Getting It Right
The following letter is from a Lia Pootah Family Historian, Bruce Patmore,
to the Tasmanian Electoral Officer in response to new
requirements for eligibility for election to the Lands
The criteria they have now set to select
voters from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community applies to only one small
section with the same ancestry.
These requirements are biased as they only
favour one line of descent: that of the Bass Strait Islanders and ignore
the diverse ancestry of the majority of Tasmanian Aboriginal people who
belong to the Lia Pootah Community.
Bruce’s response answers many questions
that are ignored, distorted, or structured in a biased way.
One group even (if they do currently
have the ear of the government) have no right to dictate
Aboriginality for any other community. Aboriginality and recognition
of Aboriginality is defined by the community a person lives in. It is not
defined by an organisation which has set up an approved government definition
which is exclusive to a minority and an historical lie.
Exclusivity then begs the question if approximately only 240 Aboriginal
Tasmanians benefit from the in excess of 10.5 million dollars
given to Tasmania annually for the Tasmanian Aboriginal
community, a community which is registered as
approximately 16,000 on ABS figures where does the money go?
Then shouldn’t all the documentation defining Aboriginality be accessible to
the government and the broader Tasmanian population as well as
the biased data they are currently working with.
START OF ARTICLE BY BRUCE PATMORE
Lia Pootah Aboriginal Community
Further to my press release of 24th November 2000, I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate further on the current social environment regarding who is a Tasmanian Aboriginal and others.
The Federal Court case TG 33 of 1996 is perhaps the pivotal point.
Now did Mr. G. A. Robinson gather together all the Tasmanian Aborigines still in the bush, roaming free, to place them in protective and supportive care? Or were many Aborigines overlooked in this search because they were already integrated, to a greater or lesser extent, into the European society and so were not deemed to be a problem, or whatever, for the plans of the Colonialists.
For instance, eight of the eleven respondents’ Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors did not appear in the journals of Mr. G. A. Robertson, which are supposed to record all the Aboriginals at time.
Of the eleven respondents only one could not produce enough of the correct evidence to overcome the allegations against them. Their local Tasmanian Aboriginal community, however, still accepts them as an Aboriginal. And this person still identifies as an Aboriginal. Another of the eleven respondents did not attend; directly causing a deficit in evidence and a decision against them being made. However, this person’s family seems to be descended from other successful respondent’s family trees.
So an interpretation of the decisions of this Court case would say the petitioners succeeded against two of the respondents. But a subsequent Court case involving the same petitioner and one of the unsuccessful respondents was stopped after being partly heard because of an agreement, between the parties, that was outlined to the Court and accepted by the Judge presiding over the case.
This respondent is now partitioning the Crown for a native title claim. Of course, nearly a year had elapsed between these cases so you would think the petitioners could have used this time to learn from their nine failures, and produce better evidence to support their allegations. So, legally speaking, the TAC only succeeded against one respondent out of the eleven.
But there is a legal subtlety to the rulings of these Court cases. It goes somehow like this. The onus of proof was on the Claimants to show the respondents were not of Aboriginal descent. This they failed ten times out of eleven.
This does not prove they were of Aboriginal descent, because this was outside the parameters of Court case, but only they were not. So on this basis the families of these ten people can continue to be challenged on their Aboriginality by any person &/or agency of our Governments.
However, Justice Merkel did accept their self- identification was genuine and, that they all enjoyed significant communal recognition, as Aboriginals. So really these Court cases only offer part relief to challenges of Aboriginality.
Will the TAC make available to the Tasmanian Aborigines it is refusing to recognize the research it has gathered in the abovementioned Court cases? Or will the TAC hold onto this material, which I might add used a lot of taxpayers’ money, and continue to believe what it did prior to the decisions of these Court cases?
The TAC Press Release from the Legal Manager dated 23/11/2000 titled, Mansell accuses Mrs Napier of desperate politics on Aboriginality, is indicative of the TAC’s attitude in relation to the descendants of the Aborigines that Mr. G. A. Robinson left behind on mainland Tasmania!
Cassandra’s Pybus gave expert evidence in the abovementioned Court cases as a Historian on Tasmanian Aborigines. Her recent essay titled, Mannalargenna’s Daughters, refuses to accept the decisions of these Court cases; and maintain the belief that Robinson had gathered together all the Aborigines on mainland Tasmania. But on page 30, Aboriginal Lands, 28/6/1990, Parliament of Tasmania, Legislative Council Select Committee, notes a conflicting account in her evidence.
Another upshot of these Court cases is that two of the successful respondents were descendants of a Tasmanian Aboriginal recorded in Mr. G. A. Robertson’s Journals. It seems the TAC did not want to count this. The TAC also chose not to give them communal recognition and to dispute the genuineness of their self-identification as a Tasmanian Aborigine.
The other eight were descendants from Tasmanian Aboriginals that were not recorded in Mr. G. A. Robertson’s Journals.
So these decisions of the Federal Court of Australia support the thesis that at best Mr. G. A. Robertson only gathered some Aboriginals still out in the bush but ignored many others, for example, the Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors of the successful respondents in the abovementioned Court cases.
Contrast this to the Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors of the people from the Bass Strait Islands who although mentioned in the journals of Mr. G. A. Robertson were not placed in the Aboriginal settlements of Cape Barren Island and then later at Oyster Cove. Was this because they were already somewhat integrated into European society?
The official written history of Tasmania concedes two Aboriginals (i.e., Dolly Dalrymple and Fanny Cochrane ) in Tasmania, after the Oyster Cove settlement was disbanded, went on to have children. These two Court cases, however, strongly support the thesis that the less dominating, perhaps alternative, oral and unofficial history of Tasmania is correct, in that, Mr. G. A. Robertson did not gather together all the Tasmanian Aborigines in his expeditions of the 1830s.
The TAC generally follows the official written history of Tasmania. However this interpretation is in dispute. Refer: Black Robinson by Vivienne Rae-Ellis, 1988, Melb. Uni. Press.
Evidence is mounting that Truganini was not the last Tasmanian Aboriginal to be born and raised in a traditional tribal context but another who died on Kangaroo Island in 1916.
In Centenary of the Settlement of the Huon, 1936, an article describes Henry Judd’s contact with some 20 to 30 Aboriginal men and women in 1853 near the Huon River, and subsequent interactions with them.
The Calder papers show a group of Aboriginals living free and hiding in central Tasmania. These papers were submitted to the Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Hand Back in 1999
“About ten miles to the west of Lake St. Clair Alexander had discovered a native camp which had only recently been abandoned. It was a thatched bee-hive hut and pieces of partially decayed meat of a kangaroo were found and half green leaves on some trees which had been cut down” (p109 Alexander McKay this Prince of Bush Travellers by Thelma McKay, 55 Auburn Road, Kingston, TAS, 7050).
The date of the incident described was January 1841. Mr. G. A. Robertson, by contrast, was claiming in 1834 his rewards for gathering together all the Aborigines in Tasmania and taking them to the Bass Strait Islands.
George Gatenby in his diary for 26/6/1843 notes “blacks” were working in the Hamilton district of Tasmania (State Archives File: NS 1405/1 – 8).
“Many child bearing Aboriginal women remained on mainland Van Dieman’s Land after 1835. It is likely therefore that many Tasmanian people who claim to be Aboriginal are unable to establish direct descent from these women by means of archival records” (p33 Aboriginal Lands paper Legislative Council Select Committee Parliament of Tasmania 28/6/2000).
As of the 24th November 2000 the TAC is still saying “aboriginal genealogy is extensively documented”; “that establishing a line of descent before white settlement was a relatively simple
Lia Pootah Aboriginals say tracing one’s family roots is not that clear cut and defined.
Pictorial records of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people demonstrate the broken links of history where the names of the people were not recorded, nor their family links.
Given what is known about the TAC it has disputed the Aboriginality of the founder of the Aboriginal Information Service (started in 1973 and being the first government funded Aboriginal organization in Tasmania). This person was one of the researchers in the Mollison report on Tasmanian Aboriginal Genealogies. The TAC has also disputed the Aboriginality of a Chairman of the National Aboriginal Council.
Where does the TAC get the material to make Tasmanian Aboriginal genealogies?
Let us have a look at some Aboriginal genealogical research used by the TAC in the abovementioned Court cases.
Research by Mr. R. J. Drysdale, on behalf of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Genealogical and Historical Association, contained in a paper presented to a conference of The National Genealogical Society in 1991, “A Guide to Aboriginal Genealogical Research in Tasmania”, was led as persuasive and damning evidence to deny Aboriginal descent to five people, who stood in the 1996 Regional Council election, in the abovementioned court case.
The research paper also refuted other families identifying as Tasmanian Aboriginals e.g., “Maria Maise (alias Maria Badman, Sarah Linton and Sarah Mace) ….” page 98. So the author of this press release checked this research at State Archives to find that Miss Maria Maise received a free pardon on 24/5/1842 and married Mr. Richard Dickinson at the Baptist Chapel, York Street, Launceston on 28/7/1844. Two children were born from this marriage in 1844 and 1848. Richard and Maria died in 1874 in Launceston. Now none of the Register-General Dept. entries for these events could be linked to a Mrs. Sarah Linton (nee Mace).
None of the Register-Dept entries (i.e., for three births, one marriage, and one death) for Mrs. Sarah Linton could be linked to the abovementioned Miss Maria Maise. In fact Mrs. Sarah Linton lived with Mr. William Challis at Deep Bay, near Port Cygnet, from about 1850 to 21/3/1885 when they married in their own home. Sarah died on 24 /6/1885 at home. Further an examination of the convict records for Miss Maria Maise could not be connected to a Mrs. Sarah Linton. No convict records for Mrs. Sarah Linton have been located.
On 2 April, 2001 The State Archivist verified Sarah Linton and Maria Maise were two entirely separate and different individuals. This is just another instance of historical inaccuracies the TAC would like Tasmanian society to accept and believe.
Oral family history records Mrs. Sarah Linton as being Aboriginal. Now what is there to achieve by not recording the truth in your family tree?
By contrast, my father recalled his great-great grandfather was West Indian. This is verified on this person’s Convict records.
We don’t dispute TAC’s right in determining Aboriginality for Palawas. However, it does not have the right to determine Aboriginality for the people of the Lia Pootah community. Any Aboriginal electoral roll for elections to the ALC and ATSIC regional council must include the people of the Lia Pootah community, given Australian law now partly recognizes their Aboriginality.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Lia Pootah Community, at the State Archives Office of Tasmania, has a “Correspondence File”.
Contact: Bruce Patmore (03) 62448258 Tuesday 10 April 2001.
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Photos of Tasmanian Aborigines
Photos of Tasmanian Aborigines.