Letters to the Editor: Genocide dismissal an insult to all First Australians

I cannot allow the ignorance and prejudice of Bill Deane of Chapman (Letters, January 25) in his response to Jenna Price's comment piece ("Day of Atonement needed",, January 23), to go unchallenged.

In particular, I find his scorn at Jenna's use of the term genocide to describe what has happened, or at least been attempted, to be absolutely insulting to all First Australians.

Whatever George III's instructions to Governor Phillip may or may not have been, a quick check of Wikipedia suggests that at least 20,000 Indigenous Australians were killed between 1788 and the first half of the 20th century.

Not bad for a start, hey Mr Deane.

Mr Deane then suggests Jenna should check the definition of genocide.

Well perhaps Mr Deane should check some of the history of the stolen generation.


Just to remind him, in the 1950s Australian governments formally adopted a policy of assimilation whereby an estimated one third of Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and placed in institutions, foster homes or adopted by non-Indigenous families.

The ultimate aim of this policy was to eradicate the Aboriginal people as a distinct cultural group. I think most reasonable people would agree this is not too far from the definition Mr Deane chose to use, viz. "The deliberate extermination of a people or nation", and therefore attempted genocide by any other name.

Mr Deane's cursory dismissal of all the other issues raised in Jenna's piece is shameful.

Steve Whennan, Richardson

Census revelation

I was pleased to see the letter from Fred Bennet AM (January 25) about the impact of the 1967 referendum.

Like him, I have long been concerned about the claim that Aboriginal people were not counted in the census prior to the referendum. To put it bluntly, the claim is a total myth.

In 1954 we had a census. My father was the census taker for a large chunk of north-west NSW. As an 11-year-old kid I went with him – mainly to open the farm gates as we travelled through grazing properties, Aboriginal camps, small villages, outstations and so on.

It took three weeks to distribute the forms, and three weeks to get them all back.

The advice from the Census Bureau was that all mixed race Aborigines should be counted. People claiming to be full bloods could be counted if they understood what the census was, and wished to be included.

What happened was that all the Aborigines claimed to be part European. The reason for this was that being mixed race meant they could live where they wished, and were eligible for a range of payments including pensions and child endowment.

Anyone claiming to be full blood was immediately under the control of the Aborigines Welfare Board, which controlled where and how they lived, and provided food, blankets etc, but made them ineligible for a range of community benefits.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that no-one claimed to be full blood.

Aboriginals were certainly counted in the 1954 census.

I know. I helped count them.

Daryl Powell, Griffith

Inclusive approach

Historically, January 26 is the day the First Fleet met 65,000 years of civilisation. Modern celebrations emphasise entirely different things – citizenship, fun, fireworks, music, picnics, family, friends ... with many people entirely ignorant of what really happened.

We can argue and debate when and what to celebrate, mourn, commemorate, ignore, excluding the stories of "the other." OR we can adopt an inclusive approach to our celebrations, and recognise what was gained ... and what was lost.

Recently in America, San Francisco joined nearly 100 other localities to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on what used to be called Columbus Day.

Indigenous Peoples' Day doesn't erase western history; it honours and celebrates what existed before, during, and after the "white man" arrived in what's now the Americas.

So, instead of arguing the date and whether it's yours or mine, perhaps we Australians-all can commemorate First Peoples' Day, respecting, honouring, and celebrating the 65,000 years before the First Fleet as well as what came after.

There are numerous things good, bad, and ugly to commemorate for the 65,000 + 230 years we-all have been here.

Judy Bamberger, O'Connor

Not so much the date

Those who are promoting changing the date of Australia Day by just one day from the 26th January to the 25th January are sadly mistaken if they think it would make one iota of difference to those groups attacking Australia Day because they are not really attacking the date but everything that British settlement means to them.

They want to abolish Australia Day totally and once they have done that they will then start on the Australian flag and other symbols and traditions of our Australian heritage, including our system of constitutional monarchy.

The 26th January represents the date that the First Fleet sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney) Harbour.

However, the Fleet actually arrived in Australia on the 18th/20th January at Botany Bay, so changing the date makes no difference whatsoever.

After all, the Queen's Birthday holiday is not actually held on Her Majesty's real birthday but is a date chosen to suit the calendar. In most states the date is in June, but in Queensland it is in October and in Western Australia in September but, whatever the date, it is still a celebration of the birthday of our sovereign head of state.

Philip Benwell, National Chair Australian Monarchist League, Sydney

'Fair go' for all

As we celebrate Australia Day there is a lot of discussion about Australian values, such as tolerance and a "fair go".

Also, in sitting on the UN Council on Human Rights we supposedly uphold the right to live in freedom and safety.

At the same time we are incarcerating innocent people indefinitely without charge on Manus Island and Nauru, in conditions that have been described by the UN as tantamount to torture.

How does this square with the rights to freedom and safety and a fair go?

We pride ourselves on our humanity but our government continues this inhumane policy.

Not only is the policy inhumane but it is hugely expensive and has drawn widespread international criticism.

Australia is not looking its best on Australia Day. We must bring the people in offshore detention to Australia and allow them to rebuild their lives so they too can have a fair go.

Clare Conway, Ainslie, ACT

No evidence on kangaroo claim

Gerard O'Neill of Bush Heritage Australia claims the "big marsupials are eating out a host of threatened species" ("Kangaroo conundrum: When to cull for conservation",, January 24).

Yet he presents no evidence to support this claim. Further he states that killing eastern grey kangaroos is a "necessary approach" to "get the natural eco-system flourishing".

But what is this eco-state he calls "natural"? This concept is not measurable therefore not definable in any sense of the word. For example, is "natural" what the eco-system was when whites invaded in 1778, or 100 years ago, or 1000 years ago?

O'Neill then refers to the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan which cites a carrying capacity supposed to "conserve the natural integrity of native grasslands and result in the maintenance of habitat for all plant and animal species" as justification for culling.

But again, the same problem is raised. It simply isn't possible to define what is "natural". Certainly, we can imagine but we cannot know.

Nor is it mentioned that though the ACT government purports to protect the eco-systems of the grassland reserves through culling it happily builds a whole new suburb over the habitat of threatened species and native grasslands.

It seems to me that eastern grey kangaroos are not the problem that O'Neill and others purport them to be but a convenient excuse for those looking for funding, or building careers, within environmental organisations.

Carolyn Drew, Page

Professional hunter? Some job

I refer to the article "Kangaroo cull conundrum..." (January 24, p4).

Having read this article I find it is very difficult to determine whether the culling of kangaroos is necessary, or not, based on the confusing and often contradictory statistics quoted by a variety of so-called experts.

What interests me though, is what type of person is attracted to become a "professional hunter", a job which involves inter-alia, the killing of sentient beings and in the case of baby kangaroos, clubbing them to death.

These "professionals" must have a curious combination of skill sets!

I think I would rate them well below politicians and used-car salesmen.

John Galvin, Weston

Management plan a sop

Bush Heritage may want to think again if the best it can do is follow the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan to kill off large numbers of kangaroos at Scottsdale (Kangaroo cull conundrum, January 24, p4).

The ACT KMP is a sop — a politically motivated plan that, after seven long years, has yet to be tested and proved.

Recent CSIRO reporting suggests the ACT government is on the wrong track if by culling kangaroos it is meant to help threatened and endangered flora and fauna.

Interestingly, Bush Heritage claims it is "independent and evident-based". So I might politely suggest it seek out better guidance than the ACT government has to offer.

Philip Machin, Wamboin, NSW

Invasive species? That's us

With the greatest amount of respect for Margot Sirr (Letters, January 25) whose heart is undoubtedly in the right place, supplanting eucalypts (which have evolved in lock-step with a menagerie of flora and fauna similarly suited to Australia's arid conditions) with deciduous trees from temperate northern climes would do nothing to "improve" the nutrient-poor soil or contribute to the betterment of bird life, whatever arbitrary value judgments that might involve.

Prominent invasive species that extract nutrients and resources at unsustainable rates and disrupt delicate but long-established equilibriums are disconcertingly analogous to humans.

Rabbits, mice and cane-toads all pale in comparison to the most successful invasive species of all.

James Allan, Narrabundah

The really top players

Graham Wright (Letters, January 26) asks, tongue in cheek, what do we call the winner of all four "grand" slam events — a grand grand slam? Seriously, the real answer is, the four major tournaments are not, individually, grand slams.

A tennis player can only be a "grand slam" winner if they take out all four majors in the same year.

The over-hyping of sports events has resulted in diminishing the achievement of the few great players (Rod Laver, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf) who have scaled the heights of a true grand slam. Let's reserve this special title for the three who have truly earned it, and for those who may do so in future.

Eric Hunter, Cook

High rise not a smart move

Most agree that Paris is one of the world's most beautiful cities. It had the same population as Canberra 400 years ago, and today has around 2.2 million in the central area — an area that is about 10 kilometres across.

What should be of interest to us here, is that practically nothing in that core area is more than six storeys high — not counting a temporary structure called the Eiffel Tower, of course.

So why does Canberra, with a mere 360,000 people, need tower buildings over 20 storeys high — they overshadow their neighbours, create draughts, require the use of expensive lifts, and isolate their inhabitants from city life at ground level.

When such towers were built in Melbourne over 40 years ago, for cheap housing, they were deemed, after the fact as, "a bad idea".

Those charged with protecting Woden's future might take heed.

Trevor McPherson, Aranda

Unions resilient and relevant

Matt Forde (Letters, January 20) bemoans the fact that unions only represent 15 per cent of the work force.

I wonder what percentages of the work force are represented by each of the elite industry groups that form the recruiting base of the Liberal Party.

Unions have been the victims of Liberal Party witch-hunts and attacks from industry groups for years. The fact that they still represent the number of workers they do is surely indicative of their resilience and relevance.

The recent stagnation of wages and increases in industry profits and salaries for top executives, alongside the decline in union membership should tell Mr Forde something.

Perhaps he wasn't asked to join the Labor Party because he was not seen as suitable or capable enough.

Or perhaps the unions he was a member of were more interested in representing his interest than recruiting for Labor.

Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs

Help the homeless now

Memo to the ACT government on the homeless: "Actions speak louder than words". Get cracking.

M. Moore, Bonython



Closing the gap in Aboriginal education begins in the home. It is a social issue quite separate from the amount of money thrown at schooling.

Those who write of our failure towards year 10 dropouts are insufferable snobs who cannot recognise that those with different gifts can be politically, legally, even socially equal.

I know one school dropout who never even attained the old NSW Intermediate Certificate at year 9. He became a millionaire when being a millionaire meant more than owning an expensive home. He is my cousin.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


Thank you Pamela Fawke. (Letters, January 25). How on Earth can the measurement of air pressure facilitate the counting of cyclists?

Stewart Bath, Isabella Plains


Lehman's lesson was that the poor will bankroll the rich, regardless of how morally egregious the latter's behaviour is ("Banker warns world has forgotten lessons from Lehman crisis", Business, 24 January, p.21). Since Lehman's crisis the obscenely rich have become the obscenely ultra rich, courtesy of thelumpenproletariat.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW


If you record a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 or higher not only are you over the drink driving limit but you are probably an alcoholic as well. Anyone who drinks more than five drinks in one boozing session has a drinking problem.

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic