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Dark Emu debate will help us get closer to the truth
The very fact that there is debate about Dark Emu is all the evidence we need that it is necessary. It beggars belief that we have no reliable records of the pre-existing societies found by the colonist/invaders a mere 250 years ago. But that is, of course, because they did not care, being able to see the indigenous people only as primitive savages, and the land as terra nullius.
That we are only now starting to learn the truth about ways of life that flourished on this continent for millenniums before European arrival should be a source of shame. Though we cannot change the past, we can still learn from it, and make a better future. Bruce Pascoe, Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe may not be in agreement, but they are all doing important work. The Age (“Keep culture wars out of Dark Emu debate”, Editorial, 15/6) is right to urge that the debate not be politicised, but instead lead us closer to the truth.
Mark Summerfield, Northcote
Criticism valid, but value remains in Pascoe’s work
Bruce Pascoe has been subjected to some appropriate criticism for overreaching in relation to Aboriginal achievements in agriculture but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. In 1969 Rhys Jones coined the term “firestick farming” to show that Aboriginal people were not just simple hunter-gatherers. Over the millenniums, Aboriginal people had shaped their ecosystem through ritual burning practices, to become a sustainable system of land management.
Then in 2011 Bill Gammage took us a step further. In his impeccable academic text The Biggest Estate on Earth, Gammage proposed that pre-colonial Australia was in fact a system of farms without fences that had been shaped by aeons of cultural burning, which in turn was guided by systemic environmental knowledge. In Aboriginal society all knowledge is integrated to serve ecological purposes.
Surely, no human society ever went to being hunter-gatherers to a static agricultural society, without passing through some stages in between? And if along the way they reached an environmentally harmonious stage that gave everyone the highest common standard of living in the world, why on earth would they want to change?
Jim Poulter, Templestowe
Time to remove Dark Emu from school curriculum
Now that scholarly analysis and investigation have been applied to Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, it has been exposed for what it is: an opinion piece, masquerading as historical fact. Dark Emu’s content has been shown to be infused with dubious argument, questionable use of primary sources, and evidence.
Pascoe himself, seems unperturbed by this, or by the latest publication debunking his opinions – Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu debate – by a leading Australian anthropologist and linguist, Peter Sutton, and co-author, archaeologist Keryn Walshe. His response that he “welcome(s) the discussion and difference of opinion as it should further this important examination of our history” is rather too disingenuous.
That Pascoe’s work has been embraced as revelatory truth to the extent of being embedded in school curriculums and taught as history, is disgraceful. Even more disgraceful would be the triumph of ideology over scholarship in allowing it to remain so embedded.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Book raises more questions than it answers
Calls for “clear-eyed attention to the truth” in relation to Australia’s history are welcome. Far from providing a definitive account of pre-colonial Indigenous life, Bruce Pascoe’s book raises more questions than it answers. It is an interesting contribution to the discourse, not the final word. To his credit, Pascoe is not opposed to further discussion in the search for historical truth. That may involve an acknowledgment that some of his claims cannot be justified by evidence. There is a big difference between wanting something to be true, and it actually being so.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills
Change of policy needed
Operation Sovereign Borders is here to stay. There is no prospect of a flood of asylum seekers coming to Australia “illegally” by boat in the future. The publicity on the Biloela family illustrates the need to deal with the legacy of past policy failures.
The country needs a change of policy to deal humanely via permanent visas for the thousands of refugees stuck here in visa limbo. I know many of these people. They are ready to contribute to our country if given a future pathway to citizenship. Immigration ministers come and go. The policy needs to be changed.
Russell Crellin, Greensborough
The Murugappan family are now going to live in community detention in Perth – though Minister Hawke has the power to grant them a visa and let them rejoin a community where they are loved.
Their psychological anguish and uncertainty continues. Can anyone understand why this government cannot make a compassionate and widely supported decision to grant them freedom? Does the government really believe Australia will be assailed by a flotilla of boats if this family is allowed to stay?
Maria Prendergast, Kew
I am outraged, horrified and shocked to read Monash University has received $2.5 million in federal funding for what can only be described as a “pro-life” trial in which pharmacists will be trained to advise women about reproductive choices (“Concern over contraception moves”, The Age, 14/6). Women who seek the morning-after pill already have to fill in a form discussing their menstrual history and when they last had unprotected sex, before receiving the medication from the pharmacist. As if that is not enough intrusion into their privacy, this trial will ask pharmacists to “counsel” women on alternative contraception methods including, of all things, an IUD. This is not empowering women. It is about controlling them, their sexual life and their reproductive choices. I had hoped with all the recent media focus on equality that we were moving past this in 2021.
Elaine Franklin, Balnarring
This week I was promoted and I ticked over to 28 weeks’ pregnant. In many of my conversations with people during the recruitment process, I was asked “do they know that you’re pregnant?” This question reflects the reality of the world we live in, where pregnant women find themselves in treacherous territory when attempting to negotiate their value in the professional world.
Pregnancy, and childcare, is a biological imperative for much of our workforce. Do we still have to see pregnant people as a problem to be managed? Continuing to separate the appreciation and commodification of “women in leadership” from the fact that many will bear children and will need time, care and financial stability to do so, is a flawed and unsustainable approach.
Could we embrace pregnant women and new parents in the workforce as a strength, an opportunity for growth, diversity and strategic retention of talent? Yes, but it would mean turning towards more empathic, transformative and feminine leadership styles. It would also mean planning for change, being adaptable and fostering a fair and ethical work environment. All of which will benefit organisations more broadly.
Rosie Brennan, Coburg North
As the pandemic causes economic conditions to worsen, older people will be at a greater risk than ever of being financially abused. Adult children with mortgages and other debts may turn their eyes to the bank of Mum and Dad. Financial elder abuse is not a criminal offence in Australia. For it to become a criminal offence, attitudes towards older people, particularly older women, need to change.
Sarah Russell, Mount Martha
Time to make peace
Instead of competing with China on Belt and Roads, what a major step forward towards world equality if the G7 offered to partner with China on this world-changing initiative? If the G7 seriously made this offer, not only would they lower the global political temperature by 10 degrees, they would become the peacemakers and not the warmongers as indicated by their rhetoric.
Roy Olliff, Mont Albert North
Our government’s emphasis is on growing the economy by giving back to taxpayers more earned income to allow them to spend it while at the same time providing increased services needed. The concept is great.
I was disappointed that with COVID-19 the opportunity was not taken to outlaw cash completely. Think of the additional GST and tax revenue generated at no cost to hardworking Australians.
There would be some difficulties experienced by the older generation but what policy has zero negative effect on any age group? There is still time to outlaw cash and thus reduce the significant cash economy that reduces our tax revenue.
Howard Brownscombe, Brighton
Scott Morrison’s call for the development of technologies to deal with climate change are disingenuous. The technologies required already exist in solar, wind and batteries and they continue to get cheaper and more efficient. Green hydrogen also has a possible future.
Morrison’s talk about investment in carbon capture and grey hydrogen is more smoke and less mirrors. To be sure, carbon capture technology exists but it is expensive and will never come at zero cost.
With solar and wind generation already cheaper for new capacity and becoming cheaper than existing coal plants, it is nonsensical to suggest that adding the cost of carbon capture to existing or new coal plants will compete. The same analysis applies to grey hydrogen.
Meanwhile, research into green hydrogen is making great strides and its major input will come from excess renewable energy at minimal cost. Morrison’s “technologies” call is a ruse aimed at giving the impression the government is doing something and allows the fossil fuel industry to delay its orderly demise.
Graeme Henchel, Yarra Glen
Hypocrisy laid bare
Thank you to Kym Valentine (“Alcohol delivery a problem”, The Age, 14/6) for highlighting this sickening hypocrisy in our society. Deep concern on the one hand for those in domestic violence situations and ads enticing home deliveries of alcohol with just the press of a few buttons on the other.
The first time I heard one of these ads on radio I felt sick to the stomach at the negative impact of this service to many households; including a hit to the family budget or for one suffering alcohol addiction.
Winners: the alcohol companies. Losers: those already suffering.
Jill Stanszus, Mornington
The fight goes on
Many congratulations to Jim Tilley, the founder of British Pensions in Australia who has been awarded an Order of Australia for services to seniors. This recognises Mr Tilley’s hard work over many years assisting Australian-domiciled British aged pensioners obtain their entitlements.
Mr Tilley has tirelessly campaigned for an end to the British government’s “frozen pension scheme”, an unfair discrimination against Australian residents. The fight continues to this day.
Ray Gladwell, Grovedale
The G7 call themselves the world’s most advanced economies. They are not, in the absence for example of China and Russia. In “Democracy on the defensive” (The Age, 15/6), Peter Hartcher calls them the world’s most advanced democracies, a fairer description.
But if their meetings are to have any impact they must include the heavyweight economies, and the two most significant omissions are obvious.
Tony Haydon, Springvale
Human side of footy
My interest in football is zero and my knowledge of it a negative quantity, but for Collingwood, a team languishing near the bottom of the ladder to beat the team which seems to own the game this year was not so much about football as about some very human qualities that I do understand.
Buckley’s team exemplified fortitude, persistence, loyalty and, dare I say it in the context of macho men, love. Well done, guys.
A joyful story for non football fans.
Helen Moss, Croydon
Not fooling anyone
Scott Morrison’s repeated claim that Australia’s goal is to achieve net-zero emissions “as soon as possible …” is as demonstrably untrue as it is vague – Australia is not doing anything like what we would need to be doing if it were true.
For starters, we would not have climate change and energy policies that are pointedly emissions-blind (“technology not taxes”).
We would not be building an unnecessary gas-fired power plant, we would not still have subsidies and rebates in place for fossil fuel usage, we would have policies that encourage electric vehicles, to name just a few. I doubt that he’s fooling any of the G7 leaders.
Richard Fone, Camberwell
The upcoming reunion of the 99Vietnam refugees with their Australian Navy rescuers from the South China Sea in 1981 is a matter of great joy to the participants.
Most of these refugees settled permanently in Australia and made great citizens.
It is fortunate that Amanda Vanstone was not the Immigration Minister in 1981 when compassion was in vogue.
Michael R. Nolan, Capel Sound
AND ANOTHER THING …
Luckily coal-fired power is absolutely, totally reliable – oh, hang on a minute …
Malcolm I. Fraser, Oakleigh South
What was that I heard you say? … When the coal mines flood and the turbines stop turning, the sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowing.
Ron Burnstein, Heidelberg
This is not a long-term healing outcome. Kopika and Tharunicaa need to be surrounded by Biloela love to begin to recover.
Lesley Hoatson, Kensington
Mr Hawke, your relocation decision is cruel and disgraceful. They are the Biloela family, not the Perth family.
Ralph Frank, Malvern East
Not good enough Mr Hawke! Freedom, not transferred detention.
Carmel Eyre, Berwick
Amanda Vanstone’s views (The Age, 14/6) should be considered. Why do we keep supporting people who play the system to stay? How would the people who did the right thing feel?
Patsy Patten, Mangalore
Having played dirty with Timor Leste over oil, now we abandon Torres Strait Islanders to inundation.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South
That should ensure another vindictive cut to the ABC budget.
Arthur Pritchard, Ascot Vale
The Queen’s Birthday Honours have lost all credibility.
Graham Cadd, Dromana
How to make your team play to their ability? Sack your coach mid-season!
John Byrne, Randwick
I would like to see VicForests given permission to take fallen Mountain Ash trees from the recent storm to be recycled for building material.
Graham Burton, Flinders
Poor darlings, The Australian Club membership vote (15/6) has caused such a kerfuffle: gentlemen, fear not, “bossy women and Asians” regard it as a leap forward.
Mary Cole, Richmond
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