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Australia ‘Difference of opinion is not a bad thing': Pascoe responds to Dark Emu criticism

23:27  12 june  2021
23:27  12 june  2021 Source:   brisbanetimes.com.au

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a person posing for the camera: The Age, News, 18/11/2020, photo by Justin McManus. Yuin man Bruce Pascoe on his property Yumburra near Mallacoota. The intense bushfires around Mallacoota last summer burned much of Bruce Pascoe's property over six weeks, though he was lucky to save his house. The two large paddocks where he grows Australian grasses, including mandadyan nalluk (dancing grass) and kangaroo grass, were also burned but have surged back stronger than ever and he's about to harvest his second crop. © Bruce Pascoe The Age, News, 18/11/2020, photo by Justin McManus. Yuin man Bruce Pascoe on his property Yumburra near Mallacoota. The intense bushfires around Mallacoota last summer burned much of Bruce Pascoe's property over six weeks, though he was lucky to save his house. The two large paddocks where he grows Australian grasses, including mandadyan nalluk (dancing grass) and kangaroo grass, were also burned but have surged back stronger than ever and he's about to harvest his second crop.

Author Bruce Pascoe says it's not a bad thing that academics are engaging with and debating his wildly successful but controversial book Dark Emu, following damning accusations his work was "littered with unsourced material".

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In their book Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate, anthropologist Professor Peter Sutton and archeologist Dr Keryn Walshe claimed Professor Pascoe's work used selective quotes and exaggerated "weak evidence", including his claim farming practices were used before colonisation.

The academics' criticism was detailed in a Good Weekend feature article on Saturday, published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Professor Pascoe was forewarned about the story's publication and was sent it, but said on Saturday he had not yet read it. The criticism could be put down to "differences of opinion" about the facts, he said, and that was OK.

"I think what is happening, and I'm saying this without having read the [whole] book or the [Good Weekend] article, is that we're having a difference of opinion about history," he said.

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"We're looking at the same facts and we're having a difference of opinion about the facts. That's not a bad thing. I think Aboriginal people have been wanting to have this discussion for 250 years, so I think it can only be positive."

Professor Pascoe said he would read the article on Saturday night once he arrived in Mallacoota. Asked if he would have written Dark Emu any differently given the chance, Mr Pascoe said "no".

"The only thing I would change would be to include more material that has now become available. That material, I believe, strengthens the argument," he said.

"I'm in touch with a lot of archaeologists and anthropologists in Australia and overseas and they keep sending me corroborating material."

Mr Pascoe would not disclose the names of those experts as he did not want them to be targeted.

"I don't want people being rung up and drilled about their current research," he said. "That's how the last war was conducted. I'm not going to go to war. I want us to have an intellectual discussion."

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Professor Sutton told Good Weekend he was "outraged" at the presence of Dark Emu in schools. Although the book is not a mandatory set text on the national curriculum, states and territories including NSW and Victoria do list Dark Emu among suggested reading lists for various subjects.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge on Saturday said he did not believe teachers should choose to use Professor Pascoe's work in the classroom.

"The history curriculum needs to be balanced and based on well-understood facts," Mr Tudge said. "As such I don't believe Dark Emu should be part of the curriculum unless it can be more widely validated".

Mr Pascoe said if schools were choosing to use his book "that was fantastic ... and they should put Peter Sutton's book on there as well."

Outspoken Pascoe critic Josephine Cashman, an Indigenous businesswoman and former lawyer, said her long-held concerns had been vindicated by the conclusions Professor Sutton and Dr Walshe had reached. She described Mr Pascoe's work as "mis-interpreting the historical record".

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"It's impossible for the things that [Professor] Pascoe says to be true," she said. "It shouldn't have been allowed to go this far. It's an insult both to the historical canon and the development of history as a science."

Ms Cashman led the charge in questioning Mr Pascoe's Aboriginal heritage, a campaign that has blow up some of her long-standing friendships, a promising business and an influential government position advising on how best to create an Aboriginal voice to Parliament.

On Saturday Ms Cashman said she was sceptical of Mr Pascoe's claim that he worked with elders in researching Dark Emu, and named a number of senior elders who had questioned his work.

"He can't quote any Aboriginal elders because he's got no support, people have seen through him," she said.

The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald approached Melbourne University Professor Marcia Langton and Labor senator Penny Wong, who have both praised Mr Pascoe's work, for comment. They said they would not comment until they had read Professor Sutton and Dr Walshe's book. It launches next week.

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