Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The diligent reader will recall the pile of New Guinea artefacts I acquired some months ago, and mentioned here and here. In addition to these New Guinea materials from the 1960s and 1970s, I also received a fascinating booklet about Australian Aboriginals from 1958.

aboriginal book page 1

'Aboriginal Tribes and Customs' was volume 4 in the Sanitarium Children's Library, printed on thick, cheap paper in three colours (including a lurid shade of orange). It was intended that children collect pictures from their boxes of Weet-Bix and cornflakes and stick them in the appropriate spot. Obviously the child who owned this particular book had a very modern attention span, since only one picture, #37, has been included.

As you'd expect, the text has the sort of condescending, anthropological tone that would cause Michael Mansell, if he read it, to blow an artery. As Aboriginals weren't even recognised as Australian citizens until 1967, this is hardly surprising.

aboriginal book page 3

It's kind of embarrassing, but fortunately far enough in the past for my generation to disassociate ourselves from it. However I find it interesting that this sort of reeking propaganda is still foisted onto impressionable school children. The only difference is that instead of patronisingly referring to Aboriginals as a "simple nomadic people" with a "primitive society", modern booklets teach that Aboriginals are saintly, earth-nurturing beings who lived in utopian harmony until the white devils appeared and smothered them with Playstations and syphilis. Or, you know, words to that effect.


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