February 13

History Forum with Prof. Benjamin T. Jones

Denying the Stolen Generations: What Happens to Indigenous History in a Post-Truth World?
Wednesday, February 13
Sakamaki Hall A201
12:30 to 2:00 pm

Between 1910 and the 1970 around 1 in 10 Indigenous children were separated from their families in Australia. Collectively known as the Stolen Generations, the stories of removal were not well known until the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in parliament on 26 May 1997. At a popular level, the 2002 film Rabbit Proof Fence dramatized the injustice and racial pseudo-science behind the removals and in 2008 the Rudd government formally apologized to the Stolen Generations. Despite the growing volume of academic literature on the Stolen Generations, the archival records, government reports, and individual stories, sections of the media have sought to either downplay or outright deny its historicity. In 2009, right-wing polemicist Keith Windshuttle published the third volume of his Fabrication of Aboriginal History and argued in conspiratorial terms that the Stolen Generations was an invention of left-wing academia. Drawing on tactics familiar to Holocaust deniers, conservative commentator, Andrew Bolt has repeatedly labelled the Stolen Generations a ‘myth’. Historical revisionism is not a new concept but a post-truth world, where feelings and more important than facts in shaping public opinion, provides especially fertile soil for alternative narratives. This paper will explore the intersection of Indigenous history and politics and examine how the post-truth environment fosters denialism.

Benjamin T. Jones is a historian at the Australian National University specialising in republicanism, nationalism and Australian politics. He has previously taught at the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales. He has held Visiting Fellowships at Durham University in the United Kingdom and Indiana University in the United States. His recent books include Elections Matter: Ten Federal Elections that Shaped Australia (Monash UP, 2018) This Time: Australia’s Republican Past and Future (Redback, 2018), Atheism for Christians (Wipf and Stock, 2016), Republicanism and Responsible Government: The Shaping of Australia and Canada (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2014), and Project Republic (Black Inc., 2013).

The talk is free and open to the public. Contact Prof Hoffenberg at peterh@hawaii.edu

Image Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation