Should the Australian Government apologise to Aboriginal people and do more to support them?

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The issue
2000 was a significant year in the development of relations between Aboriginal and white Australians. The year was officially titled Corroboree 2000. Representatives of Aboriginal Australia called for a treaty. There were also calls for an apology from the Australian Government to all members of the 'stolen generations', that is, Aboriginal people who had been taken from their parents as children.
The current Australian Government has persistently argued that such an apology is inappropriate and will not be given. It is also opposed to the idea of a treaty as it argues that a treaty is not signed between members of the same nation.
The Government has instead supported the idea of giving Aboriginal people financial support to help them overcome disadvantages in health and education.
In October 2000, the minister for reconciliation, Mr Philip Ruddock, created controversy when he suggested that the reason for Aboriginal disadvantage was the depressed state of Aboriginal technological development at the time of white settlement.
Shortly afterwards, a former Governor General and one time leader of the federal Labor Party, Mr Bill Hayden, stated that he also believed an apology was inappropriate. Mr Hayden also questioned the value of welfare payments to Aboriginal people, arguing that such payments could undermine independence.

What they said ...
'Telling non-indigenous Australians that they are the heirs and successors of, and apparently not much different from, there allegedly mass-murdering, racist, repressive ancestors [is likely to generate a] rather large public backlash'
Mr Bill Hayden, former Governor General

'Aborigines would never have been in their present predicament if they had not been victims of white dispossession, brutal treatment, and misguided and often cruel and racist protection and welfare policies'
Mr Hal Wootten, one of the royal commissioners into Aboriginal deaths in custody and a former deputy president of the National Native Title Tribunal

Echo Issue Outline 2000 / 43 - 44
Copyright © Echo Education Services

First published in The Echo news digest and newspaper sources index.

Issue outline by J M McInerney

The Australian Government and Aboriginal Australians are currently attempting to achieve what each refers to as reconciliation.
A Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established a decade ago. It is scheduled to wind up at the end of 2000. The Council is composed of 25 members drawn from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and wider Australian communities, including representatives of industry and the business community. The Government, the Opposition and the Australian Democrats are included among the wider community participants.
Reconciliation appears to mean a respectful and amicable accord between black and white Australia. However, Aboriginal Australia and the Government each appear to have a different understanding of exactly how reconciliation might be brought about.
Among the principal areas of disagreement are whether the Government should make a formal apology to the 'stolen generations' and whether the Government will sign a treaty with Aboriginal Australians.
2000 and 2001 have symbolic importance in the ongoing debate surrounding relations between indigenous and white Australians.
2000, for many people, marked the beginning of a new millennium. For Australia, it was also the year in which Sydney hosted the Olympic games and Australia attracted major international attention.
Representatives of Aboriginal Australia had hoped that an apology would be given and a treaty would be signed by 2000. This was not to be.
The decade-long work of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation comes to an end at the end of the year 2000. There has been regret expressed that more of the aims the Council had striven for have not been achieved.
2001 also represents a significant milestone, as it is the centenary of Australia's federation. Federation is of particular importance to Aboriginal Australians as it robbed them of the status of citizens. Prior to 1901 Aboriginal men were able to vote, however, the new Australian Constitution did not recognise Aboriginal citizenship. (It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal citizenship was again acknowledged.) Thus, it was hoped that some symbolic gesture, such as a national apology, could be used to mark a distinction between the first century of federation and the second.
However, the federal Government, and especially the current Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, have rejected both an apology and a treaty. Instead, they favour what they term 'practical reconciliation'. By this the Government appears to mean that it will introduce policies that will address Aboriginal disadvantage, especially in the areas of health and education. The Government has not yet indicated the extent of Aboriginal involvement in the implementation of these policies. This is important, as a long-standing criticism of Australian handling of Aboriginal affairs has been that Aboriginal people have been encouraged to take too passive a role in any attempt to secure their welfare.

Internet links

The Australian Bureau of Statistics issued a media release on August 10, 1999. It is titled, Lifelong disadvantage, early death for Indigenous Australians. It gives information on the limited life expectancy of a majority of Aboriginal Australians.
It can be found at

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner was established by the Federal Government in 1993. The Commission's goal is to achieve the practical enjoyment of human rights by Indigenous Australians.
The Commission's Internet site is a valuable source of information about Indigenous Australians. Its homepage can be found at

On August 24, 2000, Mr Malcolm Fraser, a former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia, gave the fifth Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture. The speech was titled, The Past We Need to Understand.
It is a sustained criticism of the current Liberal government's policies on Aboriginal reconciliation.
It considers issues such as:

* compensation to Aboriginal people,
* the forced removal of Aboriginal children,
* an apology to Aboriginal people and
* Australia's international treaty obligations as they apply to the treatment of Aboriginal Australians.

Also, on August 24, 2000, Ron Brunton, of the conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs criticised Malcolm Fraser's views on reconciliation. Mr Burton presented his opinions in an interview with Tony Jones on the ABC's Lateline program.
The interview can be found at

On August 25, 2000, the current Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, defended his Government's handling of Aboriginal reconciliation against the criticisms of former Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser. The defence was put as part of an interview with reporter, Greg Wilesmith. The interview conducted on the ABC's Lateline program. The interview can be found at

In September, 2000, Oxfam's International Investigation Mission released a report titled, The Rights of Indigenous Australians.
The report argues that Aboriginal Australians should have full and equal access to all Government provided services, such as health and education. It also argues that they need 'economic empowerment'. By this the report appears to mean that Aboriginal Australians should not be impeded in their attempts to earn a livelihood.
The report states, 'What matters is certainty, certainty that they can earn a living from employment or from the natural resources of the land and the sea in a way that is sustainable for their children's sake, certainty that there are health services and educational opportunities in the form they are needed, certainty that their communities are safe places for them to live, certainty that they can voice their concerns and wishes, and certainty that they will not be oppressed because of who they are.'
The report can be found at

The final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation can be found at
Its conclusions can be found at
The Council's six recommendations can be found at
These recommendations twice refer to the need for a treaty. They also refer to the need for 'benchmarks' to measure the extent to which all governments and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) have succeeded in overcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' disadvantage.
The recommendations do not make reference to a formal apology to Aboriginal people. This is not because an apology is not desired, but, rather because Aboriginal leaders do not appear to believe that an apology will be made.

Arguments against the claim that the Australian Government should apologise to Aboriginal people and do more to support them
1. An apology to members of the supposed stolen generation is unnecessary as claims of abuse by welfare workers and others are frequently exaggerated.
Criticisms have been made of the report into the affect on Aboriginal people of the supposed Government policy of placing Aboriginal children in white adoptive homes or welfare institutions. The former Governor General, Mr Bill Hayden, has claimed that a number of the accounts upon which findings in the Bringing Them Home report are based are faulted. He claims they are the result of what he refers to as 'faulty memory syndrome'.
Mr Hayden has further criticised the quality of the Bringing Them Home report, claiming it is the product of a 'very thin investigation'. He claimed the report 'accepted untested recollections of alleged forced removals'.
Columnist for The Australian, Mr Frank Devine, has put a similar position. Mr Devine has claimed that the report blackens the 'reputations of decent men and women' whose only aim was to assist Aboriginal children.
Mr Devine gives an example of an Aboriginal girl who was supposedly forcibly adopted. Mr Devine claims that the girl was actually placed with a white family because her parents had died. He suggests that many of the accusations made in the Bringing Them Home report are similarly false or misleading.

2. Whatever abuses may have been committed against Aboriginal people in the past are not the responsibility of contemporary white Australians.
This is essentially the position put by the current Prime Minister, Mr John Howard. Mr Howard claims that it is unreasonable to expect contemporary white Australians to accept responsibility for, let alone feel guilt about, actions that they did not commit. Mr Howard has referred to this apparent desire to apportion contemporary blame for past events as the 'black armband' view of history.
Mr Howard has also that it is not appropriate to use contemporary understandings to judge the actions of people who lived in the past. According to this line of argument, though an action may appear wrong by today's standards, it may have appeared the correct course of action at the time.

3. Too much support from welfare agencies develops a habit of dependency.
Former Australian Governor General, Mr Bill Hayden, has made this point. Mr Hayden has claimed 'Self-pity is not a remedial course for the socially disabled. You've got to fight back.' Mr Hayden has further commented, in an apparent paraphrasing of Aboriginal activist, Noel Pearson, 'Welfarism ... kills initiative and breeds dependency, undermines self-esteem, promotes a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, and promotes wrong and destructive values in recipients.'

4. The relatively impoverished state of many Aboriginal communities is due to the primitive state of Aboriginal culture at the time it came into contact with Western civilisation.
Reconciliation Minister, Mr Philip Ruddock, has recently claimed that the level of disadvantage suffered by many Aboriginal is due to the relatively primitive state of Aboriginal technological development at the time of their first contact with Western civilisation.
Mr Ruddock has claimed that this supposedly low level of development meant that Aborigines were unable to adapt to Western civilisation and so could not take advantage of the benefits it offered them.
Mr Rudduck has stated, 'We're dealing with an indigenous population that had little contact with the rest of the world. We're dealing with people who are essentially hunter-gatherers. They didn't have chariots. I don't think they have invented the wheel.'
This claim, if accepted, would serve to reduce the level of responsibility white Australians might otherwise feel for the disadvantages currently suffered by many Aboriginal people.

5. Most Australians do not consider an apology to Aboriginal people is necessary.
In a recently conducted AC Nielsen survey, the results indicated that a majority of Australians do not support a formal apology being made to Aboriginal people for past injustices. The survey indicated that 52% of people questioned were opposed to an apology, while only 43% favoured an apology.

6. Excessive government support to Aboriginal people and demands for an apology will alienate white Australians against Aboriginal people.
Bill Hayden, a former Australian Governor General, made this point. Mr Hayden has claimed that 'there is a public reaction against the use of victimhood as some sort of heavy waddy for punishing the [supposedly] guilty [white] mass, as it seems to be put. So, opinion polls reveal solid majorities against a range of indigenous Australians' welfare objectives.'
Mr Hayden has also claimed that it is a common community view ... that Aboriginal welfare is "too generous"'.
Mr Hayden suggests that Aboriginal Australians will lose public goodwill and community support if they present themselves as victims and refuse to take significant responsibility for their own situation.
Mr Hayden has claimed that 'Telling non-indigenous Australians that they are the heirs and successors of, and apparently not much different from, there allegedly mass-murdering, racist, repressive ancestors' is likely to generate a 'rather large public backlash'.

Arguments supporting the claim that the Australian Government should apologise to Aboriginal people and do more to support them
1. White Australia has a collective responsibility for the acts committed against Aboriginal people in the past.
Mr Neville Roach, the chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia, has stated, 'Whatever notions we may have of fault, guilt or intent, most Australians would acknowledge that the very process of immigration and settlement has caused massive disruption to the lives of the indigenous community.
This caused great suffering and disadvantage, many consequences of which continue to be felt today...
Responsibility for these outcomes belongs to the collective immigrant community, because we came here uninvited and took control, without the participation, let alone agreement, of the indigenous community.
So it is entirely logical and appropriate for today's non-indigenous community to apologise to the present members of the indigenous community ...'

2. If reconciliation between black and white Australians is to be achieved an apology needs to be given and economic and social disadvantage need to be overcome.
A former minister for immigration and ethnic affairs, Mr Ian Macphee, has claimed that John Howard's refusal to apologise to the 'stolen generations' is 'dashing hopes of speedy reconciliation between the original and later Australians'.
A similar point has been made by Mr Geoff Clark, the chairman of ATSIC. Mr Clark has claimed that, 'Reconciliation requires us to talk together as equals. It requires good faith negotiations between the representatives of the peoples and the Australian Government ...'

3. The supposedly good intentions of many of the white authorities that had Aboriginal children taken away from their parents do not alter the harm that was done.
Mr Mike Steketee, the national affairs editor for The Australian, has made this point. Mr Steketee has claimed that some of the attempts to settle Aboriginal children with white families 'sprang from good intentions. But they were at the best misguided and at the worst deeply racist.'
Mr Steketee has further claims that some Aboriginal children were placed with white families against the expressed wishes of the children's families.
Mr Steketee also claims that one of the aims of this supposed policy of resettlement was to bring about the gradual eradication of Aboriginal communities. He cites one government official who is reported to have said of half-caste Aboriginal, "[It is a] pity to have child who are almost white brought up on a "blacks" reserve.'

4. The Australian government has a responsibility to address the poor health and low standard of education suffered by many Aboriginal people.
It has been claimed that the federal government has the same responsibility to Aboriginal Australians as it has to white Australians. According to this line of argument the government has an obligation to all citizens to ensure they receive adequate education and health care.
Mr Hal Wootten, one of the royal commissioners into Aboriginal deaths in custody and a former deputy president of the National Native Title Tribunal, has made this point.
Mr Wootten has noted that 'Welfare benefits came to Aborigines as part of citizenship rights not, as some critics imply, as a quirk of progressive policy.'
The Australian, in its editorial of stated that very little more is spent on Aboriginal health than is spent on health care for other Australians. The editorial suggests that this is inappropriate, as Aboriginal Australians generally have poorer health standards. The editorial states 'Spending on indigenous health is only $1.08 per person, compared with $1.00 for other Australians. While some progress has been made, Aborigines will live on average 18 years less than other Australians.'

5. Poor living standards and low standards of health and education are related to the dispossession of Aboriginal people.
Mr Hal Wootten, one of the royal commissioners into Aboriginal deaths in custody and a former deputy president of the National Native Title Tribunal, has made this point.
Mr Wootten has claimed that 'Aborigines would never have been in their present predicament if they had not been victims of white dispossession, brutal treatment, and misguided and often cruel and racist protection and welfare policies.'

6. The international community will condemn Australia if it does not apologise to and improve the situation of its indigenous people.
This point has been made by the Victorian Liberal Party, which has urged the Prime Minister to issue an apology on behalf of the nation.
The Party's East Doncaster branch has issued a motion stating that 'In this year of Corroboree 2000, and with the eyes of the world on Australia during the Olympic Games, it is entirely appropriate that an apology be issued by the Prime Minister ...'

Further implications
There is growing popular support for a treaty between white and Aboriginal Australia. Currently, however, the Australia Government does not favour such a treaty. If there were a change of federal government the situation would probably alter, as the Opposition supports a treaty. However, such a treaty would only be likely to retain popular support if it were a moderate document.
It is unlikely that a majority of Australians would support any treaty that gave Aboriginal people ownership of significant areas within Australia. There would need to be a substantial public education campaign before such measures won public acceptance. Equally, any measures to give Aboriginal people financial compensation for the wrongs of the past would also need to be promoted to the general population.
However, goodwill toward Aboriginal Australians appears to be growing. This goodwill is indicated by the hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the reconciliation marches held in various state capitals. It may be that over time this goodwill will be translated into something of enduring value to Aboriginal people.

Newspaper items used in the preparation of this outline
Available as a press cuttings package (with an issue outline reprint): price: $37.50 (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)

The Age
4/9/00 page 12 letter from Mike Brown, co-ordinator of the Blackwood Reconciliation Group, South Australia, 'Voices from the void will not be silenced'
22/9/00 page 11 comment by Neville Roach, 'Reconciling this PM'
25/9/00 page 2 news item by Debra Jopson, 'Aboriginal leaders renew calls for a treaty'
5/10/00 page 1 news item by Kerry Taylor, 'New pressure on Ruddock'
7/10/00 page 6 news item by Ewin Hannan, 'Say sorry, state Liberal branch will urge Howard'
10/10/00 page 15 comment by Tim Colebatch, 'It's not what you say ...'
12/10/00 page 3 news item by Misha Ketchell, 'Hayden lambasts "stolen" report'
13/10/00 page 8 news item by Kerry Taylor, 'Hayden draws fire over "sorry" speech'
13/10/00 page 15 comment by Bill Hayden, 'Why Aborigines should turn from accusation'
14/10/00 page 9 (News Extra section) comment by Janet McCalman, 'Survival was their triumph'
3/11/00 page 3 comment by Ian MacPhee, 'Howard has hurt'
8/11/00 page 3 news item by Michael Gordon, 'Most Australians now favor treaty'

The Australian
13/9/00 page 19 news item by Bernard Lane, 'Stolen child appeal lost'
13/9/00 page 24 editorial, 'Debate crucial on stolen generations'
14/9/00 page 27 comment by Frank Devine, 'Innocent demonised in the search for truth'
22/9/00 page 33 comment by Mike Steketee, 'No need to be hazy after all these years'
4/10/00 page 5 news item by Megan Saunders and Roger Martin, 'Ruddock's words "caused hurt"'
6/10/00 page 12 cartoon, 'Primitive man'
11/10/00 page 12 editorial, 'Hopeful benchmark for reconciliation'
12/10/00 page 3 news item by Bernard Lane, 'Black activists "run risk of backlash"'
17/10/00 page 15 comment by Hal Wootten, 'Doom and gloom must get the broom'
21/10/00 page 21 news item by Alison Crosweller, 'Path to reconciliation unstoppable'

The Herald Sun
6/10/00 page 19 cartoon by Knight
12/10/00 page 3 news item by Michael Madigan, 'Hayden salvo on Aboriginal "victims"'
13/10/00 page 20 editorial, 'Bill Hayden has his say'
13/10/00 page 27 news item by Michael Masigan, 'Hayden widens his race attack'

Analyses of two newspaper items

Should the Australian Government apologise to Aboriginal people and do more to support them?

Analysis of a comment

Title: Why Aborigines should turn from accusation
Author: Bill Hayden
Published on October 13, 2000 in The Age

The headline suggests the article will be an exposition or explanation of some aspect of Aboriginal affairs. It implies that the author has a significant knowledge base and is in a position to offer a view. The headline also implies a judgement, suggesting that Aboriginal people are misdirecting their energies into laying blame. The phrase 'turn from accusation' is quite formal, however, its implications are negative. If the sentiment had been expressed colloquially it would have read, 'Why Aborigines should stop whingeing'. Thus, despite its moderate tone, it implies a criticism of Aboriginal people.

A feature is made of the authorship of the piece. Bill Hayden's name is written in large capital letters. A head and shoulders photograph is included, showing Hayden in a dark suit and tie. This conservative attire increases Hayden's authority. It is obviously assumed that readers will recognise the author. It is noted at the end of the article that Hayden was a former Governor General and leader of the federal Opposition. Hayden's stature as a public figure is likely to influence the reader. Because Hayden has expressed strong opinions on a number of controversial issues over a number of years, readers are likely to a have either a positive or negative attitude toward him depending on their reactions to his previous comments.

It is stated at the end of the piece that the article is an edited version of a speech given at the University of Tasmania. The opening is rather abrupt, making it appear likely that whatever introductory comments Hayden may have made have been cut out. The piece opens with Hayden paraphrasing criticisms that he suggests Aboriginal Australians are making of white Australians. The views said to be those of indigenous Australians are very forcefully expressed. White Australians are told they are viewed as the 'heirs and successors' of 'mass-murdering, racist, repressive ancestors ...' The language used here is highly emotive. The adjectives used to describe earlier white Australians are extremely damning. This is an interesting argumentative device. None of these comments are direct, attributed quotes. What this device does is allow the author to couch the supposed views of Aboriginal Australians in offensive terms and then claim these views are likely to offend. This is a no lose situation for the author as he can create the weaknesses he then attributes to Aboriginal positions. Exactly the same device is then used in the next paragraph, where Hayden claims that Aboriginal people view white Australians as 'objectionable interlopers on this continent'. Hayden again suggests that such 'tactics' are likely to alienate white Australians.

In paragraph four Hayden accuses Aboriginal people of casting themselves in the 'self-pitying' role of 'victimhood'. The suggestion is then made that this tendency to blame others has resulted in many Aboriginal people contributing to the 'destruction of their own societies'. This paragraph picks up the note struck in the headline; only here Aboriginal Australians are directly and openly accused of 'blaming other people'. This paragraph is no more than a series of assertions, however, they are forcefully expressed and may be persuasive to some readers. It may also appeal to some readers because it is a position that makes Aboriginal people largely responsible for their own disadvantage and thus might reduce the sense of guilt or partial responsibility some white Australians feel in the matter.

Paragraphs five and six claim that the 'noxious impact of alcohol' is essentially self-inflicted. Many of Hayden's judgements are strongly and pithily expressed. They have something of the quality of axioms or aphorisms. One such is, 'Self-pity is not a remedial course for the socially disabled'. Such comments may tend to persuade through their assurance and simple verbal dexterity. However, as an overall observation on Hayden's style of argument, it is worth noting that when he refers to the claims supposedly made by indigenous Australians against white Australians, he uses very powerful language, however, when he refers to the pain suffered by Aboriginal Australians, he tends to use much more neutral and subdued language. For example, 'the socially disabled' is a very moderate way in which to refer to the hardships endured by Aboriginal people. Such language tends to minimise these hardships.

It is not possible, however, to construct this as a simply negative treatment of indigenous Australians. In paragraph ten, Hayden claims, 'Because of the appalling long-term deprivation they have experienced, Aborigines' welfare needs are much greater than the rest of the nation ...' The second half of the piece, however, goes on to regret 'passive' welfarism. Further, Hayden devotes only one paragraph to the supposed alternative to 'passive welfare'. It would, therefore, be possible to construct this piece as an attack on welfare support to Aboriginal people. Though this is probably not Hayden's aim, it is how the speech has been read by a number of commentators. Thus the emphasis of this piece is somewhat confused. Subsequent critics have wondered about the overall point of the speech and there seems some justification for this concern. Apart from its apparently uncertain attitude to the hardships faced by Aboriginal people, it is difficult not to wonder about who was its intended audience and what sort of effect it was expected to have on that audience.

Given that the paper was first delivered at the University of Tasmania, it seems reasonable to assume that its original audience was a group of well-educated white Australians, possibly academics. However, as addressed to any white audience, the piece seems likely to create the very antagonism or ill feeling toward indigenous Australians that it claims to regret. If, as finally seems more likely, it was intended to offer advice to Aboriginal Australians on public relations strategies and future policy directions, it is written in a way which is likely to offend and alienate this audience also. It has something of the effect of a supposed peacemaker who carries insults between the two contending parties.

No. 2: Analysis of an article

Title: Hayden lambasts 'stolen' report
Author: Misha Ketchell
Published: The Age, October 12, 2000, on page 3

As usual, the headline is intended to attract attention. It makes signficant assumptions about the readers' prior knowledge. Firstly it assumes that the reader is aware of Bill Hayden's identity; then it assumes that '"stolen" report' will be read as a reference to Bringing Them Home, the report on the 'stolen generations'. It can probably afford to make these assumptions as Mr Hayden, a former leader of the federal Opposition and a two term Governor General of Australia, has been in the public eye for some 25 years. With regard to the reference to the 'stolen generations' report, even if it is not recognised from the headline, the word 'stolen' is sufficiently interesting in its own right to attract reader attention. The use of the word 'lambast' is also significant. It means 'to criticise severely'. Previously, it had the colloquial meaning of 'to thrash or beat', however, this usage has fallen into disuse. The word is no longer commonly in use with either of these meanings; however, its relative obscurity is likely to give it a sort of curiosity value for readers.

The article takes a very narrow perspective on a speech on Aboriginal affairs made by Mr Hayden at the University of Tasmania. The article reads as though the speech had dealt only with Mr Hayden's criticisms of the 'stolen generations' report. A cursory reading of an edited transcript of the speech, published in The Age on October 13, reveals that it also dealt with Aboriginal public relations issues and with the most appropriate form of welfare support for Aboriginal people. Subsequent articles on the speech focused on different points that Mr Hayden made. Thus a later report emphasised his views on Aboriginal welfare. It would appear that each reporter made a judgement about what was newsworthy in the speech. This is a quite reasonable approach to adopt, particularly as the speech was a long and quite complex one. What is somewhat misleading, however, is that nowhere does the article indicate that it is presenting a very selective account of what the speech contained.

The article quotes a number of comments made by Mr Hayden about the Bringing Them Home report. The comments cast doubt on the validity of some of the testamonies on which the report is based. Mr Hayden refers to 'very thin investigations' and 'untested recollections of alleged forced removals'. These comments simply assert that the allegations were untested and that the quality of the investigations that gave rise to the report was poor. There would appear to be a certain bias in these remarks as Mr Hayden doubts the claims made by Aboriginal witnesses but accepts that those who took Aboriginal children acted in good faith and in the children's best interests. Mr Hayden uses language with positive connotations to decribe the behaviour and motivations of those who took the 'stolen generations'. They are said to have performed 'acts of mercy'. They are also said to have 'rescued part-Aboriginal children from abandonment'. This description of these actions ennobles them and may well convince some readers. However, the pre-existent attitudes of readers are likely to go a long way toward shaping their response to Mr Hayden's claims. For example, this is a very different interpretation from those who construe the same events as the racistly justified theft of loved Aboriginal children from their families.

The article ends with the suggestion that Mr Hayden is trying to establish a community of interest with white Australians. Mr Hayden is quoted as saying that white Australians rightly see themselves as champions of a 'fair go'. This is an appeal to pride in Australia's national self-image. It suggests that this national image is at odds with the suggestion that Australians are descended from mass-murdering racists. This appeal to national pride may well be effective.

A cartoon, the import of which is slightly obscure, accompanies the article. It is captioned 'Spot the difference' and shows an Aboriginal man standing a distance apart from a suited elderly man who appears to be Bill Hayden. The Aboriginal man is pointing toward his chest and states 'It's time we took responsibility for ourselves.' The Hayden figure points toward the Aboriginal man and says 'It's time you took responsibility for yourselves'. The Hayden figure looks a little old and befuddled. Its appearance suggests that Mr Hayden may be out of touch with the issue and thus that his comments are inappropriate. It may also imply that there is a qualitative difference between a set of people seeking to improve themselves and someone else figure-pointing and and telling them they must do so. If the cartoon is meant to be read this way it is a criticism of Mr Hayden's views. However, there is the possibility that the cartoon is meant to suggest that there is little difference between the position put by Mr Hayden and that of many Aboriginal activists. If the cartoon is meant to be interpreted in this way, it is an endorsement of Mr Hayden's position.