ABCwatch

Tim Blair

Ombudsgod

New Criterion

 

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
GOOD LIES, BAD LIES

I see that Andrew Bolt has been stung by the vituperation of the Aboriginal victim industry.

That's nothing to what would happen to your old Uncle if Auntie ever caught up with my furtive bloggings.

The viciousness of Bolt's attackers shows how right I was in naming the National Defamation Awards after Sir Ronald Wilson, patron saint of the Stolen Generations myth.

Young Bolt should go to Alice Springs, where Uncle was a few weeks ago.

There, if he visits the old telegraph station he might meet, as I did, a man of great dignity called Alec Ross.

Ross, like Charles Perkins, was a Bungalow boy, one of those children taken into institutional care in the late thirties, given a name, a birthday and a basic education to make his way in this uncaring world.

Alec Ross takes a view of his past that would cause Bolt's tormentors to spit on him, if Alec's skin weren't a dark shade of brown. As it is, they just quietly despise and ignore him.

Luckily for us, that really important friend of Auntie's, George Negus, has interviewed Alec.

GEORGE NEGUS: As I mentioned, we're shooting here at the old historic Telegraph Station, just outside Alice Springs, and this building used to be the barracks. During a particularly bleak period in the Station's history, this place was used to house Aboriginal children from the stolen generation. And now I'd like you to meet Alec Ross. We didn't know until we got here that Alec is a member of what many call the stolen generation. He was here in the 'bungalow', as they called it then, for three years, or more, was it?


ALEC ROSS: Well, they told me at three but I don't remember, er, being here at that time.

GEORGE NEGUS: I'm not surprised, at three.

ALEC ROSS: Three.

GEORGE NEGUS: But you were, in fact - so we get the facts right - taken away from your mum?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah, I was taken away. Not because they stole me. It was because I was sick.

GEORGE NEGUS: So you don't...

ALEC ROSS: That's the reason I was taken. I was sick with pneumonia, living in the creek bed with my mother.

GEORGE NEGUS: Did your mum want you taken away?

ALEC ROSS: Well, apparently, she agreed for me to go to the hospital.

GEORGE NEGUS: Right.

ALEC ROSS: That's what the policeman told me - Bill McKinnon.

GEORGE NEGUS: But you didn't see her again...

ALEC ROSS: I never saw her again in 46 years.


You see, Alec did not have any easy life. He was taken, like Perkins, but not stolen. And no-one can make him lie about it.

Alec lost touch with his mother for almost fifty years. He thought a missionary worker was his mother. The other kids at the Bungalow were his brothers and sisters.

George Negus is, as you would expect, having trouble coming to grips with this.

GEORGE NEGUS: Yeah. What was that like?

ALEC ROSS: I loved it.

GEORGE NEGUS: Yeah?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. It was really good.

GEORGE NEGUS: Were they all happy to be here?

ALEC ROSS: Well, a lot of them say they weren't happy but, to me, it was the best they ever did for me, because then I got a better start in life and I did what I wanted to do once I turned 18.

GEORGE NEGUS: But how do you feel about a lot of people from the Aboriginal community who say they were stolen, who are pretty upset about it?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah, well, the thing is, maybe they had a different life to what I lived and maybe it, you know, affected them in later years. But, to me, it didn't happen. I was actually... Maybe I was a favourite boy or something, but I got it very good. I can tell you.

GEORGE NEGUS: No complaints as such.

ALEC ROSS: No complaints as such.

GEORGE NEGUS: Except that you...

ALEC ROSS: Their intentions, my belief is, they were all good - trying to take care of these children, who had nothing, when you think about it.

GEORGE NEGUS: Right.

ALEC ROSS: We had nothing.


Here's how the interview ends:

GEORGE NEGUS: It's a bit rough to say...

ALEC ROSS: It IS rough, I know that.

GEORGE NEGUS: ..kids should grow up not even knowing that they're Aboriginal.

ALEC ROSS: That is true. And I always knew I was a half-caste Aboriginal, so it didn't, you know, affect me in one way, really.

GEORGE NEGUS: So when you met your mum, at 49, and obviously it wasn't a very emotional...

ALEC ROSS: No, it wasn't.

GEORGE NEGUS: ..she just disappeared again?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. She went bush again. She actually lived out at Ali Curung and, er, of course, I went to see her many times after that and she was still the same. She still didn't know who I was and...

GEORGE NEGUS: So you maintained contact with her?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. I always went up to see her, try to get her to understand who I was.

GEORGE NEGUS: Still mum.

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. And I did always put my arm around her, trying to get her to understand who I was, you know, and why they did take me away, but she just didn't understand a thing I said, really.

GEORGE NEGUS: Alec, it's quite a story.

ALEC ROSS: Oh, thank you.

GEORGE NEGUS: Thanks for talking to us.

ALEC ROSS: Thanks, George.


Can you believe the integrity of that man? How much easier it would be for him to play the role George and every communard wants him to play - victim. Instead he stays true to himself.

Alec not only resumed contact with his mother, but with the younger siblings she had later by her Aboriginal husband. And who were'nt "stolen".

"They're all dead now", Alec told me, "I'm the only one left alive. I'm the lucky one."

If you visit Alice any time soon, make sure you go out to the old telegraph station. Alec enjoys showing people around his old home. It's one of God's special places.

If you're lucky you'll meet Alec Ross, a man who has had a hard life, and has survived with more integrity than the entire left commentariat.

Shake his hand. There's not a lot like Alec Ross around.

And don't forget to buy a copy of Shirley Brown's book on Alec's life.