The Tasmanian Aborigines
The Plomley Foundation, $10.95 pb
This is a sad, short book – sad in more ways than one. It is the last work of this century’s greatest authority on the Tasmanian Aborigines. It is the distillation of sixty years of detailed and diverse work. And it is deeply flawed.
Brian Plomley, who died earlier this year, was best known for his doorstop volumes on the original Tasmanians (The Friendly Mission and Weep in Silence). For these we owe Plomley a great debt. He dedicated decades of his life to getting inside the mind of G.A. Robinson, the so-called Conciliator of Tasmania’s last tribal Aborigines. His insights into that man and his era, and the thoroughness of his work on the thinly-spread evidence of pre-European Aboriginal culture in Tasmania, are unique. They would lead us to expect the present slim volume to be a rich distillation. Instead the undoubted riches are contaminated by errors both of fact and judgement.