:: Thursday, 2 January 2003 ::
From today's Australian
Stories lose in these tellings
I AM a Palawa person (Tasmanian Aboriginal), possess a degree from ANU and have read the debate on Keith Windschuttle's book and would like to raise three points.
If one of Windschuttle's basic premises is to debunk oral histories, why did he not talk to any of my family or any other Palawa person or academic to debunk our stories?
Palawa people have been subject to myth over the years from crazy theories of being blown off-course from Africa to absolute extinction. In the end, while it is sad that Palawa people are subject to the indignation of an unimaginative author, in its true essence this is about white people slugging it out over who has the better story to tell.
Palawa people have been left out of the entire debate, but I would rather have it that way as I am disgusted by the whole sorry mess.
Potts Point, NSW
One. Not three. And that point is? Who can tell? It is put in the form of a question that is erroneous at its core. The point of Windshuttle's thesis is not to debunk oral history, as the letter's author presumes (having been altogether too lazy to buy and read a book that, one would presume, would be of some interest). The point of Windshuttle's book, and there's a clue in its title, is to debunk academic written fabrications of history.
The oral stuff is just that. Oral. It does not need debunking. When it can be substantiated, it is. When it cannot, it remains weak evidence. And when it is wholly countered by more positive and permanent evidence (like written evidence) then it can be wholly set aside. Simple.
The misunderstanding here is profound. And the laziness is disgraceful. The assertion is that whites cannot talk about the Palawa, except to support them, never ever to argue about stuff. And whites must seek the Palawa out. It is not for the Palawa to make any contribution themselves. The Palawa need not lift a finger to publish their own version of events to anyone and need not ever step up to any challenge about their claims.
Great, eh? A person and a people who might have something pretty darned important to contribute to this debate, who might know stories or even sources of other evidence. And what choice do they make? Sit back.
:: WB 4:45 pm [link+] ::