The Protectors: A Journey through Whitefella Past

The Protectors: A Journey through Whitefella Past

The Protectors: A Journey through Whitefella Past

The Protectors: A Journey through Whitefella Past

Synopsis

Powerful and provocative, this is a beautifully written and very personal search to understand the men who were the protectors of Aboriginal people in Australia's north- their moral ambiguities, their good intentions, and the devastating consequences of their decisions. On February 13, 2008, Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson gave two very different apology speeches to the Stolen Generations. Rudd alluded to racism, eugenics, and the immorality of past policies. Nelson spoke of benign intentions, goodness, and the hurt felt by those accused of wrongdoings. Both cannot be true- or could they? Powerful and provocative, this is a beautifully written and very personal exploration of a little acknowledged part of Australian history- the role and motivations of the administrators and patrol officers who carried out these "protection" policies. The questions Stephen Gray raises about guilt, judgement, and good intentions apply as readily to the complexities of black/white relations today as they did 100 years ago. This is an intelligent book that challenges how we judge the past and asks what exactly it was that the Australian nation said sorry for. It is a fresh contribution to white Australia's perennial search for national identity- an identity we need to now assert against the darker facts of our history on the continent.

Excerpt

I went to a family reunion one weekend not long ago and saw a branch of the family I had not seen for over twenty years. They are a high-minded, God-fearing lot. They live in a fine house in an upper-middle-class suburb of Melbourne. From the front verandah, through a doubleglazed window four metres wide, you could see into their formal dining room and beyond to the rolling hills of north-eastern Melbourne with the Dandenongs in misty oyster-blue behind. We sat at a long dining table, looking out over a spacious back garden in which the hibiscus and the well-tended roses were in bloom. It was easy to feel a sense of satisfaction, a feeling that nothing could be too far wrong with the world.

Lunch was tasty, and unpretentious. After a fluttering of female hands and a hasty consultation with Father on the matter of bottles in the cellar, there was even a concession of wine. Only after a happy melee of dirty dishes, and . . .

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