A response to “Black and white lies”
An article in the Australian (national newspaper) written by William J. Lines
William Lines’ intellectually shabby and dishonest diatribe (‘black and
white lies”, 14/10/2006) is highly offensive, as well as being an
example of “ill reasoned, chaotic argument” he seeks to ascribe to
others. It is so replete with errors and misrepresentation it would
take an article just as long to correct it all.
There can be no doubt that aspects of western environmentalism have had
the effect, intentionally or otherwise, of denying the existence of
indigenous peoples as a long-standing part of the natural environment.
The terminology of ‘wilderness’ is clearly a problem in this regard, as
to many people it implies a landscape untouched by humans. The reality
obvious to everyone except Mr Lines it appears – is that Indigenous
people lived, and in many cases continue to live, as part of the
environment, and played a role in maintaining the ecological balance.
As recently as June this year, the Queensland government announced more
money to “buy up untouched wilderness in Cape York”. It is not
surprising that the Indigenous people of Cape York find such
descriptions highly offensive, as it has the effect of whiting-out
past, as well as potentially curtailing their future.
There is a reason why ‘unspoiled’ land tends to end up in National
and protected areas, and that is precisely because the original
inhabitants did not spoil it. National Parks have operated in some
cases as just another mechanism for dispossession, reinforced by the
determination of some ‘conservationists’ to keep Indigenous people from
being involved in the management of their traditional lands, even
that management may have been key to enabling the biodiversity the Park
is purportedly there to protect. It is sadly ironic that my own state
of Queensland has some of the worst examples of this form of green
racism, when Queensland also has areas with some of the highest
biodiversity and, not coincidentally, traditional indigenous cultural
It is bad enough that some neoconservative ideologues want to deny all
unpleasant aspects of the recent history of white Australia towards
Aboriginal people, but now they also appear to be wanting to white-out
the history of Indigenous people from before colonisation as well.
Of course it is unhelpful and inaccurate to over-romanticise the
traditional lifestyles of Indigenous Australians. It doesn’t help
anybody, black or white, to cling to uncritical ideals of the so-called
‘noble savage’. However, at least there is a strong element of truth
the notion of Indigenous people living in harmony with the environment.
Mr Lines makes a far greater error with his absurd assertions that
Aboriginal people living in balance with their ecosystem is a “myth”.
See also “Creating Aborigines in our own image” by John Tracey