Reviews and Comments – Black Lives, Government Lies


Dr Kidd has made an enormously valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of relations between Indigenous peoples in Queensland and government.   Because of her commitment and tenacity in obtaining access to, and then exposing the contents of, government records… we now know far more about the precise details, the extent and the nature of control exercised by governments in Queensland over the lives of Indigenous peoples over the past 100 years than we otherwise would…

Time and again, the book returns to one basic conclusion about the nature of government administration of Indigenous affairs…In each instance, the government records of the day show unequivocally that they knew what was happening…

The book challenges what is perhaps the mainstream view of this history.  It demonstrates simply and clearly that it is untenable to suggest that successive Queensland governments have merely been bit players … The book rightfully identifies Queensland governments and administrators as the central influence in affecting the status of Indigenous communities, and in showing continuity to the present….

Dr Kidd is to be commended for so vividly demonstrating these connections between past and present, and for outlining some of the challenges that remain in addressing unfinished business.

Dr William Jonas.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.   Launch of Black Lives, Government Lies.  [FULL TEXT]


Rosalind Kidd packs a punch in this slim volume of five short chapters plus introduction – from its opening sentence to its closing statement on reconciliation in Australia under the leadership of a prime minister who cannot or will not say ‘sorry’.  Kidd concludes optimistically, “I say when these millions know this side of our history they will think differently”.  Speaking from the strength of her position as a historian who has had access to page upon page of archived government documents in Queensland, Kidd examines certain strongly held beliefs or values underlying the policies determining the treatment of Aboriginal people by government agencies in Queensland.  Then she skilfully knocks down the arguments that have propped up these beliefs by drawing on the information contained in these government documents to show what the government agencies, their administrators and workers were really doing, not just what they claimed to be doing…. This material begs the questions: How have we ignored this?  How can we continue to ignore it?…

One of its strengths is that Kidd contextualises and problematises the writing of history, confronting up front the white story and, through careful reading, telling another story previously hidden from view…Her concluding chapter, ‘Unfinished Business’ is transparently political, speaking directly to the actions and words of Prime Minister John Howard and Senator John Herron, his former Aboriginal affairs minister.

Christine Choo.  Review for Journal of Aboriginal Studies, No 2, October 2001.  [FULL TEXT]


For such a tiny book, Black Lives, Government Lies by Rosalind Kidd packs a powerful punch and is a must-read for anyone interested in the living conditions endured by Indigenous people in Queensland from the late nineteenth century through to today.  Black Lives, Government Lies challenges the argument by the federal government and others that ‘our generation’ should not have to accept responsibility for the actions of previous generations..

Black Lives, Government Lies shows that rather than being ancient history that can be blamed on previous generations, legislation and decisions by governments from the late nineteenth century through to the current day have continued to add to the suffering of Indigenous people.

With a clear, concise, easy to read style and sledgehammer directness, Dr Rosalind Kidd adds another perspective to the written history of Indigenous people in Queensland.

Elizabeth Burrows.  Review in Koori Mail, 26 February 2003.  [FULL TEXT]


Black Lives, Government Lies is, as the name suggests, a highly provocative text… it is also timely and in the reviewer’s opinion is a book that every single Australian must read.  The book’s brief format makes it an easily digested package furnishing unequivocal evidence of a distorted history produced as a result of colonial amnesia…

Using documents from government archives, Kidd demonstrates that the intention of the administrators of the time was far from benign.  Her use of the evidence is compelling and draws not only on historical sources but also the contemporary consequences of State protection on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1900s…

Kidd’s text is particularly poignant to this reader who shares her opinion that the powerful are the writers of history.  She is brave, honest and personal in her approach, informing the reader of her struggle to challenge and disassemble the myths that this country has fabricated in order to forget its brutal colonial past.  It does not demand feelings of guilt but simply requests the reader to become aware.

Juanita Sherwood.  Review in Indigenous Law Bulletin, No 7, 2001.   [FULL TEXT]


These myths of ‘good intentions’ and ‘benign government’ are exposed in Dr Rosalind Kidd’s Black Lives, Government Lies.  This powerful, accessible book provides a well researched picture of the control and concentration  of Indigenous people in Queensland and the nature, scale and casual immorality of public policy that led to the dehumanisation and poverty that is still impacting on Aboriginal people today…

As Kidd’s research of government files shows, those who wielded their power over Aboriginal people knew full well the terrible human toll of malnutrition, sickness, destitution and preventable deaths that resulted from their so-called policies of benevolent protection…

Kidd challenges the popular mindset that the problems faced by Aboriginal people are the result of some failure on their part, some racial anomaly rather than the direct result of past government policies which systematically deprived them of the basic necessities of life…

Donna Brennan.  Review in Independent Education, Vol 33, No 2.  August 2003.  [FULL TEXT]


[Black Lives, Government Lies is a] compact, macrocosmic essay on ‘The biggest social experiment in our history’ – the removal and incarceration of tens of thousands of Aborigines, not only children, but people of several generations over a period of seventy years…. [Marcia Langton accorded Kidd] open access to Government files, ticking away like a dusty time-bomb….

The ultimate outcome [of fifteen months’ research] was the detonation of that bomb in the publication of Kidd’s blistering The Way We Civilise in 1997.  Its reverberations are still being felt.  This handier, abbreviated account of some sixty-four pages is a distillation of a litany of ‘deliberate and persistent breaching of State and federal laws, of decimated community workforces, of devastated social fabric…’  Though this is the shortest account in the batch [of books under review], it stings like a bee.

Raymond Evans.  Review in Politics and Culture, Issue 2, 2002.  [FULL TEXT]


Rosalind Kidd is a committed scholar who has an ear and a spirit that are sensitive to the voices of generations denied.  The spirits of those now gone need her to champion their cause and right those wrongs that were perpetrated against them.  The spirits of our grandchildren yet unborn also need her pages to construct the borders in which truth, wisdom and compassion will flourish.

Sam Watson.  Political activist, Brisbane.


Ros Kidd’s Black Lives, Government Lies, is the essential introduction to Aboriginal realities in contemporary Australia.  Without this deft background picture of the control and concentration of indigenous people, and the nature, scale, and casual immorality of public policy, current horrors detailed in news media or in heartfelt public pleas by black and white activists, could seem bewildering.  Rather, they are all too logical outcomes of a long process of dehumanisation in which too many shades of opinion over a far too long period were complicit. The book is powerful and quickly read, and will never be forgotten.  Having seen her books focus and harness the interest and moral energies of all who read them, from suburban elders to cohorts of university students to indigenous affairs specialists abroad, I recommend that everyone read and re-read this indispensable little volume.

Peter Jull, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane.


Kidd’s work dispels dominant myths about ‘good intentions’, ‘policies of the time’ and other rhetoric espoused by those unwilling to confront the atrocities of the past … The disparity between the way Aboriginal and white children were treated, particularly in the allocation of funding, is a serious indictment of policy makers…

[Using] material previously hidden from the public domain … the book consistently challenges those who maintain that the policies of the time were merely misguided. … The flagrant disregard of labour laws and basic decency in the use of the Aboriginal workforce demonstrates an abuse of human and legal rights.

Linda Briskman.  Review for Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol 36, No 2, July 2001. [FULL TEXT]



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