NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)
November, 1949 : The Aboriginal singer Harold Blair has criticised Australia’s treatment of its Aborigines. Blair, on a concert tour in New York, was interviewed by the New York Herald Tribune. He is quoted as having said; “There are only 80,000 Aborigines left out of more than 700,000. That speak for itself, doesn’t? Now they live on reservations, where they teach you nothing but to became labourers. It is wonderful to get out and find that there is a world.”
[As of 30th August, 2013 Aborigine numbers were 669,900, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Does it speak for itself? Additional 589,900 Aborigines in 64 years?
In any case the pre-white-contact population numbers are, of necessity, a guesswork. In 1930 anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe came up with 250,000 to 300,000. Modern politically correct guesses reached 500,000.
Many would not know of Blair, who died in 1976 and after whom one of the Queensland’s electoral divisions was named, so I took the liberty of reproducing bellow what the Wikipedia is saying:
“Blair was born September (?) 1924 at the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve, 5 km from Murgon in Queensland. His mother was Esther Quinn, a teenage Aboriginal woman. His surname, Blair, came from the family that had “adopted” his mother. He and his mother then went to the Salvation Army Purga Mission near Ipswich. His mother entered domestic service, leaving Harold, then aged two, at the mission, where he received an elementary education. Blair left school at age 16, gaining employment as a farm labourer.
At the age of 17, he was working as a tractor driver at the Fairymead Sugar Mill. Communist trade union organiser Harry Green heard him singing and encouraged him to further his singing. Blair entered a radio amateur hour talent quest in early 1945, and attracted a record tally of listeners’ votes. A group of trade unionists, academics and musicians formed a trust to sponsor his career.
He entered the Melba Conservatorium in Melbourne in 1945 and earned a Diploma of Music with honours in 1949. In 1950, Blair was invited to study in the United States by the noted African-American singer Todd Duncan. Blair studied at the Juilliard School, New York. While in New York he sang in a church in Harlem, and entered into the community life. He was impressed how people of all races participated at all levels of society.
In 1951, the Australian Broadcasting Commission offered Blair a three-year singing contract, commencing with an extensive tour. By the end of the tour he had lost his voice. Breaking the contract, he was prohibited from singing professionally for three years. Discouraged, Blair sought other work including working for a hardware store. He expressed an interest in education and was taken on as a teacher at Ringwood Technical School. He later became a teacher at the Conservatorium in Melbourne, and served on the Aboriginal Arts Board.
Blair continued to act for Aboriginal rights all his life. He joined the Aborigines Advancement League in its early days and later the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Watching an Aboriginal marching girls group at Moomba in 1962 led Blair to establish the Aboriginal Children’s Holiday Project, and he was an early member of the Aborigines Welfare Board in Victoria. He stood as a candidate for the Australian Labor Party for a seat in the Victorian Parliament against the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.” ]