First published: 1982
In 1981 a young public servant came to see me in the office in Fortitude Valley when I was a reporter on The Australian newspaper in Brisbane. The civil servant was horrified by the contents of some of the thick files he had come across in the Aboriginal Affairs Department. He thought that the public had a right to know what terrible events had been going on in Queensland in my lifetime, events condoned by the government of the day. The result was a series of four long feature articles which, when I finally sent them down as a group to the head office in Sydney – by telex in those days – so shocked our English-born editor Les Hollings that he rang immediately and said “What have we done? What have we done to our Aboriginals?” The Australian published the articles, and, on seeing them, the Aboriginal Treaty Committee re-published them in this yellow-covered book which they used to raise funds for a Treaty which was later promised, but never enacted. The chairman of the Committee, Dr Nugget Coombs, in his Foreword called the four stories “these historic articles”.
Two of the articles were taken from the files: one about an Aboriginal woman who was not allowed to marry the white man she loved, and the other recorded how in a small Queensland town, the local policeman — who had the title “Protector of Aboriginals” — had raped the grandmother, mother and daughter of the one Aboriginal family, and escaped punishment. The other two stories were based on court cases in Brisbane which proved that displaced Aborigines who had been moved from their tribal lands to missions were killing the people they loved: their nearest and dearest.
The chairman of the Aboriginal Treaty Committee, Dr Nugget Coombs, in the foreword, called them “these historic articles, which document the very recent, appalling treatment of Aboriginal Australians in Queensland”.
“I sincerely love this girl Mr Superintendent, and nothing could make me happier than to have her share my home and name. Mr Superintendent, can you not do anything to help – and I, I have a home here in the town and if you would give your consent I would save enough for her fare over to here and decorate the place out and have it furnished nicely for her, and, as I am a friend of my landlord, I think he would let me buy the house and pay for it in instalments. I have tried to make my case clear Mr Superintendent. I have a home, a permanent job at 5 pound with rises in due course, and I sincerely love her. This is really a plea Mr Superintendent, for the happiness of two people.”
The Superintendent did not reply to this letter.
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