Maralinga: The shame of Australian nuclear testing

Australia's first nuclear explosion in October 1952 at Monte Bello Islands off the north-west coast of WA.
Australia’s first nuclear explosion in October 1952 at Monte Bello Islands off the north-west coast of WA.

With the world remembering the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombs in Japan, reading Frank Walker’s book Maralinga proved a timely reminder of Australia’s own nuclear shame. In the 1950s Prime Minister Robert Menzies colluded with the British government to turn Australia into a giant nuclear experiment and its nine million people into guinea pigs.

Britain had been frozen out of the American nuclear testing program for good reason: many of its intelligence officers were double agents working for the Soviets. Britain needed a site for its post-war testing program and Australia’s remoteness, friendliness and obsequious compliance fitted the bill. The site chosen was the Monte Bello Islands off the WA coast. On September 16, 1950 British prime minister Clement Attlee cabled Menzies to see if Australia would agree to the testing and for British “experts” to conduct reconnaissance of the islands. They wanted to drop the bomb in October 1952, and expected winds would take the radioactive cloud out to sea. Attlee said the area would be contaminated for “three years”.

Without consulting anyone, Menzies responded with an enthusiastic yes. There was no Australian oversight and Britain had total control of safety. After winning an election in 1951, Menzies finally announced the news to the public in February 1952 saying there was no danger to the public, but did not say where it would happen. There was no debate, instead the mood was one of excitement and the press speculated on the likely site (most assumed it would be at Woomera rocket range in SA). Parliament passed a bill to deny Australians entry to huge zones of the country that might be used for testing.

Menzies painted a rosy picture of equal partnership but Australians provided labour and land only. There was a third secret use of Aussies: as lab rats for British nuclear experiments. Australia’s leading nuclear expert physicist Mark Oliphant was barred from the program for having the temerity to be “appalled” at the atomic bombs’ impact on Japan. Australia’s head scientist was the Briton Ernest Titterton who helped developed the US bomb. Titterton was an ardent supporter of nuclear weapons and his biggest fear was they might be stopped.

The ageing British Navy frigate HMS Plym was donated to be the carrier of the first atomic bomb in Australia. It sailed from Britain with the frame of the bomb while the radioactive core was flown to Australia. WA newspapers had wind of something big happening at Monte Bello as British and Australians built buildings and structures for the test. The nearest mainland town, Onslow, was packed with journalists as the big day approached. The day itself depended on wind conditions when it was blowing north-west towards Indonesia (which wasn’t a concern). At 8am on October 3, 1952, officers sent an electronic signal to spark the explosives around the plutonium core.

The 25 kiloton blast disintegrated the Plym and created a seven meter deep crater in the seabed. Witnesses saw a blinding electric blue light and many reported seeing the bones of their hands.  The 4km high cloud formed a Z shape rather than the more familiar mushroom cloud. While the wind initially took it west, it changed direction and took it back towards the mainland. Under strict secrecy, Australian and British soldiers were ordered into the blast area to pick up pieces of the Plym and put them into drums. They wore no protective gear and were not tested for radiation.

The bomb was front page news, all positive. The West Australian praised Britain’s skill in providing “a reliable shield for the Commonwealth”. Sailors on the HMAS Macquarie saw thousands of dead fish in the water, some were scooped up and cooked. A day later the captain got orders not to eat the fish. Many on the Macquarie later died of cancer and many families also had health issues. It was a similar story for crews of other vessels sent to the scene. Confidential documents warned some degree of risk had to be run to get the full value of the test. Fallout spread across northern Australia reaching Cairns and Townsville on the east coast.

Menzies approved further testing on the mainland. The area chosen was Emu Field, 650km north-west of Woomera. The date set was 12 months from the first test on October 15, 1953. RAAF crews were told they had to fly into the mushroom cloud without protective gear to find out what went on inside. They were told it might bring sterility and were offered the chance to turn it down. None did. When the bomb was detonated on the ground, the RAAF men were in the air 20km away and the explosion nearly tore the planes apart. They turned towards the mushroom cloud and took photos. When they went inside the cloud, it was like entering a tornado. They were “entering the gates of hell”, as one airman put it. Under British orders they were told to enter the cloud a second time.

When they finally landed, they were greeted by scientists in space suits breathing with oxygen bottles who wouldn’t come near the pilots. Instead they wanted the canisters attached to the planes and flew them direct to England. The pilots realised they were lab rats. They were forced to continue the mission to track the radioactive cloud across Australia as it drifted east. One pilot said the cloud stayed over a Queensland town for five days as it rained but would not reveal which town for fear of being jailed. As at Monte Bello, soldiers had to enter the bomb zone without protection to conduct clean-up operations while Geiger counters “went berserk”.

Northern SA is the home of the Yankunytjatjara people. Around 170km north-west of Emu Field, 11-year-old Yami Lester heard a huge bang in the distance. The following morning a big black cloud rolled in like a dust storm. Lester told the 1985 Royal Commission it frightened his people and he could feel sticky dirt from the black mist. People felt sick and had sore and watery eyes. Many died in the following days. Lester became blind but doctors dismissed a link with the bomb. It was an experience repeated across the north of the state. But Aboriginal people did not have a vote in 1953 and no one cared about their plight, nor the plight of Australian military personnel in harm’s way. Menzies hailed the bomb a great success. Progress was too important, as was Australian toadying to Britain.

Survivors of the Hive shipwreck: Irish convicts in Australia

BHC3504 001No wonder Australia is addicted to off-shore jails in Nauru and Manus Island, it too was founded as one, to solve a political problem. British jails were heaving in the 18th century as the state harshly punished crimes against property. Australia was founded to swallow Britain’s criminal class, a “transparent labyrinth” as Robert Hughes called it, with walls 14,000 miles thick. In this gigantic social experiment a special place was reserved for the Irish, different by religion and whose crimes were believed to be especially violent.

This reputation was put down to Ireland’s situation during the half century of the convict era (1790s to 1840s). While the period was bookended by failed rebellions in 1798 and 1848, it was characterised by subdued hatred which occasionally bubbled over between the Protestant landholding class and the majority Catholic peasantry.

Opponents of transportation used these factors to defend the reckless violence of the Irish in Australia. Activists like Carolyn Chisholm fought transportation and tried to make life better for those affected by the policy. However, Chisholm’s attitude was rare. The Irish found it hard to shake their status as foreign “Popish” intruders in an outpost of empire. The Castle Hill rebellion of 1804 was a dismal failure but it helped perpetuate the myth of treacherous outsiders.

Their safety was in numbers. One in five convicts in New South Wales was Irish making them a significant minority. Researcher Babette Smith was determined to challenge their view of victimhood in her book “The Luck of the Irish” which concentrates on the period between 1825 and 1845. Smith meticulously researched convict records to see why they had been transported and what they did in Australia.

The centrepiece of her book and Smith’s sub-title is a little-remembered convict shipwreck in 1835: How a shipload of convicts survived the wreck of the Hive to make a new life in Australia. The Hive, with 250 prisoners aboard, was 109 days out from Cork and just one day away from Sydney when she hit bad weather off the south NSW coast. On a windy night the Hive ran aground near Jervis Bay. Captain John Nutting was missing in action, drunk and in bed. Crews nervously obeyed his instruction to sail close to the shore. When the ship struck a reef, Nutting’s contradictory instructions made matters worse. The crew wanted to abandon ship but he insisted first they stay aboard and then they all swim to shore. The ship’s doctor pulled rank in the interests of safety and the crew got the longboats ready to ferry the passengers to shore, against the wishes of the peeved captain.

The doctor was right to be worried, the surf was dangerous. One youth tried to swim ashore and got in difficulties before the boatswain dived in to save him. However the boatswain hit his head on the stern and drowned. Incredibly he was the only person to die as a result of the shipwreck of the Hive. The youth survived and heroic chief officer Edward Canney escorted every longboat to shore, up to his neck in water each time. He saved the lives of 300 people.

When they got ashore Captain Nutting resumed command as if nothing had happened. No one had any idea where they were other than “a day’s sail from Sydney”. Aboriginal people approached, offering help to the stranded Europeans. By sign language and broken English they offered to guide someone to the nearest white man who lived “up the hill”.  Junior officer Waldron Kelly volunteered for the task and after two hours arrived at Erowal, the farm of John Lamb. Lamb, alarmed by the prospect of escaped convicts, took Kelly another 12 hours walk north to Shoalhaven, then owned by prominent settler Alexander Berry. Berry immediately wrote to the Colonial Secretary about the incident and set out with Kelly the following morning to the Hive.

The shipwreck news caused a sensation in Sydney. Three ships were dispatched and rumours of missing treasure caused a buzz in town. After five days the Tamar steam-packet brought back half the crew and passengers. A few days later HM brig Zebra brought the rest of the convicts. The remaining crew and soldiers stayed on to salvage what they could. Captain Nutting was among the last to get to Sydney in time for the official inquiry where Canney contradicted his testimony. The inquiry blamed Nutting for going to bed when the mate told him they were too near land. It also endorsed the doctor’s action in removing his command.

While Nutting fled to England in disgrace (though still in charge of a vessel), the Irish prisoners remained in Australia. After the dramatic circumstances of their arrival, Babette Smith asked the question: why did none attempt escape at Jervis Bay despite 250 convicts outnumbering 29 soldiers? There were violent prisoners who could do the overpowering. Many were transported for violent crimes which Smith divides into four categories of tribal, political, religious and sexual violence.

Maurice Leehy, 37, was transported for his part in a “savage atrocity” between two clans at the Tralee races. Police read the “riot act” which was ignored. Clan members used sticks and stones on each other and 16 people died. Leehy was one of 18 people charged, and he received transportation for life.

Some violence was political. British occupation spawned secret societies with colourful names such as the Whiteboys and the Ribbonmen. They carried out arson, assault, cattle-maiming and sent threatening letters. Fanton Delany, 22, ended up on the Hive after his Whiteboy group tried to force farmer Maurice Kelly to give up his land. Fenton posted a threatening letter but someone informed on him. He went on the run but was caught asleep at a farmer’s house. The Kildare Assizes sentenced him to seven years transportation.

Irish Catholics suffered under the Penal Laws which prevented them owning land and voting in elections. Under Daniel O’Connell and a newly energised Catholic Church, emancipation and education reforms were won in 1829. By the time of the Hive, NSW’s governor was Richard Bourke, a liberal protestant Irishman under the influence of his great relative Edmund Bourke. As an Irish magistrate Richard Bourke recognised “the lack of basic civil rights such as religious freedom and a fair and impartial system of justice” was the cause of much social unrest.

Fifteen aboard the Hive were sentenced for murder or manslaughter. Joseph Ryan hit his victim with a hammer for called him a “whitefoot”, another was part of a group who pelted a man with stones, while many, like Leahy, were involved in deadly riots. Timothy Cleary, 21, didn’t kill anyone but he pointed out his victim to another man who killed him with a stick. The victim had taken land from the Cleary family. Murder was ecumenical. A Monaghan Protestant, James McCabe, 47, was sentenced for his part in an Orange Day sectarian brawl.

Sexual violence was also prevalent with “abduction” a common crime in Ireland at the time. Bride theft was an ancient Gaelic custom, usually by gangs against female victims who were wealthy, single or who had land. James Dalton had his death sentence commuted to seven years transportation for the crime of “aiding and assisting the abduction of Catherine Hartney”. Dalton’s 60-year-old father-in-law James Ryan was earlier transported for leading a group to force a farmer to relinquish land. Dalton assisted Ryan to kidnap Hartney for his son Daniel Ryan, who also sailed on the Hive with Dalton.

But almost half the offenders aboard were thieves, burglars and robbers. They were little different to thousands of English thieves sentenced to Australia. They were poor but missed out on the Famine and also left before the Catholic Church renaissance took full effect. So like the English criminals they were ready to become honest Australians.

Some, such as Dalton, had family in Ireland, and the Irish made up 60% of those who applied to have their family sent out. Though the British stopped that process to save money in 1840, Caroline Chisholm persuaded the government to change its mind in 1846 to support Irish families who wanted to move to Australia.

By then Dalton was free having served seven years at the pastoral holding of Archibald Campbell near Bathurst. Dalton was a model prisoner and on his release in 1842 went into the carting business. He later became a storekeeper at Blackman’s Swamp (which became Orange in 1846). His wife Ellen had died and Dalton applied for his three children to join him. Elder siblings Thomas and Margaret had already emigrated to Canada leaving youngest son James an orphan in Famine Ireland.

Dalton’s request was approved and James Dalton Jr arrived in Australia on the Panama in 1849. By then his father had moved into a bigger store in Orange. Father and son ran the business before James junior took it over in 1853 as James senior became a publican. Their timing was impeccable. In 1851 gold was found near Bathurst and Orange and the Daltons took full advantage of the goldrush as established traders in the region. The family quickly became wealthy. Elder siblings Thomas and Margaret moved to Australia in the 1850s and they expanded to become one of the biggest merchants, retailers, millers and pastoral holdings in NSW.

James the elder died in 1860 having laid the groundwork for a significant family contribution to their adopted country. James junior and Thomas became mayors of Orange. Thomas represented the town in the NSW Legislative Assembly and later became active in the Illawarra where his memory is retained in park and stadium names. The family eventually married into the Redmond political dynasty cementing bonds between Ireland and Australia. Their father, James Dalton Sr was probably the only rags to riches story from the Hive, but their stories show why the Irish did not rebel in Jervis Bay. Australia offered up something better than the land they left.

That Unhappy Race Part 9 – Queensland adopts Meston’s system

Cherbourg was one of the reserves created by Meston's Proposed System.
Cherbourg was one of the reserves created by Meston’s Proposed System.

Although the Queensland newspapers of 1895 agreed with Archibald Meston’s Proposed System to manage Aboriginal people, Colonial Secretary Horace Tozer initially did nothing. Tozer was worried it would become a large social welfare system at government expense. An impatient Meston chastised him for lack of action, threatening to run again for parliament at the next election. Stalling, Tozer called for another report. He ordered Meston to survey Aboriginal missions and inquire into the troubles on the Cape York frontier.

Meston was pleased to be on the government payroll and set off north in 1896 in a long, slow trawl of Cape York indigenous communities, visiting missions like Yarrabah and Mappoon. He was particularly impressed by Cape Bedford where Lutheran missionaries spoke the local language and gained Indigenous respect. Meston concluded the tribes should stay together in reserves where they could be transformed into Christians. That meant three reserves in Queensland (not the two he originally asked for), one each in the north, centre and south. He followed Gideon Lang, calling for the abolition of the native police and recommended the end of Aboriginal slave labour in the pearling and trepanning industries.

This earned the ire of northern newspapers but Meston was confident when he presented his report to Tozer in October 1896. However under-secretary and police commissioner William Parry-Okeden took exception to the criticism of the native police. Tozer asked Parry-Okeden to improve police strategy in his own tour of north Queensland. At Normanton Parry-Okeden met the government’s medical officer in the north, Dr Walter Roth. Roth impressed him and he urged Tozer to support Roth’s research.

Parry-Okeden’s February 1897 report called for the continuation of a strong, well-officered native police. He said friendly relations between the races could only be established by “affording equal protection and dealing out even-handed justice.” Tozer took Parry-Okeden’s suggestions to Premier Hugh Nelson to restructure the force though it was only a temporary reprieve. This notorious “machine for murder” as 19th century historian William Rusden called the native police, finally petered out by 1900 replaced by white constables assisted by trackers.

Meston’s system of reserves took shape in 1897. He earmarked Lukin’s Fraser Island site as the southern reserve and 50 blacks were “rounded up” from Maryborough and removed to the island. Meston went west and reported on Aborigines at Charleville, Mitchell and Roma, where many were addicted to opium and destroyed by syphilis. Tozer authorised their removal to a new reserve at Durundur, near Woodford. Meston’s report also proposed a draft bill for parliament based on American precedents for reserves under the authority of the Home Secretary, administered by protectors.

The bill gave control of every area of Aboriginal lives to protectors who could withhold wages and keep them on reserves. There were strict penalties against alcohol and opium and employers had to give police details of Aboriginal employees. Tozer took Meston’s suggestion to divide the state but also took Parry-Okeden’s advice to give the northern section to the commissioner of police.

The bill easily passed through parliament, the only debate being a definition of “half-caste”. Tozer told parliament it was “the offspring of an aboriginal mother and other than an aboriginal father” (No one could contemplate a white woman having sex with an aboriginal male). When it was pointed out many half-caste males had important roles of responsibility managing white men and cattle, Tozer made the half-caste rule apply only to females. The Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Bill received Royal Assent on December 10, 1897. It was Tozer’s last major piece of legislation before retiring in 1898.

Tozer appointed Parry-Okeden as Chief Protector for Queensland, with Meston named southern division protector and Roth northern division protector. In 1899 Parry-Okeden was removed from his role with Meston and Roth reporting directly to the Home Secretary. Roth had the extra ethnological task of collecting information about Aborigines in the north. He reported he was being “rushed” by applicants for permits to employ local blacks. Roth’s hope to end slavery in the pearling trade ran into squatter opposition and the commissioner of police told him not to take “too drastic action”.

In the south Meston claimed to have wiped out the opium trade by 1900. He estimated the total number of Aboriginal people below the 22nd parallel (between Sarina and Rockhampton) as 3500 of which 2300 were employed, 800 were dependent, and 400 were “finding for themselves”. Meston removed 300 Aboriginal people to reserves at Fraser Island, Durundur and Deebing Creek (near Ipswich). Another 50 “half-caste” girls were placed in institutions like Wooloowin’s Magdalen Asylum and St Vincent’s Catholic orphanage at Nudgee. Reserve blacks came from every part of Queensland and Meston proudly boasted he had practiced “severe economy”.

Meston and son Harold managed Fraser Island like a penal colony with discipline sternly applied and inmates “encouraged” to hunt food for themselves. Malnutrition, unsanitary conditions and debilitation brought disease and a high death rate. The government, hearing about violence at the camp, removed the Mestons and gave it to the Anglican Church. Queensland’s indigenous population was so large, a third protector, Alexander Gordon, was appointed to manage the west from Boulia. However proposals to establish a western reserve were ruled out as too expensive. The furthest settlement west was Taroom in the Upper Dawson, created in 1911 but closed down within 10 years. Barambah (later Cherbourg) established in 1904 became the main reserve in the south after the closure of Durundur and Fraser Island.

Gordon was not particularly active and Meston complained that he never left Boulia. Meston roamed southern and western Queensland arranging to remove local blacks over the protests of station managers. He supported an amendment to the 1897 Act introduced in 1901 to prevent Aboriginal marriages without the protector’s permit saying he had a “strong aversion to the admixture of black and white races”. That act remained on Queensland statutes until 1972.

Meston’s self-appointed role as “expert on Aborigines” had mixed success. In 1907, he stood for election in the Cape York seat of Cook but was soundly defeated. Three years later he was appointed director of the Queensland Intelligence and Tourist Bureau in Sydney. He applied unsuccessfully for the position of chief protector of Aborigines in the NT. He eventually died of tetanus infection in Brisbane in 1924, aged 72.

His legacy was compulsory segregation which dominated Queensland’s 20th century Aboriginal policy. Meston wanted to help Aboriginal people. But as Gordon Reid says, his rigid idealisation would not allow him to accept their ability to adapt to new circumstances. Queensland’s inflexible protection system held Aboriginal people in a historical vacuum, “unchanging in a changing world”.

Meston’s Proposal was advanced for its time, though it brought together ingredients brewing in Queensland for half a century. It ended the gruesome reign of the native police and genuinely tried to help Aboriginal people. Its great fault was it lasted long after its need passed. Queensland would spend more on Aboriginal health and housing than other Australian government. But it also cleared people from their land, provided a cheap labour pool and severely restricted personal freedoms.

The aims of protection, removal and exploitation were too contradictory. Power over concentration camps at Cherbourg, Woorabinda and Palm Island was something premier Bjelke-Petersen was reluctant to concede in the 1970s. “We want them set aside in black man’s country – we want them to live exactly like we do”. Joh’s paternalism was a direct link to Archibald Meston. It took the threat of an African boycott of Brisbane’s beloved Commonwealth games to scrap the last vestige of legal protection in 1982. Queensland’s Indigenous people were finally free.

See the earlier parts:

Part 1: Historical background

Part 2: Queensland’s violent frontier

Part 3: The squatters’ inquiry

Part 4: the influence of Gideon Lang

Part 5: The Drew and Hale Commissions

Part 6: The empty years (1870s-1880s)

Part 7: Archibald Meston

Part 8: Horace Tozer

Why Adam Goodes has done Australia a favour

I was halfway through writing this post when I saw an article from Paul Daley in the Guardian which expresses my opinion more eloquently than I could hope for. To understand the Adam Goodes booing, you have to understand Australia’s history. The matter did not begin on a football field, Daley said, but in our attitudes and cultural sensitivity was never White Australia’s strong point. Many prefer not to know the problem.

That was brought home to me in a vox pop on ABC’s Brisbane local radio station yesterday. There was a wide mix of opinions but the one that stood out was the lady who said in an exasperated tone she was sick of the subject and wished it would go away. When pressed to say was the booing “racist” she said flatly no, it wasn’t. Hers is a common view that Australia does not a problem with race and we shouldn’t talk ourselves into it.

But others do want to talk about it. Some defend the booing forcefully. The “whiny, needy, bullshit” as Guy Rundle called the arguments of convicted racist Andrew Bolt and others is “usurper’s complex”: victim blaming. Those who take power unlawfully must justify their acts – to themselves and others. It was Cecil the Lion’s fault for ruining the life of the man who killed him. So it is Adam Goodes who must change not the people doing the booing.

Like every great player in every team sport, Goodes was always the subject of “special attention” from opposition fans, little to do with his indigenous background. But the sustained booing he gets now dates to last year when as Australian of the Year status he urged people to see John Pilger’s Utopia. Pilger enrages many on the right because he puts himself into the argument. In my view, Utopia is flawed and does not give enough credence to the problems of de-colonisation. But Pilger’s subject matter deserves a voice and Goodes was right to recommend the film’s confronting approach to Australian history. This action enraged the right which attacked Goodes for his recommendation more than Pilger for his film. John Howard’s wish of a people “relaxed and comfortable” about their history could only exist on the premise of not telling the truth about that history.

Yet we would be more comfortable with the real history. While Britain’s intervention came at enormous cost to the indigenous people it is a history that pre-dates racism. The British who arrived in 1788 felt superior to the Australians (likely the Eora felt the same way about the British). However the newcomers preferred to explain the difference on cultural and environmental grounds. Marine Watkin Tench believed British education and enlightened thinking was all that separated them from the “savages” in Botany Bay. There was no innate difference. “Untaught, unaccommodated man is the same in Pall Mall, as in the wilderness of New South Wales,” Tench wrote.

The Creationist view of the 7000-year-old world underpinned the idea Aboriginal people had only recently fallen from grace, and could and should be changed. Governor Lachlan Macquarie took this notion to its logical conclusion and formed Australia’s first mission in 1814 to civilise the native population and “render their Habits more domesticated and industrious”. Macquarie’s Native Institution failed but the idea of missionaries took hold from optimistic clergy who used “Gospel motives” to transform Aboriginal people. They all failed. Indigenous people remained disinterested and suspicious. They stayed only as long as they were fed.

The rise of science and European rage for classifying the world led to a new way of explaining human difference. In his 1775 book The Natural Varieties of Mankind, Johann Blumenbach came up with five races: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American and Malay. Australia Aboriginal people were an awkward fact that did not fit the classifications. By mid 19th century, Caucasian superiority had taken root. Robert Chambers’ Vestiges of Creation (1844) argued the other “races” were vestiges of past forms. Charles Lyell proved the world was far older than 7000 years, rocking the biblical certainty of Adam and Eve. The pseudo-science of phrenology claimed Native Americans and Africans had no ability for civilisation while Darwin, following Lyell, assumed the Australian Aboriginal “variety of man” was becoming extinct when faced with “stronger” forms.

While books were slow to reach Australia’s frontier, the idea of racial inferiority began to supplement and eventually replace the original notion of Aboriginal “savagery”. The publicity around the death of Pallawah woman Trugernanna led to inaccurate reports of the “last Tasmanian” and lent credence to the idea Australia’s native population was doomed. Inferiority and inevitable extinction were convenient crutches to explain the theft of an entire continent and wholesale ethnic cleansing.

Racial superiority was a core philosophy of the new nation of Australia in 1901 and dominated its first half-century. As historian Richard Broome said, it took the abominations of the Nazis for the world to reject notions of race as wrong and unscientific. Hair, eye and skin colour and the shape of facial features are a tiny component of our genetics and have no biological explanatory function. The 1978 UNESCO declaration on race and racial prejudice reminded the world humans are a “single species and are descended from common stock”.

By 1978, racism was on the wane in Australia. It remained strong in country areas, especially with large mixed populations, but government policy was empowering Aboriginal people. By the 1990s, reactionists like Pauline Hanson campaigned against Aboriginal “privilege”. The Nationals found outrage against native title while in the 2000s large populations could be still be painted as full of paedophiles, drug addicts and rapists. Race does not exist any more, but racism remains rife. It must tread carefully but still finds voice in Bolt critiques, Hansonism, “boong” jokes and other forms. Booing is a handy way of publicly being racist while retaining plausible deniability.

Adam Goodes has done Australia a favour by calling it out. Now, as Paul Daley says, Australia must confront the demons of its past and embrace Aboriginal culture. New Zealand’s Waitangi Treaty should be the template. Without a treaty it is hard to imagine the entire cohort of an Australian school doing as a New Zealand school did, and conduct an indigenous war cry to farewell a much-loved indigenous teacher. It will never happen here until we accept the consequences of our history.