National Museum of Australia

Home > Audio on demand > Discovering Cook's collections > Cook, his mission and Indigenous Australia: a perspective on consequence > transcript

Cook, his mission and Indigenous Australia: a perspective on consequence

Paper presented by Doreen Mellor, National Library of Australia
Cook’s Pacific Encounters symposium, National Museum of Australia, 28 July 2006

DOREEN MELLOR: I should say that we’re going to look inward sooner or later and that my people are Mamu and Ngadjonji from the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland. That’s very important to me today in this whole discussion. Let me continue my beginning by honouring the Ngunnawal people, custodians of this land for millennia before James Cook appeared on the horizon in 1770. I acknowledge the prior and important part the Ngunnawal people have played in the long history of Australia and of the very peninsula on which we now stand. I greet you all and especially acknowledge the Indigenous people in this theatre today.

I would like to thank the National Museum and the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research for this opportunity to give some thought and focus to one of the crucible elements of our history as Australians, and especially thank the Museum for making that wonderful exhibition Cook’s Pacific Encounters happen in Australia.

Like each of the symposium speakers today, I begin with the challenge that the story that I’m going to attempt to address is such a big narrative that it’s hard to confine within a short symposium session. It’s a narrative deserving of an all-night spectacle like Peter Brook’s epic production of the Mahabharata, which some of you may have been fortunate enough to see as an overnight production in a quarry at the Adelaide Festival in 1988 - an important anniversary year for Australia of which I’ll speak a little more later.

Emily Kngwarreye’s paintings are created on a similar epic scale. I really would like to emulate her and embrace the whole story, the ‘whole lot’. As most of us here would know, Emily was a remarkable Aboriginal artist who gained wide recognition during her later development as a painter, and grew in stature throughout her 80s until her death. According to her own interpretation, her paintings encompassed the ‘whole lot’, everything about her world, her people, her connection to land, the history of the land, its spirit, the spirit of the people, their relationship with other people - in fact: life, love, survival, nurture, shelter, the earth, its bountiful harvest, language, communication, protocol, ceremony. All of it.

However, I’m going to focus on a very few points in our own great narrative, taking just a couple of frames of reference and looking at how they’ve overlapped and where they perhaps misread each other. The life-changing consequences for Australian Indigenous peoples of Cook’s first Pacific journey and subsequent European settlement is a recognised part of this narrative. With this as a background I’m going to look at the particular story of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families - the story of the Stolen Generations.

A frame of reference can be broad, or it can be specific and individual. Let’s firstly look through the panoramic Enlightenment frame and touch briefly on the norms and values operating at the time Lieutenant James Cook of the Royal Navy set sail in His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour to record the 1769 transit of Venus from Tahiti. The National Library of Australia holds the ship’s copy of correspondence to Cook, comprising letters, documents and information important for the successful realisation of the journey. These documents include lists of stores and expenditures as well as official letters from the Admiralty, and the key letter containing the secret instruction to Cook to find ‘a land of great extent, southward of the tract made by Captain Wallis in the Dolphin or of the tract of any former navigators in pursuits of the like kind’.

At that time in Britain, North America and Europe, the Enlightenment as a concept had fired the imagination of philosophers, scientists, writers, historians and all who thought that life had better be lived by reason, thought and science. Truth and knowledge were now the consequence of observation and reasoning, rather than philosophy and reverenced antiquity. The terms ‘truth’, ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’ and ‘progress’ were liberally applied in art, publication and speech. Sir Isaac Newton - physicist, mathematician and astronomer - was lauded as a great man, and Alexander Pope wrote for his epitaph:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night.
God said…Let Newton be! And all was light.

Those whose talents led them to navigate unfamiliar parts of the world and to explore beyond boundaries previously mapped by Europeans were also held in high esteem.

Along with Joseph Banks, Samuel Wallis and others who played major parts in the European exploration of the Pacific, James Cook became a powerful symbol of the Age of Enlightenment and the exhilaration of discovering and learning about new parts of the world. Together with the journals of Joseph Banks and earlier Pacific explorers, Cook’s Endeavour journal was published in 1773 in a volume edited by John Hawkesworth. This became one of the most popular works of the eighteenth century, with a reprint in its first year closely followed by translations in several languages. It was the principal source for late eighteenth-century ideas about Pacific peoples and Australian Aboriginal people.

Cook himself was not happy with this publication. It was heavily edited and left out all the navigational detail which he thought would be important to other mariners, so he prevailed upon the Admiralty to allow him to publish the journal of his second voyage himself, with the editorial assistance of Dr John Douglas, Canon of Windsor. Through reading these and other journals and accounts written by contemporaries, it’s easy to be retrospectively captivated by the experiences of those who saw for the first time the marvels of a world new to them, either as participants in the expedition or as keen audience for the material culture, specimens or illustrations brought back from their journeys.

With hindsight it’s possible to dismiss the Enlightenment as a superficial vehicle for the empire building of Western European nations, especially the arch-rivals for Pacific ascendancy - Spain, England and France. It’s not my intention to change the frame of reference with wise afterthought, but to look at it as an experience of a particular time. Who would find it difficult to empathise with those who could now, through technological innovation, calculate longitudes, navigate and seek distant and - to them - uncharted destinations in ways previously not achievable.

Those of us who have even travelled to new and exciting places and celebrated the experience of new languages, food and ways of going about daily life will acknowledge the intensity of engagement - and occasional ennui - which might have been felt by those adventurous and perhaps driven explorers. Those of us who have ever had travel plans interrupted by a train breakdown or flight cancellation while far from home might begin to comprehend the fortitude shown by early European navigators in the Pacific, in the face of isolation from their own support systems and reliance on luck and capacity to face a challenge. There was no lost baggage office on the Great Barrier Reef on 11 June 1770, when the Endeavour struck a coral reef, putting a dangerously large hole in the hull. This occurred near the point on the mainland named by Cook Cape Tribulation where the 2000 kilometres of coral reef comes very close to the mainland. In fact, as much baggage as possible was thrown out in order to make the ship light enough to float off the reef. It took two days to achieve this and a little more time to fother the ship and block the hole well enough to limp to a quiet anchorage. A week or so after running aground, Cook was able to beach the ship at the Endeavour River at Gangarr, now known as Cooktown, so that repairs could be undertaken.

When Cook had spent some days around Botany Bay a few weeks before, sending landing parties to look for fresh water and food, the Eora people showed themselves but did not engage with the voyagers. They sensibly showed no interest in beads and nails and sent a few sharp ‘darts’, as Cook called them, to relay their message of rejection. In Cook’s 30 April journal entry he noted that ‘all they seemed to want was for us to be gone’. By the time the Endeavour was ready to continue north on 5 May, Cook observed, ‘We could know but very little of their custom as we were never able to form any connections with them.’ We have no Eora record of their impressions of the intruders, but it’s not hard to construe from Cook’s words their general attitude towards the expedition as one of suspicion and annoyance at being disturbed, providing a glimpse of another frame of reference altogether.

The situation in northern Australia played out differently. During the time the Endeavour was being repaired and readied for continuing northward, the ship’s company interacted with the local people, the Gugu Yimithirr. In his personal Endeavour journal, purchased for the National Library at auction in London in 1923, Cook tables a list of about 40 Gugu Yimithirr words and their translation into English. The artist Sydney Parkinson does even better, with over 150 words being recorded. This recording and experimenting with each other’s language demonstrates mutual attempts to communicate by both visitors and locals.

Banks and Cook describe in detail the well-known turtle incident, where a now familiar group of Gugu Yimithirr men board the ship and make it known that they want one of the sought-after and delicious turtles the Endeavour crew had caught. The sharing and territorial protocol was misunderstood: Cook, in great need of food supplies, refused the request; the Gugu Yimithirr showed their anger and displeasure in various ways, including setting a grass fire around the ship’s camp. However, relations were comfortable enough for this incident to be resolved quickly, and the contact continued.

Banks’ journal refers to ‘our friends the Indians’ and Parkinson lists nine of the men’s names. Banks noted that strangers were always introduced by name, English words were tried by Gugu Yimithirr and vice versa. Whether for the recording purposes or in the spirit of communication, the English were familiar enough with some of the local men to clasp hands around their arms, to know the words for ‘penus’, ‘scrotum’ and ‘anus’. Again, there is no written record of the thoughts of the Gugu Yimithirr people on the advent of the strangers, but it seemed they were in the mood for visitors, and to some extent enjoyed the contact. They were polite enough to accept gifts of clothes and beads though, as Banks describes, ‘without showing enthusiasm’, evidenced by Banks finding all the items in a discarded heap some days later.

Although Cook had no clear idea of the social systems operating on this coast, he must have gained some understanding of the connection these Indigenous Australians had with their environment and indeed described their way of life, despite as he said ‘appearing to be some of the most wretched people on earth’, as a kind of Utopia. So it seems surprising from this distance that a few days later, on Possession Island, Cook set aside these observations and took possession of the ‘whole eastern coast in the name of His Majesty King George the Third’, seemingly against the instructions of the King to annex land only if it was uninhabited or if he had the consent of the natives. Puzzling over Cook’s decision provides hours of entertaining speculation but for now I will move on and we will focus on consequence.

While we are in the Torres Strait, however, I will note that, along with Cook’s Endeavour journal, the National Library holds Eddie Koiki Mabo’s papers. These documents were the first Australian records to be inscribed in 2001 in the United Nation’s Memory of the World Register, each providing a poignant counterpart for the other’s world view and bringing Australia’s often conflicted history and the consequences for Indigenous peoples into sharp focus. I said ‘these documents’ but these documents plus Cook’s journal were the two items that were inscribed - an Australian first - in the Memory of the World Register.

Cook’s journey along the east coast of Australia from Point Hicks to Cape York, between mid-April and late August 1770, didn’t take long and would have been even shorter had the Endeavour not struck the reef. It was a mere blink in the context of this and his later Pacific voyages. But what far-reaching effects such a short visit had on this large land mass, a whole continent. It’s fascinating to reflect that at least 40 Australian sightings or landfalls by European ships occurred before Cook charted the east coast. Indeed, 2006 marks the four-hundredth anniversary year of the first Dutch landing in Australia by Jansz in the Duyfken. If you happen to get to The Netherlands before 11 August 2006, you will see a fantastic exhibition on Australian Aboriginal cultures celebrating this anniversary in Leiden. Australia was known as New Holland by Cook and his contemporaries. Possession of the western coast of Australia was claimed for France at Shark Bay by [François] de Saint-Allouarn two years after Cook charted and claimed the east coast. Yet by a conjunction of British determination and what might be termed the ‘mysterious forces of destiny’, Cook’s claim on behalf of George III prevailed and Australia’s serious European invasion began with the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying convicts and naval personnel to Sydney Cove in 1788.

Almost all the surviving written description of early exchanges between European and Aboriginal Australians was produced by the British, French or Dutch, and is dependent on the personal perspective of the writer for observation and understanding of what was happening. And so little in the way of thought or structured social systems was ascribed to the local peoples, there is little to rely on in the observation of the Europeans to provide real insight into what was thought, planned and actioned by the Aboriginal people who met them, although there is an occasional indirect message that how these societies functioned and contemplated life. Nevertheless, through these recorded fragments, insights into a journal or report writer’s personal leanings combined with other contemporary representations such as ‘Spearing Eels’ by the convict artist Joseph Lycett and a now widely-understood and asserted Indigenous cultural perspective, it’s possible to infer something of the Indigenous experience of that time.

Inga Clendinnen in her 2005 book Dancing with Strangers attempts to provide a lens for viewing the early contact between Indigenous Australians and European newcomers in Port Jackson. Clendinnen begins to reveal, for instance, where the essential John Hunter in 1790 meets and helps an Aboriginal mother and infant trying to cajole the shy toddler to look up at him; where Hunter’s reactions reflect his determination to execute his official duty; and then where his personal set of values, embedded through the social mores of Regency England hold sway, as he describes Aboriginal Australians behaving ‘as all savages do, as madmen’. Clendinnen’s perceptions lead present-day readers to reflect that certain actions by the Aboriginal people of Sydney Cove might at times have seemed unpredictable, aggressive and traitorous to European newcomers. But as well as being driven by an understandable resistance to settlement, as stories of [Aboriginal resistance fighter] Pemulwuy unquestionably attest, these actions may also have been the result of an unfamiliar set of protocols operating between two groups clearly engaged in negotiating a relationship. That there was little understanding on either side of the expectations of the other led to consequences often unforeseen by both, and frequently, and regrettably, of a negative cast.

It is often forgotten from this distance that the relationship was complex. Individual European attitudes varied, as did the actions and approach of Aboriginal people. This was still a time when so-called ‘natives’ could be seen as idealistically noble by Europeans, if inescapably implanted in the landscape as part of the natural order. With this Enlightenment-based view, the French zoologist [Françcois] Peron, as part of Baudin’s expedition of 1800, described relations with Tasmanian Aboriginal people, speaking of ‘the happy trust of the inhabitants in us, the sincerity of their behaviour towards us and the frankness of their manners’. After a couple of months of reality and perhaps mutual suspicion of the others’ motives, Peron’s attitude had changed, as references in his final report from Van Diemen’s Land demonstrate. ‘Their look,’ he observed, ‘always has something sinister and savage in it’.

This latter mind-set leans towards the social Darwinism of the later nineteenth century when Aboriginal artist Tommy McCrae was working in Victoria and follows on from Darwin’s great work Origin of the Species, published in 1859. Europeans generally believed Aboriginal Australians were far lower on a theoretical scale of human evolution than white people and on even lower levels than Maoris or Tahitians. This view prevailed and was one of the bases for justifying decades of violent attacks and reprisals on Indigenous communities, their dispossession from lands occupied continuously for over 60,000 years, and many other appalling actions against them.

One of these was the long history of taking Indigenous children away from their parents in order to socialise them as contributing, if menial, members of white society. I am aware that that is a huge generalisation about a long period of changing parameters, approaches, rationales, legislative enactments and state-based provisions for care. You’ll find information about the varying approaches in each state for removing children and something of this history in a number of books, some by Indigenous people relating their own personal experiences.

I will focus on the National Library publication Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation, which was produced as part of the Bringing Them Home Oral History project. This book is a record of the project and a window into the diverse experiences narrated by 350 people in over 700 hours of audio material over a period of three years, producing an archive which is a major resource at the National Library of Australia. The Bringing Them Home Oral History project was established as a response to the first recommendation of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, which reported to the federal government in 1997.

As I wrote with Anna Haebich in the introductory chapter to Many Voices, a central aim of the project was to interview a wide range of people who had been directly affected by, or involved in, the removal of Indigenous children to state or non-family care. This group would include primarily those who had been separate as children from their kin, as well as their parents and other relatives. It would also include people who became their adoptive parents, foster and institutional carers, and those who were involved with administration, policy and implementation in a professional capacity. These latter might include police officers, welfare officers, senior administrators, lawyers and others whose work brought them into contact with separated families or involved them in the issues and policy frameworks that supported the separations. It was envisaged that these interviews would form an accessible and comprehensive set of first-hand accounts that would extend the documentation begun by the Bringing Them Home Report and other publications, thereby enabling a deeper understanding of past and present outcomes of removal practices.

The selection of Indigenous interviewees took into account the complexities associated with Indigenous child separation, including sensitive consideration of the specific circumstances of individual interventions. Removal policies, legislation and administrative practices varied over time and across jurisdictions only becoming part of mainstream processes; that is, the policies that applied to all not only Indigenous children in all states and territories by the 1960s.

A general rule of thumb for identifying Indigenous people to be interviewed was that their particular experience involved separations carried out without the approval of Indigenous parents or guardians. Interviews were conducted with people who had been separated as children and with close family and friends. The reasons for separation might have included, especially earlier in the twentieth century, solely racial grounds. Children were removed because their skin was considered light enough for them to be integrated, after institutionalisation, into white society. Separation might also have followed claims of neglect, whether children and their families disputed or agreed with this assessment. Some interviewees had been removed under due process through the children’s courts, but firmly believed that they had been treated unjustly as they had been well cared for by their families. Also included were children relinquished by mothers following protracted negotiations with government officers.

Here interviewees often indicated that attitudes to authority and power relationships played a major role. Dennis Dunn, for instance, growing up in New South Wales, recalls his own feelings; ‘I grew up with two fears - welfare, police. Because the police had the power to just walk into your place, they could do anything they wanted to do and the welfare had the power to just take any kids they wanted. And they embedded that fear into your life.’ During certain periods on missions and government settlements, children were moved away from their families in the camps to live in segregated dormitories. In Queensland in particular, entire families and even communities were relocated to missions or settlements and often separated permanently, with parents sent out to work on distant stations and children placed in the dormitories - some of these people spoke for the record.

The interviews therefore demonstrate a great diversity of circumstance within the group of separated Indigenous interviewees. They encompass a wide range of experiences of separation and removal in which a number of differing reasons or removal operated. They reveal a diversity of care situations into which the child may have been placed and cover a remarkable span of time and memory from 1918, the oldest interviewee, to the 1970s. Within the interview narratives there was also a range of responses to removal. These were intricate human situations, and responses were rarely absolute or unqualified. Gratitude was often expressed for the care and education received. However, in most cases this was not sufficient to offset the grieving and sense of loss of identity, cultural knowledge and loving families remembered.

I will play you excerpts from two of the 350 interviews recorded. Both are part of the audio CD that is inserted in the back cover of Many Voices. First, to give you a perhaps unexpected view of the administrative side, this is a recording by the first CEO of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria, Reg Worthy.

(Plays audio CD of interview with Reg Worthy)

[Permission granted by Reg Worthy to Doreen Mellor and the National Museum of Australia to use the transcript of the audio clip.]

Reg Worthy: What I’d like to get to is what happened to the children. And this is where in Victoria after my appointment, within those first few weeks it was evident to me that I was not getting the truth. When I would ask about how come Mrs. So and So, an Aboriginal person that I happened to meet at a meeting, said something about a child, I’d be told by the staff ‘Oh, that’s arranged through the Women’s Hospital, you can’t believe everything you hear’. And I said, ‘But what’s that got to do…’ and was told ‘Well the mother’s been sick and she’s been up to the hospital and the child was ill or not well and arrangements have been made for her care.’

Now this was from the staff and I heard it, I suppose, two or three times in a week. And I thought ‘oh look’ - I started to get people to go through the files and put out a request to the Aboriginal people to let me know if there was any doubt about where their children were and if they were satisfied. Within about 10 days I had a list of 300 children who were placed unofficially away from their mothers. It was just a bombshell – 300 or 300-plus – it was around about 300 children. Now it just so happened the timing was due for the report to parliament each year, and that was probably the biggest thing. So in this I put in that this is what it was. The minister was prepared to make a statement in parliament and the rest of it, which he did, and he made the statement. And he asked, ‘If you have children that you should not have, I want you to get in touch with my department immediately.’ We had about 24 who got in touch with me within the next two days, but every one of those was what we would call a good placement - they were good. But all these others including, sadly, one that we had to deal with fairly strongly, which was a university lecturer and his wife who had somehow ‘acquired’ - if that is the right word - a child from the Latrobe Valley…

DOREEN MELLOR: I would now like to go on from that administrative view, a little bit like today looking from both sides, to play you an excerpt of the interview with the Western Australian artist Sandra Hill speaking of a profound moment in her life when she made a journey back to the place where she was removed from her parents. This is a moving excerpt, and I should tell you that I asked Sandra several times whether she was really happy for this to be used, to be published in the way that it was as part of the book and whether it was okay to play to audiences. She is fine with you hearing her story. When you hear it, you will understand how courageous she was in allowing the material to be used like this.

(Plays audio CD of interview with Sandra Hill)

[In honour of my sister Barbara Ann Marshall (Hill) I give my permission to Doreen Mellor and the National Museum of Australia to use the audio clip. If it makes a difference, if it helps people to understand her experiences, our experiences, then it’s a good thing.]

Sandra Hill: I went up with a friend to Port Hedland and I thought, ‘Well I’ve got to go to Roeburn, I’ve got to go to Point Samson,’ because I had to find out if I’d made it up. Like I remembered the house and I remembered the beach and I remembered the jetty and I remembered all this stuff in my head. And I thought, ‘I wonder if I’ve made this up,’ because kids make stuff up to give yourself some sort of identity. I thought maybe I’ve made it up, I need to go back and see.

So before I went, I said to my friend, ‘I’m going to draw a picture because I need to know if my memory is correct and whether I’m just bullshitting to myself about it, you know, and giving myself a real life, and I hadn’t really had it.’ So I drew this sketch of where the house was, the trees and the bushes, and the beach and the curve of the beach and where the jetty was and all this stuff and I drew it down. When I got there it just didn’t look anything. There was nothing really familiar because it is all very different. There’s a car park going down to the beach and the jetty’s gone. So I walked up to where the jetty was, and sure enough the jetty stumps are still there. I didn’t remember the hotel, but the hotel’s still there, because we never went to the hotel. We used to go up the beach and have picnics under the jetty and stuff, but I don’t remember ever going to the hotel. And then there was the curve of the beach, and I thought, ‘Yeah this is the place I walked down.’

And (pauses - crying) the trees are still there. And I remembered the house (crying). I walked down to the beach and up the track. It’s very different because there’s a road and there’s these other houses, whereas there were bushes and trees. I walked up and I saw the track and I remembered these particular two big trees - they’re still there. I walked up over the hill, over where the dune used to be, and there was a house. I can remember sand coming in the window. I used to wonder how can sand come in the window, because the house is tucked in on the side of a dune and the dune moves and the window, like the sand is kind of mid-wall level and that’s how the sand blows over into the windows. We used to sweep with - we didn’t really have a proper broom. I mean, we had a broom but it wasn’t very good. We used to get the leaves off the casuarina trees and sweep the floor.

It was bizarre, because there were more houses over the road, but this house is still there. It looks sort of different but it’s still the same house. It’s been done up. (crying) It’s probably one of the most profound experiences. It actually gave me my identity. It was pretty awesome, because at that moment I knew I didn’t make it up. I knew that I was real, that Mum and Dad were real, that this was the place we were taken from.

DOREEN MELLOR: That recording is always affecting. These interviews and their transcripts are at the National Library, because there’s nothing like hearing the human voice. So if you have the opportunity, I encourage you to listen to them.

By the time the story of the Stolen Generations was being recorded, Cook and the First Fleet were far distant memories, but the effect of their voyages lingers. I want to return to the image of Cook as a symbol. That powerful symbol of the age of Enlightenment and discovery has filtered down through generations of white Australians, the descendents of settlers and convicts, and remains descriptive of a courageous and talented hero. Though far away in time, Cook’s presence is strongly felt in Australia today as a figure of great historical significance. His adventures have found their way into children’s rhyme, such as this one that I’m sure will be familiar to most of you:

Captain Cook chased a chook
all around Austra-a-alia,
He lost his pants
In the middle of France
And found them in Tasmania.

Apart from rhyme like that, some of our most respected poets have written about Cook, and there are songs which commemorate his voyages. As with European written history, fragments of the oral record - the Indigenous view of Cook’s advent and subsequent settlement of Australia - have been passed down and continue as part of the Indigenous frame of reference. Allusions to Cook appear in many works, many Indigenous works - in such works such as this one by Gordon Bennett and in such works as Too Many Captain Cooks by Central Arnhem Land artist Gela Nga-Mirraitja Fordham. Many of you would know him under a different name but, as he has very recently died, I will refrain from using it.

In white rhyming slang, ‘Captain Cook’ or ‘a captain’ means a ‘look’. In northern Australia white people themselves are often referred to as Captain Cooks. Cook is the archetypal first white man to invade Australia. He bears the brunt of this legacy of Indigenous suffering that resulted from dispossession by Europeans from the lands occupied countless years before. In Too Many Captain Cooks, Fordham refers to the ‘bad Captain Cooks’ who came afterward, bringing death and tragedy in their wake, distinguishing these Cooks from the first ‘good Captain Cook’ who preceded the guns and killings.

Indigenous Australians have suffered as an ironic consequence of Cook’s courage, his leadership qualities, his Yorkshire common sense and his exceptional navigation and seamanship skills. But Indigenous Australians have survived. If our shared history is to go beyond survival on one side and enforced tolerance on the other to take its place as one of the great narratives, profound understanding and honoured memory must provide the underpinnings.

In 1988, the two hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet was celebrated with great ceremony by white Australians. One of the frequently-seen Indigenous statements of that year was ‘White Australia has a black history’. This message is complex and layered. As well as justifiable anger and resistance, it holds the seeds of understanding, something expressed eloquently by Aboriginal artist Pamela Croft, a stolen child, an interviewee of the Bringing Them Home Oral History project and a generous and compassionate woman. As a conclusion, I would like to read for all of us a short excerpt from a piece of writing by Pamela:

Always remember that what makes you all Australians is the fact that you live on this land, with our ancestral spirits, and with our creation stories. Lastly, what makes you Australian is in fact your interactions with us, the First Nation peoples of this land in the past, now, and in the future. It is what makes you different from your ancestors whose spirits lie in other lands. We are what helps make you Australian. It’s what gives you belonging on and to this land.

Thank you.

Date published: 2 September 2008