It can be stated definitely, that it is and always has been, contrary to policy to force half-caste women to marry anyone. The half-caste must be a perfectly free agent in the matter.
— J. A. Perkins, Minister for the Interior, House of Representatives, Canberra, 1934
The questions of what actually constitutes a government policy, and who is responsible for making it so, are important ones in this debate. Proponents of the genocide thesis are forced to admit that no Australian government ever enacted into law anything called, or indeed even resembling, ‘breeding out the colour’. Some academic historians can admit this yet, in the very next breath, insist that genocide was still the intended policy outcome. Anna Haebich argues of Western Australia:
Most importantly, while the government did not officially adopt the policy of biological absorption, the 1936 Act nevertheless gave Neville the necessary powers for its implementation. This threatened the southern Aborigines’ very existence as a distinct racial and ethnic community.
Their case is usually supported by the claim that it was public servants, acting behind closed doors and pushing their own agenda, who were to blame. Russell McGregor argues:
Indisputably, in my view, ‘breeding out the colour’ was policy, in that it was a systematic course of action endorsed and pursued by those charged with authority over Aboriginal affairs. However, it was policy initiated not by parliament or minister but by senior members of the bureaucracy.
In 1999, the editor of Quadrant magazine, Paddy McGuinness, made the definition of policy one of the issues in this debate. Until then, academic historians of Aboriginal history had defined almost any prejudicial statement by anyone employed by government as policy. Mc Guinness argued:
It is however simply not enough to adduce what we would now think of as racist remarks and analyses by state civil servants responsible for Aboriginal Affairs as evidence of what government policies actually were … A little bit of historical research more profound than the location and citation out of context of embarrassing quotes is necessary.
The concept of a ‘policy’, McGuinness insisted, could not refer to simply anything that anyone in government said or did. Sometimes public servants adopted practices that had never been endorsed by their political superiors. Sometimes they acted contrary to authority or even corruptly. He gave an example of a public servant whose views were at odds with the government he was advising: ‘It would be like quoting the views of [conservative economist] Fred Wheeler, Secretary to the Treasury under the Whitlam government, on economic policy as evidence for that government’s policies.’
Indeed, this would seem to be self-evident. At most, a policy would be a decision taken by government at ministerial level, and enforced by legislation or regulation. At the very least, a policy would be a long-standing, widely accepted administrative practice that never aroused any serious objections. To be put into practice, policies involve the allocation of funds and personnel.
Anyone with even the briefest experience of government policy-making invariably finds that, on most issues, both politicians and public servants span a range of differing opinion. To select a handful of individual statements from any single point in such a spectrum and present them as the voice of all concerned is to seriously misrepresent any policy debate and its ultimate outcome. Yet McGuinness argued that this was what academic historians had done on the question of breeding out the colour. He wrote:
Were there racists amongst the white policy-makers in Aboriginal affairs? Undoubtedly there were. But did they dominate the formulation of policy everywhere and anywhere in the states and territories? Did some bureaucrats in areas of policy-making advocate the steady disappearance of Aborigines by assimilation of mixed-bloods and the inevitable disappearance of full-blooded Aborigines attached to their own culture and way of life? Yes, there is clear evidence of that. But was this the basis for policy in any specific state or territory, or was the picture a lot more complicated? Is there any government policy statement, or internal policy document, as distinct from views expressed by individual bureaucrats however senior, to this effect? No-one has found one.
One of the writers McGuinness was targeting with these observations was the Melbourne political commentator and his predecessor as Quadrant editor, Robert Manne. In several articles in the magazine and the press about the Stolen Generations, Manne had committed the offence that McGuinness charged. Manne had taken individual statements out of context and presented them as the ‘policy’ of the government.
In 2001, however, Manne responded to this accusation with apparently new evidence. He claimed to have found the smoking gun in the charge, an archived document that demonstrated the Commonwealth government really did support the policy of breeding out the colour. He said it was a response by the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior to a memorandum in February 1933. Earlier in this chapter, I quoted a passage from this memorandum by Dr Cecil Cook entitled ‘Permission to Marry Aboriginals’. In it, Cook urged the Commonwealth ‘to breed out the colour by elevating female half-castes to white standard with a view to their absorption by mating into the white population.’ This subsequently, Manne said, became official Commonwealth policy:
The officials in Canberra and their Minister, J. A. Perkins, gave support to Cook’s proposal for an extension of the Territory policy to Australia as a whole. The Secretary in the Department of the Interior, J. A. Carrodus, composed a memorandum of his own. ‘The policy of mating half-castes with whites, for the purpose of breeding out the colour, is that adopted by the Commonwealth government on the recommendation of Dr Cook’.
Manne went on to say that the Department of the Prime Minister recommended the question of ‘an all-Australia policy’ on breeding out the colour be placed on the agenda of the next Premiers’ Conference. Somehow the item was left off the agenda, probably, Manne said, because of objections by the Queensland Protector, J. W. Bleakley, so it never actually became national policy. Nonetheless, Manne felt the Carrodus document still vindicated his position.
McGuinness’s contention that the policy of ‘breeding out the colour’ was never ‘the basis for policy in any specific State or Territory’, and his pronouncement that ‘no-one’ had ever found a ‘government policy or even an internal policy document’ to show that it was, are both completely wrong.
Manne gave an archival reference for the Carrodus memorandum. It is part of a file held by the National Archives, which contains a number of documents mostly from 1932 to 1934 about ‘mixed marriages’ and ‘breeding out the colour’. The file, which is now available online, contains 107 pages of documents. There is much more in it than Manne let on. It is also quite apparent that the superficial research done by the Human Rights Commission meant the authors of Bringing Them Home never set eyes on it. The file reveals that what was described as the policy of ‘the Commonwealth Government’ by departmental officer Carrodus — who Manne misrepresented as the department’s Secretary — was no more than a local policy of the Northern Territory where Cecil Cook, without any higher authority, was making his own interpretation of regulations that allowed him to approve or disapprove the marriages of part-Aboriginal people. Indeed, in reproducing the brief quotation from Carrodus in the way he did, Manne compounded the offence of which McGuinness originally accused him, that of citing apparently embarrassing quotes out of context. Let me now provide the context, which in this case is both rich in detail and candid in its revelations about attitudes among Australian politicians and public servants at the time.
The first thing to note in this debate is that, under the Australian Constitution of 1901, responsibility for Aboriginal affairs was specifically left to the states. Until the 1967 referendum changed the Constitution, the only places where the Australian federal government could pass laws about Aborigines was in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The federal government had taken over responsibility for the Northern Territory when South Australia relinquished control in 1911. Hence the federal government did not have the power to undertake Cook’s recommendation to extend Territory practice to Australia as a whole, even if it wanted to. It could only do this if it could persuade all states to change their own policies in accord. As Cook knew from his clashes with Bleakley in 1928 and 1929, that was not going to happen in Queensland.
In the Northern Territory, the legal instrument under which the federal government controlled Aboriginal marriage was Section 45 of the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918–1930. This ordinance followed Queensland practice and prohibited the marriage of full-blood Aborigines to anyone not a full-blood Aborigine, unless the Chief Protector agreed. But as the department insisted, in the case of full-blooded Aborigines he never did agree:
Permission is never granted for white persons to marry aboriginals. Permission is also refused for coloured persons, including Asiatics, to marry aboriginals.
Cook’s only area of discretion was to allow or disallow the marriage of half-castes. His practice was to permit the marriage of half-castes to other half-castes and to whites, but to prohibit the marriage of half-castes to Asians and other ‘coloured’ people. His attempts to breed out the colour were confined to attempts to encourage young female half-castes to marry white men.
In 1932 and early 1933, Cook sent a series of letters and reports via the Northern Territory Administrator to the Department of the Interior in Canberra trying to get his marriage practices formally endorsed by the federal government, hopefully by an amendment to the Aboriginals Ordinance. His argument was that other protectors, Bleakley in particular, were trying to dissuade half-caste and quarter-caste Aborigines from marrying whites but at the same time were encouraging them to marry Asians and Melanesians. Cook wrote: ‘mating with Japanese, South-Sea Islanders, Chinese and hybrid coloured aliens has been regarded as a very desirable solution to what was the marriage problem of coloured girls some of whom had over seventy-five per cent of white blood’.
In a rehearsal of arguments he was subsequently to repeat many times over the following years, Cook said the offspring of the latter unions were creating economic and social problems for the whole of northern Australia. These half-castes, who fitted into neither white nor Aboriginal society, were growing into a disaffected, alienated group with no vocational skills and high unemployment rates. They could become prey to outside political agitators, particularly Communists. ‘Their multiplication throughout the north of the continent is likely to be attended by very grave consequences to Australia as a nation.’ Cook said his solution was to absorb half-castes into the white population through marriage: ‘Every effort is being made to breed-out colour by elevating female half-castes to white standard with a view to their absorption by mating into the white population.’
Initially, Cook’s reports had some success. In February 1933, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Herbert Brown, took the matter to his minister, John Arthur Perkins. Aboriginal affairs, Perkins recognized, was primarily a state government responsibility and the states ‘will have their own views on the matter’. So Perkins recommended to the Prime Minister’s Department that it list the issue for discussion at the next Premiers’ Conference scheduled for June 1933.
By the time the conference began, however, a number of reports were appearing in both Australian and English newspapers suggesting that something untoward was going on. The report that caused the most dramatic response was published in the London newspaper, the Daily Herald. A story attributed to a correspondent in Brisbane, based on an interview with Queensland Protector, J. W. Bleakley, informed English readers that the Australian government was giving cash handouts to entice white men to marry half-caste women. On 8 June 1933 the newspaper wrote:
BONUS OFFERED FOR MARRYING HALF-CASTES
Australia’s plan to breed out the black strain
From Our Correspondent, Brisbane, Wednesday
Following the “Daily Herald’s” exposures of certain aspects of the Australian colour problem, the Commonwealth Government is to give cash bonuses to men who marry half-caste women.
This effort to breed out the black strain from the children of marriages between aborigines and whites has caused serious conflict among the authorities…
In acting on the report of the medical officer for North Australia (Mr Cecil Cook), the Canberra authorities are in direct conflict with Mr Bleakley, Queensland’s special protector of aborigines and the leading authority on the subject.
In an exclusive interview with me, Mr Bleakley opposed the intermarriage of whites and half-castes…
The only solution of the half-caste problem, he said, was the encouragement of white women to settle in the tropics, and having married men only supervising aboriginal employment.
Home Secretary Hanlon told me that he strongly disapproved the Commonwealth action, and said Queensland would continue to not grant permission for white and black marriages, except in unusual circumstances.
The report caused consternation in Canberra after Australia’s London-based Minister Without Portfolio, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, cabled Prime Minister Joseph Lyons asking for an urgent statement of the position in order to mollify the British press. The next day, Lyons cabled back:
Statement published is absolutely incorrect and completely without foundation. Question of payment of bonuses to white men has not been raised or suggested in any quarter in Australia so far as known to the Government. It would not be entertained by the Government. The report so far as it relates to the Commonwealth Government appears to be a deliberate invention.
Tellingly, the archived file that contains this cable also contains the draft version of the response suggested by the Department of the Interior. Written by departmental officer J. A. Carrodus for his superior, the department’s Secretary, the draft telegram included the following sentences as part of its denial: ‘Policy of Commonwealth is to encourage marriage of half-caste women in Northern Territory to whites with view to breeding out colour Stop Such marriages are extremely rare.’ It would have been clear to everyone in Canberra at the time that when Carrodus said ‘Policy of Commonwealth’, he meant the policy of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory, the only place where the Commonwealth actually administered Aboriginal affairs. The fact that Prime Minister Lyons omitted these two sentences, while accepting the rest of the department’s wording of the denial, indicates that, whatever was going on in the Territory administration, Lyons himself did not want his Commonwealth Government associated with the practice.
The ‘breeding out the colour’ submission that went to the Cabinet of the Lyons Government in September 1933. Cabinet declined to accept Dr Cecil Cook’s proposals and sent the question back to the Department of the Interior whose head, Herbert Brown, advised his Minister: ‘My own view is that half-castes who have been given certain rights and enjoy the franchise, should have the same privileges in respect to selecting their husbands or wives, as are enjoyed by other citizens of the Commonwealth.’ The Minister for the Interior, John Perkins, agreed and in the House of Representatives he publicly denounced Cook’s concept. In the 1930s, no one in this prolonged debate ever connected the proposal to the removal of children.
These events coincided with the Premiers’ Conference in Melbourne from 9 to 14 June 1933. Indeed, the timing of Bleakley’s intervention in the press via his interview with the Daily Herald journalist was most likely designed to influence the conference against Cook’s proposal for a national agreement. The tactic worked. Rather than have all six state premiers decide the issue at the conference, they decided to leave it to the three administrations responsible for northern Australia: ‘the subject could more appropriately be dealt with by correspondence between the Commonwealth and the States of Queensland and Western Australia which are more particularly concerned’. However, the issue remained alive at the national level after the Attorney-General in the Lyons government, John Latham, who was chairing the Premiers’ Conference at the time, got the premiers’ agreement to ask the Minister of the Interior to bring up the matter for a full discussion in federal Cabinet before any final decision was made.
It is important to recognize that, in none of the documents under consideration here, was there any recommendation for the removal of children. The political discussion about breeding out the colour was an issue entirely confined to the marriage of half-castes to whites. The Cabinet submission on the policy prepared on 31 July 1933 by the Minister for the Interior, J. A. Perkins, referred to an accompanying report by Cook. That was a five-page document written on 27 June 1933, which rehashed most of the same arguments about marriage and absorption that Cook had been making since 1929. It made no suggestion at all for the removal of children. In his submission to Cabinet, Perkins described the marriage practices Cook had adopted in the Northern Territory as follows:
(a) The mating of aboriginals with any person other than an aboriginal is prohibited;
(b) The mating of coloured aliens with any female of part aboriginal blood is prohibited;
(c) Every endeavour is being made to breed out colour by elevating female half-castes to white standards with a view to their absorption by mating into the white population.
Perkins said there was no doubt that Cook’s policy (a) in prohibiting ‘aboriginals’ — by which he meant people of full descent — from mating with anyone not of full blood, ‘is sound and should be adhered to’. However, he said Cook’s policy (b) about the prohibition of ‘coloured aliens’ mating with half-caste Aborigines, and (c) the fostering of marriages between half-caste females and white men, were both issues ‘open to debate’.
Part of the pressure on Cabinet to consider the issue was a further round of criticism in the press. On 20 June 1933, several journalists contacted the Department of the Interior about reports from Darwin that half-caste women were being forced by Cook, against their wishes, to marry white men they had never seen. The Chief Protector had allegedly sent several young women to Katherine for this purpose. One of the instigators of the story was Darwin journalist Fred Thompson, former editor of the Northern Territory Times, a persistent critic who had a low opinion of Cook. He thought Cook should resign rather than ‘be permitted further to interfere with the individual liberty of any protégé of the taxpayers — no matter what colour their skin’. In Canberra, Carrodus described the allegation about forced marriages as ‘stupid and irresponsible’. The press in Darwin published his response:
An officer of the Department said the Commonwealth Government had no power to make half-castes marry whites. The government prevented half-castes from marrying aborigines on racial grounds but no instructions had been given the Protector of Aborigines as suggested, because half-caste girls were perfectly free to decide for themselves. It is all a lot of rot, they declared.
Cook himself advised the department that the story was a ‘malicious falsehood without any foundation whatever’. It was a ‘fabrication by certain employers intended [to] make girls suspicious of proposals of marriage thereby influencing girls against leaving employment’.
While it may well have been ‘a lot of rot’ and a malicious falsehood that half-caste girls were being forced into marriage, it was not true that they were ‘perfectly free to decide for themselves’. The Commonwealth Ordinances still gave Cook room to prevent them marrying someone of whom he and his theories disapproved. Nonetheless, as Carrodus’s response to the press demonstrated, there was a fine line between what the regulations permitted Cook to do and what Canberra thought was unacceptable. Within this distinction lurked obvious potential for the government to be politically embarrassed.
On 19 September 1933 the Lyons Cabinet considered the papers Perkins submitted. It did not endorse Cook’s policy. Instead, the Cabinet minutes declared the matter: ‘Deferred pending return of Mr Brown (Secy Interior) from NT’. This meant the papers went back for further consideration by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Herbert Brown. Perkins added a pencilled note to the Cabinet paper to also refer the question to an upcoming conference of missionary societies at Melbourne in December.
By the time Brown wrote his advice in response, he had decided that Cook’s scheme was impractical to administer and objectionable in terms of the citizen rights of half-castes. He did not want Cook’s practices to be given the status of law by any rewriting of the Commonwealth’s Ordinances for the Territory. In November 1933, Brown wrote to his minister:
With regard to your direction that I should see Dr Cook’s report respecting the question of mating half-caste women with whites and give the question some consideration, I desire to inform you I have perused Dr Cook’s report and whilst I am of the opinion that, theoretically, his suggestion would be quite good, in practice I think it would prove to be unsound.
In any case, I fail to see how it would be practicable to provide the necessary legal machinery in order to give effect to Dr Cook’s proposals.
Whilst there are undoubtedly some instances of very satisfactory results from the mating of half-caste women with white husbands, it would, I think, be unwise to attempt to restrict the selection by half-caste women of husbands of their own choice and, moreover, it would, I think, be quite improper to limit by Ordinance the procedure to be adopted by half-caste women in respect of their selection of husbands, unless the machinery were to apply equally to half-caste men, and here I think, is where Dr Cook’s proposals break down.
My own view is that half-castes who have been given certain rights and enjoy the franchise, should have the same privileges in respect to selecting their husbands or wives, as are enjoyed by other citizens of the Commonwealth.
Brown could also see problems for the government if the issue was given over to the missionaries who, throughout Australia at the time, regarded the marriage of Aborigines as their own prerogative. He advised Perkins to decide the issue himself:
Whilst it would appear from your pencil note on Cabinet submission that it was the Govt’s intention to refer this question to the Missionary bodies, I am afraid that by so doing it will result in further difficulty and embarrassment to the Govt. The native spiritual affairs may be one for the Missionaries but the administration of native affairs is a matter for the Govt.
This advice left Perkins either unmoved or unable to make up his mind. He simply wrote a note on the November memo ‘Seen’, and then, a few weeks later added: ‘Present policy to continue.’ However, the issue proved too contentious to go away and, before long, the Labor Party Opposition began to generate publicity about it.
In early 1934, the Labor member for Melbourne Ports, Edward (Jack) Holloway, toured the Northern Territory where he encountered widespread derision of Cook and opposition to his scheme. He subsequently made a speech to the House of Representatives where he summarized what he had been told by government officials in Darwin, by railway personnel, wardens, troopers and other public officers.
They assured me that socially and as a private citizen, Dr Cook was an estimable gentleman, but that, officially, he was an absolute crank, his pet scheme being to breed all the half-castes in the territory back to white people. They assured me that so determined was he to give effect to his theory that he was giving preference in employment to those whites who promised to marry half-caste women … The people in the Northern Territory have told me that men who have come from the southern states looking for work as railway gangers or foreman have been forced to bow to his decision. They have married half-caste women but, in a number of cases, have subsequently deserted their new partners. Some I understand were already married men with wives living in the southern states, so the experiment being carried out by Dr Cook is not without its tragic side … I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not charging the government with any responsibility for this unusual policy. But the fact that Mr Brown, the Secretary to the Department of the Interior, or someone else, stated that the department does not stand for this policy is not a contradiction of the statement that Dr Cook is carrying it out.
Holloway was a trade union identity whose formal schooling had ended at age thirteen. However, he had a better grasp of the logic implicit in Cook’s scheme than its medically educated author.
If there is any logic in the theory, it will be necessary to segregate all the half-castes and practise on them for eight or nine generations. Meantime, the cause of the problem having been left untouched, there will be three or four times the number of fresh half-castes coming along to complicate the position.
In a brief, initial response, Minister Perkins protested the lack of notice given him but acknowledged the force of Holloway’s address, which ‘heaped ridicule upon his [Cook’s] work, and upon some of his ideas with regard to the treatment of half-castes’. Over the subsequent six weeks, the press in the southern states took up the issue, reporting Holloway’s speech and the rejoinders by Perkins and Cook himself.
As Holloway noted, the immediate response by Brown, the Secretary of the department, had been to deny government approval for any such policy. After his officers had ascertained what was actually going on in Cook’s administration, Perkins made a more considered reply to the House in August. He began by rejecting Holloway’s central allegation. Cook could not have been involved in any preferential employment practices since he had no authority to make offers of jobs in the public service, in government contracts, or anywhere in the Territory’s private sector. Hence Holloway’s case ‘falls to the ground’.
But then, at the same time as he praised Cook for being a ‘conscientious, able and loyal officer’, Perkins pulled the rug out from under his feet. Perkins abandoned his previous tacitly neutral stance on Cook’s practices and publicly endorsed the position Brown had been urging on him since November: half-caste women should be free to marry who they chose. Perkins told the House:
Reference was made in the honourable member’s speech to the ‘forcing’ of white men to marry half-castes. This would presuppose that the same force was being used on half-caste women. It can be stated definitely, that it is and always has been, contrary to policy to force half-caste women to marry anyone. The half-caste must be a perfectly free agent in the matter.
In other words, Perkins decided to kill off the emerging public disquiet about Cook’s scheme by withdrawing the Protector’s discretion to approve or disapprove half-caste marriages. His declaration that ‘the half-caste must be a perfectly free agent in the matter’ left no room for doubt. This was a much stronger statement than any made before. It came not from a public servant trying to fob off the media but was a carefully prepared pronouncement by the Minister to the House about what his policy permitted. Cook had no option but to conform.
This decision arose from a combination of pressures: the public airing of the question in parliament and the press, the critique of Cook’s scheme given to Perkins by Brown, and from a new focus on the issue within the Territory itself. In April 1934, one of the officers of the Department of the Interior most involved in drafting ministerial statements on Aboriginal affairs, J. A. Carrodus, became Acting Administrator of the Territory, a position he held until October that year. One of his major projects was a report on the governance, economy and development prospects of the Territory. The 58-page report devoted its longest discussion to the administration of Aboriginal welfare and justice regimes, and also addressed Cook’s policy on half-castes. In just two paragraphs, Carrodus dismissed the demographic assumptions behind Cook’s plans for the marriage of half-caste women and declared the project to breed out the colour unworkable. This was largely due to the sexual preferences of the half-castes themselves. Rather than try to engineer a solution to the growing number of half-castes, Carrodus advised the Commonwealth to simply get used to it.
There have been serious misgivings in recent years regarding the increase in the number of half-castes in the Territory. The general impression is that all the half-castes are the result of the mating of Europeans and non-natives with aboriginal women. That impression, however, is quite an erroneous one. The returns for the year ended 30th June, 1934, show that of the half-castes born during the year 13 per cent were from the mating of European with aboriginal women and 80% from the mating of half-caste males with half-caste women.
In my opinion no great success will attend the scheme for the encouragement of the marriage of half-caste girls to whites. It will be found that half-castes will prefer to marry half-castes. The effort to breed out colour is a commendable one, but it would appear that the Government must face a large natural increase of the half-caste population from the mating of half-caste with half-caste.
As I noted earlier, the statistics in the Carrodus report confirmed what Cook himself already knew. In 1933, Cook admitted to journalist Ernestine Hill that he was arranging no more than three or four such marriages a year — ‘Some of them have been happy and satisfactory. Some have not.’ By 1937, he confessed to the Canberra conference that in the previous seven or eight years he had been only able to persuade 40 to 50 half-caste women to marry whites. In short, breeding out the colour through arranged marriages was a project whose prospects were hopeless.
Let me summarize the policy conclusions from all of this:
First, in the Northern Territory from about 1930 to 1934, the Chief Protector Cecil Cook devised a ‘policy’ of his own, sanctioned neither by his superiors nor by local legislation, to breed out the colour by arranging marriages of half-caste women to white men. However, Cook’s ambitions were frustrated because they were at odds with the preferences of half-caste women themselves. The number of his arranged marriages never amounted to more than a handful a year.
Second, the Commonwealth government Minister responsible for the Northern Territory was not aware of the existence of such a practice until it was brought to his attention by officers of the Department of the Interior in early 1933. The Minister referred the issue, first, to the 1933 Premier’s Conference and then to a September meeting of the Federal Cabinet. Neither of these referrals produced a decision to endorse the scheme, let alone anything that could be called a Commonwealth or national policy on the issue.
Third, the Commonwealth government never gave the scheme any official approval. It existed only by virtue of a loophole in the discretion allowed the Chief Protector to approve or disapprove marriages of people of part-Aboriginal descent. No laws were ever passed or ordinances issued approving such a policy.
Fourth, once the matter emerged in public debate, the Commonwealth quickly became embarrassed by the implications of what Cook was trying to do. Some public servants saw clearly the offence against human rights involved. By August 1934, the responsible minister had publicly denounced the scheme, thereby rendering it defunct.
Fifth, although Jack Holloway probably overstated his accusation about preferential employment, the information he picked up in the Northern Territory about Cook’s character was probably very close to the truth. Officially, Cook was an ‘absolute crank’, and his ‘pet scheme’ to breed all the half-castes in the Territory into white people represented bureaucratic social engineering at its worst — pretentious in ambition, inept in execution, and a complete failure in outcome.
Sixth, during this entire process of discussion and debate within the bureaucracy, in the parliament and in the press from 1930 to 1934, no one among either the supporters or detractors of Cook’s scheme ever suggested it had any connection with the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents.