Time for truth about history
The new statue haters claim they just want the truth told about our history. But I don’t believe them. I don’t believe ABC presenter Stan Grant, for instance, when he demands an end to the “great silence” as he rages at a statue of Capt. James Cook that says he “discovered this territory”.
See, I don’t think the statue haters can handle the truth about our past, and certainly not about Aboriginal history. Do they even know it?
Josephine Cashman, former member of the Prime Minister’s indigenous advisory council, told the ABC she didn’t like Australia Day because “26 January signifies when Cook came to Australia and landed on a beach in Mosman called Cobblers beach”.
She sneered: “If Australia cared so much, why is it now a nudie beach and we do not have a national monument?”
In fact, Australia Day actually signifies the amazing creation of a society that is rich and free.
What’s more, January 26 doesn’t mark the landing of Cook the explorer but of the First Fleet.
Nor did the First Fleet land at Cobblers Bay, and there is indeed a monument where it did.
Or take Grant himself. He’s told how he’d stop by Poison Waterholes Creek in NSW to tell his son how “the local homestead owner grew tired of the black people on his property, so he poisoned their waterhole”, causing “agonising deaths”.
In fact, historian George Gow in 1951 wrote in the Narandera (sic) Argus that a rabbit inspector who’d worked on the station containing the creek in the 1880s told him the name came from baits for dingoes.
Gow blamed the poisoning myth on poet Mary Gilmore, who in the Sydney Morning Herald claimed her uncle had carried out a shocked magistrate’s order “that the holes be filled in up to a height of 12 feet”.
But as Gow noted, the holes are still there. Gilmore’s claims were “rubbish”.
Should we tear down the creek’s sign, too, Stan?
This week came Bronwyn Carlson, a Macquarie University associate professor who identifies as Aboriginal and called for the tearing down of not just Cook’s statues, but those of Lachlan Macquarie, our fifth colonial governor.
“It seems a little odd … to have statues that continue to represent those people who were part of genocide in this country,” she said.
Pardon? Cook was never part of any genocide. He was a brilliant captain and navigator who simply mapped our east coast.
Nor was Macquarie guilty. True, to keep settlers safe he ordered soldiers to clear out Aborigines from some areas, and shoot those who did not surrender. By our modern standards, now that we’re comfortably settled, that seems ugly. Some might even call it murder. But genocide?
If the statue haters really do want more precise language, then let’s ban that word “genocide” when applied to our history. Let’s not have activists like singer-songwriter Dan Sultan attack Australia Day as he did on the ABC on Monday: “We should recognise the 26th of January for what it is — which is a day that started the ongoing genocide of our people”.
In fact, there are more Aborigines now than there were when the British arrived.
While we’ve had some shameful massacres, there was never a government campaign to wipe out Aborigines. Rather, there were campaigns to save them. Even if Sultan disagrees with that, how can he possibly claim this “genocide” is “ongoing”?
Our Aboriginal population grew an amazing 17 per cent over the past seven years, according to the Census, and we spend twice as much government money on them per person.
For Sultan to call this “ongoing genocide” is to trivialise a true genocide and suffering of the dead.
Compare. On the one hand, there’s Sultan, invited as a celebrity Aboriginal by the ABC to lecture and sing. On the other, there were millions of Jews gassed, shot, hanged, burned and butchered by Hitler. Spot the real genocide.
But let’s go further. Yes, let’s indeed end the “great silence” in our history. Let’s admit, as Professor Geoffrey Blainey calculates, that Aboriginal rates of death in tribal warfare before colonisation were actually worse per capita than in Europe in World War I. Almost genocidal, wouldn’t you say?
Let’s admit that despite all the claims of up to 100,000 children being “stolen” by racist officials just because they were Aboriginal, the courts have so far found only one, Bruce Trevorrow.
So let’s also strip the words “stolen generations” from signs. The statue haters did demand truth, right?
So let’s also strip the words ‘stolen generations’ from signs.
The Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park, Sydney.