The Australian Aboriginal tradition is an oral one, handing stories down over generations. Current scientific opinion suggests this has been unbroken for perhaps 50 to 60 thousand years.
That’s an amazing and globally unique situation; literally everywhere else has been invaded and the local population replaced at least once in that time period, or the geography was discovered much later in in the human timeline. The Maoris only arrived in New Zealand around the lifetime of Scotland’s Robert the Bruce, for example. That’s potentially a 58,703 year difference for two landmasses only a fortnight’s sail away.
The problem with oral tradition is the same as one we all recognise from the school yard game we used to call, in the olden days before the Thought Police, Chinese Whispers; the message changes radically over the generations of telling.
Over a landmass the size of Australia and a timeline measured in thousands of years, that means anyone who claims there’s a name for this or a cultural reason for that, are likely cherry-picking or unintentionally selecting the very last one. That’s probably fair enough; perhaps few people currently living in Scunthorpe, England pause to wonder or have any utility in knowing what the town was called prior to the Viking invasion of 865AD either.
In Australia in 2022 however, such nuance doesn’t conform to The Narrative, so we end up with articles such as this, challenging us to hit up Wikipedia every fifth word (I joke; Wikipedia has drunk the KoolAid too).
TL:DR, a 200 year old doll, discovered in Matlock, Derbyshire, has links to an Aboriginal girl for whom there are some written records. The article concludes she had a tragic life. More on this later.
Perhaps the first thing that might leap out at you in the article is the traditional name for the island of Tasmania which, let’s be honest, you wouldn’t have answered correctly if it came up in last night’s pub trivia quiz. The SBS article, however, uses Lutruwita first and puts Tasmania in parenthesis last as if it were the minority vernacular. You know, I know, they know, nobody outside of a government-funded department ever uses this name for Tasmania.
Do you know something else? It’s highly unlikely anyone ever described the island of Tasmania by this name before the perfidious English arrived either. I propose this hypothesis for two reasons:
- The chances any human ever reaslised Tasmania was an island prior to Captain Cook arriving trends very close to zero; any tribal member straying past their ancestral grounds risked death or worse. Maybe knowledge could be stitched together to form a view of all points of the compass, but really there’d be no practical use in passing that knowledge down, so I bet it didn’t.
- The official bodies tasked with agreeing the correct new/old/dual names for places in Tasmania are verrrry silent on how they came up with Lutruwita. They’ve got reasons and history for specific place names, creeks and hills. The entire island, not so much. Example one, two, three
Once one realises the article is being a little loose with the truth, there are narrative clues everywhere. The heavy use of parentheses is a big flag telling you that you’re uneducated and need to get onboard with The Narrative.
For example, an historic job title, Protector of Aborigines has the parenthesis explainer; (using the offensive misnomer). Did you get the memo that Aboriginal is acceptable but Aborigine is offensive? The woke dictionary, Merriam-Webster hasn’t yet either, but they’ll probably get round to it once they’ve finished redefining “woman”.
There’s more pushing of The Narrative in the article too. I’m reticent to pick on the individuals named in the article but there’s unasked questions we might have been offered answers to, to suage our suspicions of narrative cherry-picking.
Artist Janice Ross, for example, claims affinity with Mithina because their lives were similar. How were their lives similar? Well, Mithina was taken from her family for reasons unstated, “adopted” and used as slave labour, then sent to an orphanage and died at 18 in mysterious circumstances. Whereas Janice was adopted, again, for reasons unstated and, frankly, sounds like she’s alive and well in her 50s.
The inference we’re being asked to make for Janice is that she was part of The Stolen Generations, a government policy to remove mixed race children from Aboriginal mothers and integrate them into the white community.
It’s a bit before my time, but I’m going to take a guess that the reasons children were taken in to care over those Stolen Generations years were not all the same.
They probably ranged radically between a bizarre version of white supremacy that can somehow reconcile bringing mixed race kids into the “white” gene pool, through to obvious safety cases where the child needed to be moved out of harm’s way to prevent a tragedy. We’re not told Janice’s specific circumstances.
It seems most likely that either scenario was motivated by altruistic feelings, albeit neither passing the 2022 morality test. It seems unlikely anyone in history ever thought, “We hate this race of people so much for who they are racially, we’re going to adopt some of their kids and let them marry ours”, regardless of the morality of the “adoption” process followed. Historically, racist invaders tended to, I dunno, murder every last one of the enemy instead.
The SBS article doesn’t tell us why Janice was adopted nor how loving or abusive her adoptive family were. This seems like important and relevant information to the claim of affinity with the child, but also to simply square the obvious inference being made towards a known modern cultural issue.
Both claimant and journalist knew the context when they spoke/wrote. Why not resolve the hanging questions? Probably for the same reason the keyboard keys ( and ) were given such a heavy workout in writing the article.
Surprisingly, Bill Maher has a quote to perfectly explain this absence of journalistic professionalism by Sarah Maunder:
Being woke is like a magic moral time machine where you judge everybody against what you imagine you would have done in 1066: And you always win.