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Patrick McGee
Coordinator Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign  

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This Whispering In Our Hearts

This phrase is taken from the title of this book by Henry Reynolds who takes it from a speech delivered by Richard Windeyer as part of a five-night debate carried out in September 1842.  Henry Reynolds describes the speech, called ‘On the Rights of the Aborigines of Australia’, as "perhaps the most sustained and intellectually powerful attack on Aboriginal rights ever mounted in early colonial Australia." (p.20).  Certainly it was felt at the time that Windeyer’s speech for the negative side had carried the day:

…we believe it to be the unanimous opinion of the members, that the speech of Mr Windeyer, for the negative, was the most argumentative and logical… He distinctly proved not only that the Blacks have no right to the soil of Australia for want of settled occupancy and cultivation; but that they have no right even to the kangaroos more than we have, the game laws of England agreeing precisely with the great law of nature, that wild animals not confined by enclosure are not, and cannot be the property of any man.
— (Sydney Morning Herald 12 Sept 1842)

And yet, after denouncing traditional Aboriginal society, and insisting that they had no claim on the land, Windeyer admitted at the end of his speech.

"How is it that our minds are not satisfied? …What means this whispering in the bottom of our hearts?" (cited in Reynolds p. 21)


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