Why I won't change

By Andrew Bolt

Yes, I've heard that I'm evil. Wicked. Racist, too, which stings, given all my life I've proudly thought I was the opposite. Last Sunday, for instance, a journalist on the ABC TV's Insiders panel turned to me and, voice rising in rage, damned my works to hell. "I have to say that what you wrote this week was destructive bile-ridden drivel," she said, just after I'd said the stolen generations was a dangerous myth that would only feed the anger and race hate we saw in the Redfern riots.

Other commentators have said much the same of me in the past few days, not least because I wrote two articles last week condemning this New Racism. "To the Right of Genghis Khan," declared a publisher. "Inflammatory," gloated the editor of a popular political website. One ABC radio host asked my editor-in-chief on air what he thought he was doing by running such articles. A Sydney radio host, who'd thrown wine over a friend of mine when I last saw him, called me "idiot".

I mention this not in self-pity, which I regret I do sometimes feel, but to make clear that I do know that what I have to say on Aboriginal issues disgusts many, even though I am passionate about helping Aborigines succeed in this society so rich in promise.

You'd be a fool to ignore completely the views of such educated people -- and I'd far rather be their guru than their racist goat. I'm not that much of masochist. Yet, despite all this, I say what I do on the "stolen generation" and the policies it breeds. Here's why.

On Monday, after my scolding on Insiders, I found in my mountain of weekend e-mails the following from a western suburbs girl.

I am a student in Year 12 and like many students across Victoria am studying the play 'Stolen' by Jane Harrison. My school is one of those that make us pray and say sorry every year, and continuously stress to the students that our school is situated on the land once owned by the Aborigines. My reason for writing to you is to show you a fact sheet that was given to us by our teacher on the so-called "stolen generation". These facts seem to be exaggerated and I was wondering if you know where I could find valid facts regarding this issue. Thank you.

I looked at the "stolen generations fact sheet" that her teacher had given her class, and read this:

Between 1910 and 1970 up to 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken forcibly by police or welfare officers. Most were under five years old. They are known as the "stolen generations" ... To be Aboriginal was enough. They were taken because it was Federal and State Government policy that Aboriginal children -- especially those of mixed Aboriginal and European descent -- should be removed from their parents ... Many suffered physical and sexual abuse ... They received little education ... The main motive was to "absorb" Aboriginal children into European society ... by denying and destroying their Aboriginality.

I read that earnest pamphlet, so heaped with luxurious falsehoods, and realised again why I can't say other than what I do. I admire that girl for already knowing that what matters is that she first be told the truth, before she's taught what to feel about it. I admire her for demanding the right to exercise her own conscience, rather than mimic her teacher's. How can we tell lies to such a young woman -- however noble our motives -- and have such contempt for her perception, her reasoning and her moral sense?

I KNOW critics will say, whoa, there he goes again with angry talk of lies when we know the "stolen generations" did occur. And I can only ask them, what evidence do you have that it did? If 100,000 children were "taken forcibly" for racist reasons, why is it you cannot name me a single one of those victims?

This phrase "stolen generations" was coined by Professor Peter Read, who suggested some 100,000 children may have been taken from their families. But in a speech in London eight years ago, he named just two of them -- former ATSIC chairwoman Lowitja O'Donoghue and Aboriginal leader Charlie Perkins.

Already you see the problem. Neither, it turns out, was stolen. Perkins was the son of an Alice Springs woman who was deserted by her husband after giving birth to her 11th child, and who begged a priest to at least give her brightest boy an education. O'Donoghue, as I later reported, was sent with her siblings to South Australia's Colebrook Home by her white father when he'd decided he no longer wanted them or his Aboriginal wife.

Read later cut his estimate of stolen children to 50,000, consistent with the guess of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Bringing Them Home report of 1997. But that infamous report relied on anonymous and unchecked claims which collapsed whenever they were tested. It has been criticised as "greatly exaggerated" even by Professor Robert Manne, a stolen generations propagandist who was given a $50,000 grant to "expose" our great crime. Manne, in his book In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right, now claimed the true figure of "stolen" children was no more than 25,000. But he could find and name just four. If that.

In fact, only one of his four cases seemed to involve the tragic theft of a girl, but it occurred back in 1903. His other examples included a boy who was actually taken from his widowed father with that drunk's consent, after a court heard the boy was running wild. And then there was Lorna Cubillo.

Cubillo had by then begun a test case in the Northern Territory with Peter Gunner, asking the Federal Court to compensate them for having been stolen. That hearing cost at least $10 million and ran for a year, talking to all kinds of witnesses. It was, Manne said early on, the best investigation we'd get into the worst area for child stealing.

But the findings? That Peter Gunner's mother had in fact signed a form to permit her son to go to a home in Alice Springs and get some schooling. That Cubillo couldn't be said to have been stolen either, not least because her mother and grandmother had died, her father had vanished, and it was hard to tell who in the hard bush was actually looking after the little girl. But more than that, the court said it hadn't found anyone who'd been stolen in the NT, and the "evidence does not support a finding that there was any policy of removal of part-Aboriginal children such as that alleged by the applicants".

It was the same story in Victoria when the Bracks Government's Stolen Generations Taskforce last year admitted it couldn't find any real "stolen" children, either, adding there had been "no formal policy for removing children" from Aboriginal parents here.

On to Western Australia, where a royal commission in 1936 had already heard from the Protector of Aborigines that children weren't taken unless they were in danger. Manne has claimed this protector, A.O. Neville, had "genocidal thoughts", but last year finally conceded "it didn't affect the outcomes for the children". I know, the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, set in WA, insists that it tells the "true story" of three girls being stolen but, as I've revealed, the records of that incident show this true story is false.

Then to New South Wales. Only one "stolen generations" child has gone to court there -- activist Joy Williams. But her case, too, failed, after the court found she'd been willingly given up by her deeply troubled mother. In fact, it's odd that no high-profile example of a "stolen" child has ever been proved genuine.

Cathy Freeman's grandmother was not stolen. Our first Aboriginal author, academic Mudrooroo Narogin, was not stolen either -- and is also not really Aboriginal. Nor were the four "stolen generations" Aborigines who gave evidence for Peter Gunner truly stolen, as they admitted to the Federal Court. One said his family paid to send him away to school, and he'd called himself "stolen" because "we're going to get compensation".

These aren't claims. They are facts that cannot be dodged if we're honest. And so I say the "stolen generations" is a myth, and a lethal one. White children are robbed of their history, and black children of faith in the only society that can help them. White children are told lies, and black ones are fed the hopeless resentment of Redfern. And in our schools, even 16-year-olds can figure they're being fed a lie, and resent being told it's holy. Isn't that the real shame?

Say what you like about me, I'll say this for myself: I at least try to tell the truth, and can do no other. The rest, after all, is corruption.

Article originally published on 25 Feb 2004. Original link:


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