… but it is my belief that Michael Mansell’s views on Jenny Macklin’s handling of the Indigenous Affairs portfolio are no more worthy of consideration than my own. Objectively speaking, that is, and for a number of reasons aside from the fact my own degree of Aboriginal descent is probably much the same as his — and I am well aware what a minefield that is.
The fact is that there are no Aboriginal communities in Tasmania analogous to the communities in the remote parts of mainland Australia. There are none with the same issues. In 2002 Richard Flanagan published an article that incurred Mansell’s ire:
On an island of ironies, where leading Aboriginal activists can have fair skin and blue eyes, the question becomes more perplexing. Even to Tasmanian Aborigines, some of whom are predicting bloodshed, the answer is divisive. To the rest of the world it is just baffling, for Tasmania is still frequently – and wrongly – cited as the site of the only successful genocide in history.
On that strange, sorry island, it was said a race of indigenous people had, within 80 years of the English invasion, disappeared from the face of the earth. Glosses on their fate varied, but no doubt was had as to the fate itself. With the death of Truganini in 1876, the last of the Tasmanians was thought gone.
The dominant early view was that they had been wiped out by the colonisers. This, at least, had the honesty of acknowledging the horror of the English invasion. The Aborigines had fought back in a long war, and some, if not all, early colonists recognised their right to do so.
“Whatever the future historian of Tasmania may have to say,” wrote the 19th-century historian J.E. Calder, “he will do them an injustice if he fails to record that, as a body, they held their ground bravely for 30 years against the invaders of their beautiful domains.”
But this view dimmed as a new idea took hold in the late 19th century, backed with the ballast of the most advanced scientific thought. Nothing seemed to offer more striking proof to the late Victorian mind of the infernal truth of social Darwinism than the supposed demise of the Tasmanian Aborigines. They were an inferior race, a meek and primitive people doomed to die out, and the coming of the English, with their diseases and guns, had merely hastened the inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »