Category Archives: Australia

Think slavery in Australia was all in the past? Think again



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Fiona McGaughey, University of Western Australia; Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle, and Dani Larkin, University of Newcastle

In the charged atmosphere of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently made the mistake of stating there was no slavery in Australia. Morrison later apologised for causing offence. He clarified that his comments related specifically to the colony of New South Wales.




Read more:
Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate


The relevance of slavery to the experience of First Nations and other communities was quickly and forcefully addressed. Robust evidence demonstrated that, of course, slavery did exist in Australia.

Research at UWA is exploring Australian links to historical slavery through the Legacies of British Slave-ownership (LBS) database.

Academic Clinton Fernandes has revealed the British Parliament granted compensation in the 1830s to former slave owners for the loss of their slaves (but not to those who had been enslaved). Some former slave owners used this compensation to settle in Australia.

It is hardly surprising, then, that First Nations peoples in Australia were forced into indentured servitude and had their wages stolen.

Another example of slavery was the practice of “blackbirding” Pacific Islander people for work on Australian sugar plantations. Today’s South Sea Islander community in Queensland have asked the prime minister to familiarise himself with their experience and its legacies.




Read more:
Australia’s hidden history of slavery: the government divides to conquer


Slavery subsists

Global efforts to confront “modern slavery” challenge understandings of slavery as a purely historical experience. Modern slavery is an umbrella term used to describe human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices. It includes bonded labour, forced marriage and forced labour.

Just like historical slavery, modern slavery is a multi-billion-dollar industry. An estimated 40.3 million men, women and children are subjected to modern slavery around the world.

In Australia, we can look to contemporary labour mobility schemes to see the continued vulnerability of Pacific Islanders to modern slavery. Stories continue to emerge of worker exploitation in Australia.




Read more:
Should Australia have a Modern Slavery Act?


About 15,000 people are subject to modern slavery in Australia, including sex trafficking, forced marriage and forced labour. Cases of forced labour predominantly occur in industries such as agriculture, construction, domestic work, meat processing, cleaning, hospitality and food services. Even more people are enslaved through the supply chains of Australian companies operating overseas.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 marks an important development. It requires large businesses and Commonwealth entities to report on risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks.

The first reports under the act are expected to be published this year and will be available for public scrutiny. Unfortunately, there are no penalties for non-compliance. An advisory group established to support implementation of the act lacks civil society and survivor representation.

Domination and exploitation.

Racist ideologies reflected in current events find their roots in colonisation and slavery. The broader issue of the over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples in Australia is gaining renewed attention through the current protests. Indigenous Australians make up 28% of the Australian prison population, meaning they are the most incarcerated people on Earth. The high rate of Indigenous deaths in custody has also gained renewed attention.




Read more:
FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous Australians the most incarcerated people on Earth?


Experiences of over-incarceration and slavery are distinct and important in their own right. Yet such experiences are linked in how they reflect ongoing limitations and violations of civil and citizenship rights for First Nations and other communities in Australia.

For example, the over-incarceration of First Nations peoples contributes to their political disenfranchisement, as Australian electoral law politically silences those in prison.

Similarly, Pacific Islanders and others subject to modern slavery in Australia are often kept silent for fear of losing work and residency rights. The marginalisation of their experiences implicitly authorises their continued exploitation.

The capacity of our democracy to function equitably for disadvantaged communities is compromised by their lack of equal representation or involvement in law and policy-making.

Where to from here?

It is evident the scourge of racism and slavery is not confined to the past. Nor is it an issue that only affects other countries. It is here, it is now, and it must be tackled.

Political and legislative responses to modern slavery are encouraging. But significant gaps remain in the promotion and protection of Indigenous rights.

This is why the Uluru Statement From The Heart and its constitutional reform proposals are so important. The Uluru Statement calls for the constitutional protection and entrenchment of a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission to supervise treaty-making processes and truth-telling initiatives.

The Voice to Parliament is in its design phase with Australian government and elected First Nation representatives. Now, more than ever, First Nations require a Voice to Parliament and for that voice to be heard, respected and protected. Its constitutional entrenchment would signal a momentous shift in Australia’s engagement with the justice demands of First Nations people.

Meaningful reconciliation is impossible while Indigenous rights and perspectives are oppressed. True progress calls for learning from the world’s oldest living cultures. Healing requires learning from the past and present.The Conversation

Fiona McGaughey, Senior Lecturer in International Human Rights Law, University of Western Australia; Amy Maguire, Associate Professor in Human Rights and International Law, University of Newcastle, and Dani Larkin, Associate Lecturer in Law, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


‘The time has come to say something of the forgotten class’: how Menzies transformed Australian political debate



Trove/National Library of Australia

James C. Murphy, Swinburne University of Technology

The Conversation is running a series of explainers on key figures in Australian political history, examining how they changed the country and political debate. You can read the rest of the series here.


As Australia’s longest serving prime minister, the career of Robert Menzies remains a model of political success in this country.

Despite this, much of Menzies’s legacy has failed to live long past his time in office, let alone into the 21st century. He was, for instance, firmly in favour of White Australia, obsessed with Australia’s British roots and idolised the monarchy. He also believed the Communist Party ought to be outlawed, and oversaw a highly protected, regulated economy. In many ways, Menzies was the last bastion of an old Australia we would hardly recognise today.

However, there are two notable exceptions – ways in which Menzies did manage to transform Australian political debate in a lasting way: firstly, through his construction of a middle-class political constituency he called “the forgotten people”; secondly, as the founder of the Liberal Party and Coalition.

Menzies was a staunch supporter of the British Commonwealth, holding the monarchy in high regard.
Wikimedia Commons

Rising through the ranks

Born in Jeparit, Victoria, in 1894, Menzies rapidly made his way into the elite of Melbourne society. After working as a barrister and later a youthful minister in two Victorian state governments, he was elected to the federal parliament with the United Australia Party in 1934.

Attorney-General Menzies then became prime minister after Joseph Lyons died in office in 1939, just as the second world war broke out.

His factional enemies in the UAP were not impressed by his wartime leadership and, after his closest allies were killed in a plane crash, Menzies was forced out of the leadership in 1941.

Within a year, Labor was in government, and the UAP was collapsing.

This was not the end of Menzies, though. In 1944, he led efforts to reunite various right-of-centre groups to form a new anti-Labor party — the Liberal Party of Australia. He then headed the party’s campaigns against the Labor government’s alleged “socialist” excesses, such as bank nationalisation and petrol rationing.

In 1949, he led the Liberals to a sweeping election victory. Though he had some electoral near misses, and part of his longevity was owed to a fortuitous split in the Labor party, Menzies remained Liberal leader and prime minister until his retirement in 1966.

‘The forgotten people’

In 1942, as he sought to resurrect his political career, Menzies gave one of Australia’s most famous political speeches, which envisaged a constituency he called “the forgotten people”:

But if we are to talk of classes, then the time has come to say something of the forgotten class – the middle class – those people who are constantly in danger of being ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the false class war; the middle class who, properly regarded, represent the backbone of this country.

These were middle-class, god-fearing citizens, neither rich enough to fend for themselves, nor poor enough to seek trade union representation, and thus lacking power. They would become Menzies’ core constituency, with the party tailoring its policies to helping them meet their modest aspirations for themselves and their families.

Where the UAP had been seen as tied to the upper class and big business, Menzies would seek to attach his party to this ignored middle class, a group more Australians could imagine themselves to be part of, even if they had never thought of themselves in those terms before.

This construct has remained at the centre of Liberal Party rhetoric, reincarnated as John Howard’s “battlers” and Scott Morrison’s “quiet Australians”.

Even Labor has, at times, sought to defer to this supposed “backbone of the nation”. In his first speech to the Press Club as Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese suggested the ALP had lost the 2019 federal election because, to many voters, it failed to be the party of aspiration; essentially, that they neglected Menzies’s forgotten people.

Of course, this is not to say there really is a quiet, unassuming, aspirational majority lurking out in the suburbs. Rather, Menzies’s forgotten people are a rhetorical construct that has grown a life of its own. Politicians believe in this constituency and defer to it, even if it is not, actually, a meaningful voting bloc.

A Liberal-National Coalition

Menzies was also the driving force in creating and holding together the Liberal Party — and indeed the long-term Liberal-National Coalition, an alliance that has historically shifted the focus of political debate.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: Robert Menzies and the birth of the Liberal-National coalition


Keeping liberals, conservatives and rural interests in one bloc has meant the battle for leadership in Australia became a contest between the Coalition and Labor. This was no easy feat. Indeed, until 1944, there had been numerous minor parties campaigning on the right of the political spectrum. Some were reluctant to join Menzies’s new party, given that it would be a “liberal”, rather than “conservative” party.

Free-traders and economic moderates frequently fell out over welfare and tarrifs; hard-line conservatives and social liberals had serious disagreements over censorship, multiculturalism and other social issues. However, Menzies managed to unite them under what Howard would later call the Liberal Party’s “broad church” by focusing on Labor’s “socialism” and the international threat of communism. This appeal similarly kept the Nationals as Coalition partners. Menzies said:

In 1949 we were swept into power at what was then an almost record level of majority. Now all that happened because we had something to believe in, not just something to oppose, something to believe in.

Consequently, the issues, problems and demands that divided the Coalition have not been fully discussed in the public arena, but rather suppressed within party room debates and compromises. This has, to an extent, enabled non-Labor alliances to dominate politics. More recently, the two-party system has begun to break down, with more and more voters availing themselves of minor parties and independents in order to place previously ignored issues on the political agenda.




Read more:
Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?


Menzies’s legacy

Menzies’s legacy, then, is not so much his particular beliefs or policies, nor in the model of leadership he provides as Australia’s longest serving prime minister. Rather, his lasting contributions were the rhetorical and organisational structures he built. While the former have faded into obscurity, the notion of “the forgotten people” and the Liberal-National Coalition remain as important now as they were when Menzies retired from office in 1966.

Had he retired from public life at his low ebb in 1942, Australian politics might look very different today.The Conversation

James C. Murphy, PhD, Lecturer and Tutor, Politics and History, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


How Paul Keating transformed the economy and the nation


Carol Johnson, University of Adelaide

The Conversation is running a series of explainers on key figures in Australian political history, examining how they changed the country and political debate. You can read the rest of the series here.


Paul Keating was one of Australia’s most charismatic and controversial prime ministers.

Born in Bankstown, New South Wales, into an Irish-Catholic, working-class and Labor-voting family, he left school before he turned 15. Keating joined the Labor Party as a teenager, quickly honing the political skills that would serve him so well in later life. He entered parliament as MP for Blaxland in 1969 at just 25 years old, and briefly served as minister for Northern Australia in the ill-fated Whitlam government.

He subsequently served as a very high-profile treasurer in the Hawke government from 1983-1991, before defeating Bob Hawke in a leadership ballot in December 1991. In doing so Keating became Australia’s 24th prime minister, serving until John Howard defeated him in the 1996 election.

To Keating’s supporters, he is a visionary figure whose “big picture” ideas helped transform the Australian economy, while still pursuing socially inclusive policies. To his conservative critics, Keating left a legacy of government debt and rejected “mainstream” Australians in favour of politically correct “special interests”.

He was a skilled parliamentary performer, renowned for his excoriating put-downs and wit.

Keating played a major role in transforming Australian political debate. He highlighted the role of markets in restructuring the economy, engagement with Asia, Australian national identity and the economic benefits of social inclusion.

Economic rationalism

Keating is remembered most for his eloquent advocacy of so-called “economic rationalism” both as treasurer and later as prime minister.

Under Hawke and Keating, Labor advocated free markets, globalisation, deregulation and privatisation, albeit in a less extreme form than the Liberals advocated. For example, while Labor introduced major public sector cuts, it attempted to use means tests to target the cuts and protect those most in need. Nonetheless, Hawke and Keating embraced the market far more than previous Labor leaders had.

Along with New Zealand Labour, Australian Labor became one of the international pioneers of a rapprochement between social democracy and a watered-down form of free-market neoliberalism. Years later, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had visited Australia during the Hawke and Keating years, was to acknowledge the influence of Australian Labor on his own “Third Way” approach to politics.

The Hawke cabinet in 1990, with Keating again as treasurer.
AAP/National Archives of Australia

Keating justified his economic rationalism on the grounds that the Australian economy needed to transform to be internationally competitive in a changing world. To avoid becoming one of the world’s “economic museums” or “banana republics”, in Keating’s view, there was no alternative but to embrace his economic rationalist agenda.

Trade unions and the ‘social wage’

At the same time, Keating argued that his economic policies would avoid social injustices. This contrasted with the outcomes of the extreme economic rationalism of the Thatcher and Reagan governments.

Unlike in the UK or US, where anti-union policies were pursued, the Labor government was prepared to work with the trade union movement to introduce its economic policies. Under the Accord agreements, trade unions agreed to wage restraint, and eventually real wage cuts, in return for government services and benefits.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: the Prices and Incomes Accord


Hawke and Keating referred to this as the “social wage”. They claimed the resulting increased business profits would encourage economic growth and rising standards of living.

Social inclusion and economic growth

Keating saw his economic policies and progressive social policies as compatible. Increased social inclusion would contribute to economic growth.

Drawing on Hawke-era affirmative action legislation, Keating argued improved gender equality would mean women could contribute their skills to the economy.

Keating was also a passionate advocate for reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, including acknowledging the injustices of Australia’s colonial past and facilitating Native Title. He envisaged an Australia where Indigenous people would benefit from sustainable economic development, cultural tourism and could sell their artworks to the world.

National identity, Asia and the republic

In Keating’s ideal vision, Australia would engage more with Asia and benefit from the geo-economic changes occurring in the Asia-Pacific region.

Then Opposition Leader John Howard accused Keating of rejecting Australia’s British heritage. In fact, Keating acknowledged many positive British influences on Australian society. However, he argued that Australia had developed its own democratic innovations such as the secret ballot long before Britain accepted these. He also suggested Australian values had become more inclusive as a result of diverse waves of immigration.

Consequently, it was time for Australia to throw off its colonial heritage, including the British monarchy, and become a republic. Keating believed that doing so would enable Australia to be more easily accepted as an independent nation in the Asian region. He established a Republic Advisory Committee as part of preparations for a referendum on becoming a republic.

Keating’s legacy

Australia’s greater relationship with Asia has had major benefits for the economy, although Keating underestimated the downsides of increased competition. Recently, he complained about what he sees as excessive security fears in relation to China and their impact on Asian engagement. The republic remains unfinished business.

Keating’s vision has also left some unintended consequences for Labor today. Despite his patchy record in achieving them, Keating argued that both tax cuts and budget surpluses were important, even at the expense of public sector cuts.




Read more:
Vale Bob Hawke, a giant of Australian political and industrial history


Consequently, it became harder for Labor leaders to make a case for deficit-funded stimulus packages when needed (as Kevin Rudd tried to do during the Global Financial Crisis). Similarly, it became harder for Labor leaders to argue for increased taxes to fund a bigger role for government, as Bill Shorten attempted during the 2019 election.

In addition, as I argue in a recent book, Keating-era policy contributed in the longer term to poorer wages and conditions for workers. Labor is predictably loath to acknowledge this. Keating also underestimated the detrimental impacts of economic rationalism on other vulnerable groups in the community.

The 2019 election result suggests many Australians no longer believe Labor governments will improve their standards of living.

Rather than the prosperous brave new world he envisaged, parts of the Keating legacy may have made things harder for subsequent Labor leaders. Nonetheless, Keating remains a revered figure in the Labor Party and one of its most memorable leaders.The Conversation

Carol Johnson, Emerita Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Rebuilding Australia: what we can learn from the successes of post-war reconstruction


Prime Minister Ben Chifley introducing Australia’s own car, the Holden, at a manufacturing plant in Victoria in 1948.
National Library of Australia

David Lee, UNSW

As Australia begins to plot a recovery strategy from the first recession in the country in decades, the Morrison government needs to examine what has worked well in the past.

Crises require strong leadership, national cohesion and a framework for carrying out recovery efforts on a grand scale.

As such, there is a case to be made for a new Commonwealth agency to lead the recovery effort, built on the model of the Department of Post-War Reconstruction that helped Australia emerge from the turmoil of the second world war.

The Department of Post-War Reconstruction

In December 1942, Prime Minister John Curtin established the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. Even though the war was still raging, its task was to begin planning and coordinating Australia’s transition to a peacetime economy.

The department brought together a talented group of officials, many of them from the new discipline of economics, to advise the government. Its establishment reflected the efforts to which the Commonwealth government went after the war to professionalise the Australian public service.

The department did not have a large staff. It was devised as a policy department that would coordinate the work of other agencies. The treasurer, Ben Chifley, was appointed the first minister for post-war reconstruction. H. C. “Nugget” Coombs, one of Australia’s “seven dwarfs”, named for their diminutive stature, was his first departmental secretary.




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Lessons from history point to local councils’ role in Australia’s recovery


One of the major successes of the department was its contribution to the full-employment policy, a goal set by post-war governments to achieve a higher standard of living and regular employment for all Australians after the war.

To that end, the department helped establish a new employment agency, the Commonwealth Employment Service, to match workers with jobs. It also helped overhaul the social welfare system and create the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

Full employment became a bipartisan policy goal throughout the economic “golden age” from the end of the war to the 1970s. The policy was so popular that even the smallest deviation from it, such as during the “credit squeeze” of 1960-61, almost cost the Menzies government re-election.

H. C. Coombs at a conference in 1948.
Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Post-War Reconstruction didn’t succeed in pushing through sweeping new federal powers for reconstruction in a 1944 referendum. Nonetheless, it found ingenious ways to foster Commonwealth-state cooperation, for instance, through section 96 grants (which provided federal funding to the states on terms and conditions set by the Commonwealth), and the federal funding of housing, hospitals and later universities in the states.




Read more:
Australia’s post-war recovery program provides clues as to how to get out of this


New Commonwealth-state bodies were also devised to support the coal and aluminium industries. The Commonwealth and NSW state Joint Coal Board, for example, completely revamped the almost moribund NSW black coal industry. A revived and mechanised NSW coal industry became internationally competitive and a significant export earner for Australia by the 1970s.

On the international front, Chifley and Coombs supported Australia’s participation in the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, which reinvented the global financial system based on fixed exchange rates with the US dollar as a reserve currency. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were also established at the time.

Chifley and Coombs supported the new international arrangements because they understood the revival of the global economy was essential for Australia’s own prosperity. As they hoped, the Bretton Woods system, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Marshall Plan for western Europe all laid the global foundations for Australia’s domestic recovery.

How a post-pandemic agency might work

The federal government has already trialled a new policy-making agency during the COVID-19 pandemic with its “wartime” National Cabinet, which featured federal and state governments and their agencies working as one.

There are many ways a new economic recovery agency could build on the cohesion demonstrated by the National Cabinet and advise the Commonwealth government on rebuilding the economy.

Specifically, it could help replicate Curtin’s achievement in 1942 by advising on comprehensive reform of the Commonwealth-state taxation system. This process is already under way with several states calling for the substitution of land taxes for stamp duties.

A post-COVID-19 agency could also be involved in the revamping of the welfare system (post-JobKeeper/JobSeeker) to cope with the higher levels of unemployment and under-employment.

The agency could advise or coordinate a strategy for new infrastructure to create jobs, such as the building of hospitals, public housing and a transition to cleaner energy. Another possibility would be a return to independent petroleum refining, similar to Billy Hughes’s Commonwealth Oil Refineries that operated from 1919-52.




Read more:
The PM wants to fast-track mega-projects for pandemic recovery. Here’s why that’s a bad idea


And a new agency could advise on reviving other major industries, such as tourism, the airlines, the higher education sector and even the banking system. During the Global Financial Crisis, the Rudd government had to underwrite loans to the banks and guarantee bank deposits. A major intervention may again be required.

Creating a Department of Post-War Reconstruction was considered by some to be the “boldest experiment” the country took after the war. And as a result, Australia’s post-war recovery was a remarkable success. This is what we need now – another bold experiment, in the spirit of bipartisanship.The Conversation

David Lee, Associate Professor of History , UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate



In 1891 a ‘Slave Map of Modern Australia’ was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter.
Author provided, Author provided

Thalia Anthony, University of Technology Sydney and Stephen Gray, Monash University

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview that “there was no slavery in Australia”.

This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.

Morrison followed up with “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history”. Unfortunately, his statement is at odds with the historical record.

This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.

What is slavery?

Australia was not a “slave state” like the American South. However, slavery is a broader concept. As Article 1 of the United Nations Slavery Convention says:

Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

These powers might include non-payment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, controls over freedom of movement, or selling a person like a piece of property. In the words of slavery historian Orlando Patterson, slavery is a form of “social death”.

Slavery has been illegal in the (former) British Empire since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807, and certainly since 1833.

Slavery practices emerged in Australia in the 19th century and in some places endured until the 1950s.

Early coverage of slavery in Australia

As early as the 1860s, anti-slavery campaigners began to invoke “charges of chattel bondage and slavery” to describe north Australian conditions for Aboriginal labour.

In 1891 a “Slave Map of Modern Australia” was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter, a journal that documented slavery around the world and campaigned against it.

Reprinted from English journalist Arthur Vogan’s account of frontier relations in Queensland, it showed large areas where:

… the traffic in Aboriginal labour, both children and adults, had descended into slavery conditions.

Seeds of slavery in Australia

Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery, especially in the cattle industry.

In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they “went with” the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.

A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled:

… whitefellas would pull their gun out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!

Aboriginal woman Ruby de Satge, who worked on a Queensland station, described the Queensland Protection Act as meaning:

if you are sitting down minding your own business, a station manager can come up to you and say, “I want a couple of blackfellows” … Just like picking up a cat or a dog.

Through their roles under the legislation, police, Aboriginal protectors and pastoral managers were complicit in this force.

Slavery was sanctioned by Australian law

Legislation facilitated the enslavement of Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Under the South Australian Aborigines Act 1911, the government empowered police to “inspect workers and their conditions” but not to uphold basic working conditions or enforce payment. The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) allowed the forced recruitment of Indigenous workers in the Northern Territory, and legalised the non-payment of wages.

In Queensland, the licence system was effectively a blank cheque to recruit Aboriginal people into employment without their consent. Amendments to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave powers to the Protector or police officer to “expend” their wages or invest them in a trust fund – which was never paid out.

Officials were well aware that “slavery” was a public relations problem. The Chief Protector in the Northern Territory noted in 1927 that pastoral workers:

… are kept in a servitude that is nothing short of slavery.

In the early 1930s, Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook pointed out Australia was in breach of its obligations under the League of Nations Slavery Convention.

‘… it certainly exists here in its worst form’

Accusations of slavery continued into the 1930s, including through the British Commonwealth League.

In 1932 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) characterised Aboriginal workers as “slaves”. Unionist Owen Rowe argued:

If there is no slavery in the British Empire then the NT is not part of the British Empire; for it certainly exists here in its worst form.

In the 1940s, anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt surveyed conditions on cattle stations owned by Lord Vestey, commenting that Aboriginal people:

… owned neither the huts in which they lived nor the land on which these were built, they had no rights of tenure, and in some cases have been sold or transferred with the property.

In 1958, counsel for the well-known Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira argued that the Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) was unconstitutional, because the enacting legislation was:

… a law for the enslavement of part of the population of the Northern Territory.

Profits from slaves

Australia has unfinished business in repaying wages to Aboriginal and South Sea Islander slaves. First Nations slave work allowed big businesses to reap substantial profits, and helped maintain the Australian economy through the Great Depression. Aboriginal people are proud of their work on stations even though the historical narrative is enshrined in silence and denial.

As Bundjalung woman Valerie Linow has said of her experiences of slavery in the 1950s:

What if your wages got stolen? Honestly, wouldn’t you like to have your wages back? Honestly. I think it should be owed to the ones who were slave labour. We got up and worked from dawn to dusk … We lost everything – family, everything. You cannot go stealing our lousy little sixpence. We have got to have money back. You have got to give something back after all this country did to the Aboriginal people. You cannot keep stealing off us.The Conversation

Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney and Stephen Gray, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Jenny Hocking: why my battle for access to the ‘Palace letters’ should matter to all Australians



Independent Australia

Jenny Hocking, Monash University

Professor Jenny Hocking recently won her longstanding campaign for the National Archives of Australia to release the so-called “Palace letters” about the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975. This is her account of that campaign.


In August 1975, speaking at a private dinner at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel, Governor-General Sir John Kerr proudly described himself as “the Queen’s only personal representative in Australia with direct access to her”.

Kerr was a staunch monarchist, and what he saw as his “direct” access to the Queen was of great moment to him:

I am in constant communication with her on a wide variety of matters, on most of which I am communicating directly to her.

We now know just how constant that communication was. Kerr wrote frequently, at times several letters in a single day. There are 116 of his letters to the Queen, almost all of them sent through her private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, containing extensive attachments including press reports, other peoples’ letters to Kerr, telegrams and articles. There are also 95 letters from the Queen to Kerr, all through Charteris.

These 211 letters in the National Archives of Australia, written during the entirety of Kerr’s tenure as governor-general and with increasing frequency after August 1975, constitute “the Palace letters”. They are without doubt the most significant historical records relating to the dismissal of the Whitlam government in November 1975. Yet, until last week’s landmark High Court decision, they had been closed to us by the archives, labelled as “personal” records and placed under the embargo of the Queen.




Read more:
High Court ruling on ‘Palace letters’ case paves way to learn more about The Dismissal – and our Constitution


Aware of their immense historical significance, and with the support of a legal team working pro bono, in 2016 I launched a Federal Court action against the National Archives in an effort to secure access to the Palace letters.

It was not only the obvious importance of letters between the Queen and the governor-general, her representative in Australia, relating to Kerr’s unprecedented dismissal of the elected government that drove this case. It was also the importance of asserting the right of public access to, and control over, our most important archival records.

It took four years and a legal process through the Federal Court, the full Federal Court, and finally the full bench of the High Court of Australia – at which the federal attorney-general Christian Porter joined with the archives against my action. But in an emphatic 6:1 decision, the High Court ruled against the archives. It found the letters were not “personal” but rather Commonwealth records, and as such must now be available for public access under the provisions of the Archives Act.

Jenny Hocking last month won her case in the High Court to have access to the Palace letters.
AAP/Peter Rae

Why it matters

This is an immensely important decision, overturning decades of archival practice that has routinely locked away royal records from public view as “personal”. It also provides a rare challenge to reflexive claims of “royal secrecy”, here and elsewhere.

Its implications will be felt broadly in other Commonwealth nations and potentially in the United Kingdom, where the Royal Archives are firmly closed from public access except with the permission of the monarch. Of equal importance is that the High Court’s ruling has brought the Palace letters firmly under Australian law, ending the humiliating quasi-imperial imposition of the Queen’s embargo over our archival records, and over our knowledge of our own history.

What made this case so important was the significance of original documents to the evolving history of the dismissal. A series of revelations in recent years, much of it from Kerr’s papers, has transformed that history and deeply challenged our previous understandings of the dismissal.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as prime minister


As a deeply contested and polarised episode, access to original records – as opposed to subsequent interpretations – was unusually significant. There could be no more significant records than the letters between the governor-general and the Queen regarding what the Federal Court described as “one of the most controversial and tumultuous events in the modern history of the nation”.

What the Palace letters might tell us

I first came across the Palace letters more than a decade ago, when I began exploring Kerr’s papers as part of the research for my biography of Gough Whitlam. When I sought access to them I was told they were “personal” papers -– “non-Commonwealth, no appeal”. This meant I could neither access them nor appeal that denial of access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The only way of challenging the label “personal” was a Federal Court action, an onerous and prohibitive prospect.

A series of revelations from Kerr’s papers highlighted their importance and the travesty of their continued closure. These include: a personal journal Kerr wrote in 1980 in which he cites several of the letters and recounts his critical discussion with Prince Charles in September 1975 expressing concern for his own recall as governor-general if he were to dismiss Whitlam; extracts from some of the letters; and his frequent references to the letters in other letters to friends and colleagues. Perhaps the most crucial item of all was a handwritten note, “Points on Dismissal”, in which he refers to “Charteris’ advice to me on dismissal”.

There could scarcely be a stronger indication that the Palace was intensely involved with Kerr’s consideration of the possible dismissal of the elected government. This, along with other materials, suggest that at the very least, Kerr had drawn the Palace into his planning before the dismissal.

Kerr cites a letter to the Queen in August 1975 in which he raised the “possibility of another double dissolution”. Just why he would be raising this two months before supply had been blocked in the Senate, and when the prime minister had held a rare double dissolution just the previous year and was intending to call the half-Senate election which was then due, may be answered when we see the letters.

Kerr writes that his conversations with Whitlam “were reported in detail to the Queen as they happened” for several months before the dismissal itself. This is a simply extraordinary situation: the governor-general is reporting to the Queen his private conversations, plans, matters of governance, and meetings with the Australian prime minister, and this is kept secret from the prime minister himself.

This is the crucial context of secrecy and deception in which the Palace letters must be considered: that Whitlam knew nothing of these discussions because Kerr had decided on a constitutionally preposterous policy of “silence” towards the prime minister, who retained the confidence of the House of Representatives at all times.

It is this extensive communication through hundreds of letters to and from the Queen, when taken in the context of Kerr’s self-described “silence” towards his own prime minister, that shows Kerr’s aberrant perception of his vice-regal role as acting as “the Queen’s personal representative” while failing to consult his own prime minister.

As historian John Warhurst has noted, from what we already know of the Palace letters:

…the British crown was interfering in the 1975 dispute in ways that should offend anyone who wants Australia to be a fully independent nation … the Palace did not stand above the fray … Kerr consulted the Palace and took advice from the Queen’s secretary acting on behalf of the Queen.

Knowing our story, in full

The National Archives’s denial of access to the Palace letters has prevented us knowing the extent of that consultation and advice for too long. The High Court’s resounding rejection of the basis for that secrecy is an historic opportunity for the director-general of the archives, David Fricker, to make good his claim the archives is a “pro-disclosure organisation”, recognise the profound breach with the past the decision represents, and embrace the spirit of public access that underpins it by releasing all 211 of the Palace letters.

It’s time for an open reckoning with our past, a fully informed debate about the events of 1975, and an answer to the lingering questions over the role of the Queen.

No matter how unpalatable this story may be to some, it’s our story and we have a right to know it.The Conversation

Jenny Hocking, Emeritus Professor, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


How Julia Gillard forever changed Australian politics – especially for women



Lukas Coch/ AAP

Blair Williams, Australian National University

The Conversation is running a series of pieces on key figures in Australian political history, examining how they changed the country and political debate.

When Julia Gillard was sworn into office as Australia’s first female prime minister on a chilly Canberra morning in 2010, it seemed like the ultimate glass ceiling had been smashed.

But this momentous occasion was marred by the onslaught of sexism and misogyny Gillard endured from the opposition, and especially the mainstream media, over the next three years of her term.




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Since she lost the prime ministership in 2013, Gillard has fostered a legacy that extends beyond parliamentary politics, with a focus on women’s rights, education and mental health.

The two Es: education and equality

Born in Wales in 1961, Gillard’s family moved to Australia in 1966. She grew up in Adelaide as the daughter of a nurse and aged care worker.

Gillard was educated at local public schools before studying at the University of Adelaide and then the University of Melbourne.

She told the Harvard Business Review last year her involvement in the student movement, protesting education cutbacks, was a formative experience:

That’s what spurred an activism and engagement in public policy in me, and I went on to lead the student movement nationally … people had said, ‘You really should consider politics’. It was a slow dawning over time that it would be a fantastic way of putting my values into action — and realising that someone like me could do it.

Graduating with an arts/law degree, Gillard joined law firm Slater & Gordon in 1987 and was a partner by 1990.

While she has said she felt “quite at home in many ways” as a young woman in the “larrakin” culture of the law firm, she also worked on affirmative action campaigns in the 1990s. She was a founding member of Labor women’s support network, EMILY’s List Australia.

She continues to maintain this focus on gender and education in her post-politics advocacy.

Going to Canberra, creating history

Gillard was elected to federal parliament in 1998 and was a frontbencher by 2001.
In 2007, with Labor’s election victory, she became deputy prime minister and minister for education, workplace relations and social inclusion.

Gillard was sworn in as Australia’s 27th prime minister by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.
Alan Porritt/ AAP

However, despite the popularity of prime minister Kevin Rudd, the Labor party became increasingly frustrated with his leadership style ahead of the 2010 federal election.

These tensions saw Gillard challenge Rudd for the top job in June 2010, in one of the most dramatic episodes in recent Australian political history.

Gillard’s unexpected promotion would have lasting consequences for her, the Labor Party and Australian political culture.

It initiated a “coup culture” in Australian politics, where a series of challenges saw the removal of four out of the five most recent prime ministers.

A sexist backlash

The unprecedented removal of a popular first-term prime minister during an election year also prompted an overwhelming backlash from the opposition, the media and the public.

Gillard faced accusations of disloyalty that marred the historic significance of her victory and status as the “first woman”. It also unleashed what seemed like a ceaseless tirade of sexism and misogyny that she endured for the next three years of her term.

The more prominent examples include broadcaster Alan Jones saying Gillard should be put in a “chaff bag” and taken “out to sea”. A menu at a Liberal National Party fundraiser described a dish as “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”.




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Dining out on the prime minister – time to change the ‘Menugate’?


Opposition leader Tony Abbott stood in front of – and tacitly endorsed – sexist placards.

Julia Gillard faced repeated sexist abuse during her time as prime minister.
Alan Porritt/AAP

A productive parliament

After the 2010 federal election, Gillard had to work with a minority government.

But in a sign of her formidable negotiating skills, Gillard’s term as prime minister was extremely productive.

Despite the surrounding political turmoil, 570 bills were passed by the Senate, with key achievements including the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the child abuse royal commission, a carbon price, education funding and paid parental leave.




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Labor’s legacy: six years of … what exactly?


It wasn’t all warm and fuzzy

Yet not all Gillard’s policies are so fondly remembered.

On the same day Gillard delivered her famous “misogyny speech”, her government passed welfare reforms that moved single parents off the parenting payment and onto Newstart (now called JobSeeker Payment). This reduced people’s payments by $60 to $100 a week, disproportionately affecting women.

Her asylum seeker policies and opposition to marriage equality also garnered widespread criticism from progressive Australians, particularly the LGBTIQ+ community and refugee advocates.

‘I will not be lectured by this man’

Twelve iconic words have come to define Gillard’s legacy:

I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man.

This statement launched a blistering 15-minute speech, in which Gillard called out the sexism and hypocrisy of Abbott during Question Time in October 2012.

The anger and frustration she felt about Abbott – known for his sexist sentiments – and the systemic double standards she’d endured for years, resonated with women around the world.

Julia Gillard delivered her “misogyny speech” on October 9 2012.

Though it was initially critiqued by the Canberra Press Gallery, which accused Gillard of “playing the gender card”, the speech went viral.

It has become the definitive moment of her prime ministership and is often the only thing people overseas know about Australian politics.




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Earlier this year, it was voted the “most unforgettable” moment in Australian TV history by a Guardian Australia poll. Last month, a senior advisor to former-US President Barack Obama revealed they often watched the speech whenever they were frustrated with then-prime minister Abbott.

The misogyny speech has even entered into the pop cultural canon, inspiring young women today to create memes and TikToks paying homage to those famous words.

Changing the way we talk about sexism and politics

Gillard’s misogyny speech and her time as our first woman prime minister changed the way that politics and sexism were talked about in Australia and highlighted the toxic nature of parliament.

Rather than “playing the gender card”, Gillard drew attention to it, calling out the sexism and misogyny that many women in politics had to silently endure.

Julia Gillard, pictured here with former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, continues to advocate for gender equality.
David Moir/ AAP

Speaking with Gillard last year in preparation for my doctoral research, she noted how the conversation around gender and sexism is “everywhere now”, and that people are far more aware of and likely to challenge gendered double-standards.

In recent years, we have seen multiple women politicians breaking their silence, from Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young suing fellow senator David Leyonhjelm for defamation, to former Liberal MP Julia Banks calling out “gender bias” and “bullying”.

Post-politics: ‘what would Julia do?’

Gillard lost the Labor leadership in 2013, when Rudd got his revenge and his old job back.

Gillard left Parliament immediately after she lost the leadership.
Lukas Coch/ AAP

But she has left a lasting legacy as a role model for girls and young women. This stems not just from her political career, but for the way she has gracefully moved on.

Since leaving politics, Gillard continues to work in the areas she cares about, with high-profile appointments in education, mental health and women’s leadership. Earlier this month, she was also appointed as the next chair of medical research giant, the Wellcome Trust.

Julia Gillard’s official portrait was unveiled in 2018.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Like all politicians, she’ll continue to have her critics, but her post-political life and demeanour has largely been admired. Gillard’s former foe, Abbott, even attended the 2018 unveiling of her official portrait.




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And her career continues to resonate with people, particularly women.

This was recently seen when she received a handwritten note from a stranger on a flight, which thanked her for being “such a strong, intelligent and unapologetic role model for myself and so many of my peers”.

The note added that the author and her female colleagues used the phrase “WWJD” or “what would Julia do”.

As the woman explained: “It’s our rallying cry to be the absolute best at our jobs”.The Conversation

Blair Williams, Political Scientist, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Henry Parkes had a vision of a new Australian nation. In 1901, it became a reality



State Library of New South Wales/Photographer H.B. Solomons, 1887

David Lee, UNSW

The Conversation is running a series of explainers on key figures in Australian political history, looking at the way they changed the nature of debate, its impact then, and it relevance to politics today. You can read our piece on Julia Gillard here.


Henry Parkes, known today as the “Father of Federation”, set in motion the process that led to the joining of Australia’s six colonies in 1901 – a significant moment that heralded the birth of a new nation.

While he did not live to see the outcome – he died five years before the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia – Parkes had been the driving force behind the idea of federation and a key architect of the process that ultimately created it.

Parkes’s vision was to unite the British colonies into a self-governing and democratic nation that spanned the continent. The new country would have a constitution written by Australians, but would remain “under the British crown” in an enduring relationship with the land of his birth.




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Perhaps the most defining moment of his political career came in 1889, when he gave his Tenterfield Oration. Much like US President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863, Parkes’ speech was little reported at the time, but later took on legendary status.

The great question which we have to consider is, whether the time has not now arisen for the creation on this Australian continent of an Australian government and an Australian parliament … Surely what the Americans have done by war, Australians can bring about in peace.

From radical ideas to a career in politics

Parkes was born in Warwickshire, England, in 1815 into a family of poor tenant farmers. After his family was forced off the farm by debt in 1823, he later worked in Birmingham and London.

In 1838, Parkes moved to New South Wales as a bounty migrant with his young wife and developed considerable talent as a journalist. This was all the more remarkable given he was largely self-educated.

He eventually gravitated to politics and associated himself with the radical patriots in the colony. With these radicals, Parkes pushed for universal suffrage, the transformation of the Australian colonies into a federal republic and, above all, for free trade. He also campaigned against the transportation of convicts from the UK.




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Parkes later moved away from radicalism and republicanism, deciding he could achieve more in government. When New South Wales achieved control over its local affairs in the 1850s, Parkes joined the legislative assembly as one of a small group of liberals.

Parkes devoted his career to politics, moving through the ranks of the pro-free trade liberals to serve five terms as premier of New South Wales from 1872-91.

Sir Henry Parkes with the coalition ministry in 1880.
Blue Mountains City Library/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Parkes advocates for a federal council

After the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859, there were five self-governing colonies in eastern Australia. The colonies were competitive and largely concerned with their own affairs. Federation was not a pressing issue.

Parkes was still relatively new to politics in the 1860s, but he nonetheless became a tireless crusader for his idea of a colonial union. As NSW colonial secretary, he proposed establishing a federal council of representatives from all five colonies in 1867, and again as premier in 1880. Both times, it went nowhere.




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However, a few years later, the colonies finally began to see the benefits of a stronger federation, due to unease over the expanding influence of the French and Germans in the Pacific. All except NSW ultimately supported the establishment of the federal council in 1885.

The new council had limited legislative powers and no permanent executive powers or revenues of its own. The absence of NSW also weakened it.

Nonetheless, it was the first major form of inter-colonial cooperation. The council also allowed federalists to meet and exchange ideas, setting in motion the more ambitious campaign for federation led by Parkes.

A statue of Henry Parkes today in the town named after him in NSW.
Wikimedia Commons

The Tenterfield address and dawn of federation

By the end of the 1880s, opinion was divided over the future of the Australian colonies. While some advocated to “cut the painter” and separate from Britain, others preferred to protect the current system.

The concept of an “imperial federation” with a single federal state consisting of the UK at the centre and the self-governing colonies was also gaining popularity.

One of the primary obstacles to federation was the struggle between New South Wales, which supported free trade, and other colonies like Victoria, which advocated protectionism. Parkes was able to neutralise this problem by proposing that once a federation was created, a Commonwealth parliament could legislate on tariff policy.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: the writing of our Constitution


In 1889, Parkes grasped the nettle. He proposed to the Victorian government that the colonies should appoint delegates to a convention, which would draw up the constitution for a nation and discuss its relationship with Britain.

Later that year, Parkes travelled to Queensland armed with a report on colonial defence to garner Queensland’s support for his cause. On his return journey, he delivered his famous address at Tenterfield calling for “a great national government for all Australia”.

In 1890, Parkes finally succeeded in putting together an informal colonial conference in Melbourne that led to the first National Australasian Convention in Sydney the following year. It was a revolutionary moment for the future country and produced the fundamentals of the federal system we have today.

Led by Parkes, the delegates in Melbourne and Sydney sketched out a House of Representatives, representing the people, and a Senate representing the colonies (later states). They also specified powers for the Commonwealth and the states, and envisioned a High Court to interpret the constitution.

Both conventions were a triumph for Parkes. Alfred Deakin, a young Victorian legislator at the time, noted he was

from first to last, the chief and leader.

More conventions were held over the coming years to iron out the details of a bill that was finalised in 1899 and transmitted to the UK for ratification by the British parliament.

Parkes’s legacy today

Parkes’s championing of the federal movement transformed Australia’s political agenda at a time when the colonies were still content to chart separate courses.

After his death, referendums were held in all the colonies in 1899 and 1900 and the people voted “yes”. Australia finally became a federation on January 1 1901.

Federation celebrations in Queen Street, Brisbane, 1901.
State Library of Queensland

In the federation procession in Melbourne in 1901, Parkes was the only leader who received public homage, with his image and slogans festooned on signs and other paraphernalia. Other politicians, including the country’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, yielded him the preeminent position in the pantheon of federation fathers.

After 120 years, Australians take federation as a given. But had it not been for Parkes, Australia would probably not have become a nation in 1901, and the system of government we have today might well be very different.The Conversation

David Lee, Associate Professor of History , UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Destruction of Juukan Gorge: we need to know the history of artefacts, but it is more important to keep them in place



Juukan Gorge photographed May 15.
Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation

Jacinta Koolmatrie, Flinders University

A day before Reconciliation Week and the day Australia was meant to be acknowledging and remembering the Stolen Generations, news came of something that seemed to put Australia back a few decades in their journey towards “Reconciliation”. Rio Tinto had detonated a 46,000 year old site known as Juukan Gorge.

This news was simply gut-wrenching.

Artefacts found at the site were among some of the oldest in Western Australia, making it incredibly significant not only for the Traditional Owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, but also for the history of this continent.




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Also startling for many was this detonation had been in process for several years. The dating of the site to 46,000 years old had been uncovered through salvage excavation in preparation for this destruction.

I cannot speak for the Traditional Owners, nor can I speak on the complexities surrounding the approval of the blast, but the removal of artefacts from their place has impacted every single Aboriginal person on this continent. That is what I can speak on.

Salvage excavations

Salvage excavation is archaeological work conducted to record and collect all evidence of human occupation at a site that has been or will be impacted by development.

Excavation itself is destructive. The moment a trowel is inserted into the ground, the site has been destroyed. Salvage excavations, like all excavations, require this destruction to be worth it. Comprehensive recording of every aspect of an excavation is necessary, from changes in soil to recording each artefact found.

Archaeology also considers how artefacts will be cared for in the long term: where they will be kept and who will be caring for them. It is preferable for artefacts to remain at their location. In cases where this proves impossible, salvaging is required.

At a surface level, it seems unproblematic if everything was collected from the ground, analysed and placed in a box: those artefacts would be preserved for all of eternity. Now, they are no longer subject to erosion, animal activity or (the more perplexing argument) the threat of humans. But cultural institutions are not immune to disaster.

In 2019, Brazil’s national museum was devastated by a fire. This summer, Australian galleries closed due to the potential impact of smoke on collections. The South Australian Museum has repeatedly discussed the threat of water leaks to their collections.

These institutions are built to preserve heritage but they should not be viewed as the only preservation option, especially for heritage heavily intertwined with place.

Why is place important?

There is a common narrative Aboriginal people wandered this continent aimlessly. Rarely is there discussion our ancestors moved with intention, demonstrated clearly in the ways they passed down generational knowledge to us. Why else would they have mapped this land?




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Where they chose to leave their presence should be viewed as intentional and as representation of that significance.

This significance has flowed through time, strengthening the connection of this place to us. In cases where there is a physical presence of our ancestors, it is integral we maintain the connection of this physical history to place.

For many, Juukan Gorge was mainly significant because of its early date. But not all Aboriginal heritage is afforded this same interest. Not all of our heritage can be dated that early, and a lot of our heritage simply is not tangible. A vast majority of our heritage is found in our knowledge of the land that traverses this continent. Mostly, this heritage goes unseen by our colonisers, making it easily overlooked in favour of development.

Sometimes, the tangible heritage found in these places is the only thing standing in the way of destroying a place. It is the only thing demonstrating we are a people who have deep connections to this land. Not only from a spiritual side, but also from a linear western view of time.

Aboriginal knowledges of these places, and how this knowledge links to the archaeological record, is what can fully contextualise the meaning of these places for our ancestors – and for us today.

The importance of empathy

Maintaining the connection of place with our ancestors’ possessions found at these places may be solidified through the implementation of stricter laws. But if a company wants something and our heritage is standing in the way, those laws can always be bent. The value of destroying these places is much higher than the value of keeping them – at least in the eyes of our colonisers. A loophole will be found, and our communities will suffer and grieve another loss.

If we want something long lasting, something transcending laws, empathy needs to be much stronger, something embedded into the mind and heart. Not the type of empathy that emerges when one has to say “sorry”, but the type existing before “sorry” is even considered.

With empathy, how could you justify the hurt Aboriginal people on this continent experience when we find out another culturally significant place has been destroyed?The Conversation

Jacinta Koolmatrie, Lecturer in Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Australia and the Spanish Flu/COVID-19 Pandemics



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