• Random Quote

    The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has
    killed a great many philosophers.

    — Denis Diderot

The Original Australians

 

Arunta Man - Central Australia

Arunta Man — Central Australia

 

Strong archaeological and genetic evidence indicates that the Aborigines first arrived in Australia between 42,000 and 60,000 years ago. Remarkably, it appears that their ancestors were the first human wave to leave Africa and cross Asia, approximately 75,000 years ago, confirming the longest continuous pedigree outside of Africa. Using a century old lock of hair donated to an anthropologist by an Aborigine in Western Australia, a genetic study established this ancient lineage for the original people of Australia. The full history of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, including their environmental impact through hunting, burning, and clearing, remains incomplete. However, a continuous presence for 60,000 years or more on the continent seem likely.

Despite the disappearance of many large species of animals, probably linked to over hunting, the Aborigines seem to have eventually reached an ecological equilibrium with the Australian environment. (A similar ecological balance between indigenous peoples and wildlife seems to have emerged, after initial die offs, in much of the Americas as well.)

Geographer Jamie Kirkpatrick argues that although Aborigines have lost much of their traditional knowledge, they usually show less destructive attitudes and habits toward the environment than Europeans and other recent immigrants. Kirkpatrick writes, “the relative greenness of Australia in environmental attitudes is some indication that the Aboriginal feeling of oneness with the land has permeated into the general consciousness.”1.

The changes in the Australian landscape since the European invasion have been widespread and destructive. According to Kirkpatrick, only 30% of the land retains the vegetation found before European colonization. Studies indicate that 61% of the continent has been harmed by stock grazing, and 43% of native forests have been cleared for agriculture.

One of the most profound questions regarding humans in Australia is why was technological progress relatively restricted? Why did civilizations spring up in the Middle East, Africa, China, and the Americas but not in Australia? Why did the Europeans arrive in Australia with metallurgy, firearms, agriculture, and science while the Aborigines still lived in the stone age?

The invaders attributed this technological superiority to their own racial, intellectual, and moral superiority. Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, however, presents a compelling account of human social variance built on an environmental approach. He stresses Australia’s infertility compared to the nearby New Guinea highlands where agriculture developed several thousand years ago. Diamond writes, “Australia has by far the oldest, most infertile, most nutrient-leached soils of any continent, because of Australia’s little volcanic activity and its lack of high mountains and glaciers.”2.

The soil in Australia is often so poor in nitrogen compounds, in fact, that even human urine can quickly make a notable improvement. Camping grounds in Tasmania are green, Jaime Kirkpatrick writes, with the “urination ring of introduced annuals.” This efflorescence bursts forth right outside the hut doors, showcasing the urination habits of campers, most likely males.

Australian agriculture is hindered by additional problems. Much of the continent’s climate is controlled by the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which is erratic and not annual, leading to alternative paroxysms of killing droughts and torrential floods. Naturalist Reg Morrison writes, “Major ENSO events typically produce violent storms along the U.S. Pacific coast, savage droughts in Africa and Australia, and a failure of the monsoon in Asia. Each ENSO cycle is then followed by a climatic backlash that results in more violent storms and widespread flooding, but this time in the drought-ravaged areas.”3.

Australia, Diamond argues, also lacks domesticable wild plants. Even today only the native macadamia nut has been developed as a crop. Out of 56 worldwide potential cereal species, only 2 varieties, both poor, appear in Australia. Aborigines in the north and east, nonetheless, gathered and ground a type of millet into flour; potentially, this could have led to the rise of agriculture. However, Australia lacked mammals suitable for domestication as draft animals and ‘beasts of burden’. Diamond comments, “During the Ice Ages Australia had supported even more big marsupials than New Guinea, including diprotodonts (the marsupial equivalent of cows and rhinoceroses), giant kangaroos, and giant wombats. But all those marsupial candidates for animal husbandry disappeared in the wave of extinctions (or exterminations) that accompanied human colonization of Australia.”

Aborigines along the Murray-Darling river system did develop an intensive system of eel fishing. They dug canals up to a mile and half long to permit eels to move from swamp to swamp, and devised elaborate trapping systems to harvest the eels. Australian populations were highest in the east and near the coast where resources could support more people. However, most groups, surviving in less fertile regions, employed “firestick farming,” which centered on periodically burning the countryside. As Diamond notes, “the fires drove out animals that could be killed and eaten immediately; fires converted dense thickets into open parkland in which people could travel more easily; the parkland was also an ideal habitat for kangaroos, Australia’s prime game animal; and the fires stimulated the growth both of new grass on which kangaroos fed and of fern roots on which Aborigines themselves fed.”

Diamond concludes that Aborigines had none of the advantages that humans in regions of Eurasia such as the Fertile Crescent possessed, and, in fact, faced many disadvantages that blunted the development of domesticated crops and animals. He finds no credible evidence that prehistoric Europeans would have developed any differently if they, instead of the Aborigines, had been the first immigrants in Australia.

When archeological digs demonstrated that Aboriginal people had first reached Australia between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago, many anthropologists and archeologists were stunned by this unexpectedly early date. Somehow, the ancestors of Aborigines accomplished the feat by piloting boats or rafts across deep ocean channels at a time when Europe was still reserved for the Neanderthals. Aborigines spread across Australia and Tasmania, which was connected to the mainland until about 10,000 years ago. Facing challenging environments and climates, they responded by developing into diverse bands and tribes with their own distinct linguistic and cultural traditions.

In 1788 Britain established a penal colony at Botany Bay, and the European invasion ensued.4. Aborigines began to lose their lives to violence and disease, and their lands to aggressive settlement. Their history parallels, in many tragic elements, that of the Native Americans of the ‘New World’. Attacked and vilified for the first century and a half, many Aboriginal people have survived into the ‘modern age’ as icons of a lost Eden, exemplars of a dying but honorable relationship to the natural world. In the present, they are sometimes romanticized as Rousseau’s “primitives”, as caregivers and ecologists, as guardians of the spiritual and generative earth, the Dreamtime. The reality, of course, is far more complex.

A number of ‘New Age mystical’ books have latched onto the spiritual cachet and élan of indigenous people. In Mutant Message Down Under, Marlo Morgan has written a stilted, somewhat narcissistic account of the “Real People”, a secret group of aboriginal super gurus who hide out in an opal cave. Morgan claims that her journey and experiences are factual although her publisher cautiously marketed it under F for fiction.

Some Aboriginal people seem to find these spiritual embellishments and tall tales, churned out by ‘white’ authors, exploitative. Anthropologist Diane Bell writes, “Enraged that a gullible public was consuming these misrepresentations–and that yet again exotic stereotypes of Aborigines were obscuring the gritty realities of the lives of many of these peoples–Robert Eggington, coordinator of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation (Western Australia), led a group of Aboriginal elders to Los Angeles in January 1996 to protest Morgan’s book and a planned film.”5.

If possible, an even less credible New Age hustler is Lynne Andrews, a reputed Beverly Hills ‘shaman’. (Shaman not madame.) She has pumped out a stream of mushy ethnographic bestsellers for her devoted readers and disciples, who apparently number in the millions. Bell comments: “In both Morgan’s book and Andrews’s Crystal Woman, Aboriginal life is simple. Neither author (unlike ethnographers whose careful work rarely reaches a general audience) finds the need to grapple with the intricacies of kinship and land-based relations among Aboriginal groups. Both authors avoid the complexities of local languages, and the books’ spiritual folks frequently communicate by telepathy or by giggling and winking their way through the stories. Andrews’s meeting with the Sisterhood of the Shields takes place in a native “village” near a brook in the middle of the arid Australian desert. At this unlikely site, she meets with her Native American Sisters, as well as with female Aborigines.”

Aside from her writing, Andrews also conducts spiritual workshops for sizable fees. Her creative novels are so fluffy she makes Carlos Castaneda, who started his epic series on Don Juan and Yaqui shamanism in the 1960s, look as profound and enduring as Homer’s The Odyssey. Although Andrews and Morgan are two of the most noteworthy offenders exploiting Aborigine religion to pump up the sales of New Age gobbledygook, it’s a crowded field with many lesser luminaries rushing to cash in.

Even they can’t compete, however, with the high priestess of New Age cold cash buffoonery, J.Z. Knight, who channels Ramtha, a 35,000-year demiurge from Atlantis. Or is it Lemuria? Knight has engineered a financial juggernaut out of her relationship with Ramtha, charging large fees to dose her 3000 or so devotees with ancient enlightenment. So far no complaints from Atlantis in regard to Knight’s kidnapping of Ramtha–but stay tuned. As the magisterial cynic H.L. Mencken once quipped, “No one every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Is there anything positive in the work of Morgan and Andrews? Admittedly, they present a generally respectful, if false and corny, account of indigenous people. Perhaps some readers, intrigued by these fictionalized romances, will develop a legitimate concern for the lives of real Aborigines and Native Americans, many of whom confront stark poverty, bigotry, government betrayal, and a myriad of health and social problems. Readers might also develop a an authentic respect for indigenous cultures and religions, including a deep skepticism to exploitation and commodification by outsiders.

After all, indigenous peoples have suffered great crimes, including theft of ancestral lands. Shouldn’t they at least retain dominion over their own culture and spiritual life? Does that mean that native people can’t offer spiritual, social, and ecological insights to outsiders? Not at all. Jared Diamond, for example, presents an informed argument for tapping into the wisdom of tribal peoples in his book The World until Yesterday. Nonetheless, that cultural knowledge, some of it secret as well as sacred, should rightfully remain theirs to disperse on their own terms. It should not be appropriated by outsiders, many of them mountebanks, boiled down to snake oil, and sold to the gullible.

 

                                                                 Disease as an Agent of Conquest

 

Did European colonists depend solely on technological advantages and violence to display native peoples? Most of the horrific die-offs suffered by both Australian Aborigines and Native Americans, in reality, resulted from introduced diseases. By some estimates Eurasian diseases wiped out 95% of the total population of the New World.

Why were people in the Americas and Australia so vulnerable? Many epidemic diseases, medical research shows, are zoogenic; the microbes originally infected animals such as cattle, pigs, ducks, and chickens. Due to close human proximity to these animals in the Old World, however, the diseases jumped from livestock to humans. Initially, humans in Eurasia suffered epidemics and plagues from these trans-species microbes. Over time, with repeated outbreaks, populations had a chance to adapt and gain immunity.

Some viruses mutate rapidly to overcome acquired immunity. For example, influenzas are avian diseases that infect chickens and ducks. Crowded around human habitations, ducks can pass the viruses to pigs, which incubate new strains that can jump successfully to humans. Each year most of the novel influenza mutations originate in China where immense numbers of domestic fowl and pigs are concentrated.

The largest human die-off from a single pathogen was the highly lethal strain of influenza that spread across the globe in 1918-1919. It may have killed 50 million people in total. And although it killed young healthy Europeans in large numbers, it was horrifically devastating among ‘naive’ populations with limited exposures to influenza. One of the most detailed and compelling accounts of this pandemic is John Barry’s The Great Influenza.

Aborigines and natives of the New World, having never encountered these Eurasian zoogenic diseases, were frightfully vulnerable. Disease became the secret weapon of the European colonizers as small pox and influenza killed tens of millions. Many tribes in North America were apparently exterminated by European diseases without the locals ever having had the dubious pleasure of seeing a ‘white’ colonizer. The plagues were spread by the waves of fleeing native refugees as they tried to escape from the frontlines of contact with the invaders.

Certainly, devastating zoogenic diseases could return. Note the recent outbreaks of new and horrific diseases such as SARS, Ebola, and AIDS that appear to have leapt from animals to humans. A new avian flu, indeed, is currently threatening to break free and seriously menace the human race. So far it has only jumped to a few dozen people in Southeast Asia.

Geoffrey Lean comments, “Bird flu is causing particular alarm, since it has killed more than three-quarters of all the people so far known to have caught it. They have mainly contracted it directly from chickens, suggesting that a new pandemic would surpass the last one in 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide. Like the 1918 strain, the disease appears to target healthy teenagers and young adults.”6. Should the disease develop an ability to spread easily from human to human then it could kill hundreds of millions of people in a globe straddling pandemic.

As human numbers swell and the world becomes tightly interlinked by roads and air travel, humanity appears dangerously susceptible to novel outbreaks of illness. Nobel prize winning microbiologist Joshua Lederberg, for one, fears that the human species is vulnerable to a lethal pandemic. As the rain forests are cut down and wildlife decimated, other unknown viruses may leap to humans. Consider a virus as lethal as Ebola or AIDS but contagious as airborne flu.7. As humans devastate the biosphere in a blind rush of greed, desperation, and ignorance, are we undermining our own safety net? As the American biologist Paul Ehrlich ironically quips: nature bats last.

 

                                                       Gillen and Spencer: an Anthropology of the Aboriginals

 

Frank Gillen and Baldwin Spencer, seated front. Alice Springs.

Frank Gillen and Baldwin Spencer, seated front. Alice Springs.

The photo above of Gillen and Spencer was taken in 1901 in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. The men in the back row are (from left) Erlikiliakira, Mounted Trooper Chance, and Purula. Museum Victoria collection.

Aside from killing, exploiting, and displacing the Aborigines, a few Europeans began to take an interest in their societies and cultures. The first real attempt to systematically describe and understand Aboriginal cultures was made by the team of Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen. Spencer, a trained biologist, joined the Horn expedition in 1894 and journeyed into the interior of Australia. There he met Frank Gillen who served as an official protector of the Aborigines around Alice Springs, and had spent nearly twenty years in contact with the Arunta and other tribes. Gillen had even indicted a white police officer, W. H. Wilshire, for murdering Aborigines — although the man was acquitted. In concert, they conducted detailed ethnographic studies and collected objects and tools for museum collections. Their work became a pillar of modern anthropology. D.H. Mulvaney notes that Gillen and Spencer were the first to popularize the term “Dreamtime” or “Dreaming” for the Aboriginal creation cosmology. In translating these primordial spiritual views into simple English words, much of the nuance and detail has been lost.

 

Arrernte (Arunta) Tribal Men with Spencer, 1896, Alice Springs

Arrernte (Arunta) Tribal Men with Spencer, 1896, Alice Springs

 

Although some of their commentaries sound, to the modern sensibility, paternalistic, in general they show respect, fascination, and even affection for their ‘subjects.’ For example, they stress the decency of Aborigines: “Generosity is certainly one of his leading features. He is always accustomed to give a share of his food, or of what he may possess, to his fellows.”8. They add, “The women are certainly not treated usually with anything which could be called excessive harshness. They have, as amongst other savage tribes, to do a considerable part, but by no means all, of the work of the camp, but, after all, in a good season this does not amount to very much, and in a bad season men and women suffer alike, and of what there is they get their share.”

 

Photo by Baldwin Spencer, MacArthur River, Northern Territory

Janjula Yanyuwa Marra men at MacArthur River, Dec. 1901

 

Spencer and Gillen respectfully attested to the Aboriginal treatment of children: “To their children they are, we may say uniformly, with very rare exceptions, kind and considerate, carrying them, the men as well as the women taking part in this, when they get tired on the march, and always seeing that they get a good share of any food.” In stark contrast to this beneficence, throughout much of the 19th century, in England and the United States, many poor children were forced to work long grueling hours in noisy, filthy factories. When American Indians where taken on a tour to witness the wonders of Eastern factories, they were horrified to see white children slaving away near heavy machinery. For them it was shocking that whites would treat their own children so cruelly.

Still, Spencer and Gillen were men of their time, and they viewed Aborigines as a relic people fading into oblivion. Spencer wrote in 1927 that, “Australia is the present home and refuge of creatures, often crude and quaint, that elsewhere passed away and given place to higher forms. This applies equally to the aboriginal as to the platypus and kangaroo. Just as the platypus laying its eggs and feebly suckling its young, reveals a mammal in the making, so does the Aboriginal show…what early man must have been like….” This, of course, is a grotesque misunderstanding of both the kangaroos and the Aborigine people who were highly adapted for life on the harsh continent of Australia.

 

Photo of Aboriginal Family, Baldwin Spencer

Aboriginal Family, Central Australia

 

                                                          The Shaman and the Medicine Man

 

Shamanism is the ancient ur religion of humanity and once spread across the world from Africa, to Eurasia, to the Americas and Australia. A shaman typically enters a trance and journeys into the spirit realm to bring back knowledge and boons for the tribe. How does one become a shaman? Fourteen miles south of Alice Springs, Spencer and Gillen noted, is a cave filled by spirit beings from the Alchera, the Dreamtime. A man can sleep outside the cave and be hurled into a series of powerful spiritual rites, including having all of his internal organs removed and replaced by others. There are many signs, rules, and customs that the man must follow and endure over perhaps a year before he is ready to practice. Also, a hole is made in his tongue by an invisible lance thrown by the spirit being. This hole must not heal closed or his power dissipates.

Yet other ‘medicine men’ are created by Eruncha men of the Dreamtime when the candidate is taken down into the earth and transformed into a shaman. Occasionally, without supernatural fanfare, the apprentice is simply trained by other practitioners. Although not common, women occasionally become shamans.

 

Aboriginal medicine man from the Kakadu tribe with patient

Kakadu Shaman in Curing Ceremony, 1914

The newspaper photo caption above reads:

GOOD WIZARD OF THE KAKADU TRIBE SUCKING EVIL MAGIC FROM A SICK MAN

All maladies are thought by the aborigines to be caused by hostile witchcraft, usually an invisible poison bone or stick, “sent” by an enemy. For curative treatment, the patient lies down, and a tribal wizard gazes fixedly at him, thus projecting unseen crystals of power into him. Then, stretched upon the sufferer, he massages him, and, with much effort, sucks the poison bone out of him, bit by bit.

Photo Mr. Baldwin Spencer, from ‘Handbook for Australia’ 1914.

 

The Aborigines did not believe that death was natural—even for the aged and decrepit. They believed that all deaths are the result of supernatural mischief, chiefly from the machinations of an enemy. Spencer and Gillen write, “…the function of the medicine man is mainly associated with finding out who is responsible for the death of any native.” For instance, “…news was brought into the camp that a very celebrated old man had died far away out to the west. His death was due simply to senile decay, but along with news of his decease, word was brought that he had been killed by a charmed stick pointed at him by a man of a distant group, the locality of which was stated with certainty.”9.

To injure or kill, an Aborigine versed in magic can point various types of bones, sticks, and claws—all ritually filled with magic and venom—at his enemy. Most medicine men, however, were healers who divined the evil forces conspiring to kill their compatriots. To treat a typical case, “the patient lies down on the ground while the medicine man bends over, rubs and sucks vigorously at the affected part of the body, spitting out every now and then supposed pieces of wood, bone or stone, the presence of which is believed to be causing the injury or pain.” Spencer and Gillen add, “…the medicine man…is supposed to have a particular kind of lizard distributed through his body, which endows him with great suctorial power, such as the natives attribute to the lizard itself.”

How does one create deadly charms? Various sticks and bones are carved, burned, etched and feathered into the traditional forms; they are then charged with evil magic by “singing” over them with the appropriate curses such as, “May your heart be rent asunder; may your backbone be split open and your ribs torn asunder; may your head and throat be split open.” These cheery charms make the act of “pointing the bone” a lethal assault on the victim. Spears, boomerangs and clubs can also be loaded with Arungquilta, or venom, if someone charms them by singing over them. In many cases the shaman can counteract these magical attacks by removing the Arungquilta. If not, the victim is doomed. Even a superficial wound will lead to death if the injured party believes that the weapon has been “sung” over. Spencer and Gillen write, “He simply lies down, refuses food and pines away. Not long ago a man from Barrow Creek received a slight wound in the groin. Though there was apparently nothing serious the matter with him, still he persisted in saying that the spear had been charmed and that he must die, which accordingly he did in the course of a few days.”

Rendering evil magic does not require one to be a shaman. There are also charms for actions such as procuring a woman. A churinga–a small sacred wooden object—will be carved with the man’s totem, sung over, and struck against the ground. Much of the singing consists of amorous invitations to the desired woman. Spencer and Gillen mention that, “Not long ago at Alice Spring a man called some of his friends together and performed the ceremony, and in a very short time the desired woman, who was on this occasion a widow, came in from Glen Helen, about fifty mile to the west of Alice Springs, and the two are now man and wife, the union being regarded as a perfectly lawful one, as they belonged to intermarrying sections.”

Occasionally women were annoyed by the magical attentions of men and they had ways to retaliate. For instance, women produced charms that injured men’s sexual organs. The men would feel as though ants were stinging them, and in some dire cases, the organ would drop off entirely. (A surefire method to discourage the average pesky suitor.) Women become pregnant when a spirit child enters them, often near a water hole. “The spirit children,” Spencer and Gillen write, “are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat women, and prefer to choose such for their mothers….”

The Apaches and Navajo of the American Southwest share a number of religious tenets with Aborigines. For example, they also fear witches as a cause of sickness and death, and usually consult shamans to heal and to seek out malefactors. Captain John G. Bourke, who had extensive contact with Native Americans while serving in the U.S. Army, studied the Apache shamans, or medicine men. For the Apaches, Bourke noted, “…all bodily disorders and ailments are attributed to the maleficence of spirits who must be expelled or placated.”10.

In observing shamans, he noticed a good deal of variation in their spiritual provenance and powers. Bourke comments, “…there are some doctors who enjoy great fame as the bringers of rain, some who claim special power over snakes, and some who profess to consult spirits only, and do not treat the sick except when no other practitioner may be available.”

It was believed that Aboriginal shamans could become eagles and fly distances at night to hunt down enemies. Regarding Indians, Bourke writes, “That the medicine-man has the faculty of transforming himself into a coyote and other animals at pleasure and then resuming the human form is as implicitly believed in by the American Indians as it was by our own forefathers in Europe.”

Female shamans among the Apache, much like the Aborigines, were uncommon but accepted. Bourke cites two that he had met: one was “Captain Jack”, a woman who despite being enfeebled by great age impressed Bourke as “bright in intellect” and reputedly well versed in Apache lore. The other was Tze-go-juni, a Chiricahua woman who had been a captive in Mexico and spoke fluent Spanish. Bourke writes, “A mountain lion had severely mangled her in the shoulder and knee, and once she had been struck by lightening; so that whether by reason of superior attainments or by an appeal to the superstitious reverence of her comrades, she wielded considerable influence.”

The Aborigines carved a magical piece of wood that would be whirled around the head on a string to produce a low whirring noise. The “bullroarer” is certainly one of the most ancient spiritual devices of humanity and also appears in the Americas. Apache medicine men also used drumming and chanting as part of curing ceremonies. As Spencer and Gillen witnessed and recorded among the Arunta, Apache healers also sucked out and removed foreign items and fragments from their patients.

Some of the attitudes of Aborigines toward snakes are echoed among Native Americans. The medicine men of the Cherokee apparently protected snakes from harassment. Bourke writes, “The Apache will not let snakes be killed within the limits of the camp by one of their own people, but they will not only allow a stranger to kill them, but request him to do so. They made this request of me on three occasions.” The Apache and Navajo use tule pollen called hoddentin as part of their curing and blessing rituals. Even snakes are blessed and appeased with the pollen. After the Apache snake dances, the snakes were dusted with pollen as they crawled away. Occasionally, snakes were used in actual curing ceremonies, blessed with pollen, and then released.

Even today many Aborigines retain their skills in observing and finding wildlife. Spencer and Gillen write admiringly, “The tracking powers of the native are well-known, but it is difficult to realize the skill which they display unless one has seen them at work. Not only does the native know the track of every beast and bird, but after examining any burrow he will at once, from the direction of which the last track runs, tell you whether the animal is at home or not.” Not a bad skill to have in the outback.

 

                                                                 Aboriginal Survival and Rebirth

 

Once consigned to oblivion by many white Australians, in the expectation that these first Australians would fade into extinction with the Tasmanian Tiger, the Aboriginal peoples have survived.  They have even recovered some of their lands, rights, and heritage. One of the most important figures in their recovery was Aboriginal elder, Vincent Lingiari of the Gurindji people. In response to exploitation and land theft at the hands of cattle ranchers in the Northern Territory, Lingiari led his people on a strike in 1966 that lasted nearly a decade.

In general, the white political establishment chose to ignore or sabotage efforts by Aboriginal people to obtain basic human rights and reclaim stolen lands. With the election of Gough Whitlam as prime minister in 1972, the Aboriginal people finally had an important political partner who took their cause seriously. In 1975, Whitlam met with Lingiari to return a large portion of traditional Gurindji land.

 

Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Whitlam, 1975

Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Whitlam, 1975

 

In 1976, the Aboriginal Lands Right Act was passed, securing at least some portions of Aboriginal land for the original owners in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal people still suffer a formidable range of problems, including racism, violence, poverty, and health issues. Nonetheless, the original Australians, heirs to the continent for tens of thousands of years, endure.

 

                                                         The Strange ‘End’ of Prime Minister Whitlam

 

On a side note, Whitlam himself was soon the victim of a remarkable coup d’état, a dismissal at the hands of Governor-General John Kerr, who acted, most likely, as an agent for hostile elements in the British and American governments.  The CIA saw Whitlam as a threat to U.S. foreign policy, including its secret spy base at Pine Gap, located just outside Alice Springs. Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger offers one of the most honest, lucid and comprehensive accounts, which can be read at Independent Australia.

 

 

 

[1] Jamie Kirkpatrick, A Continent Transformed: Human Impact on the Natural Vegetation of Australia, Oxford University Press, 1994, P. 35.

[2] Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel,

[3] Reg Morrison, Spirit of the Gene.

[4] Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore (Knopf, 1986).

[5] Diane Bell, Natural History, March 1997.

[6] Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, February 20, 2005.

[7] Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague,

[8] Baldwin Spencer & F.W. Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia (Macmillan & Co. 1899) P.48-51

[9] Baldwin Spencer & F.W. Gillen, The Arunta (Macmillan, 1927) P. 398-409.

[10] John G. Bourke, The Medicine-Men of the Apache (1891)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *