Stan Grant, well-known media figure, with his slightly olive skin and a thoroughgoing ‘colonial’ education, is an activist of relatively recent origin. He is foremost among those Australians of Aboriginal Ancestry (AOAA) calling for the truth about British settlement, meaning that existing historical accounts are a whitewashing of the violence inflicted on the many indigenous tribes the British found wandering around the countryside. I agree with Stan, with his educated accent, that the truth should be known. Bring it on, I say. Some of the truth is in an outstanding paper by Luke Power, addressing some of those very subjects Stan considers whitewashed.
By Luke Powell, The Daily Declaration.
Chris Kenny, in a recent article for the Australian, commented on the sobering truth about Australian history:
“Increasingly, reality does not matter so much in public debate as the narrative.”
This has certainly been the case with Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which has recently been found out for sourcing incorrect material and fabricating information to present a Eurocentric noble savage account of aboriginal history.
By rejecting truth and presenting aboriginal history as a narrative of good and evil, historians have gained political power as the saviours of an entire people group. Some such as historian Lyndall Ryan in her recent book, Passionate Histories, have argued in a chapter titled, ‘Hard Evidence’, that academics who focus on primary sources,
“Reflect the reluctance of many white Australians even today, to come to terms with incontrovertible evidence about our violent past and to seek reconciliation with Aboriginal survivors.”1
The evidence she provides should therefore be discounted by her own standards. In order to gain power in a politicised history, she makes the assumption that academics who search for hard evidence do not want reconciliation with aboriginals.
This sinister political game has played out in the history of the Black Line. This period of time is arguably the most infamous event in Tasmanian, if not all of Australian history. By most accounts, it expressed the colonial intent to exterminate the Aboriginal population by sending a line of colonial soldiers across Tasmania.
Historian Henry Reynolds writes in An Indelible Stain? The Question of Genocide in Australia’s History, that this action by the British government was tantamount to ‘ethnic cleansing’.2 Others such as anthropologist David Davies in The Last Tasmanians claims the Black Line played a major role in the extermination of the Aborigines.3
But what actually happened? What historical evidence is there? What follows are ten facts from Keith Windschuttle’s book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, that answer these questions by looking at the available ‘hard evidence’.4 Only by looking at the truth can we begin to achieve true reconciliation.
The Black Line did not Target all Aboriginals
The Black Line only targeted two violent tribes. In order to end the hostilities between these tribes and white settlers, Governor Arthur drew up a plan for the Black Line which focused on two groups: the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes. His goal was to put them into a safe reserve in the northern part of the Island away from settlers, to practise their traditional way of living. As Windschuttle writes:
There was no intention to treat the Aborigines as Bosnians and Kosovars were treated in the 1990s, and to kill them because of their race or religion. Even those to be removed from the settled districts were targeted not because of their race, but because of their violence. Other members of the same racial group deemed to be less hostile were not to be touched.5