its mystic light, reverentially guarded by up to 10 police, we
finally see how easily we fall for New Tribal humbuggery.
Show our elites a black pagan and -- holy smoke! -- there's no
telling what they'll not just believe, but worship.
Think not? Then tear your eyes from the salvation seekers being
"smoked" by Thorpe's fire, and check, for a start, the 2001 Census
-- the one that revealed an explosion of witches and warlocks.
While it found only 238 of Queensland's 113,000 Aborigines
followed indigenous religions, fully 23.5 per cent of believers in
Aboriginal faiths turned out not to be Aboriginal themselves. Black
gods now have white disciples.
Those gods also have many white officials kowtowing at sacred
sites, real or invented, even though the vast majority of Aborigines
are in fact suburban Christians.
But don't tell the activists -- many white -- now reinventing
today's Aborigines as pagans with supernatural connections to the
Still, would it stop them? See what luck they've had so far in
making official Australia worship reimagined black myths and
traditions, however unlikely -- and however it hurt the true black
First there was Bula.
In 1991, then prime minister Bob Hawke, nearly crying in
spiritual ecstasy, banned a new mine at Kakadu's Coronation Hill,
out of respect for the Aboriginal spirit Bula.
Aboriginal activists, backed by green groups, had convinced him
that if the hill were disturbed, an angry Bula would visit a great
sickness on the land -- one that might make even Hawke's green vote
lie down and die.
Never mind that no one had ever associated Bula with the site
until the 1970s, or that uranium had been mined there for nearly 20
years without the local Jawoyn people complaining, or Bula making
Never mind that the Jawoyn leader, Andy Andrews, said to hell
with Bula -- most locals wanted the cash and jobs this $500 million
mine would bring. Even his petition with 92 Jawoyn signatures
begging the mine go ahead failed. Green pagans beat black
Then, of course, came "secret women's business".
In 1989, the South Australian Government approved a new bridge
between Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island, near the Murray's mouth.
Green groups and local Aborigines fought the plan without luck
until 1994, when -- as a royal commission later said -- an
anthropologist suggested "it would be nice if there was some women's
BINGO! Soon Aboriginal women were indeed claiming the bridge
would disturb "secret women's business". The island was sacred
because, said one, from the air it looked like a woman's womb.
It didn't matter that no tribal Aborigines could have known what
the island looked like from 10,000 feet, or that few if any would
have known the shape of a womb.
As for those other local Aborigines who insisted all this was
nonsense, well, they were Christian, weren't they? We pet only
So the Keating government banned the bridge -- until a royal
commission ruled "the whole claim of the 'women's business' from its
inception was a fabrication".
What next? How about Somerville College, on Mornington Peninsula?
The opening of this new school was delayed by more than a year
because two land councils -- both claiming to represent the local
tribe -- couldn't agree if there were significant Aboriginal relics
on the site, and who should mind them at $550 a day.
But the better question was: Which represented real local
One, the Boonerwrung Elders Land Council, was essentially led by
a white restaurateur whose wife, Caroline Briggs, claimed to be
descended from an Aboriginal woman taken from Victoria to Tasmania
180 years ago. (The woman's birth certificate inconveniently says
she was born in Tasmania.)
The other, the Bunorong Land Council, was led by an Aborigine
from Western Australia, who claimed his part-Scottish wife was
descended from a local woman likewise stolen five generations ago
and taken to Tasmania.
More sorry examples. A Portland developer is broke after local
part-Aborigines decided an 1834 massacre of Aborigines (that might
not have happened) took place on his land (or maybe somewhere else).
It was enough for the Bracks Government to ban all work there.
Another black myth worshipped by whites: The Government now has a
new $2.1 million Stolen Generations Organisation, despite its
earlier Stolen Generations Task Force being unable to find a single
truly "stolen" Aborigine in the entire state.
Indeed, it concluded: "In Victoria . . . there was no formal
policy for removing children." Yet it said 36 outfits were caring
for the "stolen" children it couldn't find.
Another farce. Echuca and Moama badly need a second bridge over
the Murray to join them. Both councils -- plus the Howard
Government, the Moama Local Aboriginal Land Council and local
Bangarang elders -- want it built to the town's west.
But the project has been stymied for years because Yorta Yorta
Aborigines say it will come too close to a scarred tree and two
shell middens, and have refused offers to move the pylons.
But who are the Yorta Yorta? One of its "senior members" told the
Federal Court in a failed land rights action that "a number of
persons now regarded as elders of the Yorta Yorta community had only
six months earlier not regarded themselves as members of the Yorta
Yorta community, but rather as members of the Bangerang community".
When Aboriginal identity and spirituality is so easily redefined,
how sacred or meaningful is it really?
Or put it this way. The two most famous Yorta Yorta activists are
Wayne and Graham Atkinson, brothers who trace their tribal status
through their great grandmother Ada, daughter of a white laborer and
a Yorta Yorta woman.
BUT their great-grandfather, Ada's husband, was an Indian doctor
from Mauritius, and other ethnicities have since plunged into their
The brothers could, in my opinion, identify themselves as Indian,
English, European, Aboriginal, Australian or simply individuals.
Yet both choose to be -- to put it crudely -- professional
Aborigines, with different rights to those they'd have as mere
Graham is now co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owners Land
Justice Group, and Wayne, a Melbourne University academic who
teaches Aboriginal issues, has served on the Yorta Yorta Elders
Council and writes mistily of the Eden that was tribal Australia.
Sample: "One can reconstruct a rather idyllic picture of Yorta
Yorta lifestyle. It is clear that the people did not want for
anything in terms of food and security and their lifestyles fit
nicely into the picture of affluence . . ."
But this is romance, not reason. And see where such Dreaming
sweeps us -- to a New Tribalism, where we are judged on genes, not
deeds. Where myths muffle minds.
So, I hope Robbie Thorpe's fire burns hot -- so hot that it
destroys such madness. How sacred it would be then.