Aboriginal violence was 'sanitised'
PUBLISHERS in the 1980s and 1990s sanitised Aboriginal history by censoring accounts of violence, including sexual abuse and infanticide.Benign?
Award-winning historical author Susanna de Vries has revealed that her books on early colonial life, based on the memoirs of pioneer women, were allegedly toned down so as not to upset Aboriginal sensibilities.
De Vries said the memoirs of one woman, Louisa Meredith, were allegedly censored by Queensland publishing house Michael White Publishers to remove references to infanticide, tribal warfare, and the rape and removal of women.
The memoirs of the first Aboriginal justice of the peace, Ella Simon, were similarly sanitised by Sydney publishers Millennium Books in the late 1990s so that a baby "stuffed head-first down a rabbit hole and left to die after it fell ill on walkabout" was allegedly edited to read "left under a tree to die".
"We don't sanitise anti-Semitism and the Holocaust," said Louis Nowra, author of Bad Dreaming, which documents the use of Aboriginal customary law to legitimise sexual abuse and domestic violence against women and children.
De Vries has written about a dozen books on women in colonial times and was made a member of the Order of Australia for her services to literature.
"This kind of benign censorship stemming from guilt over the stolen children question has hidden references to the abuse of part-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children in the past," she said.
"Anything to do with the abuse of Aboriginal women and children by their fellow Aborigines has been censored out by editors keen not to offend and raise ghosts of the stolen children stories.Naturally, free-lance historian Keith Windschuttle makes an appearance:
Ignoring the other stories of the rape of Aboriginal girls by Aboriginal men; the killing of Aboriginal babies often by leaving them to die in the bush; and the neglect and abuse of Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal children have all been part of a taboo which is based on guilt."
Oh, darn. Maybe I shouldn't have stuffed little Billy (face first) down that rabbit hole.
Controversial historian Keith Windschuttle, who came to national prominence for questioning claims by other historians that Tasmanian Aborigines were massacred by white settlers, said the tendency to whitewash Aboriginal culture started in the 1970s.
"People thought by flattering pre-modern Aboriginal culture you would assert esteem in Aboriginal culture and make Aboriginal people feel good about themselves," Mr Windschuttle said. . . .
Nowra said there was a tendency to view Aborigines as "noble savages", which denied part of Aboriginal culture, and overlooked the harsh environment in which they survived.
"It was difficult to keep an abundant number of Aboriginal children alive; they were life-and-death decisions we don't have to face," Nowra said.
Historian Inga Clendinnen said censorship arose from a "very understandable tenderness and concern" towards the Aboriginal community.(Caz: "Yes siree, that sentiment has worked out so well for our Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities, particularly the women and kiddies.")
Australian Publishers Association chief executive officer Maree McCaskill said publishers now fought fiercely to protect their right to free speech and to publish without fear.Oh, my. Of course, this kind of "beneficent censorship" is not unknown in the U.S.
Update: Yes, I'm a stinking hegemonist for giving my imaginary rabbit-hole-planted Aboriginal offspring a Western name like "little Billy."