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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