The pocket Windschuttle – the sliming of Harold Blair

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Andrew Bolt
MAY
10
2010
(12:02am)

The “stolen generations”
Reader Tony Thomas, a retired journalist, rightly believes few books on Australian history need wider dissemination today than Keith Windschuttle’s latest – a demolition of the “stolen generations” myth.

For this blog, Thomas is writing a series of precis of the central arguments and revelations of Windschuttle’s The Fabrication of Aboriginal History – Vol 111: The Stolen Generations 1881-2008 .

In this, his second essay, he tackles the defamation of Aboriginal tenor Harold Blair. (Factual material unless indicated, is all from Vol 111. Page citations: “243.4” indicates p243 and 40% from the top of the page.)

Perhaps the most loathsome example of all the cases of child removal described in the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the Stolen Generations was said to have occurred in Victoria in the 1960s.

Welfare authorities, in a scheme conceived by famed Aboriginal lyric tenor Harold Blair, invited Queensland Aboriginal parents to send their children for free holidays by the sea in Victoria. But when these kids got to the holiday homes, many were adopted out to white families and never saw their parents again.
The Commission’s source for this claim was Professor Colin Tatz, who called it ‘direct adoption kind of by mail order and by phone call.’ 554 and 555.1

{Tatz is the director of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Shalom Institute, University of New South Wales, and Visiting Fellow, School of Politics and International Relations, College of Arts & Social Sciences.

Blair in 1976, shortly before his death, was awarded an AO for services to music and the welfare of the Aboriginal people. 555.9

Blair was born to an unmarried teenager on Cherbourg Mission in Qld, and became suddenly famous in 1945 with a record vote on the radio talent quest Australia’s Amateur Hour.

He became a concert singer and activist, and in 1957 was appointed one of two Aboriginals on Victoria’s Aboriginal Welfare Board. 555.5. In 1964 he stood for the ALP in the Victorian State elections, campaigning on Aboriginal rights. He came first on primaries but was defeated after DLP preferences.

Blair initially was impressed by the visit to Melbourne of a girls’ marching team from Cherbourg Mission, his birthplace, and he decided to expand the scheme into a holiday program. The Queensland and Victorian governments backed it, and Melbourne families rushed to offer to billet the outback Aboriginal kids. Planes had to be chartered to meet the demand, and the program spread to NSW. In the following decade, about 3000 Aboriginal kids got a holiday this way. 556.7

Yet according to Tatz, it was all a scheme to steal kids from their parents. 556.8

The Bringing Them Home report relied on Tatz’s uncorroborated claim, and featured it prominently on page 10 of its 689-page report. 557.1

The report’s one piece of actual evidence was one confidential submission from one un-named woman who claimed she had been stolen via the program when aged 7, in the late 1960s. She said that while boarded in Victoria, initially for the Christmas holidays under the Blair scheme, her mother at Coomealla Mission, NSW, died and although her father was alive for the following three years, she was made a foster-child here on the strength of an official phone call. 557.5.

Windschuttle says that whether or not this woman’s claim was true, it was hardly sufficient to condemn an entire scheme involving 3000 kids, three State governments and thousands of welcoming holiday-parents. 557.9

All the 3000 children in the scheme were known officially or via the mission records. The commission made no check on whether any parent of these children ever complained, ‘My child has not returned’. 558.2. No complaints are cited.

In 2005, historian Richard Broome claimed that the Melbourne Herald of 25/6/1968 quoted the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ray Meagher, as saying that some people boarding the kids were not sending them back. Windschuttle checked the Herald, The Age and the Sun and says flatly that Broome’s claim is untrue – Meagher never mentioned the ‘Blair’ scheme or anything like it. 557.10 (footnote).

The press flurry at that time was over the general issue of informal adoption of Aboriginal kids. The Director of Aboriginal Affairs (Vic) noted three cases where unofficial foster parents had initially refused parents’ requests to return their children, and in all three cases the children were returned without the need for any police action. 558.footnote.

Windschuttle concludes that the late Harold Blair now stands publicly condemned in Bringing Them Home for a holiday scheme that used false promises and lies to steal Aboriginal children. The charge was made on the basis of no substantial evidence whatsoever.

Windschuttle says ,”He is one Aborigine who genuinely deserves an apology.” 558.9.

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