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Manne et al would help Aborigines more by looking at the present, not the past
By Peter Howson
One believer in the "stolen generations" claim, Robert Manne, has now conceded serious errors in the report by Sir Ronald Wilson, Bringing Them Home. But Manne and others continue to promulgate the myth without producing substantive evidence.
Contrary to the claim in Mannes new book "In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right"(an extract of which appeared in Saturday Extra), no significance at all can be attached to the 1994 ABS Household survey reporting that one in ten Aborigines (compared with Sir Ronalds one in three) believed they had been "stolen".
The ABS survey made no checks on the authenticity of these beliefs, a process that was demonstrated as essential in the subsequent Williams case in NSW and Cubillo-Gunner cases in the Northern Territory. As Justice OLoughlin pointed in his judgment on the latter, mixed-race children who were removed at an early age could not themselves have personal knowledge of what actually occurred, and would have to rely on stories they had been told.
When properly tested in court, such stories were revealed as close to fantasies.
The failure of the self-appointed true believers to find any living Aborigine who was stolen, and the realization that there are some questions about the Wilson report, has now forced Manne to retreat to claiming:
To support their views, generation myth-makers such as Manne are selectively quoting statements by one or two officials who were administering Aboriginal policy as implying such policies were founded on racist objectives, rather than providing protection and succor for children.
However, whatever the views of those administrators, no evidence has been produced that such objectives formed part of government policies themselves. Indeed, the 1937 Government policy statement by the then responsible Commonwealth Minister, John McEwen, clearly indicated there were no such objectives in the Northern Territory .
Manne dismisses sworn evidence on the stolen generation question, subjected to cross examination, by patrol and other officers in the Cubillo-Gunner cases, while effectively claiming that statements by one or two other officers reflected government policy.
It is important to recognize that:
While one could not rule out that some improper removals occurred pre-World War II, no substantive evidence has yet been adduced to establish that this occurred on any scale. And it has become clear that it did not occur post-World War II.
It is a sad indictment of academia that so much of it continues to focus on trying to indict white Australians for past bad behaviour. They should instead be trying to find solutions to the serious current problems being experienced by the small minority of Aborigines who have not moved to urban centers and inter-married with non-indigenes.
Peter Howson was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1971 and 1972.