The evidence for ‘stolen generations’

Since reading the ‘Stolen Generations‘ report for myself a couple of years ago—around the time of Kevin Rudd’s parliamentary ‘apology’—I have been inclined to doubt the truth of the allegationsor the evidence said to support the claims of the re-education apologists much less the ‘blood-on-the-wattle’ recriminators. I was very disappointed to find that Sir Ronald Wilson’s committee had made little attempt to be forensic about the claims made (no doubt sincerely) by their witnesses and had presented so little data from the archives of State and Federal Governments to support their disturbing allegations, much less any specific policy initiatives.

The latest bout in the debate about the evidence arises from Keith Windschuttle’s reply to Robert Manne’s criticisms of his methods and conlcusions. It deserves your adjudication; I think Windshuttle has made a convincing case for his thesis that the ‘stolen generations’ were nothing of the kind.

Admittedly, the latest exchange looks like more vituperation and tedium: an academic debate filled with bile and with little likelihood of resolution. But having read both—and after abstracting from the ‘he said…but I said’ jabs—I am further convinced that Windschuttle is right on a key point. Manne is not engaging the data that Windshcuttle has produced but is relying, again and again, on an appeal to ‘orthodox interpretations’ of the intentions of “racist” administrators in the first three decades of the 20th century. In the face of contrary facts, name-calling is unconvincing.

The strength of Windschuttle’s case is in his presentation of verifiable data about actual ‘removals’ and policies (Cabinet notes, parliamentary statements, archived correspondence) where Manne relies mainly on insinuation and a focus on selected detail.

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