people of any race with respect to whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws not applicable to the general community; but so that this power shall not extend to authorise legislation with respect to the aboriginal native race in Australia and the Maori race in New Zealand.” At that time, New Zealand was a potential member of an Australasian nation-state which might also have included Fiji and other Pacific islands.

The course of the debates suggests that the former Premier of Queensland and Australia’s first Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, a so-called ‘liberal’, proposed the clause and explained: “What I have had more particularly in my own mind was the immigration of coolies from British India, or any eastern people subject to civilised powers. … I maintain that no state should be allowed, because the federal parliament did not choose to make a law on the subject, to allow the state to be flooded by such people as I have referred to.” [Emphasis added].

As Professor Geoffrey Sawer commented, everything Griffith was concerned about could have been achieved under the immigration, aliens and external affairs powers. However, the Convention debates make clear that the power was regarded as important by the drafters of the Constitution. In 1898, the head of the (economic) Protectionist Party, Edmund Barton, from New South Wales, who would become Australia’s first prime minister and a founding justice of the High Court of Australia, commented that the ‘race power’ was necessary, so that “the moment the Commonwealth obtains any legislative power at all it should have the power to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races who are in the Commonwealth.” [Emphasis added] (G. Sawer, The Constitution, V. G. Venturini ed., Australia, A survey, Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1970, 155).

Arguing against a Commonwealth head of power, the future premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest, a ‘moderate’ (economic) Protectionist, contended: “We have made a law that no Asiatic or African alien can get a miner’s right or do any gold mining. Does the Convention wish to take away from us, or, at any rate, not to give us, the power to continue to legislate in that direction? … We also provide that no Asiatic or African alien shall go on our goldfields. These are local matters which I think should not be taken from the control of the state Parliament.” [Emphasis added.

Forrest also observed that “[i]t is of no use for us to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a great feeling all over Australia against the introduction of coloured persons. It goes without saying that we do not like to talk about it but still it is so.” [Emphasis added]   Forrest was absolutely correct. A South Australian delegate, James Howe, who was conservative on most matters, but had ‘a genuine concern for the plight of the poor’, commented: “I think the cry throughout Australia will be that our first duty is to ourselves, and that we should as far as possible make Australia home for Australians and the British race alone.” [Emphasis added]. George Reid, leader of the Free Trade and Liberal Association, a future premier of New South Wales and fourth prime minister of Australia, agreed with Forrest that it was “certainly a very serious question whether the internal management of these coloured persons, once they have arrived in a state, should be taken away from the state.” He was prepared, however, to give that power to the Commonwealth because “it might be desirable that there should be uniform laws in regard to those persons, who are more or less unfortunate persons when they arrive here.” [Emphasis added].

As Professor Sawer commented, the Convention debates in relation to section 51(xxvi) “reveal only too clearly a widespread attitude of white superiority to all coloured peoples, and ready acceptance of the view that the welfare of such people in Australia was of little importance.”

It was clear from the very beginning that the obsessive preoccupation of the delegates was what to do with samples of the ‘coloured races’ already in Australia – mainly but not exclusively the Chinese and the Kanakas who had been kidnapped and brought to Queensland to provide the fortune of some of the delegates – but above all of keeping out ‘coloured races’.

Those of ‘coloured race’ residing in Australia would be disposed of with whatever means, mainly deportation. ‘The others’ would be kept out by the early passing of a restrictive immigration act. Introduced by Prime Minister Edmund Barton on 7 August 1901, the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 received the Royal Assent on 23 December 1901. By strictly limiting entry into Australia it came to form the basis of the ‘White Australia’ policy. It also provided for illegal immigrants – the residing ‘coloured races’ – to be deported. The Act granted immigration officers – to be sure prejudiced and grossly mis-educated – a wide degree of discretion to prevent individuals from entering Australia. The Act prohibited various classes of people from immigrating, but most importantly it introduced the dictation test, which required a person seeking entry to Australia to write out a passage of fifty words dictated to them in any European language, not necessarily English, at the discretion of an immigration officer. The test allowed that kind of immigration officers to evaluate applicants on the basis of language skills. The tenor of the Convention debates, with the exception of the contributions from Dr. John Quick from Victoria – who was considered a member of the Protectionist Party, Charles Kingston – who was a ‘high protectionist’, and Josiah Symon – who was a member of the Free Trade Party, the latter two both from South Australia, spoke openly about their desire for laws applying discriminatory controls to ‘coloured races’. Particularly Quick and Kingston wanted to keep the ‘coloured races’ out. However, both urged that, once admitted, they should be treated fairly and given all the privileges of Australian citizenship. Kingston, in particular, expressed the view that if ‘coloured people’ were to be admitted to Australia, they should be admitted as citizens and enjoy all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship: “[I]f you do not like these people you should keep them out, but if you do admit them you should treat them fairly –  admit them as citizens entitled to all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship. … We have got those coloured people who are here now; we have admitted them, and I do trust that we shall treat them fairly. And I have always set my face against special legislation subjecting them [to] particular disabilities … I think it is a mistake to emphasize these distinctions …”  The view of Josiah Symon was just as ‘radical’ for its time: “It is monstrous to put a brand on these people once you admit them. It is degrading to us and to our citizenship to do such a thing. If we say they are fit to be admitted amongst us, we ought not to degrade them by putting on them the brand of inferiority.”

The incomparable American satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?) has a poignant definition for this kind of speaker: “One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.”

No serious need to deal with ‘the natives’ – by all then reasonable expectation they were supposed to disappear towards extinction, naturally.

In relation to other ‘races’, the records of the Conventions shows that some provisions suggested for inclusion in the Constitution were rejected so that the States could continue to enact legislation which discriminated on racial grounds. For example, the original Commonwealth Bill of 1891 provided that: “A State shall not make or enforce any law abridging any privilege or immunity of citizens of other States of the Commonwealth, nor shall a State deny to any person, within its jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws.” This notion of ‘equal protection of the laws’ was intended to be imported from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Such influence, of an inspirational and legal kind, was fashionable at the time, but not sufficiently so that the suggestion would gain favour with the delegates. The clause was voted down: 24 to 17.

Henry Higgins, a so-called ‘liberal’ delegate from Victoria and later a justice of the High Court, confirmed at the Melbourne Convention in 1898 that “we want a discrimination based on colour.”

In their 1901 Annotated Constitution, Quick and Garran said of the ‘race power’: “[I]t enables the Parliament to deal with people of any alien race after they have entered the Commonwealth; to localise them within defined areas, to restrict their migration, to confine them to certain occupations, or to give them special protection and secure their return after a certain period to the country whence they came.” [Emphasis added].

Professor Sawer, referring to the words ‘alien race’ in Quick and Garran’s work, suggested that they probably did not mean ‘alien’ in any precise sense of nationality law, “but merely people of a ‘race’ considered different from the Anglo-Saxon-Scottish-Welsh-Cornish-Irish-Norman (etc. etc.) mixture, derived from the United Kingdom, which formed the main Australian stock.”

In 1910 Professor Harrison Moore wrote that section 51(xxvi) was intended to enable the Commonwealth to pass the sort of laws which before 1900 had been passed by many States concerning “the Indian, Afghan, and Syrian hawkers; the Chinese miners, laundrymen, market gardeners, and furniture manufacturers; the Japanese settlers and Kanaka plantation labourers of Queensland, and the various ‘coloured races’ employed in the pearl fisheries of Queensland and Western Australia.”

Such laws were designed “to localize them within defined areas, to restrict their migration, to confine them to certain occupations, or to give them special protection and secure their return after a certain period to the country whence they came.”

Only a country which plays loose with the meaning of words could have both a Constitution like the Australian and, simultaneously, take pride in its ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ traditions.

It goes without question that the intended reach of section 51(xxvi) was not the regulation of the affairs of the ‘aboriginal natives’.

Professor Sawer correctly remarked that, notwithstanding that the constitutional conventions “contained many men who were in general sensitive, humane, and conscious of those less fortunate sections of the community”, no delegate appears to have suggested “even in passing that there might be some national obligation to Australia’s earliest inhabitants.”

There is no indication, from the records of the period, that those who were to form Australia’s first national government would give any chance to the possible significance of section 51(xxvi) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

There was no discussion of their exclusion from the scope of the ‘race power’, and no acknowledgment of any place for them in the nation set up with the Constitution.

Only South Australia, in the 1890s, had made provisions for the placing of Indigenous People on the electoral rolls, so that they could be able to vote for delegates to the Constitutional Conventions. In the other colonies, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Peoples were not able to vote for delegates to the Conventions.

This exclusion from the framers of the nation’s Constitution continued a pattern of marginalisation and systematic discrimination, the consequences of which endure today. As Professor Megan Davis has correctly commented: “There is a sense that, beginning with their exclusion from the constitutional drafting process in the late 19th century, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have on the whole been marginalised by both the terms and effect of the Constitution.”

Continued Friday with: A constitution for the 19th century (Part 2)

(Previous instalment: From terra nullius to Mabo)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


From terra nullius to Mabo

Part Three of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

From terra nullius to Mabo

It was only the 1992 Mabo judgment which finally freed the continent of terra nullius as a legal doctrine. Anti-Aboriginal sentiments resurrect the idea from time to time, however. The manner in which the white Australian people and the surviving Indigenous People choose to address the injustices of the past will have the final say, though, in determining whether terra nullius has been abandoned altogether. (E. Eklund, Terra nullius and Australian colonialism, (2001), Treaty Republic).

The view of the Indigenous People as wild animals, fauna even, did not change much for over a century and authorised the white man to indulge in genocide. (Colin Tatz, Genocide in Australia, for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Canberra 1999) (And see also by the same author: Genocide Perspectives I, as editor-in-chief, Canberra 1997; Genocide Perspectives II: Essays in Holocaust and Genocide, eds. Colin Tatz, Peter Arnold, Sandra Tatz, Canberra 2003; Genocide Perspectives III: Essays in Holocaust and Genocide, eds. Colin Tatz, Peter Arnold, Sandra Tatz, Canberra 2006; and Genocide Perspectives IV: Essays on Holocaust and Genocide, ed. Colin Tatz, Canberra 2012).

Professor Colin Tatz was born in South Africa, where he graduated from Natal University. In 1948 the National Party was elected to power by the white minority – less than twenty per cent – which dominated the vastly larger black majority. The Nationalist Government strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and continued under British colonial rule. The Government classified all peoples into three ‘races’ and developed rights and limitations for each. The legally institutionalised segregation became known as apartheid.

As a Jew and anti-racist Tatz left South Africa in 1960 and took refuge in Australia. In 1964 Tatz received his PhD from the Australian National University. He is the author of twenty-two books, on topics which include race politics in South Africa, the Aboriginal experience in Australia, racism and the history of sport in Australia, Aboriginal and Maori youth suicide, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, and genocide studies.

He was professor at the University of New England, Armidale, at Macquarie University, Sydney and was visiting professor at the Australian National University, Canberra. He became the director of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Tatz’s 1999 report asserts that the policies adopted by colonial administrations and both state and federal governments, as well as actions by new arrivals, from the beginning of colonisation up until the 1970s constituted genocide against the Aborigines.

The legal guideline for Tatz’s study is Article II (a) to (e) of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, signed by Australia, too, of course and systematically ignored by successive governments – except for the period of the Whitlam Governments (1972-1974) and (1974-1975).

The report provides compelling evidence to justify the assertion of genocide. Even though no official figures exist, estimate of the Indigenous People population in 1788 was 750,000. It was reduced to 60,000 in 1901. By 1911 the number was 31,000. Indigenous People have only been included in the National Census since 1971. In 1996 the National Census recorded that 352,970 or 1.97 of the population were of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander descent.

Tatz’s report states: “In 1803, Tasmania was settled. In 1806 serious killing began. In retaliation for the spearing of livestock, Aboriginal children were abducted for use in forced labour, women were raped and tortured and given poisoned flour, and the men were shot. They were systematically disposed of in ones, twos and threes, or in dozens, rather than in one systematic massacre.”

The New South Wales Act 1823 provided, through Acts of the British Parliament, for the establishment of a Supreme Court with the power to deal with all criminal and civil matters “as fully and amply as Her Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer at Westminster” (4 Geo IV c 96, s 2). Inferior courts were also established, including courts of General or Quarter Sessions, and Courts of Requests.

By 1824 a court system was in place.

Across the English Channel, Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) an Italian criminologist, jurist, philosopher, and politician, was busying himself writing his treatise On crimes and punishments. Published in 1764, the work condemned torture and the death penalty, and became a founding work in the field of penology and the Classical School of criminology. Beccaria is considered the father of modern criminal law and of criminal justice – and not only ‘this side of the Channel’; it was to have a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Something was happening meanwhile as part of the administration of justice in New South Wales: “I saw a man walk across the yard with the blood that had run from his lacerated flesh squashing out of his shoes at every step he took. A dog was licking the blood off the triangles, and the ants were carrying away great pieces of human flesh that the lash had scattered about the ground. The scourger’s foot had worn a deep hole in the ground for the violence with which he whirled himself round on it to strike the quivering and wealed back, out of which stuck the sinews, white, ragged and swollen. The infliction was a hundred lashes, at about half-minute time, so as to extend the punishment through nearly an hour. … They had a pair of scourgers, who gave one another spell and spell about; and they were bespattered with blood like a couple of butchers. I tell you this on the authority of my own eyes. It brought my heart into my mouth.” The writer, under the pseudonym ‘An emigrant mechanic’, is Alexander Harris (1805-1874) (Settlers and convicts, C.M.H. Clark ed., Melbourne University Press 1953, at 12-13).

Harris, according to his biographer, “was smuggled out to New South Wales” in 1825 and returned to England in 1841. His first and most successful book was Settlers and Convicts; or Recollections of Sixteen Years’ Labour in the Australian Backwoods, by an Emigrant Mechanic (London 1847). (John Metcalfe, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, M.U.P., 1966).

What Harris recorded was ‘the norm’, and should there be any doubt one could satisfy her/himself by reading a relative recent work: Robert Hughes, The fatal shore: The epic of Australia’s founding, which is the history of the birth of Australia which came out of the suffering and brutality of Britain’s infamous convict transportation system. It was originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York in 1986 and by William Collins in the England, and republished ever since.

To return now to Tatz:

“In 1824, settlers were authorised to shoot Aborigines. In 1828, the Governor declared martial law. Soldiers or settlers arrested, or shot, any blacks found in settled districts. Vigilante groups avenged Aboriginal retaliation by wholesale slaughter of men, women and children. Between 1829 and 1834, an appointed conciliator, George Robinson, collected the surviving remnants: 123 people whom were then settled on Flinders Island. By 1835, between 3,000 and 4,000 Aborigines were dead.” And further: “They were killed, with intent, not solely because of their spearing of cattle or their ‘nuisance’ value, but rather because they were Aborigines.”  [Emphasis in original].

Between 1824 and 1908 approximately 10,000 Aborigines were murdered in the Colony of Queensland. “Considered ‘wild animals’, ‘vermin’, ‘scarcely human’, ‘hideous to humanity’, ‘loathsome’ and a ‘nuisance’, they were fair game for white ‘sportsmen’.”

The upshot of this slaughter was the appointment in 1896 of Archibald Meston as Royal Commissioner. In his Report on the Aborigines of North Queensland he wrote: “The treatment of the Cape York people was a shame to our common humanity.” He continued: “Their manifest joy at assurances of safety is pathetic beyond expression. God knows they were in need of it.” Indigenous People met him “like hunted wild beasts, having lived for years in a state of absolute terror.” His prescription for their salvation lay in “strict and absolute isolation from all whites, from predators who, in no particular order, wanted to kill them, take their women, sell them grog or opium.” Needless to say, none of the perpetrators of the slaughter were made to answer for their actions.

By this time, the new, fashionable slogan had become: ‘protection and segregation’.

The events in Queensland and Tasmania were typical of every colony. The result of Meston’s Royal Commission was the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897. Similar measures were enacted throughout Australia. In some colonies, ‘protective’ legislation, enforced by Protectors, began earlier, from the 1840s.

Like the fences erected to keep dingoes – wild native dogs – off pastureland, similar fences were erected around good Christian missions and places assigned to Indigenous People. The segregation had two aspects, legal and geographic. The law was meant to keep whites out and blacks in. Geographic isolation was to ensure that nobody could get in or out.

The attitude of the Protectors towards Indigenous People was one of utmost contempt, in both clerical and scientific guises. Even the ‘protectors’ found ‘the natives’ to be quite ‘different’: scantily covered, un-receptive of the Christian religion’s blessings, unable to speak English, unwilling to acknowledge the majesty of a foreign boss called the king – why, ‘barbarians’.

One Catholic priest, Eugene Perez, chief policy-maker of Catholic ‘missions’, wrote in 1879 that “Aborigines corresponded to the Palaeolithic Age.” He described them as “primitives dwarfed to the bare essentials of human existence”; people with “inborn cunning”, “lacking interest and ambition” with “undeniable immaturity”, forever seeking “the unattainable El Dorado coming to them on a silver tray”; people “with no sense of balance or proportion” who “want ‘today’ what cannot be given till tomorrow”; people to whom physical goods are “like the toy given to a child, which will soon be reduced to bits, and thrown into the rubbish dump.”

A lay person, W. Baldwin Spencer, professor of biology and the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory in 1911-12, concluded: “The aboriginal is, indeed, a very curious mixture: mentally about the level of a child who has little control over his feelings and is liable to give way to violent fits of temper … He has no sense of responsibility and, except in rare cases, no initiative.” Spencer added that “their customs are revolting to us” and they were “far lower than the Papuan, the New Zealander or the usual African native.” During his posting, he established the Kahlin Compound in Darwin, because he believed that “no half-caste children should be allowed in any native camp.” The Kahlin Compound specifically housed ‘half-caste’ Indigenous children, removed from their mothers.

Protection was dispensed in remote places such as Yarrabah, Palm Island, Mornington Island, Doomadgee, Bamaga, Edward River, Weipa, Bloomfield River and Woorabinda. The morality of the Indigenous People was supposedly protected by controlling their private lives, sexual relations, marriages, movements, labour, reading matter, leisure and sports activities – and even cultural and religious rituals. Income protection was the responsibility of police constables. They controlled wages, withdrawals from compulsory savings bank accounts, and rights to enter contracts of labour or purchase and sale.

In Queensland protection included internal state banishment for periods ranging from 12 months to life, at the director’s pleasure, for offences such as “disorderly conduct”, “uncontrollable” and “menace to young girls.” Other offences could only be committed by ‘the natives’. These included being cheeky, refusing to work, calling the hygiene officer a “big-eyed bastard”, and leaving a horse and dray in the yard whereby a person might have been injured. Committing adultery, playing cards, arranging to see a male person during the night, and being untidy at the recreation hall were also on the list, as was refusing to provide a sample of faeces required by the hygiene officer. Such offences brought three weeks imprisonment, which could be increased to six, nine and twelve weeks, as prison terms were not served concurrently.

A new meaning of ‘protection’

In the context of the time, ‘protection’ was the omnibus formula against ‘the intruders’ and all those who could be seen as a threat to ‘the settlement’ of the colony. That view of life in the colony would crystallise into the ‘White Australia’ policy.

The 1838 massacre at Myall Creek was followed by the adoption of a ‘policy’ to describe Australia’s approach to immigration, long before federation and until the latter part of the twentieth century.

‘Protection’ favoured applicants from certain countries – soon to be specified as ‘Anglo-Celtic countries’. Now, there is another example of double entendre. There are no Anglo-Celtic countries. There is England, and there are Ireland and Scotland; maybe in the process the Welsh were either left out of the glorious classification or assumed to be some sort of enlarged village, there, just outside England proper – hard to be specific in such lunacy.

‘Protection’ soon came to assume another meaning and purpose: it came to be used to deny access to the ill-gotten ‘settlement’ by the Asiatic ‘races’ – mainly the Chinese who had arrived in search of gold.

The origins of the ‘White Australia’ policy can be traced to the 1850s. White miners’ resentment towards industrious Chinese diggers culminated in violence on the Buckland River in Victoria, and at Lambing Flat (now Young) in New South Wales. The governments of these two colonies introduced restrictions on Chinese immigration.

Events on the Australian goldfields in the 1850s led to hostility towards Chinese miners on the part of many ‘whites’. The hostility was to affect many aspects of relations between the two groups for the following century.

The Chinese generally worked in large organised groups, covering the entire grounds surface, so that if there was any gold there, the Chinese miners usually found it. They lived communally and frugally, and could subsist on a much lower return than ‘white’ people. The rural background of most of the Chinese diggers suited them very well to life as alluvial gold-miners: they were used to long hours of hard outdoor work as members of a disciplined team, accustomed to simple sleeping quarters and basic food, and were satisfied with a much smaller return of gold than the majority of the ‘whites’.

‘White’ resentment of the apparent success of the Chinese first surfaced as petty complaints: the ‘whites’ made stereotypical claims that the Chinese muddied the water holes, they worked on the Sabbath, they were thieves, they had insanitary habits, they accepted low wages and would drive down the value of labour. No evidence was ever proffered that any of these things were true. One could paraphrase: “Labour in a white skin cannot be free so long as labour in a [yellow] skin is branded.” Ignorant people were bound to be prejudiced. So, because the Chinese were distinctive in appearance, language and dress, they became classic targets for xenophobia, and surly resentment became systematic hatred.

Modern day haters of ‘the other’ are bound not to know, or to ignore what xenophobia means; they do however practice it with a certain formal politeness, restraint. “I am not a racist, but …”

Once again a question of money – a supreme governor in a society which has remained to this day wedded to mercantilism – gave rise to several violent protests against government policies across Victoria and New South Wales in the late 1850s and early 1860s.

The first anti-Chinese demonstration occurred in Bendigo, Victoria in July 1854. Some of these incidents took the form of outright attempts at excluding the Chinese from a goldfield, or a portion of it. Disputes between ‘white’ and Chinese miners flared into brawls at Daylesford and Castlemaine. A party of Chinese en route to the Victorian diggings from Robe discovered a new goldfield at Ararat, and were driven off their find by ‘white’ competitors.

In July 1857 repeated incidents at the Buckland River goldfield in Victoria culminated in a major riot.

Similar events occurred in New South Wales, which was just feeling the impact of significant Chinese immigration. In 1856 ‘white’ miners drove Chinese off the diggings at Rocky River in New England, the northern part of New South Wales. Serious clashes followed at Adelong in 1857 and Tambaroora in 1858.

The most notorious of these incidents was the so-called Lambing Flat Riot, actually a drawn-out series of incidents between November 1860 and September 1861 on the Burrangong goldfield in New South Wales. Several place names are sometimes used interchangeably when describing these events. Lambing Flat, the name which has attached itself most persistently to the events, was a sheep paddock where one of the more violent incidents took place.

The Burrangong riot was played out against the background of a contentious debate in the New South Wales Parliament over legislation to restrict Chinese immigration. Chinese numbers on the New South Wales goldfields had been relatively small, but were rising in the wake of restrictions imposed in Victoria. Restrictive legislation had also been proposed in New South Wales as early as 1858 in the wake of Victorian and South Australian laws.

Trouble had begun late in 1860 with the formation of a Miners Protective League [emphasis added], followed by mass meetings of ‘white’ miners evicting Chinese miners from sections of the Burrangong field.

In ten months of unrest at Burrangong, the most infamous riot occurred on the night of 30 June 1861 when a mass of perhaps 3,000 ‘white’ miners drove the Chinese off the Lambing Flat, and then moved on to the Back Creek diggings, destroying tents and looting possessions. About 1,000 Chinese abandoned the field and set up camp at a sheep station, twenty kilometres away. There were two triggers for the violence: in Sydney the Legislative Council had rejected the anti-Chinese bill, and a false rumour swept the goldfield that a new group of 1,500 Chinese were marching towards Burrangong. During the following days the police arrived, identified the promoters of the riot, and three were arrested two weeks later. What followed was an armed attack on the police camp by about 1,000 ‘white’ miners on the night of 14 July 1861. The police used fire power and mounted sabre charges, leaving one rioter dead and many wounded.

The police briefly abandoned the field, but then a detachment of 280 soldiers, sailors and police reinforcements arrived from Sydney and occupied the area for a year. The Chinese were reinstated on segregated diggings, the ringleaders of the riots were tried and two were gaoled. But the lesson was not lost on the Chinese.

The ‘occupiers’ attitude – both governments’ and ‘whites’ – resulted in a long list of ‘encounters’ with Indigenous Peoples that one should, more honestly, call ‘massacres in a process of extermination’.

Brutality was particularly savage in what became the colony of Queensland, with the consequence that the cost of such encounters there exceeded that of all other colonies. No complete list is possible because such events were generally veiled in secrecy and often called for the use of deceptive practices such the poisoning of wells, the ‘generous’ distribution of flour laced with arsenic – and at ‘Christmas’ the offering of puddings laced with strychnine, the distribution of infected blankets, and the spreading of hitherto unfamiliar diseases. Those practices were, in the language of the time, considered more ‘safe’, that is to say less noticeable than armed raids.

Many massacres were to go unknown and unpunished due to these practices, through what are variously called a ‘conspiracy’ or ‘pact’ or ‘code’ of silence which fell over the killings of ‘natives’.

Still, at mid-1838, when parties of mounted and armed stockmen pursued ‘natives’ in the Gwydir River, a local magistrate branded the event as “a war of extirpation.” Such words entered the everyday use – as if ‘the natives’ were unwanted flora or execrable fauna; “vermin” was the frequently heard word.

There were more clashes in New South Wales and particularly in that part of the colony which became Victoria, against the Daung Wurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung, the Tarnbeere Gundidj and the Djargurd Wurrung clans.

The ‘encounters’ with Wiradjuri along the Murrumbidgee River were a genuine war which lasted throughout the 1830s, 1840s and up to the 1850s.

Gippsland massacres, which resulted in the killing of up to 1,000 ‘natives’ have been recorded as occurring during 1840 to 1850, while hundreds died in raids along the Brisbane River, the Balonne and Condamine Rivers, the Dawson River, the Warrigal Creek, the Barwon and Narran Rivers and in the Mount Gambier region of South Australia. Some well known perpetrators of these massacres became ‘folk heroes’ in the eyes of the ‘occupiers’: William Fraser of Queensland was one of them. He was reputed to have extinguished the Yeeman tribe.

The 1860s opened and continued with new massacres of men, women and children in Queensland and went on to conclude with ‘search and destroy’ expeditions in the Swan River colony which later became Western Australia, near La Grange Bay and at the Dampier Archipelago. Hundreds of the Yaburara tribe were killed. The ‘event’ was celebrated with a monument still visible at Freemantle – the ‘Explorers’ Monument’!

There is more than one source to suggest the existence of a ’conspiracy of silence’ about the massacres of Djara, Konejandi and Walmadjari peoples in Western Australia in 1887.

In the 1870s there were further massacres of “blacks of the [northern Queensland] interior who would first receive their ‘baptism of fire’ … [becoming] acquainted with the death-dealing properties of the mysterious weapon of the white man”, as a newspaper of the time chronicled.

In the same area, in 1874-75, according to a ‘white’ miner’s letter dated 16 April 1876, “the niggers got a dressing there”, leaving no doubt as to what the writer meant, which was complete with the invitation to “a visit from any number of phrenological students in search of a skull, or of anatomical professors in want of a ‘subject.’ ”

Among the many unrecorded episodes of police brutality one well known concerned the murder of 28 men and 13 girls of the Guugu-Yimidhirr clan of far north Queensland in 1879; this was followed by the killing of 200 Kalkadoon people near Mount Isa in 1884, and of an unknown but large number of the Djabugay clan in 1890. These were plain ‘state murders’.

This savagery was followed by the Barrow Creek massacre, in that part of South Australia which became the Northern Territory in 1911. Kaytetye people had suffered the abuse of their women and the closing of the only water source by ‘white’ men. A large police hunt killed some 90 Indigenous persons.

During 1880s-90s the ‘wars on blacks’ would continue in Arnhem Land, still in the Northern Territory, taking place at different locations. Men, women and children of the Yolngu clans of Gumatj, of Ganalpuynguh, of Djinba and Mandelpi were chased and shot dead by mounted police and men from the Eastern and African Cold Storage Supply Company, a company incorporated in South Australia, controlled by ‘honourable’ Melbourne businessmen as ‘proxies’ of English interests.

There were other forms of ‘protection’ – none of them disinterested.

Christian churches in Australia sought to convert ‘the natives’, and were often used by governments to carry out ‘welfare and assimilation policies’. Despite the many attempts at ‘detribalising’ them, the treatment by governments and landowners was so brutal as strongly to justify the position of people such as Professor Patrick Dodson, who became a minister of the Catholic religion, and was one of the co-Chairpersons of the Expert Report, and now a Senator for Western Australia. Similarly Mr. Noel Pearson, a prominent advocate of Indigenous Peoples’ right to land, who was reared at a Lutheran mission in Cape York, has written how Christian missions throughout Australia’s colonial history “provided a haven from the hell of life on the Australian frontier while at the same time facilitating colonisation.” He is reputed to be the ghost behind the 26 May 2017 Uluru ‘Statement from the heart’. (Uluru Statement from the Heart, – Referendum …).

It would take more than a century before, from the 1960s, honest Australian writers would begin to re-assess the invaders’ assumptions.

In 1968 anthropologist Professor William E.H. Stanner described the lack of historical accounts of relations between the occupiers and the Indigenous Peoples as “the great Australian silence.” Historian Professor Henry Reynolds argued that there was a “historical neglect” of the Aborigines by historians until the late 1960s.

By the late nineteenth century, ‘dispersion’ – that is killing, and disease had devastated the Indigenous population. Social Darwinist ideas, loosely derived from Charles Darwin’s 1859 Origin of species, promoted the belief that Indigenous Peoples were headed towards extinction. Discourse around the ‘White Australia’ policy seldom mentioned them, and then only to dismiss them as an ‘evanescent race’ who would eventually disappear in contrast to the dynamic, virile, enduring, and therefore threatening Asiatic races. The Japanese would occupy a peculiar position vis-à-vis the ‘White Australia’ policy.

A long period of control of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Peoples would begin. Already in 1860 the State of South Australia had appointed a Chief Protector of the interests of Indigenous People. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ‘protective’ legislation, known as the ‘Aborigines Acts’, would be enacted in all mainland States – in Victoria in 1869, in Queensland in 1897, in Western Australia in 1905, in New South Wales in 1909, and in South Australia in 1911 – and in the Northern Territory in 1912. The ‘Aborigines Acts’ could require people to live on reserves run by governments or in missions, where their lives were closely regulated. By 1911 there were 115 reserves in New South Wales alone. Indigenous Peoples living outside reserves, in urban areas, on pastoral properties and in more remote areas, were spared the ‘reserve’ regime, but their lives were subject to ‘protectionist’ legislation. Otherwise they could apply to the Aborigines Protection Boards for an exemption from the legislation, known as a ‘dog tag’ – a touch of English cynophilia!

The ‘Aborigines Acts’ imposed restrictions on personal interactions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, and on Indigenous Peoples residing on and off reserves. The ‘Acts’ provided for controlling marriage, prohibiting alcohol consumption, empowering Protectors to place Indigenous People on reserves, and imposing curfews in town. Through by-laws and regulations, as well as social convention, Indigenous Peoples were denied entry to swimming pools, picture theatres, hospitals, clubs and so on.

In some States and in the Northern Territory, the Chief Protector had legal guardianship over all Indigenous children, including those who had parents. The removal of Indigenous children from their families under the auspices of Protection Boards was common during this period. Employment of Indigenous People was subject to a government permit or licence. Wages were routinely withheld from Indigenous workers; they were either paid directly to the Protector or food and clothing were provided in lieu of wages. The practice continues, particularly in the Northern Territory. In the 1930s, legislators widened the definition of ‘Aborigines’ in order to formalise control over an increasing population of mixed descent.

A bewildering array of legal definitions led to inconsistent legal treatment and arbitrary, unpredictable and capricious administrative treatment. An analysis of 700 separate pieces of legislation suggests the use of no less than sixty seven identifiable classifications, descriptions or definitions. For example, in 1934 Queensland redefined ‘Aborigines’ as persons of full descent and ‘half-castes’, including ‘any person being the grandchild of grandparents one of whom is aboriginal’ and any person of Aboriginal extraction who, in the opinion of the Chief Protector, was ‘in need of … control’. In 1936 Western Australia came up with the notions of ‘quarter-caste’ or ‘quadroon’. And in 1963 a new ‘protective’ act excluded ‘quarter-castes’ from the definition of ‘natives’. Queensland introduced the concept of ‘quarter-caste’ and a new approach to classification which distinguished between ‘Aborigine’ – being a ‘full-blood’, ‘Part-Aborigine’, ‘Assisted Aborigine’, ‘Islander’ and ‘Assisted Islander’. Such distinctions were retained to 1971, when a new act redefined ‘Aborigine’ by descent. Victoria had adopted such classification in 1957 and continued to 1972, when an ‘Aborigine’ came to be defined as an ‘inhabitant of Australia in pre-historic ages or a descendant from any such person’. In 1937 the first Commonwealth-State Native Welfare Conference was held, attended by representatives of all States, except Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. The conference officially sanctioned the policy of ‘assimilation’: “[T]his conference believes that the destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in their ultimate absorption by the people of the Commonwealth, and it therefore recommends that all efforts be directed to that end.” In 1961 the Native Welfare Conference again endorsed the policy of ’assimilation’ as follows: “[A]ll Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community, enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians.” Until about 1972 virtually all aspects of the lives of Indigenous Peoples were subject to control. Viewed by present day standards, fundamental human rights – such as freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of employment, control over property, and custody of children – were denied, and the law characterised by systematic racial discrimination.

Needless to say, Indigenous People were supposed to recognise “the sovereignty of the Crown” – an act of submission which is contemplated in the ‘Statement from the heart’ of May 2017.

It will now be seen how such point was reached.

Continued Monday with: A constitution for the 19th century (Part 1)

(Previous instalment: For a ‘redeeming view’ of history)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


For a ‘redeeming view’ of history

Part Two of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

The end of transportation

That had been the law for a long time. But transportation to North America became impossible after 1776 and the Declaration of Independence. Finding another suitable place, away from England, became urgent for other reasons. The ‘agricultural revolution’ during the eighteenth century was becoming responsible for the transformation of the face of England, more and more enclosure acts being passed by parliament for the benefit of the landed gentry and their wealthy ‘clients’. That and the development of scientific production methods displaced large part of the land workers and small tenant farmers. They and their families were forced to move to the parallel growing of industrial towns which were growing under the impulse of the industrial revolution. Employment was not easy to obtain; many who could not find suitable work had to turn to theft as an alternative to starvation. The British governing classes, “the men who plundered their country in habitual political robbery” – as G. A. Wood would write – possessing large wealth but little education were quick to suggest hanging as a way to deter such behaviour by ‘the lower orders’. (G.A. Wood, ‘Convicts’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, 8, 4 (1922).

As a result, long before the First Fleet reached New South Wales the number of capital crimes in the English statute books rose from about fifty to two hundred. Such excess can be measured by the infliction of capital punishment for the frequent cases of picking pockets of good worth more than five shillings, and cutting down trees in an avenue or public garden. (Patrick Colquhoun, A treatise on the police of the metropolis, London 1800 at 437-40) .

The miserable class of the undesirable rapidly extended and required a solution: transportation to New South Wales. By 1868, when the last ‘exile’ was landed in Western Australia, about 162,000 such ‘miserables’ had been transported; some 25,000 of them were women. (A.G.L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies: A Study of Penal Transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia and other Parts of the British Empire, University Press, Melbourne 1966 at 148).

To recapitulate, the eighteenth century European maritime powers had agreed on certain rules of behaviour, not out of great principles but out of reciprocal interest. According to such early international law any such power could take possession of another land in one of the following ways:

1) If the place was uninhabited, a ‘discovering’ power could claim and settle it. In this case, it could lawfully and recognisably claim ownership of the land.

2) If the place was already inhabited, the power could seek for permission from the Indigenous People to use some of their land. In this case, the arriving power could purchase land for its own use but it could not steal the land of the Indigenous People.

3) If the place was inhabited, the power could take it over by invasion and conquest; in other words, defeat that country in war. However, even after winning a war, the victorious power would be bound to respect the rights of Indigenous People.

This presented a problem for the arriving Englanders. Nevertheless, they decide ‘to muddle through’ and found a ‘solution’. The Englanders just invented a fourth possibility: they would not be invading a land which already belonged to the Indigenous People who had lived from time immemorial in a place recently called ‘New Holland’ – the ancient Sahul; they simply proceeded to declare the place uninhabited.

The industrious Englanders invented the myth for which they would use Latin: terra nullius, a legal concept first developed to rationalise colonial expansion. It soon took on an ideological life of its own, which substantially outlived colonialism. The dons at Oxbridge would eloquently expand on the subject. Future ambitious colonials would accept that self-serving myth and impose it on the Indigenous People for some 222 years until Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992) was handed down by the High Court of Australia on 3 June 1992.

Profound ignorance, cultural arrogance and ferocious greed combined in denying human qualities to the Indigenous People: they were just part of fauna, wild animals and not much more – a view which carried the support of a privileged, well connected, scientist on board the Endeavour: Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, G.C.B., P.R.S. (1743- 1820) was a naturalist, botanist and ‘patron’ of the natural sciences.

Banks had already made his name on the 1766 natural history expedition to Newfoundland and Labrador. He was appointed to a joint Royal Navy/Royal Society scientific expedition to the south Pacific Ocean on Cook’s Endeavour (1768–1771), visiting Brazil, Tahiti, and, after six months in New Zealand, Australia; he returned home and to immediate fame. He held the position of President of the Royal Society; elected at the tender age of 23 he held the position for over 41 years. He advised George III on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Banks advocated the occupation of New South Wales as well as the establishment of Botany Bay as a place for the reception of convicts, and the colonisation of what became Australia.

Englanders have preferred to ignore another scientist: Daniel Carlsson Solander (1733-1782), who was a Swedish naturalist and a disciple of Carl Linnaeus. Solander had travelled on the Endeavour with Banks. He happened to have been the first university educated scientist to set foot on ‘New South Wales’ soil.

The dexterity of the invaders in rationalising away land claims by the Indigenous People was a powerful force in itself, but it rested firmly on codified disenfranchisement executed by the Crown. For good measure, the original occupation of the continent had been based on the foreign, largely incomprehensible legal fiction of terra nullius. English law officers could write in 1819 that: “That part of New South Wales possessed by His Majesty, not having been acquired by conquest or cession was taken possession of by him as desert and uninhabited.” (Quoted in H. Reynolds, Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders, Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1989 at 67).

The land, of course, was inhabited. By denying sovereignty to the Indigenous People, however, the invaders could justify – at least to themselves – their claim of terra nullius. That fallacy lasted well into the twentieth century, the High Court still writing in 1979 that Indigenous Peoples “have no legislative, executive, or judicial organs by which sovereignty might be exercised …The contention that there is in Australia an aboriginal nation exercising sovereignty, even of a limited kind, is quite impossible in law to maintain.” (Id. at 95).

The circumstances of newly discovered and ‘uninhabited’ territories, claimed by and vested in the Crown, on behalf of all its subjects, “are so widely different from those of a populated and long-settled country … that a moment’s reflection would present them to the mind even of a stranger. The lands in new territories are unoccupied and waste, until granted by the Crown to some individual, willing to reclaim them from the state of nature.” (Id. at 68).

In other words, since Indigenous sustenance did not require enclosure of land – as did European agriculture – the Englanders were rightly entitled to take control of the lands, and had the right to continue doing so. This claim is particularly bold, though: it presupposes the territories in question as true terra nullius, denying the presence of any occupants. So the myth endured, legally and practically.

On the whole, acceptance of terra nullius profoundly affected the ‘whites’ approach to Indigenous issues: “Aborigines, as it were, did not exist before the invasion and those who survived were owed no rights except those of legal children who would ultimately inherit no more than the rights of other Australians.” (A. McGrath, Contested Ground: Australian Aborigines under the British Crown, Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1995 at 288-289).

Such mystification permitted to the invaders to rationalise their behaviours as “settlement” and allowed the governments – colonial at first, but later state and federal – to turn a blind eye to the people who were not supposed to exist in the first place.

The best that can be said is that the 1788 landing was portrayed as the moment of arrival of a settler/colonial society – surely, the most brutal form of imperialism.

For a ‘redeeming view’ of history

It is believed that the ancestors of Indigenous People of Sahul arrived in what is now called Australia much more than 60,000 years ago – probably as early as 80,000 years ago. They developed a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, established enduring spiritual and artistic traditions and utilised stone technologies. For tens of thousands of years they performed religious practices associated with the Dreamtime. The Dreamtime, or the Dreaming, is a sacred era in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed The Creation. The Dreaming established the laws and structures of society and the ceremonies performed to ensure continuity of life and land. Recent archaeological finds suggest that a population of 750,000 could have been sustained. People appear to have arrived by sea during a period of glaciation, when Papua New Guinea and Tasmania were joined to the continent: Sahul. The journey still required sea travel however, placing the Indigenous Peoples among the world’s earlier mariners.

The greatest population density developed in the southern and eastern regions, the River Murray valley in particular. Indigenous Peoples lived and utilised resources on the continent sustainably, agreeing to cease hunting and gathering at particular times to give populations and resources the chance to replenish. ‘Firestick farming’ amongst people of the northern regions was used to encourage plant growth which attracted animals. Indigenous Peoples belong to the oldest, most sustainable and most isolated cultures on Earth.

The Dreaming was and remains prominent in Indigenous People’s artistic expressions. Such art is believed to be the oldest continuing tradition of art in the world. Evidence of Indigenous art can be traced back at least 30,000 years and is found throughout Australia.

Despite considerable cultural continuity, life for Indigenous Peoples was not without significant changes. About 10-12,000 years ago modern Tasmania separated from the mainland, and some stone technologies failed to reach the Tasmanian people – such as the hafting of stone tools and the use of the boomerang.

There is evidence that when necessary, the Indigenous Peoples could keep control of their population growth and in times of drought or arid areas were able to maintain reliable water supplies. In south eastern Australia, near present day Lake Condah, semi-permanent villages of beehive shaped shelters of stone developed, near bountiful food supplies. For centuries Macassan trade flourished with the Indigenous Peoples of the present day Australian north coast, particularly with the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land.

When Indigenous Peoples first set eyes on Captain James Cook in 1770 the population consisted of some 250 distinct nations, within each of which there were numerous tribes or clans who spoke one or more of hundreds of languages and dialects. Complex social systems and ‘elaborate and obligatory’ laws and customs differed from nation to nation. Under the laws or customs of the relevant locality, particular tribes or clans were, either on their own or with others, custodians of the areas of land from which they derived their sustenance and from which they often took their tribal names. When Cook arrived at soon-to-be-called Botany Bay on the east coast of Australia on 29 April 1770 he was carrying instructions from the Admiralty issued in 1768. Those instructions provided, among other things: “You are also with the consent of the natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain.”

Of his first encounter with local people Cook wrote in his journal that “all they seem’d to want was for us to be gone.” Cook continued to chart the eastern coast to the northern tip of modern Queensland, and raised the British flag at sans dire Possession Island, off present day Cape York Peninsula. He ‘took possession’ of the whole eastern coast of Australia, and named it New South Wales. In October 1786 the British Government appointed Captain Arthur Phillip as first governor of New South Wales, which was designated to be a convict place. By the time Phillip was commissioned to lead the First Fleet, his instructions from king George III had nothing to say about the “consent of the natives.” Phillip’s instructions counselled him to “live in amity and kindness” with the natives, but anticipated the need for measures to limit native “interference.” On 18 January 1788 Phillip arrived at Botany Bay with a fleet of nine ships. Between 26 January and 6 February 1788, 827 convicts – 580 males and 247 females – as well as 211 marines landed at what was to be called Port Jackson. Phillip – clearly the first thief – was ‘authorised’ to grant land to those who would ‘improve it’ – that is to say, to ‘receivers of stolen goods’. The operation was eased by the convenient fiction that the land was terra nullius – which belongs to no-one. It was so to be for 204 years and only through the exertion of force by and on behalf of the British Crown and the views of sycophantic historians.

No-one had sought permission to land, no-one had consented, no-one had ceded.

Sovereignty was not passed from the Indigenous Peoples by any actions of legal significance voluntarily taken by or on behalf of them. ‘The natives’ were found to be quite ‘different’: scantily covered, un-receptive of the Christian religion’s blessings, unable to speak English, unwilling to acknowledge the majesty of a foreign boss called the king – why, ‘barbarians’.

Indigenous Peoples turned out to be quite resistant to the dispossession, and the promise of real estate agency, the lure of banking business and commercial enterprise which in time would develop under the protection for several decades of a military dictatorship. The earliest record of an armed encounter between Indigenous Peoples and the occupiers is dated May 1788. Violence developed and systematised, not yet turning into a programmatic effort of extermination – except for Van Diemen’s Land, modern day Tasmania, where a ‘Black Line’ of death was drawn and, incidentally, failed.

One George Augustus Robinson then proposed to set out unarmed ‘to mediate’ with the remaining tribes-people. With the assistance of a woman named Truganini as guide and translator, Robinson convinced remaining tribesmen to surrender to an isolated new settlement at Flinders Island, where most later died of disease, but above all of loneliness.

People who ‘belong to the land’ – as any Indigenous person would say – would suffer exceptionally from being separated from the native place. As a sublimation of sheer brutality, forced ‘relocation’ would knowingly be the tool for the ‘dispersion’ of Indigenous Peoples. A new form of the English language was about to take foot.

Raids, murders, massacres of Indigenous Peoples continued in different parts of the continent to the 1830s as the land was being taken over by new arrivals and expansion. Prejudice, the natural child of ignorance, survives to the present. The period of armed conflict is rarely mentioned; it is portrayed as a sequel of scaramouches necessary to assert and defend the ‘right of property’.

Serious historians, unpaid for their opinion, often refer to this as the time of ‘the frontier wars’. One of the last known and documented massacres of Indigenous Peoples took place from 14 August to 18 October 1928 near the Coniston cattle station, in what is today the Northern Territory.

The massacre occurred in revenge for the death of a dingo-hunter named Frederick Brooks, killed by ‘natives’ in August 1928 at a place now known as Yukurru. Official records at the time stated that 31 people were killed. The then-owner of Coniston station was a member of the punitive party for the first few days and estimated that at least twice that number were killed between 14 August and 1 September. Serious historians estimate that as many as 110 ‘native’ men, women and children were killed. Some clans: the Anmatyerre, the Kaytetye and the Warlpiri believe that up to 170 died between 14 August and 18 October.

Even before the arrival of the occupiers in local districts, imported diseases often preceded them. A smallpox epidemic was recorded in Sydney in 1789, which wiped out about half ‘the natives’ around Sydney. It then spread well beyond the then limits of the occupied area, including much of south-eastern Australia; it reappeared in 1829-30, killing 40 to 60 per cent of the ‘native’ population.

The impact of the occupation was profoundly disruptive to ‘native’ life and, though the extent of violence is still debated, there was considerable conflict on the frontier. At the same time, some of the occupiers were quite aware they were standing on Indigenous land. Rarely English justice would take its blind off to see. Thus, when in 1838 at least twenty-eight ‘natives’ were massacred at the Myall Creek in New South Wales, not even the occupying authorities could fail to have seven ‘whites’ tried, convicted and hanged by the colonial courts.

‘The natives’ also attacked white intruders; in 1838 fourteen of them were killed at Broken River in Port Phillip District, which was to become Victoria in 1851, by Indigenous People of the Ovens River, almost certainly in revenge for the illicit use of Indigenous women.

In 1845 one of the ‘receivers’ attempted to justify his position by writing: “The question comes to this; which has the better right – the savage, born in a country, which he runs over but can scarcely be said to occupy … or the civilised man, who comes to introduce into this … unproductive country, the industry which supports life.” This is the substance of life in a mercantile society.

Early commentaries often, and conveniently, tended to describe ‘the natives’ as doomed to extinction following the arrival of the English. An ‘inferior black race’ was bound to disappear.

From the 1830s colonial governments established what were going to become the controversial offices of the Protector of Aborigines in an effort to avoid mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples and conduct government policy towards them.

Captain Hutton of Port Phillip District once told Chief Protector of Aborigines George Augustus Robinson that “if a member of a tribe offends, destroy the whole.” That was the practice of the time: there is record that it translated, in places such as Afghanistan for instance, into an English unwritten order ‘to butcher and bolt’.

Queensland’s Colonial Secretary Arthur H. Palmer wrote in 1884 that “the nature of the blacks was so treacherous that they were only guided by fear – in fact it was only possible to rule … the Australian Aboriginal … by brute force.”

Robinson had come upon a word which would work absolute magic to successive generations of occupiers: protection. The use of the word would become a great contributor to the development of ‘Antipodean’ English.

‘Protection’ was really of, by and for the occupiers and would be applied for a long time, up to the present indeed, against ‘the other’, ‘the outsider’, ‘the enemy’ from time to time as conveniently defined.

Continued Friday with: From terra nullius to Mabo

(Previous instalment: Will Sahul’s First Nations Recognise Australia?)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Will Sahul’s First Nations Recognise Australia?

Part One of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Introduction: Head of will Sahul

In the Pleistocene-era what are modern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste on a single continent: Sahul.

Some 80,000 years ago, the water having receded, the Indigenous People began to arrive.

After some 40,000 generations the English came, bringing their cargo of unwanted victims of their decaying system of privilege and their overflowing gaols.

It was a fatal encounter of two civilisations: one animistic/shamanic inspired by a sense of communal sharing, the other obsessed with possession of ‘real’ property and determined to assert the blasting influence of insane monarchical ‘principle’ on a country until then free.

‘To clear the land’ the invaders reified at first, branded as fauna later, and then attacked the Indigenous People: they proffered them poisoned food, gave them infected blankets and began the systematic massacres.

By a seeming change of mind, they offered ‘protection’, supplied Christian missionaries, concocted ‘assimilation’, and all that with the mental reservation and the arrogant hope that ‘the race would die’.

It was a grand manoeuvre choreographed in ‘the Westminster System’ and its imposing, frumpish wigs and jabots.

In the process the new English – Englanders, to boot – made sure that the Indigenous People should be excluded by the federal pact called the Constitution.

The same sclerotic, Imperial piece of ‘horse-and-buggy’ rag is now claiming the successors, banksters and their courtiers – all ‘second-rate people’ – broadly speaking con-artists all. And killers: they got rid of Whitlam – the dangerous class-traitor – in a truly ‘royal’ operation.

Out of what were once regarded as fauna came some bright young people who gained dexterity in the many aspects of the English language – and in the process trusted that that could make them free participants. Freire, Fanon, Camus and others – many others – were not accessible to tell the old, dangerous story of such illusion/misconception of the colonised who would end up talking about the “sovereignty of the Crown.”

The same highly-educated fine minds fell into the traps of endless talks, committees, consultations, conventions, and reports, some of them to be relied upon because released by Royal Commissions – actually intended as pourparlers among ‘gentlemen’ – and some ladies, too.

But the Blacks? Oh, tell me something! The deceivers still had an eye on the Black victims of old-fashioned plain genocide, with the help of time – and winked to each other. As a diversion, contemplating the derelict, they tendered ‘charity’ and ‘compassion’ for the desperation that ‘the system’, ‘the market’, the ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’, fate had caused.

Yet, since 2007, Indigenous People of the world – 370million of them – have a chance: it is contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

That is also a serious opportunity by an undeserving ‘society’, which remains largely in the hands of shysterish politicians ‘Coalescing’ against Labor – more accurately and historical against the working people.

Whether the present second-class clients of the ‘master of the two places: Wall Street and Buckingham Palace’ deteriorate even further or not, the Indigenous People could spearhead a movement toward the liberation of Australia: for a secular, peaceful, democratic, progressive, humane republic, truly representative of all the people living in Australia.

* * * * *

“Tu sol” pensando “o ideal, sei vero.”

for Giuseppe Mazzini

Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907),

Nobel Prize in Literature (1906)

From the beginning

The venue was one of the newest Australian universities. The gathering was the customary visit to the ‘tea room’ – as it was known in the name of tradition. Most of the law teachers and quite a large number of social sciences people would frequent the room, twice a day if possible. The date? Early April 1982.

Argentina’s invasion of Las Islas Malvinas/the Falkland Islands had begun on 2 April. The islands are some 1,521 kilometres from Argentina.

Sovereignty over the windswept and sparsely populated islands had been a source of tension for decades – at least. Britain has ruled the Falklands uninterrupted since the middle of the nineteenth century and the vast majority of the island’s small population – fewer than 3,000 at the 2012 census – are descendants of British occupiers.

However, the Argentine Government maintains that the country inherited control of them from Spain in the 1800s and points to their proximity to South America to bolster their claim of sovereignty, as will be seen further.

In 1982 Argentina’s military Junta, from the beginning in 1976 sponsored by the duo Nixon-Kissinger, and towards the end headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri, was facing a very serious economic crisis and the Junta hoped that a ‘patriotic’ diversion like an external war would bolster its already limited, and then even more so fading, popularity at home.

The British Government was in the hands of Margaret Thatcher, soon to be known as the Iron Lady. She too was facing ‘political’ difficulties and might have preferred a military solution to possible diplomatic solution of the crisis.

On 5 April the British Government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 655 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

Not many in the ‘tea room’ would have known that the most ardent Argentine ‘patriots’ had invoked a 1494 treaty to substantiate Buenos Aires’ claim. A social scientist revealed that and explained to a fairly incredulous audience what that treaty was about.

In 1493, after reports of Columbus’ discoveries had reached them, the Spanish rulers king Ferdinand and queen Isabella enlisted papal support for their claims to the ‘New World’ in order to inhibit the Portuguese and other possible rival claimants. To accommodate them, pope Alexander VI, the Spanish born Rodrigo de Borja, and incidentally one of the most debauched and corrupt of absolute monarchs, issued bulls setting up a line of demarcation from pole to pole 100 leagues – a league which was then just over three nautical miles and a historical unit of distance equal to about 5.5 kilometres – west of the Cape Verde Islands, 570 kilometres off present day Senegal. Spain was given exclusive rights to all newly discovered and undiscovered lands in the region west of the line. Portuguese expeditions were to keep to the east of the line. Neither power was to occupy any territory already in the hands of a Christian ruler – that being a paramount condition.

No other European powers facing the Atlantic Ocean ever accepted this papal arrangement or the subsequent agreement deriving from it. King John II of Portugal was dissatisfied because Portugal’s rights in the ‘New World’ were insufficiently guaranteed, and the Portuguese would not even have sufficient room at sea for their African voyages. On 7 June 1494, meeting at Tordesillas, in north-western Spain, Spanish and Portuguese ambassadors accepted the papal division, but the line itself was moved to 370 leagues – some 1,935 kilometres – west of the Cape Verde Islands, or about 46’30’ W of Greenwich. Pope Julius II finally sanctioned the change in 1506. Thus Spain was to exploit all of the Pacific and America except Brazil, which fell to Portugal along with Africa and Asia. On the other side of the world the demarcation line was determined by continuing longitude 51’W through the North and South poles where it becomes longitude 129’E. The new boundary enabled Portugal to claim the coast of Brazil after its discovery by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500. The remainder of today’s South America fell under Spanish invasion.

What the audience in the ‘tea room’ was facing was a quick reference to a country born between 1810 and 1816, claiming sovereignty over the Falklands in 1982 on the basis of that 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas.

Is it any wonder that the short lecture was met with laughter and guffaws?

One participant, let us call him Outsider, was sitting quietly next to, and to the curiosity of, the lecturer. “What do you think of that?”, he was asked.

The reply came, fairly loud for several people to listen: “I am wondering what our colleagues in, say, Buenos Aires would say of good Lieutenant James Cook landing on an island, later to be called Possession Island, off the tip of Cape York, at the extreme north of the east coast of Australia, and just before dusk on 22 August 1770 declaring the coast from there to Point Hicks, Victoria – about 3,000 kilometres away – British territory in the name of (the already mentally ill) king George III. As Cook wrote in his journal:

“Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast … by the name New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast.”

The second page of the ‘Secret Instructions for Lieutenant James Cook Appointed to Command His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour 30 July 1768’ commanded Cook to take such possession “with the consent of the natives.” And Cook, during his voyage north, had recorded signs that “the coast was inhabited … a great number of fires on all the land and islands about them, [which was] ‘a certain sign they are Inhabited’.” Little he knew, that humans had existed on Sahul some 80,000 years ago, and that on his time there were about 750,000 Indigenous People, sorted into some 600 communities and speaking more than 250 languages, different from each other but belonging to a similar linguistic stock. Just over one hundred years after Cook only 60,000 such people had survived the white man.

Neither mirth nor laughter met this reminder.

What is below dispute is that there is little understanding of the manner in which the British took possession of eastern Australia and how their actions related to both international and common law as they were understood in the late eighteenth century.

The British? Hold on!

If fussiness be permitted, ‘Britain’ comes from Latin Britannia/Brittania, through the Old French Bretaigne and Middle English Breteyne. As a matter of historical record the early written reference to the British Isles derives from the works of the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia. Later Greek writers such as Diodorus of Sicily and Strabo who quotes Pytheas’ use of variants such as Prettanikē: “The Britannic [land, island]”, and nesoi Brettaniai, “Britannic islands” and all of them with “Pretani” being a Celtic word which probably means “the painted ones” or “the tattooed folk”, referring to body decoration. Woad was the most important blue natural dye, used by the Celts.

In the end, οί Πρεττανοί – Prettanoi, Priteni, Pritani or Pretani were early Scots, not British. And the invaders of Sahul – ‘New Holland’ – were Englanders.

Doubtlessly, the claim of sovereignty over half of the continent was unsurprising, but it was a land grab of gigantic proportions. These questions require closer and more detailed consideration, observed yet again and quite recently the eminent Australian historian professor Henry Reynolds: “ … what is not understood is that such a claim related to external sovereignty and was projected outwards to competing European powers and not inward to the Indigenous people.”

Furthermore, the ancient black societies were firmly based on the sanctity of sharing. Translated into modern language that means: communal or public property. One hundred years before the arrival of the First Fleet, William Dampier had observed the Indigenous People of the other side of the continent. He noted that “They live in companies – twenty or thirty men, women and children together.” (William Dampier, Dampier’s voyages, A.E.M. Bayliss ed. (Sydney 1945) at 143-144.

Over a century ago, it was ‘scientifically correct’ to characterise the people of such societies as ‘primitive communists’ or – better still at the time – ‘savages’. ‘Savages’: it was an appellation which would suit perfectly the invaders. Yet, it should be remembered, that Cook wrote admiringly about those ‘savages.’

In his Journal he wrote:”From what I have said of the Natives of New-Holland, they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we (sic) Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a Tranquillity which is not disturb’d by the Inequality of Condition: the Earth and the sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life. … In short they seem’d to set no Value upon anything we gave them, nor would they ever part with any thing of their own for any one article we could offer them; this in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life and that they have no superfluities.” (The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery: The Life of Captain James Cook, J.C. Beaglehole ed. (Hakluyt Society, London 1974), vol. 1 at 399).

On the other hand, the white invaders’ society was much more firmly based on the ‘sanctity’ of private property. Indeed, the white invasion of Australia was launched in the first place to punish those who violated private property.

Three hundred years ago the so-called Great Powers of the time had a rather simplified and broadly self-serving view of international law.

Under international law a distinction was drawn in governing a colonised ‘wasteland’ – or vacant land – and a land acquired by treaty or cession, which had already been cultivated and organised. If an uninhabited country was discovered and planted by British subjects, the English laws were said to be immediately in force there – for the law was ‘the birthright of every subject, carried wherever they went’. However, the entire body of English law was understood to have application to these new circumstances only to the extent that it was found to be applicable to the occupiers’ – the so-called ‘settlers’ – new situation and consistent with their local comfort and prosperity.

A different rule applied to conquered and ceded countries which already had laws of their own. In such cases, the English Crown had a right to abrogate the former laws and institute completely new ones. Until such new laws were promulgated, the old laws and customs of the country remained in full force to the extent that they were not contrary to religion or morals.

The eminent jurist Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vol. (1765–69), took the position that American colonies were to be deemed principally conquered or ceded countries. He wrote: “Our American Plantations are principally of this later sort, [i.e. ceded or conquered countries] being obtained in the last century either by right of conquest and driving out the natives, (with what natural justice I shall not at present inquire,) or by treaties. And, therefore, the common law of England, as such, has no allowance or authority there; they being no part of the mother country, but distinct, though dependent dominions.” (Blackstone, Commentaries, vol. 1 at 107).

According to Justice Joseph Story, an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845, in a conquered country, where there were no existing laws, or none adaptable to a civilised community, or where the laws were silent, or were rejected and none substituted, the territory must be governed according to the rules of natural equity and right. Englishmen settling there must be deemed to carry with them those rights and privileges which belong to them in their native country. (Blankard v. Galdy (1692) 4 Mod. Rep. 215; 2 Salk 411, 412).

“Moreover,” said Justice Story, “even if it were possible to consider the case, as a case of conquest from the Indians, it would not follow, if the natives did not remain there, but deserted it, and left it a vacant territory, that the rule as to conquests would continue to apply to it. On the contrary, as soon as the crown should choose to found an English colony in such vacant territory, the general principle of settlements in desert countries would govern it. It would cease to be a conquest, and become a colony; and as such be affected by the British laws. This doctrine was laid down with great clearness and force by, Lord Mansfield, in his celebrated judgment in Hall v. Campbell (Cowp. R. 204, 211, 212). In a still more recent case it was laid down by Lord Ellenborough that the law of England might properly be recognised by subjects of England in a place occupied temporarily by British troops, who would impliedly carry that law with them.” (Rex v. Brampton, 10 East R. 22, 288, 289).

Justice Taney confirmed in Martin v. Waddell’s Lessee, 41 U.S. 367 (1842): “The English possessions in America were not claimed by right of conquest, but by right of discovery. For, according to the principles of international law, as understood by the then civilized powers of Europe, the Indian tribes in the new world were regarded as mere temporary occupants of the soil, and the absolute rights of property and dominion were held to belong to the European nation by which any particular portion of the country was first discovered. Whatever forbearance may have been sometimes practised towards the unfortunate aborigines, either from humanity or policy, yet the territory they occupied was disposed of by the governments of Europe, at their pleasure, as if it had been found without inhabitants …”

The ideological legal foundation for the American colonists’ assertion of the right to English liberties and common law rested upon the validity of the claim that the colonies were vacant lands or “wastelands” settled by Englishmen and subject to English law. It is upon this foundation, in part, that the colonists justified their right to revolt against English acts of tyranny in regard to their liberties and rights.

As to the acquisition of the sovereignty of a country by force of arms, exercised by an independent power which reduces the vanquished to the submission of its empire, it was a general rule that, where conquered countries had laws of their own, these laws remained in force after the conquest, until they were abrogated, unless they were contrary to [Christian] religion, or enacted any malum in se. In all such cases the laws of the conquering country would prevail; for it was not to be presumed that laws opposed to religion or sound morals could be sanctioned. (1 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Brown and Shattuck, Cambridge, 1833, Sec. 150). The right that the English government claimed over the territory now composing the United States, was not founded on conquest, but discovery. (Id. Sec. 152, et seq.).

As to discovery, the nations of Europe adopted the principle that the discovery of any part of America gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority it was made, against all European governments.

Continued Monday with: For a ‘redeeming view’ of history

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Darkest Hour: More Than a Historical Film Drama

By Denis Bright

The portrayal of Winston Churchill’s political counter-offensive to Hitler’s blitzkrieg in May 1940 has attracted good cinema audiences. Rolling Stone magazine describes the lead actor, Gary Oldham, as one of the most outstanding contemporary performers. He has an acclaimed profile from previous roles including Sid Vicious (In Sid and Nancy) and Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK).

Credits must be extended to the English director Joe Wright with a record of weighty productions such as Pride and Prejudice, Hanna, Anna Karenina and Pan.

For Universal Studios, the distribution of Darkest Hour was a financial risk. It has paid off well. Even the official trailer from Universal Studios has attracted numerous and largely favourable comments.

From the Movie to the Politics of Imperial Survival

Despite the threat of imminent invasion of Britain in May 1940, the War Cabinet’s temporary dalliance with peace overtures to Hitler through Mussolini came at the right moment to permit the tactical withdrawal of over 300,000 British and allied troops.

In her secondary role of Lisa Bruce as Churchill’s private secretary, Elizabeth Layton, adds an empathetic extension to the historical drama. Elizabeth’s brother is killed near Dunkirk. She continues to type on regardless to support a quite demanding Winston Churchill.

As a stalwart of the British Empire in a civilizing force for humanity, Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is capably portrayed as the essential leader in the Darkest Hour of the British Empire. The rhetorical flourishes of Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat Speech to the Commons on 13 May and the rallying cry of the Fight Them on the Beaches Commitment are incorporated into the movie script. Audiences are free to evaluate the appeal of populist rhetoric in emergency wartime situations.

The movie script claims that absolute commitment to the survival of Empire had strong grassroots support despite some hesitation from royal and elite political circles in Britain as the prospect of a German occupation became more likely.

Churchill tests out public opinion in an impromptu journey on the London Underground. Could this sounding of public opinion really have happened on the way to a meeting of the Outer Cabinet and an oration in the House of Commons that had not been cleared by a scheduled meeting of the War Cabinet?

How did Britain find itself in this desperate situation in May 1940 when some of Churchill’s own colleagues and military advisors sought a peace deal with Hitler?

Historically, it was this Empire First Strategy which prevented British statesmen from warming to a more inclusive role for Germany in international relations prior to 1914. Churchill was a part of the rallying cries to strengthen the Empire during his early years as a colonial military officer. Such broader biographical and historical issues are of course inappropriate for a movie that focuses on the events of May 1940.

Like our contemporary Donald Trump, Winston Churchill was always steadfast in commitment to an Empire First outlook. American author Gore Vidal (1925-2012) also traced the long saga of an evolving American Empire in a series of seven novels from the earliest phases of nation-building to the Cold War Period. Britain itself would become an integral part of this global strategic empire in the post-1945 era as the financial burden of maintaining an independent nuclear arsenal became too overwhelming. These strategic ties with the U.S. had the complete endorsement of Churchill himself during the Cold War era.

Churchill’s own advocacy of Empire First Strategies was acted out in his own military career in the late nineteenth century. Even more than Donald Trump, Churchill’s family background had prepared him for conservative leadership roles.

As the son of a Conservative MP and Viceroy to Ireland, Churchill was prepared for political leadership through military service in India, Sudan and the Boer War with the ongoing emotional support of his wife Clementine, as capably portrayed by Kristen Scott Thomas.

Churchill’s aristocratic family roots as the second son of a Duke from Blenheim Palace was topped up by this early military career. These stars aligned themselves at the Khaki election of 1900 when Churchill became the second successful candidate in the multi-member constituency of Oldham in Lancashire at a time when young veterans from the Boer War had an added appeal.

Churchill displayed very little liberalism in his own decision-making as a Liberal Cabinet Minister. This is shown in his handling of the Cambrian Colliery Dispute, the crackdown on the Suffragette Movement and Britain’s support for the White Army in Russia after the 1917 Revolution.

Churchill also spent a hundred days on the Western Front in 1916 as Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers. This practical demonstration of patriotism by example assisted with a 78.2 per cent mandate at the Dundee by-election in 1917.

To his credit, Churchill was an astute opponent of aspects of the harsh peace settlement imposed upon Germany at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 which his own Coalition Liberal Party strongly endorsed. Churchill was Secretary for War and Secretary of State for Air but outside the War Cabinet where he may have achieved greater influence over the final drafts of the Treaty of Versailles.

Electoral defeat in Dundee followed in 1922. However, Churchill was back in the House of Commons at the general election on 29 October 1924 for the constituency of Epping closer to London. Churchill’s quest for a new constituency encouraged him to stand as an unsuccessful candidate for the by-election in Westminster Abbey on 19 March 1924. This involved a change in political colours from Liberal to Constitutionalist then Unionist and Conservative, all in the space of decade.

A change in constituencies to Woodford in Essex became necessary for Churchill in 1945 when Epping had become too marginal. It was held by Labour for one term.  In the leafy Woodford as a Conservative member, Churchill continued to represent his constituents until his ninetieth year. He did not contest the 1964 general election when Wanstead and Woodford were combined due to population changes and his own political exhaustion as the British electorate tilted to the Left under Harold Wilson as Prime Minister (1964-70).

Significance of Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is the product of New Zealand’s filmmaker and playwright, Anthony McCarten (born 1961). He received acclaim for script-writing in Ladies Night and The Theory of Everything.

Just what motivated Anthony McCarten’s interest in Winston Churchill in Britain’s Darkest Hour invites further speculation. In a YouTube Interview with Anthony McCarten for Hollywood Reporter, there is discussion of his attitudes towards cinematography. Anthony McCarten acknowledges his commitment to the fine-line between the enactment of history, public education and popular entertainment.

David Smith of The Guardian notes that The Darkest Hour reflects the new-found interest in political leadership which has been generated in the American psyche by the rise of Donald Trump (The Guardian Online 26 November 2017).

Nostalgia for the Churchillian style of international relations reconstruction of history is still alive and well in the Trump White House:

On his first full day in the White House, Donald Trump returned a now infamous bust of Churchill to the Oval Office. He subsequently told Theresa May: “It’s a great honour to have Winston Churchill back.”

The finely tuned mind-set of Anthony McCarten is unlikely to be Churchillian in political style

Darkest Hour is perhaps a subtle warning against following Empires that are on a downward spiral but there is substance in the script for all shades of political persuasion.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.


The Aboriginal threshold

By Cally Jetta

Regardless of individual student demographics and the Aboriginal visibility of any one particular institution and/or community, incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives Across the Curriculum (APAC) and moving towards culturally responsive teaching practice should be a priority and focus of every Australian school. National initiatives such as Closing the Gap and incorporating local language and knowledge depend on consistency and dedication from school leaders along with a sound understanding of the importance and benefits of APAC for all Australian students.

The argument that ‘our school has no Aboriginal students so Aboriginal content is not relevant’ is grossly inaccurate and irresponsible. How can learning the original history, culture and language of your homeland ever be irrelevant? A comprehensive knowledge of traditional Aboriginal society and colonial history are vital to fully understand Australia’s social, cultural and political evolution and the ongoing legacy of this today in terms of Reconciliation and addressing Aboriginal disadvantage.

In many ways those schools with the least Aboriginal student presence need to work the hardest to provide their staff and students with learning that challenges popular myths and personal presumptions; builds cultural responsivity and assists communication and relationship building in the wider community. This can be a difficult and daunting task for schools when local Aboriginal community connections and support are limited or absent.

Every Australian should have the opportunity to learn the full and unbiased history of their country; to gain wisdom and empathy from an alternative cultural, social, spiritual and environmental perspective and; feel a sense of belonging and pride when it comes to the world’s oldest living culture and desire to preserve it. How can non-Aboriginal students with little or no experience interacting with Aboriginal people gain the knowledge they need to understand the complexity of issues facing Aboriginal communities and educational outcomes today?

How can they be compelled to want to work towards change with and for Aboriginal people without first having an opportunity to be inspired and enlightened?

Lately I’ve been doing a fair bit of work around the Cultural Standards Framework, which is a W.A. education initiative that all government schools are required to implement. There are five key areas for schools to address including leadership, teaching, relationships, resources and physical environment each with a continuum to progress along. While a mandatory requirement sounds like a big step in the right direction, as usual the loopholes and lack of rigour in its application mean that results vary greatly and technically a school can be ‘progressing’ in certain areas indefinitely. There is no way as yet of ensuring that all schools or staff cohorts commit the same level of time, effort and planning into reaching the progressive stages of the framework. Years could easily be spent making changes that fit within the framework criteria and tick the mandated boxes, but that have very little impact on student outcomes. This is what I see being the biggest hurdle; the fact that there is no structure or deadlines around reaching certain proficiency levels across the 5 key areas and therefore no way of ensuring the framework has any significant impact within a reasonable time-frame.

Leadership of any school will drive the implementation and again this means the level of dedication and rigor applied will vary hugely from school to school depending on the value and importance the Principal places on Aboriginal Education, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

Regardless of specific location and demographics, all Australian students should have access to Aboriginal history, culture and language, as it is an undeniable part of their Australian identity. Regardless of how many Aboriginal students attend a school, the non-Aboriginal students should be given access to the information and experiences that will allow them to forge better relationships with Aboriginal people beyond school, based on genuine understanding and respect. All schools have a part to play in Closing the Gap in educational disadvantage and aiding authentic reconciliation by acknowledging their social influence and reach. All schools and their leadership should recognize the value of Aboriginal perspectives and culturally responsive teaching practices irrespective of Aboriginal enrolment figures.

When mapping out proposed strategies to progress in each domain it became obvious to me that this continuum of change didn’t just apply to schools and the framework, but to society and its institutions at large. Progression is easy and relatively quick in the early stages when the changes are minimal and largely peripheral. For example, a school could add a few Aboriginal books to the library as a step along the ‘resource’ strand or have an Aboriginal mural painted as a progression along the ‘physical environment’ strand without much expense or disruption to the norm. No one is resistant because the changes are not significant enough to cause any discomfort or personal effort. At a certain point, I have nicknamed ‘the threshold’ progress slows down however and there is far more uncertainty and animosity about moving forward. Making the local Aboriginal dialect an integral part of every classroom would be at the advanced stage of the ‘teaching’ domain, but it can’t happen without real effort, collaboration, learning and courage. Leaders would need to be prepared for staff resistance and possible community backlash; and committed to standing by the changes and reasoning behind them.

Adding some didgeridoo music to the beginning of the Australian Anthem might be a beginner step many schools would take and consider being progressive. No real compromise or consideration is required. From an Aboriginal perspective, the only real and meaningful step in regards to the anthem would be it’s complete abandonment and replacement with something inclusive. But that would cause some people discomfort and force them to reconsider their knowledge and opinions. It would require real compromise and thought from many, and unfortunately for many, that is too much and where the line is drawn – the threshold. Individuals, schools and society at large are often resistant to such compromise and change, especially if it challenges pre-existing beliefs and attitudes or threatens the status quo. But it needs to happen. No real change ever comes without much discomfort, backlash and resistance. Just think of the fight for female equality! The fear, beliefs and self-righteous arrogance that woman had to combat in order to force the social changes needed and wanted.

Without such leadership I fear that many of the advanced stages of the initiative will never be attempted much yet met; they will be deemed too hard, too disruptive and/or unnecessary and avoided. It is imperative then that the education department really focus on school leadership going forward and find means of ensuring commitment and dedication to Aboriginal education to ensure a trickle down effect in schools. Without the right attitudes and approach at the top, the framework is doomed for failure, or at best – mediocre and inconsistent success.

We can all play a small part by placing pressure on our local schools to be transparent and accountable to the Cultural Standards Framework (or the State or Territory equivalent) and providing an education that does not exclude or minimize Aboriginal perspectives and contributions.

Together with rigor and solidarity, we can break the threshold and finally start to climb that mountain in earnest.

A Court of Public Sessions

I hereby propose that we, the people, institute on the internet via social media a new principle in the idea of Trial by Public. In short an online Court of Public Sessions … where a group or corporation or political party be assigned a generic nickname (to by-pass litigation) like for instance; The MSM (mainstream media) … or The Right-wing Govt’ … or The Banking Sector … or The Dog F#cker … or Planet Janet etc, and they be accused, charged, put on trial in a Public Court and evidence for and against taken directly off internet archives be placed open to you-us-we; The Public … A known legal or judicial person on the bench to control proceedings. And let the process of Public Judgement be done.

From Wikipedia, The Open Court Principle:

“The open court principle requires that court proceedings presumptively be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

In contrast, in camera describes court proceedings where the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure or process.


The virtues of openness were discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada in A.G. Nova Scotia v. MacIntyre which quoted eighteenth-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham:

In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.

As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada, the open court principle enhances the public’s confidence in the justice system:

Public access to the courts guarantees the integrity of judicial processes by demonstrating “that justice is administered in a non-arbitrary manner, according to the rule of law”. Openness is necessary to maintain the independence and impartiality of courts. It is integral to public confidence in the justice system and the public’s understanding of the administration of justice. Moreover, openness is a principal component of the legitimacy of the judicial process and why the parties and the public at large abide by the decisions of courts.

The open court principle is linked to the freedom of expression and freedom of the press which include the right of the public to receive information. The press plays a vital role as the conduit through which the public receives information regarding the operation of public institutions.”

Seeing as how there appears to be little or no oversight from the Fourth Estate (the mainstream media) or any capability of the judiciary or the Governor General to act to stall the apparently reckless rampage by this right-wing vandalism of our democracy and governance, I say that perhaps it is time the public took matters into its own hands and called to order its own Court of Public Trials and dragged those obvious criminals into the dock and make them plead their case before a “Public Beak” and face the judgement of the people for their delinquency!

There are many legal people on social media who may want to be a part of such raucus proceedings … indeed, it would be great if we could inject that touch of legalese into the process..and even better it would be if we could attract a real retired “beak” to sit “on the bench” to oversee the court proceedings.

Sure it will be a “Star Chamber” or a “Kangaroo Court” and an effing wild one at that with no holds barred! It is the very idea of dragging the bastards into the Public Square and making them plead their case … even if “in absentia” … we will use information and their own quoted words directly off their own interviews or articles from the internet … it is all out there! And their case will be held to public judgement “beneath the shadow of the guillotine”!

Perhaps if it got big enough to attract enough “views” and “hits”, a individual web-page replete with courthouse scene and side-panels for witness statements and “anonymous information drops” etc could be set up … turning it into a semi-legitimate public trial mechanism where the results could be sent to the appropriate authorities for follow-up proceedings.

I’d like to see the MSM brought to the bench, with reference to “Faux News” and “Aunty” being accused of deliberate disinformation and avoidance of reporting on the scurrilous activities of “one of the New England candidates” in the recent by-elections and how their actions betrayed and distorted the moral and ethical proprieties necessary to democratic governance … as an example.

I’d also like to see “certain political parties in a position of power” using public funds for their own political electioneering by bribing and corrupting voters in certain by-elections to distort the moral and ethical proprieties necessary etc, etc.

I can visualise the court’s proceedings being promoted and reported on in Twitter and Facebook and other instant delivery media to attract attention to the site. It could be a bloody good thing! And to finish with a quote from that most wise advocate, Clarence Darrow:

“The audience that storms the box-office of the theater to gain entrance to a sensational show is small and sleepy compared with the throng that crashes the courthouse door when something concerning real life and death is to be laid bare to the public.
Everyone knows that the best portrayals of life are tame and sickly when matched with the realities. For this reason, the sophisticated Romans were wont to gather at the Colosseum to feast their eyes on fountains of real blood and await breathlessly the final thrust. The courtroom is a modern arena in which the greatest thrills follow closely on each other. If the combat concerns human life, it presents an atmosphere and setting not unlike those cruel and bloody scenes of ancient Rome.” (Clarence Darrow: “How to pick a jury”).

The court is now in session!

A Firm “No” to Sports Diplomacy at Shepparton, Victoria

By Denis Bright

The federal LNP refused visas to U-19 Teams from the DPR Korea to participate in qualifying events in Shepparton, Victoria. The transfer of these events to overseas venues was a disappointment to all involved in the development of Shepparton Sports City.  

The foregone events received financial support from all levels of government and sporting organizations themselves.

The Victorian Minister for Sport enthusiastically endorsed the events in Shepparton before Julie Bishop made her unfortunate decision.

“The Andrew’s Labor Government has helped Shepparton secure the right to host qualifying matches for the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-19 Championship later this year, featuring our Young Socceroos.

Minister for Sport John Eren joined Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp and Young Socceroos Head Coach Ufuk Talay at the Greater Shepparton Community Football Complex today to announce the major sporting coup … The Labor Government secured the international tournament for Shepparton thanks to funding from the Regional Events Fund and Significant Sporting Events Program.

The $20 million Regional Events Fund is helping rural and regional communities like Shepparton stage the events that attract visitors in their thousands.”

The Australian Government’s visa decision was not given much media coverage compared with the saturation coverage offered in the mainstream media.

The significance of the intrusion of politics into sport was also marginalized by a 4-1 victory of the Socceroos over the DPR Korea in Hanoi on 7 November 2017.

The Young Matildas U-19 team lost to DPR Korea by 3 goals to Zero in a semi-final event in Nanjing, China.

As Indonesia remains a non-aligned country, the Socceroos will be welcome to the 2018 AFC U19 Championships in Indonesia between 18 October and 4 November 2018. Football Online notes that the qualified teams for next year’s events are Indonesia (hosts), United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Korea Republic, China PR, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, Iraq, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, DPR Korea.

Fortunately, the federal LNP will have no say on sporting protocols in Indonesia unless that country is the victim of another sudden right-wing military coup as in 1965 which brought General Suharto to power.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion to advance pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.


2017: the Top 5

We can all agree that politically, 2017 was a boring year: 365 days of nothing but the monotony of watching a woeful government led by a spineless prime minister simply meandering aimlessly along. After the Abbott years, maybe we all needed the rest!

In its five years of publishing political articles, those most popular have usually been about political leaders – of which Tony Abbott in years gone by was a standout. In 2017, however, our most popular articles were those about unfairness and hypocrisy.

Here are The AIMN’s five most popular posts in 2017:

(The Top 5 is based on the number of views only. It does not take into account the number of comments or the post’s popularity with other online media sites such as Facebook or Twitter).

Number OneThe LNP Welfare Card: the true facts exposed. Corruption disguised as philanthropy!, by Michael Griffin.


However, the Ministerial decision to award the contract to Indue is not excluded from review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth). It may be possible to challenge the award of the contract to Indue under that Act on grounds of ‘unreasonableness’ and, perhaps, ‘bias’. The decision was ‘unreasonable’ on the basis that the trials were not completed or their outcomes assessed before the contract was awarded to Indue. This means that the decision to award any contract to Indue at the time it was awarded had no factual basis or evidence to support the alleged purpose for the card programme or, hence, to provide any reason to award a contract. That is, no reason existed or relevant facts regarding the appropriateness of the card programme were known by the decision maker when awarding the contract to Indue. On that basis, the Minister’s decision to award the contracts to Indue was ‘unreasonable’ at the time the Minister made it and, on that basis, that decision should be reversed. The decision was ‘bias’ because no open tender was used to award the contracts and because Indue is a donor of the Liberal Party and its members are LNP members or supporters. Hence, when awarding the contracts for the issue, implementation and management of the welfare card programme, the Ministerial decision-maker preferred Indue to other possible suppliers due to the association of Indue with the LNP, that is, the political party in which the Minister for Human Services, Allan Tudge, who made the decision to award the contract to Indue, is also, necessarily, a member. As is Larry Anthony one of the beneficiaries of these contracts.

Number TwoThe curious incident of the bigot in the Senate, by Damian Smith.


I’ve been reluctant to comment on Pauline Hanson’s noisome remarks regarding autism and schooling. Like wildfire her vacuous bigotry requires oxygen and I am loath give her the attention she so desperately desires.

However, there are times when one must stare into the abyss.

I have what was once known as Asperger’s Syndrome, now coalesced into the all-encompassing autism spectrum.

I’m one of what Hanson calls ‘those people’.

I’ve built my career around being on the spectrum, on de-stigmatising a condition that doesn’t render you inferior – just different. I’ve tried to make myself an example of achievement, that being on the spectrum doesn’t limit you and can in fact empower you, that you can be ‘normal’ if you want to be, but more importantly that there’s no need to be normal at all.

And in this capacity it is incumbent on me to retort.

I also went to a public school. One with something of a reputation. A school that stands to gain a lot from the Gonski program.

School was a brutal experience. Aside from the regulation systemic bullying, there were the problems stemming from lack of funding. Our classes would regularly contain over thirty students, sometimes two to a desk. Half of our classrooms were temporary demountables, lacking heating in the winter and pushing 35 degrees in the summer.

Hardly ideal conditions for learning in the formative years of your life.

In this post-apocalyptic hellscape of a high school were students held back? Were students denied the attention because of the disruption of their peers? Of course they were.

Were the students causing these disruptions the ones with special needs? Absolutely not.

In my experience it wasn’t the special needs students who were the problem at all.

The problem was the idiots.

The racists, the xenophobes and homophobes; the kids who were terrified of anything different, who translated that terror into anger and violence.

Does this sound familiar, Senator Hanson?

Number ThreeIn the words of Julie Bishop, “You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative”, by Kaye Lee.


In 2007, Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop accused Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard of behaving like a “fashion model or TV star” rather than a politician.

You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

Ms Bishop said posing for magazine covers was “not my style”.

“Of course, people want to know more about you, but I don’t think you should be courting that celebrity status as if you’re a fashion model or a TV star, because you’re not,” she said.

Move along a few years to when Julie is “living the dream”, as she put it in an interview with Who magazine in December 2014.

“I can’t imagine a better job than the one I have,” she said as she posed for the magazine featuring an article where she “talks fashion, running, and style”, having also done a cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar the previous month.  In 2015, it was Vogue.

It seems Ms Bishop now considers herself very much a celebrity.

Number Four … Compare and contrast: Sussan Ley and Centrelink punters, by Jennifer Wilson.


Such is politics in these interesting times that it’s impossible when alerted to one scandal, to refrain from speculating if it has been confected to distract your attention from another.

So it is with Health Minister Sussan Ley’s current imbroglio which seems, at first blush, a nice little “look over here not there” moment arriving right on top of the Centrelink scandal.

In the former, federal Health Minister Ley appears to have spent an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars travelling to the Gold Coast, including for two New Year’s Eve celebrations (what ministerial duties could she possibly be fulfilling on New Year’s Eve at the Gold Coast?) and, conveniently, at the time of the auction purchase by herself and her partner, a Gold Coast businessman, of an $800,ooo apartment close to his office.


Here is an analysis by the ABC of Ms Ley’s spending.

Ley has agreed to in part pay back some of these taxpayer dollars, acknowledging her fraudulent misappropriation of the money was “an error of judgement.” Many of us think of these behaviours as criminal activities that ought to be investigated by the AFP, but it all swings on the narrative.

In stark contrast, the AFP has joined forces with Centrelink to distribute intimidating letters threatening punters with jail if they might possibly have at some time in the last six years fraudulently claimed welfare benefits. People are advised to pay back the amounts Centrelink determined they owed, prior to any evidence that they actually owed anything. Three debt collection agencies have been contracted by Centrelink to pursue debtors, whether the validity of their debt has been established or not. This is an action Australian Lawyers for Human Rights describe as an abuse of legal process.

Number Five … Fairfax and Centrelink unite in an unprecedented move to publicly persecute one woman, by Jennifer Wilson.


Early in February, writer and blogger Andie Fox published an account of her interactions with Centrelink over a failure by her ex partner to submit tax returns that led to the department issuing her with a debt notice for over-payment of Family Tax Benefit.

It’s a harrowing account and it resonated with very many people who’ve endured the tortuous process of attempting to explain their situation to Centrelink, after being notified of debt they do not carry. As you may recall, Centrelink is responsible for the unprecedented failure of an automated system that has harassed, threatened, engaged debt collectors and otherwise hounded citizens who have no debt, or a good deal less debt than the department claims.

On Monday, Fairfax journalist Paul Malone published an article titled Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story. The article contains the private details of Ms Fox’s interactions with Centrelink, provided to him by the department with the authority of the Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge.

Tudge later triumphantly tweeted the article, which contains details Ms Fox contests.

Just to make it clear: Centrelink has released the private details of an individual citizen without her permission in order to present Alan Tudge’s “side of the story.”

In case there might be any doubt about Tudge’s intentions, Paul Malone and Fairfax have confirmed in their headline that Tudge’s only goal is to use the personal information of a citizen to present his side of the story.

Special mention must go to Michael Griffin whose article Astounding stupidity! Turnbull Liberals award contracts for the anti-gambling Welfare Card to gambling interests! finished in sixth place … with only three less views than the fifth spot.

And a big special mention must go to John Lord, who in April last year reached the outstanding milestone of one million views. Well done, sir.

And even bigger special mentions to John Lord, Kaye Lee and Rossleigh for their prolific output of outstanding articles.

And last, but not least, huge special mentions to every author who published articles on The AIMN in 2017. Anyone of those could have been, and deserved to be, in the Top 5.


Is your cheap food worth it?

By Rowan (a small farmer in Victoria)

Have you noticed how the supermarkets have changed their policies on misshapen fruits after the ABC series of The War on Waste? No? Well neither have I.

Farmers still have a huge waste problem because the supermarket buyers decide that produce has to be a certain weight, shape or colour and everything else is rejected. As a farmer up to 60% of your crop can be rejected even if it is perfectly good to eat. That is a huge cost as the farmer still has to pay the planting and ‘picking’ staff, as well as the cost of fertiliser, water, etc. The banks are not very forgiving if you can’t pay your mortgage on time.

Supermarket executives knew that the outrage would only be short-lived, so it was easy for them to sit on their hands and wait it out. They are good at judging public behaviour: they spend millions on research.

They also know that no matter how badly they treat their suppliers, the public and government will never hold them to account. We cringe at the consequences but we all love our cheap food so try not to think about it.

I wonder if anything would change if the public knew some of the practices supermarkets employ in order to offer those products on the shelves that are often made below the cost of production, and why people are too afraid to speak out. There are no whistleblowers within the ranks of supermarket suppliers simply because no government will protect whistleblowers in this area because cheap food means low inflation, and that is all that it cares about. Nothing comes of enquiries because no one dares speak out, and governments won’t act on recommendations anyway.

I wonder how consumers will feel if they knew that up to 40% of supermarket revenue comes from ‘extortion’? This is what I call the practice of emailing farmers and manufacturers ‘asking’ for donations of thousands – even hundreds of thousands in the case of big manufacturers – to go towards their profits, or marketing costs (yes, they are that overt). Of course, they don’t ‘force’ anyone to pay, they just ask. Suppliers know that if they don’t pay up they will immediately delisted and have nowhere to sell their products.

Do you think it is fair for a supermarket to email a farmer just before they harvest their broccoli crop that since they are having a half-price sale on broccoli that week they are only going to pay the farmer half of the agreed price? Of course the farmer has a perishable crop and nowhere else they can sell it at short notice so they have no choice but to accept it. If they even hint of complaining they will find themselves delisted – and when you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in harvesting and packing machinery that is custom designed and made for your farm and product, as well as being in debt up to your eyeballs, you can’t afford any risk of delisting.

Every time you see a product on special at a supermarket, you can bet that it is not them taking a cut: they have stiffed their supplier. Whether it is baby food, capsicums, or soap, everything you buy has a higher price than you know.

The margins are so low already that losing a crop like that a couple of times can send a farmer to the wall, but even if the farmer next door buys them out in an effort to get bigger and try to keep one step ahead, they are also subject to the same practices, but now that they are bigger, the amounts ‘asked’ for also get bigger. Australian farmers are getting more efficient all the time but they just can’t keep up. It is a no-win situation.

It is common practice. I doubt that there is any farmer or food manufacturer who misses out on these predatory practices and extortion.

You might worry about the big manufacturers who damage farmers livelihoods and even whole third world country industries in the quest for cheaper and cheaper food and other goods, but they are just as afraid of the supermarket buyers, and the threat of delisting – supermarkets can always find another cheaper supplier, and don’t care that slave or child labour might be involved, or how many people it hurts, all in the name of more money to their shareholders.

Luckily my farm does not supply directly to supermarkets but I do supply some services to farms that do so I am involved in the whispered complaints that farmers make to each other around the table. As consumers we should all look at how much we are willing to ignore and if it is worth the price of cheap food.

An excellent book to read on the nasty practices of supermarkets is ‘Not on the Label, What really goes into the food on your plate’ by Felicity Lawrence. She puts into words what I would love to have the words to be able to tell everyone who cares about their food and where it comes from.

It’s our birthday. We’re 5!

The idea of The Australian Independent Media Network sprung up in response partly to this quote from the Under the radar article on the now-retired Café Whispers blog:

Isn’t it a great pity that excellent articles are being written in the Fifth Estate that slip under the radar into oblivion? Isn’t it also a great pity that this will continue to happen? Isn’t it also a greater pity that such hard-hitting, truth-telling articles will forever be drowned out by our hysterical, manipulative, dishonest, sensationalist, gutless, unfair and unbalanced media in this country?

Has there ever been a greater need for the Fifth Estate to join forces? If we don’t, a lot of what we write will continue to slip under the radar.

The need for a representative body for Australian bloggers had been tossed around for a couple of years but it had never really taken hold. Tim Dunlop’s article in The Drum in October 2012 titled Media pass: citizen journalists need an industry body emphasised the need for something to be done. The introduction to the article read:

Australian bloggers have a lot to offer in public debate, but an independent body is needed to establish the credibility and increase the exposure of our citizen journalists.

So in late December 2012 a handful of bloggers; Michael and Carol Taylor, Barry Tucker, Kevin Rennie and Alex Schlotzer took hold of the idea and on the 2nd January, 2013 The AIMN was born.

We were soon joined by two other bloggers; Victoria Rollison and John Kelly. Kaye Lee and John Lord followed shortly after (both who started out as commenters on The AIMN) and today The AIMN represents over 30 independent sites.

And today we are 5 years old.

In those five years we have:

  • published over 6,040 articles (including hundreds submitted by our readers)
  • had over 15.5 million views
  • attracted over 190,000 comments from over 8,000 people.

On top of that we have almost:

  • 5,400 subscribers
  • 18,000 Facebook followers

Our record for the most visitors in a day is just under 220,000 and our most widely-read article is Victoria Rollison’s An Open Letter to Frances Abbott which attracted over 430,000 readers and over 680 comments. (It was also shared on Facebook by 75,000 people or Facebook groups).

Recently we have:

  • twice outgrown our server
  • introduced the very popular polls (that appear in every article).

But the biggest story has been those thousands of people who have helped make us the success we are today.

It might be our birthday … but it is the support from all of you that we should be celebrating. It’s been a great five years and you’ve all been a part of it. Without you, what would we be?

Before our 6th birthday we could well be going to the polls again, making everybody here more important than ever as we attempt to rid ourselves of the most lacklustre and ineffectual government in living memory.

Are you with us?



It’s New Year’s Day! Didn’t we just have one?

New Years are sneaky little things: you just don’t see them coming.

I tend to think that the Aboriginal concept of “time” might be on the money. To them, time is circular and travels like a boomerang. “White man’s” concept of time – they say – is linear, in that it travels like a spear.

I reckon our First Australians got it right, because these New Year’s Days keep whizzing on past.

And here we are at another one.

If we reflect back on 2017 what do we see?

Above anything, we see a year where the disconnect between the political set and mainstream Australians grew larger by the day, and because of it so did inequality.

It is reflected in the growing number of homeless people, the gap between the rich and poor, countless Australians living below the poverty line, the rise of extremism in our country, our disregard of people in need, our ignorance to the suffering of the First Australians, turning our backs towards victims of domestic violence, tightening our borders to people desperate to seek a better life here, continued ignorance of the perils the planet faces, and on it goes.

It’s fair to say in that regards 2017 wasn’t much different to 2016. Slightly worse, sadly.

We cannot let 2018 be just another reflection of 2017. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say; we cannot let our leaders make 2018 just another reflection of 2017.

If we don’t get the opportunity to change our governments, we still have the opportunity to change our national psyche. Small steps, as they say.

We’d all like to take big steps, but we’ve seen how hard that is. Nonetheless, we will never stop trying. Not here at The AIMN. Not here with the tenacious, gutsy group of writers we have. Not here with the fabulous group of commenters and readers who demand less inequality.

At times it must feel that we’re losing the battle. But we’re not. We’re only just getting started!

To all those who have come with us this far – and who will march in solidarity with us again in 2018 – may you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Michael and Carol.


“The Day The Music Died”

Pretty much every Australian teenager growing up in the 1970’s knew about Countdown. And so, I would wager, did thousands of long suffering parents. Watching the Saturday evening music show became something of a national ritual. It was one of the very few times when we sat down in the same room as our siblings without the petty bickering, hushing our bemused oldies as the familiar intro theme heralded a somewhat shambolic hour long plunge into a sensually tacky world of colour, flashing lights and badly mimed video clips. The visual effects were unsophisticated and crass by today’s standards. The satin flares, lairy costumes and bad haircuts seemed in perfectly good taste at the time. For us Countdown was rebellion, experimentation and the claiming of a world that adults could neither comprehend nor truly participate in. And then there was Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, always looking quietly perplexed by his own creation, yet always dropping names like Madonna, Bowie and Jagger with a schoolboy vitality. He loved what he did, and so too, it seemed, did Australia. We excused Molly his quaint bumbling mannerisms – indeed his shambling presence perfectly complemented the whole tone of the show.

But beyond the crass theatrics and the seminal excitement, there was the music. And the music was new, fresh and like a fever it was catching. Countdown became our musical window to the world, and every Saturday and Sunday evening we were transported; tuned in to a common wavelength that united us. Pretty soon Aussie kids were sporting ABBA T-shirts and taking their lunch to school in ABBA lunchboxes. The girls donning tartan in honour of their idols the Bay City Rollers. For the guys it was KISS. But as well as connecting us with the music scene of the UK and USA, Countdown became the conduit for the emergence of Aussie rock. And it very quickly became clear that Australian musicians could stand on their own merits. Indeed, they could virtually carry the entire show, and more often than not, they did just that. They rapidly became household names courtesy of Countdown – the pop of Sydney’s Sherbet and Melbourne’s Skyhooks. The hard rock of the Angels, AC/DC, Cold Chisel and the Oils. A string of teeny-bopper bubble-gum popsters like John Paul Young, William Shakespeare and Mark Holden. The ladies of blues and soul included Marcia Hines and Renee Geyer. What we were witnessing was the rich musical ‘coming of age’ of our nation, and the Australian music industry blossomed and grew like a vast sprawling evergreen through the seventies and eighties.

The roots of Australian contemporary popular music can be traced back to a largely British and European heritage. This is hardly unusual, given the mass migration of white settlers in the post-war decades. It was European migrants that formed the backbone of Australian music. Pop ambassadors John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John were English-born as were the Bee Gees’ Gibb brothers. The Scots were well represented and many of them still live on today in big name Aussie acts – Barnesy for one still retains his mighty voice!

The Easybeats were an ‘Australian’ band who met in Sydney in 1964. They were the first Aussie rock and roll act to score an international pop hit in 1966 with the anthematic ‘Friday On My Mind.’ Like many popular music groups, theirs was a star that blazed brightly for a short time and then was gone. By 1969 the flame was extinguished, and they disbanded. Their legacy however, lives on to this day. And their place as early pioneers of Australian music remains the stuff of legend.

So who exactly were The Easybeats? Firstly, all five members were born overseas and had recently emigrated with their families from Europe: vocalist Stevie Wright and drummer Gordon “Snowy” Fleet were from England; rhythm guitarist George Young was from Scotland and lead guitarist Harry Vanda and bassist Dick Diamonde hailed from the Netherlands.

George’s younger brothers might be better known to some Australians – Malcolm and Angus formed AC/DC soon after, following in the musical footsteps of their older brother.
The young men who became Australia’s Easybeats met each other in a place called the Villawood Migrant Hostel, where they lived with their families until their parents found permanent homes for them. In a cruel twist, that same hostel has now been converted into the Villawood Detention Centre – a concentration camp incarcerating ‘non-citizens’ whose resident visas have been cancelled and may be deported permanently.

What exactly happened to our nation that in a few short decades those same immigrants that we welcomed with open arms and embraced as our own are today treated as little more than sub-human and left to rot for months, if not years, in places like the Villawood Detention Centre and remote Christmas Island?

The transformation of the old Villawood Migrant Hostel into the current day maximum security Villawood Detention Centre stands as perfect testament to Australia’s changing sentiment with regards to immigrants. As a hostel in the mid-60s it was filled with life – a place of hopes and dreams for European migrants looking forward expectantly to a new life for their young families in the lucky country. In its draconian present day incarnation it houses only grief and despair – its detainee population condemned to endless months; facing the grim prospect of permanent estrangement from their families and the only life they know. The suicides that have occurred there never make the news. Fates are held in the hands of one man who will ultimately decide whether they stay or leave.

With sweeping new powers, that man – Immigration minister Dutton – has deported hundreds of permanent residents in numbers not seen since World War 2. Cases are emerging in the media of non-citizens, who have families here and have lived here since childhood, being deported for a range of minor offences including driving without a license and road rage.

Where then would that have left people like The Easybeats’ singer Stevie Wright – already drug addicted in the early 70s and charged with housebreaking and arrested for heroin abuse? Or Bon Scott, Scottish-born AC/DC vocalist, who served 9 months in juvenile detention for unlawful carnal knowledge, escaping custody and theft? Or the stream of expatriate European musos who came to the attention of the law?

The Countdown phenomenon could never have happened in our current political climate, and certainly not in the reign of heartless right-wing Immigration minister Dutton – a bitter ex-cop. In 2017, many of those key players of that burgeoning Aussie music scene would be in immigration detention, torn from their families and facing the prospect of deportation. Many ironically would be imprisoned in Villawood Detention Centre, the very same ‘hostel’ where The Easybeats first met many years ago.

In many ways Dutton represents the complete antithesis of what Meldrum’s Countdown stood for. What Meldrum embraced with joy and enthusiasm, Dutton rejects with a dour bitterness. Meldrum was proud of the ‘new Australians’ and was never short of a word of encouragement for our up and coming bands. And in the 60s, 70s and 80s we in turn were united by the music they made. In 2017, Dutton seeks only to divide us – seeing simply citizens and ‘non-citizens.’ He too claims to be representative of the national interest and Australian values, and yet he has almost singlehandedly destroyed a spirit which gave rise to 5 decades of music like some sullen, hate filled party-pooper.

Following the release of their international hit ‘Friday On My Mind’, The Easybeats gave an English radio interview, only to be mildly offended when the interviewer referred to them as an English band. ‘We’re Australian!’ they retorted loudly. ‘Three of you are British and two of you are Dutch,’ countered the interviewer, ‘What exactly makes you Australian?’

‘The music!’ they replied in unison.

You’ve been watching Countdown 2017 and this is the day the music died. Goodnight Australia.

This article was originally published on

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