Letter to the Editor

The ‘half-caste problem’ in Australia

“…………….Yet two basic difficulties bedevilled this long-range process. First, it relied on the intermarriage of half-caste women with European men but left unanswered the question of what to do with half-caste men (McGregor 1997:167-8). The second difficulty related to the supposed racial distance between Aborigines and Europeans. A policy favouring marriage between half-caste women and white men had, in effect, to shorten that distance. Advocates of such a policy tried to do precisely this. They insisted that no harmful effects of Aboriginal ancestry could be discerned in the children resulting from intermarriage with whites: unlike ‘Negro blood’ which allegedly produced occasional ‘throwbacks’ to the Negro-type among white descendants, ‘Aboriginal blood’ disappeared after a few generations. Indeed, Neville (1947:63) averred that among whites and Aborigines, the opposite kind of ‘throwback’ occurred, with a child of an Aboriginal mother sometimes reverting to the colour of a white grandfather. Moreover, increasing stress appears to have been laid on racially classifying Aborigines as ‘Caucasian’.[35] The geographer Griffith Taylor (1880-1963) joined a chorus repeating that ‘blood-tests of Australian aborigines agree more closely with those of west Europeans than with similar tests of most intervening races’.[36] Thus, with assurances rather than celebration, the racial distance between Europeans and Aborigines was narrowed.”


From Kev Moore