The White Father: Denial, Paternalism and Community

Fiona Probyn


I argue that one of the reasons why the federal government did not listen is that to listen to these stories necessitates coming to an appreciation of how much the concept of ‘whiteness’ was/ is linked to the genocidal effects and paternalistic rhetoric of government policies regarding Aboriginal people. As I will go on to argue, in its refusal to apologise and in its casting of ‘mistakes’ into a dissociable past, the federal government seeks to maintain a particular view of whiteness that makes it possible to continue with an untroubled investment in it. I would like to revisit the archives and other texts in order to examine the story of the stolen generations from the perspective of an interrogation of whiteness. In particular, I would like to look at the role of the white fathers, both literally and figuratively in the form of government paternalism, with a view to counteracting the ongoing argument that it had ‘nothing to do with us or our parent’s generations’. I argue that dissociation from ‘bad white fathers’ and assimilation of ‘fellow Australians who are indigenous’ now forms the very conditions for Howard’s ‘community’.


John Howard; stolen generation; paternalism; whiteness; Australian government; genocide

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