|Name Keith Windschuttle|
|Education University of Sydney|
|Books The Fabrication of Aborigi, The Killing of history: How a Di, The Fabrication of Aborigi, The White Australia Policy, Stolen Generations: The Pock|
Similar People Roger Kimball, Hilton Kramer, David Pryce‑Jones, Roger Scruton, Mark Steyn
Keith windschuttle killing history on c span
- Keith windschuttle killing history on c span
- Freedom of speech does it have its limits keith windschuttle
- Political evolution
- The Fabrication of Aboriginal History Volume One Van Diemens Land 1803 1847
- Treatment of women
- Attachment to land
- Critical reception
- Windschuttles responses and critical replies
- The Fabrication of Aboriginal History Volume Three The Stolen Generations 18812008
- Future volumes
- Major publications
Major published items include Unemployment (1979), which analysed the economic causes and social consequences of unemployment in Australia and advocated a socialist response; The media: a New Analysis of the Press, Television, Radio and Advertising in Australia (1984), on the political economy and content of the news and entertainment media; The Killing of History (1994), a critique of postmodernism in history; The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One: Van Diemen's Land 1803–1847 (2002), which accuses a number of Australian historians of falsifying and inventing the degree of violence in the past; The White Australia Policy (2004), a history of that policy which argues that academic historians have exaggerated the degree of racism in Australian history; and The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three: The Stolen Generations 1881–2008, which argues the story of the "stolen generations" of Aboriginal children is a myth. He was editor of Quadrant magazine 2008-2015 when he became Chair of the board and editor-in-chief. He has been the publisher of Macleay Press since 1994.
Freedom of speech does it have its limits keith windschuttle
After education at Canterbury Boys' High School (where he was a contemporary of former Liberal Australian prime minister John Howard), Windschuttle was a journalist on newspapers and magazines in Sydney. He completed a BA (first class honours in history) at the University of Sydney in 1969, and an MA (honours in politics) at Macquarie University in 1978. He enrolled in a PhD but did not submit it; instead he published it under the title The Media with Penguin Books. In 1973, he became a tutor in Australian history at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Between 1977 and 1981, Windschuttle was lecturer in Australian history and in journalism at the New South Wales Institute of Technology (now the University of Technology, Sydney) before returning to UNSW in 1983 as lecturer/senior lecturer in social policy. He resigned from UNSW in 1993 and since then he has been publisher of Macleay Press and a regular visiting and guest lecturer on history and historiography at American universities. In June 2006 he was appointed to the Board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Australia's non-commercial public broadcaster.
An adherent of the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s, Windschuttle later moved to the right. This process is first evident in his 1984 book The Media, which took inspiration from the empirical perspective of the Marxist historian E. P. Thompson, especially his The Poverty of Theory, to make a highly critical review of the Marxist theories of Louis Althusser and Stuart Hall. While the first edition attacked "the political program of the New Right" and set out a case for both favouring "government restrictions and regulation" and condemning "private enterprise and free markets", the third edition four years later (1988) took a different view:
Overall, the major economic reforms of the last five years, the deregulation of the finance sector, and the imposition of wage restraint through the social contract of The Accord, have worked to expand employment and internationalize The Australian economy in more positive ways than I thought possible at the time.
In The Killing of History, Windschuttle defended the practices and methods of traditional empirical history against postmodernism, and praised historians such as Henry Reynolds, but he now argues that some of those he praised for their empirically-grounded work fail to adhere to the principle. In the same book, Windschuttle maintains that historians on both sides of the political spectrum have misrepresented and distorted history to further their respective political causes or ideological positions.
In The Fabrication of Aboriginal History and other writings on Australian Aboriginal history, Windschuttle criticises historians who, he claims, have extensively misrepresented and fabricated historical evidence to support a political agenda. He argues that Aboriginal rights, including land rights and the need for reparations for past abuses of Aboriginal people, have been adopted as a left-wing 'cause' and that those he perceives as left-wing historians distort the historical record to support that cause. For Windschuttle, the task of the historian is to provide readers with an empirical history as close to the objective truth as possible, based on an analysis of documentary, or preferably eye-witness, evidence. He questions the value of oral history. His "view is that Aboriginal oral history, when uncorroborated by original documents, is completely unreliable, just like the oral history of white people". A historian has no responsibility for the political implications of an objective, empirical history. One's political beliefs should not influence one's evaluation of archival evidence.
For some of his critics, "historians don't just interpret the evidence: they compose stories about these meanings, or in the words of Hayden White, they 'emplot' the past. This is itself a cultural process".
Windschuttle's recent research disputes the idea that the colonial settlers of Australia committed genocide against the Indigenous Australians. He also disputes the widespread view that there was a campaign of guerrilla warfare against British settlement. Extensive debate on his work has come to be called the history wars. He dismisses assertions, which he imputes to the current generation of academic historians, that there was any resemblance between racial attitudes in Australia and those of South Africa under apartheid and Germany under the Nazis. He has been a frequent contributor to conservative magazines, such as Quadrant in Australia, of which he became editor in 2007, and The New Criterion in the United States.
The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume One, Van Diemen's Land 1803 – 1847
In his The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume One, the first book of a projected multi-volume examination of frontier encounters between white colonizers and Aborigines, Windschuttle criticizes the last 3 decades of historical scholarship which had challenged the traditional view of Aboriginal passivity in the face of European colonisation. His critique specifically challenges the prevailing consensus created by what he called the "orthodox school" of Australian frontier history concerning the violence between indigenous Australians and settlers, by examining the evidence for reported massacres in what is known as the Black War against the Aborigines of Tasmania. He refers to historians he defines as making up this "orthodox school" as being "vain" and "self-indulgent" for imposing their politics onto their scholarship, and "arrogant, patronizing and lazy" for portraying the Tasmanian Aborigines' behavior and motivations in terms of European cultural concepts rather than taking the time to understand the cultural concepts of a hunter-gatherer society. Windschuttle's "orthodox school" comprises a large number of historians and archaeologists, deceased or living, such as Henry Reynolds, Lyndall Ryan, Lloyd Robson, John Mulvaney, Rhys Jones, Brian Plomley, and Sharon Morgan, whom he regards as responsible for a politicized reading of the past, and for inflating the number of Aboriginal deaths. Reviewing their work, he highlights multiple examples of misrepresented sources, inaccurate reportage or the citation of sources that do not exist. His work on sources constitutes, according one critic, his most damaging contribution to the subject, though Stuart Macintyre argues that Windschuttle "misreads those whom he castigates".
Windschuttle challenges the idea that mass killings were commonplace, arguing that the colonial settlers of Australia did not commit widespread massacres against Indigenous Australians; he drastically reduces the figures for the Tasmanian Aboriginal death toll, and writes that Aborigines referred to by both Reynolds and Ryan as resistance figures, included "black bushrangers" and others engaged in acts normally regarded as "criminality"; arguing that the evidence clearly shows that attacks by Aborigines on settlers were almost invariably directed at acquiring goods, such as flour, sugar, tea and tobacco, and that claims by orthodox historians that this was a form of guerrilla warfare against British settlement aren't supported by credible evidence. Vicki Grieves argues that Windschuttle regards Aboriginal men who traded their women's services as pimps, although Windschuttle does not use the term. Adducing the work of a source who Stuart Macintyre claims is 'a particularly tendentious American anthropologist', he argues that the Tasmanian Aboriginal society was primitive, dysfunctional and on the verge of collapse, because their putative maltreatment of women impaired their ability to reproduce in a number of critical ways. Windschuttle agrees with earlier historical analysis, such as that of Geoffrey Blainey, that introduced disease was the primary cause of the demise of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. He is highly critical of recent historical scholarship, arguing that much of it ignores the scholar's basic duties to be objective and true to the evidence, and he advances a sympathetic analysis of settler opinion, arguing that historians such as Henry Reynolds had misrepresented the contents of records of settler opinion to conceal the fact that the majority of settlers were consistently in favor of the protection of the Aborigines. He also criticises Aboriginal land right politics, arguing that it has resulted in many Aboriginal people being effectively confined to remote settlements far from viable employment opportunities and from the benefits of a modern society. His own examination of archives, contemporary newspapers, diaries and official accounts yields a provisory figure of approximately 120 deaths of Tasmanian Aborigines "for which there is a plausible record of some kind" as having been killed by settlers, as opposed to earlier figures ranging as high as 700, and thus far less than the number of whites (187) reported as killed during the Black war of 1824 to 1828 by Aborigines. Windschuttle argues that the principles of the Enlightenment, fused with the 19th century evangelical revival within the Church of England and Britain's rule of law had a profound effect on colonial policy and behaviour, which was humane and just, that together made the claimed genocide culturally impossible. Gregory D.B. Smithers argues that Windschuttle interpreted settler violence as self-defence.
Windschuttle argues that encroaching pastoralism did not cause starvation through the loss of native hunting grounds as some historians have proposed, as their numbers were being drastically reduced by introduced disease, and large parts of Tasmania were not then, or now, occupied by white settlers. Windschuttle's estimate of the size of the Tasmanian Aboriginal population at the time of settlement is that it may have been as low as 2,000. Estimates made of the combined population of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, before European arrival in Tasmania, are generally in the range of 3,000 to 8,000 people. Genetic studies have suggested much higher figures, which is supported by oral traditions that Aborigines were "more numerous than the white people were aware of" but that their population had been decimated by a sudden outbreak of disease prior to 1803. It has been speculated that early contacts with passing ships, exploratory expeditions or sealers before colonization may have caused outbreaks of epidemic disease. The low rate of genetic drift found in a recent genetic study argues that the highest previous estimate of pre-colonial Aboriginal population (8,000) is likely too low and that a significantly higher population cannot be ruled out. He argues that the evidence shows that what the orthodox historians construed as "resistance" by Tasmanian Aboriginal people were acts of theft and violence motivated by their desire for "exotic" consumer goods like flour, tea, sugar and blankets. The indigenous culture, in his view, "had no sanctions against the murder of anyone outside their immediate clan", therefore they had no cultural sanctions preventing the killing of settler outsiders to obtain desired goods or in revenge. The forced removal of Tasmania's Aborigines from the Tasmanian mainland to Flinders Island was the Colonial Administration's measure to ensure peace for hard-pressed settlers while attempting, unsuccessfully to prevent the extinction of the full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines. The rapid decline in the Aboriginal population after the British colonisation was the product of the interaction of a number of factors, including introduced diseases causing death and infertility, continued internecine warfare, deaths through conflict with settlers and the loss of a significant number of women of childbearing age from the full-blooded aboriginal gene pool to white sealers and settlers through abduction, "trade" and by voluntary association.
Treatment of women
Windschuttle refers to accounts by the French zoologist François Péron (who is credited with the first use of the term anthropology), by George Augustus Robinson in his journals, and by the early Australian writer James Bonwick, of the violence and cruelty with which many Tasmanian Aboriginal men were observed to treat women. He notes that the "murder of women because of insult, jealousy and infidelity, was common" and that a woman who refused a particular suitor would often be abducted and raped. He argues that this contributed to the willingness of some Aboriginal women to associate themselves with sealers and settlers rather than their own people, so reducing the full-blooded Aboriginal population's ability to reproduce itself. He cites a number of accounts including one published in 1820 by a British officer who had spoken with Aboriginal women living with Bass Strait sealers. The officer reported that Aboriginal women made it known that their (Aboriginal) husbands treat them with "considerable harshness and tyranny" and that they sometimes run away and "attach themselves to the English sailors", finding "their situation greatly improved by attaching themselves to the sealing gangs". Windschuttle holds that the willingness of some Tasmanian Aboriginal women to engage in prostitution with convicts, sealers and settlers and the Tasmanian Aboriginal men who "actively colluded" in the trade in their women aided in the transmission of venereal and other introduced diseases to the indigenous population. Windschuttle argues that introduced disease was the primary cause of the destruction of the full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal people, not merely by directly causing deaths but also through widespread infertility resulting from introduced venereal disease.
James Boyce, a Tasmanian historian, dismisses Windschuttle's argument as "uninformed slander" based on a failure to read the only documentary sources that matter, the journals of French and British explorers recording the first contacts with Tasmanian aborigines before the colonial period. Examining Windschuttle's use of sources for the view women were treated like slaves and drudges, he says Windschuttle relies on a selective reading of just two of many sources in an early work by Ling Roth, "written at the height of Social Darwinist orthodoxy" (1899). However, Ling Roth did not "write" these sources; he simply translated the diaries of the first contacts by the French explorers. One is from Péron, who noted scars on women, and interpreted them as signs of domestic violence, which however he had never witnessed. Other early observers took this scarring as an indigenous cultural practice. James Cook had noticed Aboriginal men and women's bodies were both incised with scars in the same manner. Péron was less sympathetic than other first observers on the Baudin expedition to Australia. Boyce argues that their observations, including those of the captain Nicolas Baudin, do not support Windschuttle's claims. Even Péron records an encounter at Port Cygnet with an Aboriginal group of men and women, who shared a meal of abalone with the French explorers and, according to Péron, provided "the most striking example we had ever had of attention and reasoning among savage people". Péron would have disagreed, Boyce believes, with Windschuttle's claim that "(t)raditional Aboriginal society placed no constraints on the women's sexual behaviour with men", for he was repeatedly rebuffed when he tried to make physical contact with Aboriginal women. Baudin believed that no one on his ship had managed to have sexual relations with the women on Bruny Island. The behaviour adduced by Windschuttle from the other, late report by J.E. Calder (in 1829) is, for Boyce, "self evidently a product of the extensive disruption of traditional life that had occurred by then". He concludes: "Only someone who is totally blind to the impact of changing power relations, of declining choices, of the profound impact of cultural disintegration and recurring violence and abuse, let alone the simple imperatives of survival, could cite the unfolding tragedy at Bruny Island in this period as evidence for the sexual mores and domestic relations of pre-invasion Aboriginal society".
Shayne Breen argues that Windschuttle's claim is a calculated guess. The picture is however complex. Evidence exists for some use of women as trading commodities. Some women were abducted by sealers, while others were traded by Aboriginal men in attempts to establish reciprocal relations with the sealers. Shayne concludes that: "There is some evidence that Aboriginal men, especially along the northern and south eastern coastlines, used women as trading commodities. Some of this trading was culturally sanctioned, some of it was not. Sometimes women willingly participated, sometimes they did not. But no credible documentary evidence is available for widespread selling of women into prostitution. There is, however, strong evidence that the abduction of women by colonists was practised across the island for much of the period to 1820. Indeed, the 1830 Aborigines Committee found that the abduction of women was a major cause of attacks against colonists by Aborigines".
In reply to Boyce, Windschuttle argues that Boyce could not have read the whole book, or even properly checked the index, which cited "this very evidence", i.e. the journals of early French and British explorers. With respect to Boyce's claims that Windschuttle was "unaware" of or "ignored" various sources, Windschuttle responded that Boyce's claims, based on what was, and was not, in 'Fabrication's' bibliography, misinterpret the purpose of a bibliography. It listed only the sources referred to in the text and in his footnotes, and was not intended as an exhaustive list of every book or document that he had read regarding colonial Tasmania. Windschuttle argues that "were Boyce more familiar with the ethnographic literature", he would know the most telling evidence about the treatment of women comes not from explorers but the Aborigines themselves; from the recorded words of male Aborigines, such as Woorrady, Montpeliatter, Mannalargenna and Nappelarteyer, and those of female Aborigines such as Tencotemainner, Truganini and Walyer. Windschuttle did not claim that women had been sold "into prostitution" but that they were, as Breen admits, traded as commodities. Breen, Windschuttle replies, admits such trading and regards this as an admission of the "cruelty of pre-contact indigenous culture". For Windschuttle, Breen and others can say things that sicken no one, because they contextualise it within a model of British invasion and Aboriginal resistance, whereas he is taken to task for being "pitiless" for making what he argues is the same point, "within a historical model of aboriginal accommodation to a comparatively nonviolent British settlement".
Attachment to land
In reply to his critics, Windschuttle argues that Henry Reynolds "willfully misinterprets" what he wrote, since his argument about Aboriginal concepts of land is based not on their words but on their deeds. "It is not primarily an argument about Aboriginal language but about Aboriginal behaviour. I demonstrated the Tasmanian Aborigines did not act as if they demanded the exclusive usage of land. They had no concept of trespass".
Windschuttle argues that no word list records an Aboriginal term corresponding to the English word "land" in the sense that Europeans use it, "as a two-dimensional space marked out with definite boundaries, which can be owned by individuals or groups, which can be inherited, which is preserved for the exclusive use of its owner, and which carries sanctions against trespassers", but states that "they certainly did identify themselves with and regularly hunted and foraged on particular territories, known as their "country", which I openly acknowledge. They had obvious attachments to these territories. But they did not confine themselves to these regions nor did they deter other Aborigines from entering their own territory". "Members of the Big River tribe, for instance, annually visited Cape Grim in the north-west, Port Sorell on the north coast, Oyster Bay on the east coast, and Pittwater and Storm Bay in the south-east; that is, they regularly traversed most of the island". "The strongest evidence for this thesis is actually the history of white colonization and the timing of the conflict that did occur between blacks and whites. Most observers at the time agreed there was very little violence in Tasmania for the first twenty years after the British arrived. And the historians, except Lyndall Ryan, agree there were minimal hostilities before 1824. If the Aborigines had really felt the land was exclusively theirs, they would not have waited more than twenty years after the colonists arrived to do something about it".
He contrasts this to the fiercely territorial Polynesian tribes of New Zealand, Tahiti and Tonga who fought off the British immediately. "The fact that the Tasmanian Aborigines did not respond in the same way is not to say they didn't love their country or were thereby deficient as human beings. They simply had a different culture".
The University of New England's Russell McDougall, in turn, has recently argued that Windschuttle's use of Henry Ling Roth's word-lists to deny an indigenous Tasmanian concept of "land" constitutes "a wrong-headed attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Aboriginal land claims", especially since Roth's lists made no claim to capture a linguistic totality, and Roth himself cited earlier testimonials to the fact that, though nomadic, the "Tasmanians confined themselves within the boundaries of specific territories". It was, McDougall argues, the pressing presence of colonisers that forced them to trespass and make war upon each other.
The appearance of the first volume provoked a lively polemical correspondence in the pages of The Australian, with its "agenda-setting capacity". It was positively reviewed by Geoffrey Blainey, who called it "one of the most important and devastating (books) written on Australian history in recent decades", although Blainey notes that not every side-argument in the book convinced him and that his "view is that the original Tasmanians were not as backward, mentally and culturally, as Windschuttle sometimes depicts them". On Windschuttle's analysis of the "fabrications", Blainey wrote: "While reading the long recital of these failings, I felt an initial sympathy towards the Australian and overseas historians who were under such intense scrutiny. But many of their errors, made on crucial matters, beggared belief. Moreover their exaggeration, gullibility, and what this book calls "fabrication" went on and on. Admittedly, if sometimes the historians' errors had chanced to favor the Aborigines, and sometimes they had happened to favor British settlers, a reader might sympathetically conclude that there was no bias amongst the historians but simply an infectious dose of inaccuracy. Most of the inaccuracies, however, are used to bolster the case for the deliberate destruction of the Aborigines." Claudio Veliz greeted it as "one of the most important books of our time". Peter Coleman, while speaking of its "painstaking and devastating scholarship", regretted the absence from Windschuttle's work of any "sense of tragedy".
Within a year Windschuttle's claims and research produced a volume of rebuttal, namely Whitewash. On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History, an anthology edited and introduced by Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University, with contributions by Australian academics from a range of disciplines. Manne, who called the book "one of the most implausible, ignorant and pitiless books about Australian history written for many years", himself summed up the case against Windschuttle, noting that Windschuttle's evidence for Aboriginal deaths is derived from a scholar, Plomley, who denied that any estimate for them could be made from the documentary record; that a scrupulous conservative scholar, H. A. Willis, using exactly the same sources as Windschuttle, came up with a figure of 188 violent deaths, and another 145 rumoured deaths; that Windschuttle's method excludes deaths of Aborigines who were wounded, and later died; that all surviving Aborigines transported by Robinson to Flinders' Island bore marks of violence and gunshot wounds "perpetrated on them by depraved whites"; that Windschuttle cannot deny that between 1803 and 1834 almost all Tasmanian Aborigines died, and the only evidence for disease as a factor before 1829 rests on a single conversation recorded by James Bonwick, and that Aboriginal women who lived with sealers did not, however, die off from contact with bearers of foreign disease; that Windschuttle likened Aboriginal attacks on British settlers to "modern-day junkies raiding service stations for money", whereas both colonial records and modern historians speak of them as highly "patriotic", attached to their lands, and engaged in a veritable war to defend it from settlement; that by Windschuttle's own figures, the violent death rate of Aborigines in Tasmania in the 1820s must have been 360 times the murder rate in contemporary New York; that Windschuttle shows scarce familiarity with period books, citing only 3 of the 30 books published on Van Diemen's land for the period 1803–1834, and with one of them confuses the date of the first visit by the French with the publication date of the volume that recounted their expedition; that it is nonsensical to argue that a people who had wandered over an island and survived for 34,000 years had no attachment to their land; that Windschuttle finds no native words in 19th century wordlists for "land" to attest to such an attachment, when modern wordlists show 23 entries under "country".
This in turn provoked Melbourne writer and Objectivist John Dawson, to undertake a counter-rebuttal, Washout: On the academic response to The Fabrication of Aboriginal History in which he argues that Whitewash leaves Windschuttle's claims and research unrefuted.
In their reviews, Australian specialists in both Aboriginal and indigenous peoples' history were generally far less impressed than those who praised the book, which included Geoffrey Blainey, Claudio Veliz and Peter Coleman.
Windschuttle's responses and critical replies
In response to his critics, Windschuttle comments that they are "selective" in their critique, "politicised" in their judgment and do not address the "major charges" against the historians whom he criticised in Fabrication.
Robert Manne's anthology Whitewash does not address the empirical evidence for genocide. In her essay in this collection, Lyndall Ryan does not attempt to uphold her original claim. Nor does Henry Reynolds defend his version of the topic[...] Yet this is supposed to be the place in which he and Ryan answer my major charges against them. This is very telling. I take their complete silence on this issue as an admission that their earlier claims are unsustainable.
He goes on to say:
Contrary to Manne's assertions, this death toll is not "almost entirely reliant" on Brian Plomley's earlier survey of a similar kind. As Fabrication states clearly, I "started with" Plomley's survey by checking his sources, but then did my own research, which included a complete reading of all the relevant files in the Tasmanian archives plus all the local newspapers up to 1832, as well as all the contemporary diaries and journals I could find.
In addressing some of his critics' claims, he wrote:
Vicki Greaves had read at least some of the book but apparently not very much of it. She claims my account of the killings at Risdon Cove in May 1804 "ignored" the testimony of the convict Edward White. Had she bothered to read the chapter on Risdon Cove, she would have found that White's testimony is discussed in more length and detail (pp. 22–4) than that of any other witness. Most of her other comments either misinterpret my case or attribute to me views I have never expressed, such as support for Social Darwinism.
Elsewhere he notes:
The big problem in this debate for orthodox left-wing historians who rely on traditional empirical methods is the lack of evidence to give them a winning hand. Despite my opponents' claims to the contrary, the first volume of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History was an exhaustive study of all the relevant evidence on the frontier of Van Diemen's Land.
That evidence does not support claims of either genocide or frontier warfare in the colony. None of my critics have been able to come up with anything credible to show I am wrong. They are reduced to pinning their faith on speculation: the assumption of a frontier full of "unrecorded killings".
... James Boyce, on whom editor Manne pinned so much hope, claimed I had overlooked a number of crucial private diaries and unofficial documents which told a story different to mine.
Yet, as John Dawson pointed out in Washout, no previous writer about the Aborigines in Van Diemen's Land had found the sources listed by Boyce contained anything worth reporting, not even Boyce himself in his own history of the Tasmanian Aborigines and the Anglican Church...
In the wake of the 2011 Norway attacks, Windschuttle did not deny that the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, had read and praised statements he had made at a symposium in New Zealand in 2006, but stressed that he was "still at a complete loss to find any connection between them and the disgusting and cowardly actions of Breivik". Windschuttle went on to add that "it would be a 'disturbing accusation' if people thought that he had ever used deliberately provocative language that might have caused Breivik to take up a rifle and shoot unarmed teenagers in cold blood".
The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations 1881–2008
Published in 2009, the argument of this book is that the Stolen Generations is a myth.
Key elements of the story of the Stolen Generations are that children of Aboriginal descent were forcibly removed from their families and their culture. It is alleged that the children were removed as young as possible so that they could be raised to be ignorant of their culture and people and that the ultimate intent was to end the existence of the Aborigines as a distinct people. It was also alleged that, as a part of this policy, parents were deliberately prevented from maintaining contact with their children. Windschuttle cites the words of the principal historian of the Stolen Generations, Peter Read: "Welfare officers, removing children solely because they were Aboriginal, intended and arranged that they should lose their Aboriginality, and that they never return home".
Windschuttle argues that his analysis of the records shows that Aboriginal children "were never removed from their families in order to put an end to Aboriginality or, indeed, to serve any improper government policy or program". He found a similar level of misrepresentation and fabrication in the history of the alleged Stolen Generations as he had in his previous study on Van Diemen's Land. He argues that "until the term stolen generations first appeared in 1981, there had been no popular tradition among Aboriginal people that employed either the term or the concept". Indeed, one of the organisations now accused of participation in the removals had Aboriginal rights activists working as members of the board and yet apparently they did not notice that they were "stealing" children. In 1981, a "then unknown white postgraduate history student, Peter Read" wrote, "in the course of just one day", a twenty-page pamphlet to make the case. "He alone was granted the vision denied to all who came before him".
Two years later, Coral Edwards, a colleague of Peter Read at the Link-Up social work organisation, made a speech to a meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council to seek funds for Link-Up and referred to the claims made in Read's pamphlet. "Edwards's speech came as a bombshell. Mothers had not voluntarily given their children away, she said. Rather, "the governments never intended that the children should ever return". Windschuttle argues that Read's "version of events was deeply comforting". "Mothers had not given their children away, fathers had not left their children destitute or deserted their families or been so consumed by alcohol they left them vulnerable to sexual predators"... "Aborigines could suddenly identify as morally innocent victims of a terrible injustice. Their problems could all be blamed on faceless white bureaucrats driven by racism. Since Read created this interpretation, it has come to be believed by most Aboriginal people in Australia."
With regard to the Human Rights Commission investigation into the Stolen Generations and their 1997 report entitled Bringing Them Home, he writes: "The empirical underpinnings of Bringing Them Home derived largely from the work of white academic historians. The Human Rights Commission did no serious research of its own into the primary historical sources. Co-authors Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson also declined to hear any evidence that might have contradicted their preferred interpretation. They did not call witnesses from many of the still-living public officials responsible for child removal to hear or test their reasons for their policies and practices. The commission's only original contribution was to solicit the testimony of 535 Aboriginal people who had been removed from their parents and who spoke about their own experiences. While many of these stories were completely believable in what they said about what happened and how they felt, it is nonetheless true that when these witnesses were children they were not in a position to comprehend the question at the centre of the accusation of genocide, the motives of government policy makers".
He argues that only a small number of children were actually removed (approximately 8,250 in the period 1880 to 1971), far less than the tens of thousands claimed, and that most of the removed children had been orphaned or were abandoned, destitute, neglected or subjected to various forms of exploitation and abuse. These removals were based on traditional grounds of child welfare. He argues that his analysis of welfare policy shows that none of the policies that allowed the removal of Aboriginal children were unique to Aborigines and that the evidence shows they were removed for the same child welfare reasons as white children who were in similar circumstances. "A significant number of other children were voluntarily placed in institutions by Aboriginal parents to give them an education and a better chance in life".
In Western Australia, the majority of the children who are claimed to have been removed and placed in state Aboriginal settlements, in fact went to those settlements with their destitute parents.
In New South Wales, Aboriginal children were placed in apprenticeships to enable them to acquire the skills to earn a living and be independent of welfare in a program that "was a replica of measures that had already been applied to white children in welfare institutions in New South Wales for several decades, and to poor English children for several centuries before that".
Windschuttle argues that the evidence shows that the claims that parents were deliberately prevented from maintaining contact with their children and that the children were prevented from returning home are falsehoods. In New South Wales, for example, the relevant government board not only allowed parents to visit their children in the Aborigines Protection Board Children's Homes, it provided them with train fare and a daily living allowance to enable them to do so. When children of Aboriginal descent were apprenticed to employers, they often returned home for the holidays and when necessary, were accompanied by officers of the responsible government board to ensure they reached home safely. When they finished their apprenticeships, in common with apprentices of other races, they were free to go wherever they pleased including back to their original homes, permanently or for social visits.
With respect to the testing of the claims in court, Windschuttle writes: "... when they tested specific policies before the Federal Court, and when they argued the general intentions of the parliaments and legislators before the High Court, the historians and political activists who invented the notion of the Stolen Generations proved incapable of substantiating their case. As far as Australia's highest courts are concerned, the central hypothesis of the Stolen Generations is legally extinct"... "The only legal cases with any potential credibility would be those made by individuals such as Bruce Trevorrow, who was unlawfully removed from his family and suffered badly as a result". However in the Trevorrow case, Windschuttle argues that the decision shows "that the actions of the Aborigines Protection Board in placing Bruce in foster care without his parents' agreement was actually illegal at the time" and not the result of a policy of removal but rather the illegal actions of welfare officials who believed, rightly or wrongly, that Bruce Trevorrow was neglected and that his health and life would be in danger if they returned him to his mother. The fact that Bruce Trevorrow's siblings were never removed is an indicator that there was no such policy and that welfare officials were not empowered to remove Aboriginal children on racial grounds.
In April 2010, Windschuttle announced that the two remaining books in the series, Volume Two on the Colonial Frontier from 1788 onwards, and Volume Four on the History wars, originally projected for publication in 2003 and 2004, will be published at a date yet to be announced. In December 2013, Windschuttle advised that he hopes to have Volume Two published "in time to take its place in the discussions about our past during the Anzac Centenary in April 2015".
In January 2009, Windschuttle was hoaxed into publishing an article in Quadrant. The stated aim of the hoax was to expose Windschuttle's alleged right wing bias by proving he would publish an inaccurate article and not check its footnotes or authenticity if it met his preconceptions. An author using the pseudonym "biotechnologist Dr Sharon Gould" submitted an article claiming that CSIRO had planned to produce food crops engineered with human genes. However, "Gould" revealed that she had regarded the article as an Alan Sokal style hoax, referring to an instance in which writings described as obvious scientific nonsense were submitted to and accepted by an academic journal. Based on the reporter's intimate knowledge of the hoax and what he described as her "triumphant" tone when disclosing the hoax to him, Windschuttle accused the online publication Crikey of being involved in the hoax, a claim Crikey denied. Two days later, Crikey revealed that "Gould" was in fact the writer, editor and activist Katherine Wilson. Wilson agreed to being named by Crikey, as her name had already appeared in online speculation and it seemed likely that her identity was about to be revealed by other journalists.
Reporters Kelly Burke and Julie Robotham note that:
… the projects cited by "Gould" as having been dumped by the organisation [CSIRO] are not in themselves implausible, and similar technologies are in active development. Human vaccines against diseases including hepatitis B, respiratory syncytial virus and Norwalk virus have been genetically engineered into crops as diverse as lettuce, potato and corn, and shown to provoke an immune response in humans.
Gould also suggests the CSIRO abandoned research into the creation of dairy cattle capable of producing non-allergenic milk for lactose-intolerant infants and a genetically engineered mosquito that could stimulate antibodies against malaria in humans who were bitten, mitigating against (sic) the spread of the disease. Both ideas are under serious scientific study by research groups around the world.
The hoax elements of the article published in Quadrant were that the CSIRO had planned such research, that they had abandoned it because of perceived public moral or ethical objections and that evidence of this was "buried" in footnotes to an article in a scientific journal and in two annual reports of the CSIRO, the relevant report years being unspecified.
A real hoax, like that of Alan Sokal and Ern Malley, is designed to expose editors who are pretentious, ignorant or at least over-enthusiastic about certain subjects. The technique is to submit obvious nonsense for publication in order to expose the editor's ignorance of the topic. A real hoax defeats its purpose if it largely relies upon real issues, real people and real publications for its content. All of the latter is true of what "Sharon Gould" wrote. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the content of her article is both factually true and well-based on the sources she cites.