As Australia’s greatest rock band, TISM, once said: “ain’t social change amazing?” Once upon a time, Vietnam was the war people wanted to forget about. “There were no D-Day heroes in 1973,” as Cold Chisel sang. But by the late 80s, a welcome turnaround had ensued and Vietnam service began to get the respect it deserved. In fact, a new trend emerged: “stolen valour”. Vietnam service had such cachet that people were falsely claiming to have been there.

Similarly, “a touch of the tar” was once a racist social stigma. Nowadays, though, everybody wants in on the intersectional action, and so we have the grim spectacle of “Fauxborigines”. Formerly white-bread Kevs and Shazzas find (or claim to have found) a distant Aboriginal ancestor, and suddenly they’re draping themselves in a possum-skin cloak and calling themselves “Uncle” this or “Aunty” that.

Sure, this is not just an Australian phenomena: the U.S. has the likes of Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren, Shaun “Talcum X” King and Rachel Dolezal. But here in Australia, we have enough of our own.

Bruce Pascoe claims to have discovered a long-lost Aboriginal relative. And he’s written a “history” book which has set the left a-twitter, from the ABC to the Guardian. Except that it’s about as much actual history as Pascoe is Aboriginal.

The ABC will next year screen a two-part “history” by “Aboriginal writer” Bruce Pascoe. Based on Pascoe’s prize-winning book Dark Emu, the film will make an extraordinary claim. No, Aborigines weren’t primitive hunter-gatherers, but sophisticated farmers with an “agricultural industry” — tilled fields, big villages and huge overhead granaries. That is, until it was destroyed by wicked men as white as, er, Pascoe’s face.

Pascoe has repeatedly said he’s Aboriginal, although he conceded it’s “only a remote Aboriginal heritage, going back to my mother’s grandmother” […] So who is this great-grandmother?

[…] 20 amateur researchers, led by scientist Bruce Karge and publishing on, have fact-checked Dark Emu. They’ve also checked Pascoe himself, examining birth certificates, death notices, graveyard records and newspapers.

How odd: they cannot find a single Pascoe ancestor who is Aboriginal. All are descended from English immigrants.

But, if Pascoe’s genealogy is questionable, it’s nothing compared to the torrent of bullshit which is his “history” book.

For example, Pascoe claimed that explorer Thomas Mitchell wrote that he once “rode through nine miles of stooked grain” — sheaves of grain cut and heaped on end to dry.

In fact, Mitchell, in his 1848 Journal of an Expedition Into the Interior of Tropical Australia, wrote that he’d “counted nine miles along the river, in which we rode through this grass only, reaching to our saddle-girths”, and that “dry heaps of this grass, that had been pulled expressly for the purpose of gathering the seed, lay along our path for many miles”.

The grassland is what reached for nine miles. The “stooks” were just heaps of grass along the route, as you’d expect from hunter-gatherers.

The apparent Aboriginal farming miracle (which has mysteriously escaped the attention of all previous historians) is just the start for Pascoe’s fanciful tale-spinning.

Pascoe has also told of huge seed granaries built by Northern Territory Aborigines and looted by an explorer’s [Ernest Giles’] brother […] In fact, it wasn’t Ernest Giles’ brother, but an unrelated Giles, Christopher, who found a single wooden platform near the Finke River while preparing for the telegraph line […]

He claims Aborigines had elaborate dams and irrigation systems, and writes that Ernest Giles in 1875 “found a dam near Ooldea, South Australia” that had “a bank 1.5 metres high” with “an overflow channel”.

But Giles’ 1872-1876 journals describe Ooldea having only a “soak” — “a shallow native well” which they “had to dig out” to find water at “a depth of between three and four feet”.

Pascoe’s claims – not just the ones above, but others such as that Aborigines invented democracy and much more, are risible nonsense, easily debunked. Yet, that hasn’t stopped him being showered with honours, nor the ABC commissioning a major “documentary”.

Truly, as Orwell said, “one has to belong to the ‘intelligentsia’ to believe things like that”.


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