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Autumn 2001 cover

National Observer Home > No. 48 - Autumn 2001 > Legal Notes

Further Evidence of Fraudulent Aboriginal Claims

 Dr. I.C.F. Spry, Q.C.

Affirmative action in favour of Aboriginals has already revealed itself to be excessive. Per capita expenditure on Aboriginals far exceeds that on other Australians. Aboriginals receive preferences over other Australians in many areas, and, for example, they are able to obtain educational qualifications without satisfying criteria that apply to other Australians.

But should Aboriginals be exempt from legal rules that proscribe fraud? For example, to obtain money or other property under false pretences is a serious criminal offence, as are many other categories of fraudulent behaviour. Further, under the civil law moneys paid through fraud may be recovered; and importantly, fraud includes recklessness. A person who makes a statement recklessly, not caring whether it is true or not, is guilty of fraud.

The regrettable "stolen generation" campaign is an example of concerted action based on false claims, in many cases fraudulent. Court cases where part-Aboriginals have claimed to have been "stolen" have seen a rejection of the claims. For example, in the New South Wales Supreme Court an Aboriginal activist, Ms. Joy Williams, was found not to have been "stolen", but rather to have been "dumped" by her mother into the care of an institution. Likewise in the recent Cubillo-Gunner cases it appears that Mr. Gunner's mother had wanted nothing to do with him and had asked for his admission to an institution.

Further, it has emerged that Aboriginal committees regularly treated half-caste children with barbarous cruelty. As former Federal Cabinet Minister, Mr. Peter Howson has pointed out,

"Annette Hamilton, now Professor of Anthropology at Macquarie University, carried out research in Arnhem Land during the 1960s. She wrote that up to that time part-European (that is, half-blood) babies had not been allowed to live. A common method of infanticide was to asphyxiate the newly delivered baby in smoke generated by gum-leaves burning in a depression dug between the mother's legs by the mid-wives. Those who lived were the exception."

Such half-blood children who were fortunate enough to escape killing at birth were, in the case of females in Aboriginal communities, commonly made sexually available at an early age to men in exchange for alcohol or other goods.

This barbaric behaviour on the part of Aboriginals should be noted, not merely as evidence of the unfortunately primitive nature of Aboriginal cultures — for the "noble savage" concept, although discredited abroad, has been sedulously cultivated in Australia — but also as an indication of the falsity of the "stolen generation" myth and its consistent and fraudulent promotion by various interest groups.

More recent examples of unfounded claims have been analysed by Mr. Andrew Bolt, one of Australia's most distinguished journalists, the independence and integrity of whose views have earned him general respect.1 Mr. Bolt has pointed out that Mr. Charles Perkins, who claimed to have been "stolen", was in fact accepted into care at the request of his mother. Similarly Mr. Mudrooroo Narogin, who has also claimed to have been "stolen", was in fact handed across by his mother in view of her poverty (and Mr. Narogin's father was in fact part-African-American, and not Aboriginal). Similarly, Ms. Cathy Freeman's claim that her grandmother Alice was "stolen" was untrue: Alice was the illegitimate daughter of a Syrian man, who was given to an Aboriginal couple to be raised. Similarly, Mr. Daniel Scrutton, Mr. Daniel Forrester and another witness in the Cubillo-Gunner cases, who all claimed to have been "stolen", had in fact been sent by their parents to be educated.

Dramatic confirmation of the inaccuracy of "stolen generation" complaints emerged on 23 February 2001 in relation to Dr. Lowitja O'Donoghue, co-patron of the National Sorry Day Committee, who has been described as Australia's most honoured Aboriginal leader. Mr. Andrew Bolt disclosed that in fact Dr. O'Donaghue's father left his five children with the Colebrook Home, to obtain care and an education for them, with the agreement of her mother — a very natural course in view of the lack of care and protection and the abuse that half-caste children received in Aboriginal communities.

An immediate result of Mr. Bolt's article is that he was publicly criticised by a number of paradigms of political correctness. Mr. Malcolm Fraser further diminished his own reputation by describing Mr. Bolt as "irresponsible", and Sir Ronald Wilson, whose negligently constructed Report gave impetus to the "stolen generation" myth, described him as "sensationalist". Doubtless criticisms from such quarters increased rather than diminished Mr. Bolt's reputation, but it is significant that they were made.

Characteristic also has been the response of Associate Professor Robert Manne, quondam editor of "Quadrant" until his position came to an end amidst some controversy. He criticised Mr. Bolt and sought to blame "the right" for recent refutations of the "stolen generation" claims although in fact the common factor of those who have been sceptical of incorrect claims has been that they have been persons who insist upon truth and accuracy. They include persons from the right and the left, and also persons not able to be categorised politically. Associate Professor Manne proceeded to allege that Mr. Bolt had suggested that "what we really needed was not a Sorry Day but a Gratitude Day". As has been pointed out,2 this allegation was false, and it is useful to recall, as Mr. Bolt has observed, that Associate Professor Manne has been "a most active promoter of the `stolen generation' myth".3

A perplexing aspect of these matters is the motivation of those who are intent upon furthering the "stolen generation" myth. Enough evidence has now been presented to establish that

1. the methodology of the Wilson Report was defective; and

2. although in some relatively few cases half-caste children were removed from their communities without consent, because it was perceived (and, it appears, correctly) that they were suffering detriment or abuse or were in physical danger,

i. in the overwhelming majority of cases they were accepted at the request, or with the consent, of their mothers or of members of Aboriginal communities; and

ii. the care that they received placed them out of risk of physical or other injury from members of Aboriginal communities.

Not only have those promoting the "stolen generation" myth been seen to have closed their minds to the actual evidence, but often they appear to be angry that their claims have been shown to be false. These proponents appear to be motivated by a deeply-rooted desire to blame the mainstream Australian community. In many cases one suspects from their behaviour that the proponents are not particularly kindly or compassionate individuals and that their motivation is in some way to attack the Australian social structure. In other words, the "stolen generation" myth has provided an opportunity to express their personal resentments; to blame others whilst congratulating themselves on a perceived superior moral position.

Only through an explanation of this kind is it possible to understand the anger of those who are being denied the "stolen generation" myth as a weapon with which to disparage others: a means of attacking mainstream Australia, which is largely traditional and socially conservative, has misfired. The fact that this failure has cast doubts upon "stolen generation" proponents themselves, has doubtless added to their anger; not only has their weapon misfired, but their credibility has in many instances been largely removed.4

One of the matters at stake therefore is the reputation and credibility of the "stolen generation" proponents. Not only have they been incorrect as a matter of fact, but in almost all cases it is not possible to avoid the conclusion that their advocacy was dishonest and directed by unworthy motives.

The application of criminal penalties for fraud raises complex issues of policy. Many of the unfortunate part-Aboriginals who have been taught the "stolen generation" myth have had a genuine belief that they are victims of claimed forced removals. Others have been more aware of the true facts. But with the general publicity that has been given to court decisions finding an absence of impropriety, "stolen generation" claimants must now be regarded as on notice that their claims are in general false. Those who continue to pursue claims should not be permitted to do so on a fraudulent basis. Aboriginals and part-Aboriginals should receive equal treatment with other Australians, but no more. They should not be exempt from prosecution for fraud when the constituents of the offence are made out; nor should their advisers be exempt from prosecutions for aiding and abetting.

 

1. See generally the Melbourne "Herald Sun", 14 August 2000, 24 February 2001 and 1 March 2001.

2. Michael Duffy, "Truth will help reconciliation process", in "The [Brisbane] Courier-Mail", 17 March 2001.

3. The Melbourne "Herald Sun", 12 March 2001.

4. Compare the reaction of Mr. Malcolm Fraser referred to above, and that of Associate Professor Manne entitled "Stealing a people's grief" in the Melbourne "Age" of 5 March 2001. Needless to say, it would be improper to preserve the "stolen generation" myth merely to preserve "grief" based upon a false acceptance of that myth.

National Observer No. 48 - Autumn 2001