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 Is 'Aboriginal' an Offensive Word?
Charles
 Posted: Jun 30 2018, 01:33 PM
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Outcry over word 'Aboriginal' continues as historians push for ban on changing certificates

By Rebecca Turner

user posted image

Photo: Mr Smith noticed the word 'Aboriginal' had been removed from his great-grandmother's death certificate. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

The decision by a West Australian bureaucrat to redact the word "Aboriginal" from official documents has created an outcry among archivists, genealogists and historians across Australia.

WA is the only jurisdiction in Australia to deem the word Aboriginal offensive and remove it from historical birth, death and marriage certificates.

The practice only came to light last month after keen family historian Garry Smith told the ABC about the word Aboriginal being whited out from his great-grandmother's death certificate.

He was told by the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages the word had been redacted because it was an offensive term.


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Photo: Garry Smith uncovered the practice while studying documents of his family history. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

The incident has shocked archivists, genealogists and historians, who were unaware the registrar had the power to remove offensive material, let alone was exercising it.

It has also revealed a sharp divide between how the WA Government sees records of life events — as official identity documents they are charged to manage — and the views of researchers, including the growing number of amateur family historians, who see them as important historical documents.

Political correctness concern

Australian Society of Archivists president Julia Mant said removing the term Aboriginal was a "sledgehammer" approach to a sensitive issue.

WA Genealogical Society head Ian Simon said he was worried that historical documents had been changed "to fit the niceties or political correctness of the day".

They are among those supporting a campaign driven by the History Council of WA for the WA registrar of births deaths and marriages to be stripped of his powers to remove information which he decides is offensive.

"It is a matter of grave concern that the WA Act permits the registrar to make changes to a certificate if, in their opinion, a word is 'offensive'," History Council president Jenny Gregory wrote to WA Attorney-General John Quigley.

"Such a decision is simply a 'matter of opinion'. The main concern of our members and historians across Australia is the redaction of information relating to Aboriginality."

Under WA's laws, the registrar can remove a word or expression from certificates if it "is, or may be regarded as, offensive".


user posted image

Photo: Mr Smith points to the original birth certificate using the label Aboriginal (left) and the redacted version (right). (ABC News: Rebecca Turner)

NT doesn't deem 'Aboriginal' offensive

Northern Territory registrar-general Jim Laouris is the only other Australian bureaucrat to have this power, but has chosen only to remove the term "half-caste".

"The word 'Aboriginal' was not deemed to be offensive and is still included on certificates," he said in a written statement.

WA registrar Brett Burns said many of the details included on old certificates such as "illegitimate" or "half-caste" were personal observations which may have had no basis in fact.

"Current legislation allows the registrar to remove reference to terms that may be offensive (or hurtful)," he said.

"That is why, and for no other reason, that birth certificates that reference Aboriginality [have the term] removed."

His manager, Department of Justice director-general Adam Tomison, said there was no place for terms based on "someone's interpretation at the time".

"The word Aboriginal, there's nothing offensive about that," Dr Tomison said.

"But in the context of perhaps, if you're a family of Indian extraction and someone has decided that your great-grandmother was Aboriginal, mistakenly, that may be an issue that causes them some distress."

Registrar's call backed by government

But Mr Smith said the observation that his great-grandmother was Aboriginal was factual, and she was a well-known elder at the Carrolup Mission, near Katanning.

"You'd have pretty poor eyesight if you didn't know what a full-blood Aboriginal looked like," he said.

"My great-grandmother was the last full-blood Aboriginal of her kind down there."

The registrar's decision has been supported by WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt.


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Photo: Mr Wyatt says removing the word 'Aboriginal' was not intended to cause offence. (ABC News: James Carmody)

"I don't think — and I've inquired about this — it wasn't intended to be particularly offensive to Aboriginal people or the term Aboriginality," he said.

"It was simply trying to correct something which developed years ago and remove that annotation."

Reality of history 'not for the faint-hearted'

Ms Mant said she and other record-keepers had a difficult job in balancing their duties to manage official documents but also sensitively handle material which could offend people.

But she thought the decision to redact all non-standard information from certificates was "weird" and a "sledgehammer" approach that should be reviewed.

"It's like they made a decision to take it out without realising that people are accessing their family records for family history and identification purposes," she said.

"It's definitely short-sighted."

Ms Mant said it was important to consult with people about potentially offensive material.


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Photo: The WA Genealogical Society's president Ian Simon said people often made shock discoveries while researching their family history. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

That sentiment was shared by Mr Simon, who said family history was not for the faint-hearted. Many people made shock discoveries of bigamy, illegitimacy, and manipulated birth dates in their research.

"People can be offended by terms that were used in the 1800s," he said.

"It was common to refer to someone as an 'idiot'. There was 'idiocy' and 'lunacy' — one refers to mental illness and one refers to developmental problems."

But he did not support removing this material from documents, and said it provided important historical clues for researchers.

Dr Tomison said he would consider giving the public more information about the redactions when they were buying extracts, but said the certificates were primarily a legal document.

"That's the first purpose and that's what the registrar is set up to do — record people's births, their deaths and their marriages," he said.

"I think on that basis their focus is going to be on recording the basic facts. They're not really set up as a genealogical society or anything like that."


http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-30/outcry-over-removal-of-word-aboriginal-from-certificates/9920794

The dictionary defines aboriginal as:
"adjective
inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists; indigenous."


What is offensive about that? The word is no more offensive than the alternative "indigenous". Both are titles that should be worn with pride.

Sadly the PC brigade are at it again - telling us what is and isn't offensive and trying to change history.

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charka
 Posted: Jun 30 2018, 01:49 PM
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It is an expensive one 30 billion worth Good take it away and they are not one Same as us To much time on peoples hands
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Alicia
 Posted: Jun 30 2018, 04:08 PM
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This sort of stuff is based on current pc fad ideas of our society. If the current policy is to leave out the word or designation “ aboriginal”, fine, don’t use the word in current times. Changing documents to fit with current ideals is wrong, as it changes the history contained in the document in it’s original form, that is interfering with the historical records, and in my opinion, that is not on. There is too much changing” history” to match current pc etc stuff. Once the changes are on Google/internet,they then become true and factual. Try and tell one of the younger generation how things were and they will argue black and blue that you are wrong, because “I read”,”Fred said”,”Google said”,”the teacher said” that that is not correct. Doesn’t matter that you were “there”, you are wrong. http://fairdinkumnewschat.b1.jcink.com/uploads/fairdinkumnewschat/soapbox_888.gif
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Bill
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 04:55 PM
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Quote from Charles:
The dictionary defines aboriginal as:
"adjective
inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists; indigenous."

What is offensive about that? The word is no more offensive than the alternative "indigenous". Both are titles that should be worn with pride.

Sadly the PC brigade are at it again - telling us what is and isn't offensive and trying to change history


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You may have inadvertently answered your own question Charles.

The use of the word 'aboriginal' as a NOUN is what most, (not all), Aboriginal People find offensive.

E'G. If you referred to my friend as an "Aboriginal" she would remove your head from your shoulders, such is her anger at the use of the term. If you referred to her as an "Aboriginal Woman", she would wear that with pride, and regard your comment as a mark of your respect for her..

It is Garry Smith's right to question the redaction of his great grandmother's death certificate, but as Dr Tomison pointed out. The issue is more complex than just a case of Political Correctness.

Dr Tomison said he would consider giving the public more information about the redactions when they were buying extracts, but said the certificates were primarily a legal document.

"That's the first purpose and that's what the registrar is set up to do — record people's births, their deaths and their marriages," he said.

"I think on that basis their focus is going to be on recording the basic facts. They're not really set up as a genealogical society or anything like that."


It comes as no surprise that some people would see the redactions as some sort of PC Brigade conspiracy as that suits their purpose.

My view is that the records should remain as recorded, as it demonstrates a truth about our colonial past, but where family members request copies of certificates, they should be made aware of the redactions that have taken place. It should then be the family members decision to include the redactions - or not.

Here's an exercise for everyone. Every time you hear the term 'Aboriginal', ask yourself if the word is used as an adjective or a noun......and the adjective is never a 'plural'. (Aboriginals) http://fairdinkumnewschat.b1.jcink.com/uploads/fairdinkumnewschat/lbill.gif

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Phillip J.
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 05:42 PM
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"A storm in a teacup" would be good description for this subject. I don't get Bill's friend wanting take a person's head off if she was referred to as "Aboriginal!" Well, with respect, what else could she be? Being that she is female, is there any reason to call her an "Aboriginal Woman?" I would think that the word "woman" is a given, being that she is, in fact, a woman. I mean, that would be like describing my wife as a "white woman!" Totally unnecessary, considering.....! http://fairdinkumnewschat.b1.jcink.com/uploads/fairdinkumnewschat/smiley_don_t_know.gif

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Flin
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 06:12 PM
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Strange that native Canadians have gone through the full gamut.
First, Savages. then Indians then Indigenous, then
First Nation and now it is political correct to call them Aborigines.

Go figure.
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Alicia
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 06:13 PM
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We are now being encouraged to not designate people as woman or man, how will that work? There are decisions to be made as to which group has prior claim on which words. http://fairdinkumnewschat.com/rolleyes.gif How are you going to describe your friend Bill?

This post has been edited by Alicia: Jul 2 2018, 06:14 PM
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charka
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 07:31 PM
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certainly thin skinned. What about what us whites are called funny no probs accepting money off white people Bet center link is not offensive

This post has been edited by charka: Jul 3 2018, 09:50 PM
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Michael.W
 Posted: Jul 2 2018, 08:36 PM
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I guess there ancestors of their heritage who stood to defend this land on more than one historical occasions including when the 1st fleets arrived got it wrong...

What a sad state of affairs all stirred up by a total incomprehensible action after the fact.

Some people should learn their history before making pathetic media accusations of trying the belittle the general people of our country
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scepo
 Posted: Jul 3 2018, 06:37 AM
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No excuses can change the fact that it is PC overboard yet again. http://fairdinkumnewschat.b1.jcink.com/uploads/fairdinkumnewschat/smiley_IMHO.png

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