Another view on the
"Stolen generation" Aborigines
(speech given in the House of Representatives)
Independent Federal Member for Kalgoorlie
Mr CAMPBELL (Kalgoorlie): Before I start grieving I would like to commend the member for Cowan (Mr Richard Evans). I think his was a very good and thoughtful speech.
I want to grieve on Sir Ronald Wilson’s report, Bringing them home. I have absolutely no doubt that there were terrible injustices done and that children were taken from loving parents. I have no doubt that this was done with malice on occasions, but more often it was done with the interests of the children in mind. The children we are talking about were half-caste or even less Aboriginal. It may have been a racist view, but it was deemed that, because these children were at least half-white, they should have a chance. With the clear vision afforded by hindsight this was extreme folly.
However, judgment should be made by the standards of time. What must also be considered is that Judge Wilson predominantly interviewed those cases presented to him by the Aboriginal Legal Service. There were many cases elsewhere where people did not respond because they knew it was the fact of being made wards of the states that saved their lives.
Besides being very selective, Sir Ronald’s report is fatally flawed in other ways. He says that it is not an intellectual report; it is from the heart. This means, of course, it is not bound by fact. Indeed, the evidence he has collected is beyond confirmation. Sir Ronald said in an interview in the West Australian on 30 May that:
"...I didn’t stop, as a judge would have stopped, to ask where’s the corroboration. How could you doubt the authenticity of a story when tears are running down the faces of the storytellers?"
Had Sir Ronald witnessed the tears shed in this parliament by posturing politicians, he would perhaps have been a little more cautious. As it is, he has offered a licence to every con man in the land.
Just such an example is on page 7 of the West Australian on 29 May. There is a picture of Patrick Dodson giving his closing speech at the reconciliation convention. Mr Dodson is giving a eulogy about Robert Riley who, it is claimed, committed suicide last year after a long struggle to come to grips with the enforced removal from his family. Let it be understood that Robert Riley was not forcibly removed from his family. His mother asked Sister Kate to take him because she was in a relationship with a man who could not stand Robert and whose bashings would probably have killed Robert. It may be true that Robert Riley was traumatised at being rejected by his mother, but it had nothing at all to do with whitey. I would be very surprised if Patrick Dodson did not know that and Ronald Wilson should have known it because he was on the board of Sister Kate’s at the time. While it may be a good tear-jerker and a guilt reinforcing performance, it just was not true. Such is the level of evidence regularly used by the doyens of the guilt industry.
Ron Caston and Robert Manne are good examples: both pillars of the Jewish community who like to flagellate us with guilt. Yet they are strangely silent on land rights or compensation for thousands of dispossessed Palestinians. It is always easy in an issue to trot out the highly emotional example, as the member for Holt (Mr Gareth Evans) did in his predictably sanctimonious contribution.
I remember the words of Isabella Lynott, who is now 95 years old. She, along with her sister, were the first children taken to Beagle Bay, a catholic mission, in 1909. Isabella’s father was white and when he died her mother implored the local police officer to take her children as they would otherwise surely die. Isabella remembers Beagle Bay very warmly. She said:
"The nuns were very good to us. They gave us clean clothes, taught us to read and write and to play musical instruments. They taught us how to sew and to dance."
She had only gratitude for her deliverance.
Another hero of mine is Pearl Hamaguchi, a woman who, being an Aboriginal-Asian, endured a far harder life than white half-caste children. Being half-Asian, she was not considered worth saving, although she was institutionalised for a short time later. Pearl remembers all that she endured, but she does not dwell on it. She has made a name for herself. Both she, her husband and her family are highly respected members of the community. Her comment to me recently was that she had always thought that, we, the Gudea, were a bit silly but, with Mabo, native title and Ronald Wilson, she now thinks we are far more stupid than even she had imagined.
Pearl Hamaguchi is an inspiration to me and a great role model for the whole of society. I know many stories that tell of triumph over adversity. After all, I represent more Aboriginal people than any other politician.
Unlike the members who spoke on the MPI or the member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan), I and my staff are involved daily with the problems of a large constituency and we get a good insight into the real problems and disadvantages that Aboriginal people suffer.
It is all very well looking back through the misty eyes of political correctness. Given the guilt-ridden apology of our Governor-General, he - on his fat salary paid out of the public purse - can see our unspeakable shame and, because he can see it, is somehow aloof from it. The Governor-General has no private capacity. While it is true that he was appointed by Keating to further the craven cause of republicanism, until that great day comes he would do well to remember that he is a representative of the Crown.
By the standards of the time, the decision to remove children was considered a compassionate move. Of course there was some abuse of the system, but there was considerably more sensitivity and compassion than present day critics would concede or even understand. I have spoken to police officers who have told me that, where children were being looked after, they did not enforce their removal. Many of the children were taken for their own protection.
What Sir Ronald should have done is to have compared the plight of those who were not afforded the protection of the state. I suspect that if an apology is owed or compensation due it is to those people, but for the most part they are dead.
There were cases where Aboriginal custodial fathers would encourage their young, lighter coloured girls into prostitution. I wonder what the ranks of the politically correct would have had the government of the day do under those circumstances. In many other cases, half-caste children were simply not wanted by the tribe, regardless of how the mother felt.
The real tragedy and shame is that, because of all this emotional nonsense, there are many Aboriginal children today who should be made wards of the state, and the authorities know that their failure to do so will inevitably lead to their death. I recall phoning a doctor in a large Aboriginal town last Boxing Day. She confided to me how angry she was, patching up neglected children, putting them into hospital, knowing that in six weeks they would go home and, inevitably, be readmitted a few months later - defenceless children on an inevitable downward plane. They are entitled to the protection of the state but are denied it because of our political correctness.
In conclusion, I want to set the record straight about the referendum in 1967. I believe I have always been politically aware. The truth is that I and the overwhelming majority of the Australian population thought we were voting to give Aboriginals equality. We were not. We were voting to give the Commonwealth special powers, which have, by and large, been abused.
I note that the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) talked in his contribution of the benefits that flowed from the referendum. He listed in his speech what he saw as the priorities. Interestingly enough, in those priorities he quoted me exactly, except he missed out one of them. If you miss out one, the wheels fall off the lot. The Prime Minister failed to mention the need for employment.
He mentioned many bureaucratic services. From experience, I can tell the House that these vaunted initiatives were part of the problem. Education and health, despite large amounts of money thrown at them, are going backwards. I spend a disproportionate amount of my time trying to protect Aboriginals from ATSIC itself. I want to take Aboriginals forward with us into the future. I want for them the material benefits I want for my children and for all Australians.
I note that Sir Ronald, Mick Dodson et al want a board set up to administer compensation. Of course they do. They see it as just another carriage on the gravy train they are so used to riding. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) wants the government to spend $1 billion on compensation when the government has earmarked that money for the benefit of all Australians. If there is to be any compensation at all, it should come from savings made by the abolition of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This report is so guilt driven and so predictable that it deserves scant consideration. Truly, Sir Ronald Wilson is a fool. Given the craven nature of our media, the fact...
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. N.B. Reid): Order!
Mr CAMPBELL: There is nothing unparliamentary about that. The fact that he has the face and the demeanour of a fool will not protect us. What we need, 30 years on, is another referendum, so that the people of Australia can offer a direction that is not forthcoming from the government - and even less so from the ALP.
Hansards for the House of Representatives, Monday, 2 June 1997 (5.11 p.m.), p.4595-4597.