Time for truth about his­tory

The West Australian - - OPINION - An­drew Bolt

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.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

The Cap­tain Cook statue in Hyde Park, Syd­ney.

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