It’s become ‘trendy’ [and profitable] to claim descent from aboriginal blood…and many greedy souls are scurrying to feed at the trough – draining the limited funding allotted to struggling and disadvantaged Aboriginal peoples ……But how would you tell if someone really is an Aboriginal , or a fraud?
One of the by-products of human consciousness is self-consciousness, that is, knowing deeply that you are alive….And part of self-consciousness is also wondering where we came from; it’s clearly human nature to seek one’s roots.
For some people, that task is relatively easy because there are oral legends or written words that go back at least several generations (assuming family history is passed down accurately). But for most people, the path backwards is rocky, cluttered with confusing detour signs, or simply blank…..
The recording of Origine’ culture was not a priority for colonial settlers in Australia……after initial invasion and occupation surviving peoples were incarcerated into Labour Camps and Reserves; all distinct individual tribal countries were obliterated and all individual clans homogenised under the blanket classification of ‘Aborigines’, from one side of the continent to the other….in the subsequent decades the white Australia policies set about claiming the native bloodlines were on the decline – dying out.
Several generations later many ‘white’ Australians are often excited to discover they may have aboriginal connections, and some even perceive there will be lucrative perks….native title claims and ILUA’s with the lure of potential ‘trust funds’ fuels the [all too] human ‘greed gene’…….and Reconciliation process trained the population to not ask to many questions [ its supposedly racist?]…..
But with billion dollar lands, mineral and development deals often at stake, why cant the public ask questions? ….Don’t the people have a right to question what actually constitutes an Aboriginal person and how much ‘ab-originality’ should someone possess in order to be given access to assets ?
Legal historian, John McCorquodale, has reported that since the time of white settlement, governments have used no less than 67 classifications, descriptions or definitions to determine who is an Aboriginal person… Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, National Report (1991), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra [11.12.5].
The Australian Law Reform Commission [ALRC] discussed the definition of an ‘Aborigine’ in its 1986 report, The Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws…….. The ALRC noted that early attempts at a definition tended to concentrate on descent, without referring to other elements of Aboriginality……. Problems arose in deciding whether descendants of unions between Aborigines and settlers were to be regarded as Aboriginal for the purposes of various restrictive or discriminatory laws [for example, disentitling Aborigines from voting or enrolling to vote]. In applying these restrictive laws, tests based on ‘quantum of blood’ were commonly applied….. ¼, ¾, or half caste, etc.
The Commonwealth Parliament obtained the power to legislate with respect to people of ‘the aboriginal race in any State’ in the 1967 referendum…… Aboriginal people were finally granted the legal status of being Human…. The Commonwealth subsequently enacted a number of statutes for the purpose of providing certain rights and privileges for the exclusive benefit of Indigenous Australians……. These statutes have generally defined an Aboriginal or Indigenous person as ‘a person who is a descendant of an indigenous inhabitant of Australia’, or a member or a person ‘of the Aboriginal race of Australia’.
These individual Aboriginal statues marks the inception of what will develop into a hidden apartheid system – an alternative legislative pathway which uses aboriginal legislation as a means of sidestepping ‘interference’ by the greater Australian community……..keeping it only for aboriginals and operated by bureaucrats.
In the early 1980s, the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs proposed a new three-part definition of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he [or she] lives.
But what if the community he [or she] lives in is dominated by a culture of whole families fraudulently claiming aboriginality?
Then the Federal government departments adopted the definition as their ‘working definition’ for determining eligibility to certain services and benefits. The definition continues to be applied administratively in relation to programs such as Abstudy funding for tertiary students, or aboriginal housing and health services, etc.
These ‘freebies’ led a lot of multi-cultural Australians, living comfortable regional existences far removed from the struggles of the remnant tribes existences on reserves, to suddenly become interested in claiming aboriginal descent [no matter how removed]
The ‘bucket’ of cash which was allocated for ATSI programs became swamped with applications from all over…..but the bucket has a fixed amount and the more mouths ‘sucking’ on the tit, the less funds go to the truly disadvantaged…..this eventually ended with remote aboriginal communities loosing funding and having to be relocated yet again, their culture dispersed…..a sick cycle of dispossession continues….
The greedy fever of ‘easy-money’ has seen aboriginal identification proliferating…with the catch-cries of “compensation” infecting the memberships of Aboriginal Lands Councils and welfare departments…. and most recently, the native title process….. with circumspect individuals claiming to descended from apical ancestors Origine’ families…….and even filing native title claims without the Origine’ families knowledge , let alone consent.
In his story on the business of bloodlines Tony Koch, a Chief Reporter in Queensland for the Australia Newspaper, explains…..
“There is pride in discovering an Aboriginal family background, but some people lie about it to gain undeserved benefits”
“In the days when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commission existed and squandered much of its billion-dollar budget like a drunken sailor, Aboriginality to a scheming, dishonest person meant possible access to high-paying positions of authority in legal, housing, employment or native title organisations where accountability was often little more than a joke”….. ,Kosh writes.
Aboriginal academic and co-chairwoman of Reconciliation Australia Jackie Huggins told Kosh how people would contact ATSIC or Centrelink claiming they had discovered that a fictitious grandparent was Aboriginal.
“The calls would get to me and these people would ask what special benefits they were therefore entitled to claim,” Huggins said.
“I would say: ‘This is what you will get — life expectancy of 20 years less than non-indigenous Australians, and if you are a woman, add three years; you will get sick and tired of going to funerals; probably get diabetes before age 40, and if not, kidney, heart or lung failure will kill you before you are 60’.
“Spiritually and culturally, there is a treasure trove of benefits. …..
“I am sick of people wrongly claiming that economic or special welfare benefits flow to Aboriginal people. It is just not true. I would recommend an ATSIC publication titled Matter of Fact which spells out the truth for all to see.”
On April 20, 1998, Federal Court Justice Merkel handed down a 120-page decision in Shaw and Another v Wolf and Others. A key element in that judgement establishing the status of Aboriginality was the declaration that to be Aboriginal one must, among other things, be descended from the inhabitants of Australia at the time immediately BEFORE European settlement.
Several key Native Title Indigenous Lands Use Agreements [ILUA] have been signed in New South Wales by ‘Aboriginals’ who could not show their connection to country from BEFORE the mid 1800’s ……………….This resulted in Native Title NOT being achieved, and having to be surrendered…..either Extinguished…DESTROYED ….or in exchange for DEVELOPMENT….click on the below links to view the ILUAs of the Byron Bay Bundjalung which extinguished Ngarakbal Native Title without consent of the Ngarakbul Githabul moiety.
The most celebrated case of disputed Aboriginality occurred in the Queensland sugar coast town of Bundaberg in 2000 when claims were made by one branch of the Appo family that more than 100 members of their family were of Sri Lankan descent not Aboriginal, and were wrongly receiving concessional loans and benefits said to total millions of dollars over three decades.
Tony Kosh’s research revealed that, “There were allegations of wrongly claimed business and legal assistance, and even other claims that some family members were selected in state and national indigenous sporting teams despite not having Aboriginal heritage”.
“The issue came to a head on July 21, 2000 when Allan Keith Appo, then 66, was charged in the Bundaberg magistrate’s court with possessing undersized and female mudcrabs”.
“In his defence Appo claimed that the Fisheries Act did not apply to him because he was Aboriginal and therefore he could fish without restriction”.
“However, Department of Primary Industries legal officers researched Appo’s genealogy and presented generations of birth, death and marriage certificates showing his heritage was purely Sri Lankan”, Kosh states
“Magistrate John Brennan found Appo was not aboriginal and fined him $2300. ………Ironically, Appo was represented by Townsville Aboriginal Legal Aid which also funded his appeal to the District Court — where he lost again……..Appo, who has since died, said in an interview with me at the time that he had documented evidence from locals who swore he had Aboriginal blood”, Kosh recorded
Kosh was told by Appo that his reasoning for perpetuating the fraud: “If this decision holds, my children and their children will be affected because they will not be eligible for Aboriginal programs,” he lamented.
Spokesperson for the branch of the Appo family opposing him, Julie Appo, said at the time that it was destructive to real Aboriginal people to see jobs and program concessions going to people not entitled to such claims.
She told Kosh that “This deprives a genuine Aboriginal person of getting a job, position, a wage — and thereby providing something for his children to aspire to,” she said.
Kosh had found that earlier, in January 1995, another Appo family member from Bundaberg was also caught by fisheries inspectors with undersized and female crabs. He was charged and used the defence of Aboriginality, but was found guilty because birth certificates showed he did not have Aboriginal heritage.
He was fined $2700. Despite that conviction he continued to vote at ATSIC elections, claim Abstudy grants for his children and sell Aboriginal art.
He revealed his two brothers and a sister, his wife and his five children “all went through school on Abstudy”.
At that time Aboriginal corporation administrator, Garry Hamilton, of the Brisbane legal firm Minter Ellison, stated that the incidence of non-eligible people claiming Aboriginality for financial benefits was “rampant”.
He told how he had been appointed as administrator at Dalaipi Aboriginal Corporation at Caboolture, north of Brisbane in the mid-1990s. “The former administrator of this organisation just let anybody in,” he said. “There was an incredible number of white Australians with no Aboriginal connections at all getting benefits. It was so bad I just had to close the place down.” He told Kosh
There are many who have suggested that MtDNA testing could be introduced to determine Aboriginality.
The Australian Law Reform Commission tabled a report in May 2003 titled – ‘Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia (ALRC Report 96)’ – it was the product of a two-year inquiry by the ALRC and the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC), involving extensive research and widespread public consultation. The inquiry was the most comprehensive ever undertaken into these issues in Australia or overseas.
The report covers an extensive range of activities in which genetic information plays—or soon will play—an important role. The two-volume, 1200 page report makes 144 recommendations about how Australia should deal with the ethical, legal and social implications of the New Genetics.
Dr Loretta de Plevitz and Larry Croft summarised the four major barriers to proving Aboriginality by means of genetics as follows:
“Firstly.… there is no such thing as a genetically differentiated ‘race’: we are all one species.
Secondly … if race is defined by cultural and genetic context, then there are difficulties in proving membership of the ‘Aboriginal race’ as on this definition there were hundreds of Aboriginal races pre-1788.
Thirdly,….looking at the polymorphisms in an individual’s DNA shows us who they are related to. But this just defers the problem of whether those people related to the claimant are Aboriginal or not.
Fourthly…….who could the claimant’s genetic inheritance be tested against? It would be necessary to construct DNA reference groups based on ‘pure blood’ Aboriginal people covering all geographic groups in Australia. If by chance one of the reference DNA groups was very similar to the claimant’s then we can show descent … as the Australian Aboriginal population is so genetically diverse, there would need to be a large reference set of people for all genetically distinct groups …
Where there has been the wholesale extermination of entire groups of people, claimants attempting to prove their Aboriginality may not be related to any of the reference groups because there is no longer a reference group for them “…….L de Plevitz and L Croft, 13 March 2002.
Dr de Plevitz is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology; Mr Croft is employed by the Institute for Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland.
“Though possibly an improvement on ‘blood’ quantum definitions, the utility of this summary can still be questioned, not least of all on the grounds that there is no such thing as an Aboriginal race. Most scientists long ago stopped using the word ‘race’…”..….Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Report on a Review of the Administration of the Working Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (1981), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, cited in J Gardiner-Garden, The Definition of Aboriginality: Research Note 18, 2000–01 (2000)
However, genetic kinship and ancestry testing has important limitations in practice. First, it relies on the availability of reference samples for comparison. If a living person wishes to establish that he or she is a member of a particular family group, the person must find someone within that group who can provide a genetic sample for the purpose of comparison. This becomes more difficult where a person seeks to establish a biological relationship with a person or family group that has been dead for years, decades or centuries.
The Human Genetics Society of Australia agreed that, in the absence of archival genetic material, genetic testing that identifies particular polymorphisms among a group might support the contention of common ancestry, but would not prove it definitively:
The relative isolation and small population base of indigenous peoples of Australia prior to European settlement makes it very likely that the frequency of many genetic polymorphisms in pre-European contact indigenous peoples differed from that of Europeans. Such differences may be expected to vary across the continent. A polymorphism absent or rare in Europeans but common in an ancestral indigenous population is likely to persist at a higher frequency in the descendants of that population than in peoples of European descent. Its presence at an appreciable frequency in a group claiming common ancestry would support the contention of common ancestry but not prove it. Its presence or absence in any given individual would not establish or refute membership of the group. None of the above, in the absence of archival genetic material, could establish association with a geographical location. Cultural and genealogical information is more likely to provide evidence of association between a group of indigenous individuals and a geographical location than genetic information.
John Presser, a forensic scientist, commented in a submission: “In conjunction with other information, especially lineage or family trees, mtDNA is informative as to aboriginality where an unbroken female lineage exists. But it is imperative to remember that if no ‘aboriginal’ sequence is found, this result is silent as to aboriginality, all you can say is that there is no direct female line of descent and the result is inconclusive. It does not prove non aboriginal descent”…J Presser
The overall outcome – The Inquiry considers that under no circumstances should any person be required to undergo genetic testing to establish their Aboriginal descent. Claiming this would have significant ethical implications, and would arguably constitute racial discrimination against Aboriginal persons.
In reality true ancestral Indigenous familial structures differ in cultural organisation and historic context…… with the notion that Aboriginal identity can be determined through a Eurocentric model of descent that privileges western familial structures, totally inappropriate.
Origine’ Skinlore Kinship systems are matristic ….derived from arranged marriages which cycle across blocks of 12 generations, radiating in cyclic triangulation’s…all of which is tracked using celestial pentagram cycles – connecting people to country for millennia – through their GRANDMOTHERs lineage …..tracking MtDNA sequencing to ensure genetic health of the people.
The Coowarragum stone complex at the Pinnacle is the first Skinlore site on the most eastern landmass of the Australian Continent to be ‘lit’ by those stars….it is located on the boundary of the ancestral estates of the Ngarakbal Githabul tribes of the Yoocum-Yoocum moiety…..it was recorded on the National Parks and Wildlife Aboriginal Sites Registration in 1980 by Archaeologist Adrian Piper.
These same Ngarakbal descendants have been excluded and discriminated against. Removed from recognition in the Byron Bay area apparently due to being able to prove their ancestral descent from BEFORE occupation….but then that wouldn’t have assisted the NSW government with achieving extinguishment of native title or a Development ILUA.
If true moiety groups were supported to be identified instead of the governments administrative ‘Aboriginal Nations’ system – which is currently being enforced through political propaganda to facilitate administration of the people and operate as an alternative legislative ‘development’ pathway which dispossesses all Australians ….perhaps if this happened then things would get better in aboriginal communities.
Perhaps, if traditional Skinlore kinship descent systems were used to identify true Aboriginal bloodlines and totemic lore custodians then instances of genetic fraud could be eradicated and the limited purse of Indigenous funding would actually make it to the destination it has been designed for…….
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