Just a few days ago, members of the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT (PHA NSW & ACT) were warmly and generously welcomed to country by Sydney Indigenous woman Donna Ingram before we began our annual mid-winter awards and social evening. We were all honoured to be welcomed, and for Donna to have then stayed and shared the evening with us. Left, Donna Ingram with Sydney Swans footballer and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes.
This week, the outbreak of public vilification and racism directed at Adam Goodes, now amplified and spread far beyond the grandstands, has shocked us, and caused many members of PHA NSW & ACT to ask whether we really were deserving of that generous welcome.
The objectives in the PHA constitution include “advocating public history perspectives in public debates concerning interpretations of history and the keeping of documentary, environmental and other historical records.” To this end, we have for some time been lobbying NSW Government agencies such as State Records to employ Aboriginal archivists, and the Heritage Council to reinstate its History Advisory Panel. Sadly, we have made little impact and the State has remained indifferent to our submissions.
Our members mostly work as independent public historians. We often work alone, outside academia, managing our own practices and acting collegially in furthering our own professional development. Many of us have been privileged to work with Aboriginal communities and families, on historic sites of great significance to Indigenous peoples, and in places where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples have shared histories. We appreciate the significant role of sport and sporting cultures in our history, in helping to bring about social cohesion, and in providing opportunities for so many people to improve their lives. We have tried, in our own small ways and in accordance with our own ethical standards, to be supportive of Aboriginal people and communities, to contribute to creating something new for our common future, a future based upon mutual respect.
As historians, we well know the impacts of past social attitudes and government policies – impacts that last across generations, often with terrible ongoing results. But as public historians – working in the public arena on issues of heritage and history – we also believe we have a role to comment on the context of issues that have plagued, and continue to plague, Australian history and society. The recent racist actions and words of some in the ‘debate’ around Adam Goodes have left many of our members appalled and distressed.
On a personal level, some PHA NSW & ACT members have Indigenous friends, colleagues, partners and family. While the distress felt by our members will be nothing compared to the distress being experienced and lived every day now by Indigenous people, families and communities, these members feel strongly about this issue and wish their support for Adam Goodes and all other Indigenous people who experience similar issues to be known.
Thus the committee of PHA NSW & ACT issue this letter of public support.
We support the group of AFL captains who have called for an end to the harassment of Adam Goodes.
We support all the other leaders in civil society and sporting clubs calling for this to stop. Bullying is unacceptable. Racism is unacceptable. The time for reflection will come, but first the abhorrent chorus must stop, and it must stop now.
More than anything else, the PHA NSW & ACT and all of its members, in accordance with our own constitutional objectives, our own code of ethics and indeed our own personal morality and our own diverse understandings of the past, through this statement, extend our collective hand of support and friendship to Adam Goodes, to all Indigenous peoples and indeed to all Australians of good will. We support you, in our own small way, and we want you to know that we stand with you.
On behalf of the Committee,
Chair, PHA NSW & ACT
2 August 2015
As a graduate member of the Professional Historians Association NSW & ACT, I am thankful that Bruce has spoken on behalf of all members.