Now in his late-eighties, and listed by the National Trust as a “Living Treasure”, Geoffrey Blainey has now published the first volume of his memoires – Before I Forget.  In it, he reflects on his humble beginnings as the son of a Methodist Minister and school teacher, one of five children, and a carefree childhood spent in rural Victoria, from Terang to Leongatha, Geelong to Ballarat. From a young age these places ignited for Blainey a great affection for the Australian landscape, and a deep curiosity in Australia’s history. To give a taste of the life that brought him to writing, Geoffrey Blainey addressed The Sydney Institute on Wednesday 31 July 2019.*

A LIFE WRIT LARGE

GEOFFREY BLAINEY

Around the year 2000, I wrote at some length about my life, partly because I wanted to recapture something that had largely vanished. Like so many people I knew, my memory might fade, and so I began to write the story of my childhood. After I’d finished, I thought I would add some chapters on learning to be an historian. After reaching the age of 40, or 41, I suddenly stopped. I don’t know why, perhaps I’d said all I wanted to say.

I put it aside and didn’t take it up again perhaps until two or three years ago. My memory is still fairly strong but the first thing you can say about memory is it is fallible. Somebody once said that memory is an unskilled worker. At times, after I’d written a section, I would think: how do I know that’s true. I used to keep diaries. When I was young, we were often given a diary for a New Year’s Day present. We were very clever if we continued the diary until school began four weeks later. I kept diaries, just a few notes daily, for most of life. I kept a lot of letters and I checked out things. Sometimes I found that my memory was very much astray.

My memory is still fairly strong but the first thing you can say about memory is it is fallible. Somebody once said that memory is an unskilled worker.

My father was a Methodist minister when the Methodists accounted for about an eighth of the Australian population, the same number as the Presbyterians but the Methodists were different. Methodist clergyman were not allowed to stay with the same congregation for more than about four years. So, I spent my first three years in Terang in the Western District of Victoria and then we lived for four years in Leongatha in Gippsland, a dairy town much smaller than it is today.

My first memories are of Leongatha. I was so infatuated by Leongatha, and the life there, that for many years my ambition was to be a dairy farmer. It was the only occupation I knew. I learnt to milk a cow at various families we visited. I couldn’t have possibly coped, even if fortune had favoured me and I was given some money and bought a dairy farm. In those days, most dairy farmers had very little mechanical equipment. Increasingly, like all farming activities, dairy farming required technical skills. Eventually, I lost the desire to be a dairy farmer.

I was so infatuated by Leongatha, and the life there, that for many years my ambition was to be a dairy farmer. It was the only occupation I knew.

I had one great advantage at Leongatha primary school which I attended for two years. We learned everything by chanting. We started with two times two is four and then four times four is sixteen. Then we moved to geography, and spelling. We chanted all day long. Children are very happy to do what the other children are doing until they become more curious – at the age of about seven or eight. I got a wonderful grounding at Leongatha and I’m very grateful to the school for that grounding.

I got a wonderful grounding at Leongatha and I’m very grateful to the school for that grounding.

We moved, in 1937, to Geelong which was then a relatively small city with only 45,000 people, as the signs at the entrances to Geelong used to say. The first momentous thing that happened in Geelong was we went to a church in Pakington Street called the Newtown Methodist Church – a footballing church in Geelong. I don’t mean they were all footballers but among the congregation was the most famous footballing family in Geelong – the Rankins.

Ted Rankin was quite famous in football history. He not only played a huge number of games but he invented a tactic for those wet days, when you couldn’t bounce the ball while running because the ball was slippery and the grounds were often undrained. Every 10 or 15 yards he would bend over and touch the ball to the ground. The umpire, surprised, agreed that this was fair enough. It was an innovation that took over the game. You rarely see it now because the grounds are so well drained.

My father was a very devoted pastoral worker. He believed in following every activity that his congregation was interested in. So, one Saturday afternoon we went to the Corio Oval. It’s vanished completely but it was the Geelong League football ground of that era. Nothing is left, not the mounds, the goalposts, the grandstands. It was by the botanical gardens, down by the marshes, but it’s gone completely. At the age of seven, there I was with my father, standing in the outer. I thought it was such a pretty sight. Football in those days was more like chess, players started out in very set positions, and when the game began and after each goal they returned to those positions, as if they were in some kind of symmetry.

My father was a very devoted pastoral worker. He believed in following every activity that his congregation was interested in. So, one Saturday afternoon we went to the Corio Oval.

I thought South Melbourne, now Sydney, had the prettiest colours. They were red and white. I began to call out for South Melbourne but my father said, “We’re in Geelong now, and we have to keep on living here.” So, I became a Geelong supporter.

My father said, “We’re in Geelong now, and we have to keep on living here.” So, I became a Geelong supporter

Mr Rankin was very good to us at our church. He said we should have a junior cricket team, under 14 or under 16. He was the groundsman at Geelong College and he borrowed bats and pads and stumps and old cricket balls, and we formed a team. He really fathered us. When we played matches, we didn’t know the rules or that you should appeal to the umpires if something debatable had taken place. Mr Rankin got us all together, after a while, and he explained that you had to shout out, “How’s that”, a shout which we all learnt very quickly. It was one of the few things we learnt quickly, our scores being low. 

In 1940, the war entered a very difficult stage. Germany invaded France and knocked it out with lighting speed. It was one of the most astonishing events in twentieth century history. German tactics and tanks, and the German army and air force, were so skilled that in the space of one month they covered the northern half of France and swept over the battlefields where the war had been static in 1914-18. France was knocked out of the war.

In the space of one month they covered the northern half of France and swept over the battlefields where the war had been static in 1914-18.

This was one of the reasons, and perhaps the main reason, why Singapore fell. We forget that a main concern of the British and the French was that the Japanese would enter the war in the Pacific. The plan was that if the Japanese attacked Singapore, the French Navy would command the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic while the British Navy and some of the British air force would go past Cape Town to Singapore. It was believed that their arrival would save Singapore. Well, of course, after France was knocked out of the war, its navy destroyed or dispersed, there was no hope that Singapore would be successfully defended.

I had a newspaper round. On Saturdays, I used to go to the railway station at Geelong around 6 pm. The Geelong express would steam in, bringing the last edition of the Herald with the late scores printed in red on the front page, under the heading “Stop Press”.  The Sporting Globe also came in the train with the latest scores. The Sporting Globe was published on pink print-paper. I would grab these big bundles, put them on my handlebars and take them to the newsagent, Mr Chapman. He would divide them into bundles. I then would collect my bundle and ride away to nearby West Geelong.

The Sporting Globe was published on pink print-paper. I would grab these big bundles, put them on my handlebars and take them to the newsagent, Mr Chapman.

It was quite a stirring time in retrospect because the Battle of Britain was going on, and the question was whether Britain or Germany would win. Day after day, the headlines announced how many German planes had been shot down. We didn’t know at the time that those figures were probably exaggerated but our morale had to be kept up. It was amazing seeing residents, standing at their front gate sometimes with a lantern, snatch the newspaper from my hand and turn so quickly to see what the headlines were.

In those days, the ABC didn’t have radio news and the commercial stations weren’t much into news, so the newspapers were all important. I had a profound satisfaction of knowing about important events which, of course, I didn’t understand. Being a mimic, I thought I must invent a game that was based on the present war. We had a section of our backyard where no activity took place, so I turned that, with my father’s permission, into a battlefield. Having read about World War l only, I cut little trenches across the sandy soil and put up short sticks which I suppose were meant to be barbed wire or tank traps. That was my understanding of the war at the time.

I had a profound satisfaction of knowing about important events which, of course, I didn’t understand.

In 1941, we moved to Ballarat and that had a profound effect on my life. I held the idea, without knowing how to express it, that I’d like to write. Of course, I had nothing to write about and no skills to be a writer. In Ballarat, somehow, I also gained the sense that there was another world and that world had vanished. In the Ballarat streets, one would see the remains of the goldmines that had existed and we saw remarkable nineteenth century buildings and statues. Ballarat still has its unique street of statues and does convey a sense of history.

In Ballarat, somehow, I also gained the sense that there was another world and that world had vanished.

In Ballarat, I had some desire or link with history for the first time and a desire that someday I would like to write about it. By good fortune, there was a very wealthy man in Geelong called Howard Hitchcock. He owned a store rather like a small version of Myers. He was very rich, and very generous. It was his idea that there should be a Great Ocean Road, and after the First World War he began the project. Largely ex-soldiers who were unemployed began to build what is now becoming one of the great tourist sights of the world, but Hitchcock died long before it was finished. When the first section of the road was opened, the chauffeur who used to drive Hitchcock was still alive, and he led the grand opening procession. He drove Hitchcock’s old car and beside him was the empty passenger seat.

A scholarship was set up by Hitchcock’s trustees to finance a boy to attend Wesley College in Melbourne. The scholarship paid boarding fees, tuition fees, money for textbooks and weekly pocket money. It must have been the most generous secondary school scholarship set up in Australia. And it was only available to sons of Methodist ministers, aged 13 and living in Victoria but more than 30 miles from Melbourne. Even my dad, who was rather wary, said I probably had a chance. But he wasn’t sure whether it would be fair to accept it because there could be hidden expenses. We had five children in the family and, moreover, in those days, the financial demands made on the churches and their clergy, Catholic and Protestant, were very large.

Even my dad, who was rather wary, said I probably had a chance. But he wasn’t sure whether it would be fair to accept it because there could be hidden expenses.

One Saturday afternoon, my father was cutting the nature strip and a former member of the congregation walked past. My father told him casually that one of his boys had won a scholarship to Wesley, but he wasn’t sure he could take it because any unforeseen or hidden expenses might be very difficult to meet. The man, who had won the military medal in the First World War, walked about 100 paces up the hill to his home and came back with, I don’t know what the sum was, the largest possible bank note or several bank notes, and gave them to my father. My father was so astonished and so grateful that somebody who had left his congregation should do something so generous. My father then sent a telegram to Wesley College and accepted my scholarship.

My father was so astonished and so grateful that somebody who had left his congregation should do something so generous. My father then sent a telegram to Wesley College and accepted my scholarship.

Wesley’s headmaster was the man who founded Knox College in Sydney, Neil MacNeil. He had been enticed to Wesley, then seen by some as intellectually slightly run down, in the hope that he might be able to straighten it out. I was very fortunate to go to the school because Ballarat High School which I attended was a very good school but at Wesley College the boys were much more competitive. You learn so much from the students of your own age group and often you learn attitudes to work that can’t be conferred by those who teach you directly.

At Wesley, several teachers influenced me strongly and I’m very grateful to them. The English master was Arthur Angell Phillips. He later became well known for creating the phrase “the cultural cringe”. All manner of politicians ranging from Paul Keating to National Party leaders have found themselves using the phrase. Phillips knew how to mark essays which is a wonderful gift. I came down with a kind of a Ballarat style, employing a lot of words. Mr Phillips would read them carefully and mark on the margin. He told us to leave a wide margin for comments and he would write “flabby” until I learnt to write tightly. I believe I now write tightly and I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

He told us to leave a wide margin for comments and he would write “flabby” until I learnt to write tightly. I believe I now write tightly and I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

When Phillips was in his mid-80s I learnt that he was in hospital in Melbourne and in a bad way, and I went to see him. I had had little contact with him for many years, but he jumped out of bed, putting on an old football jumper, and he thanked me for coming. After a while, he said, “I’ve got cancer,” without any sense of pity. “It’s incurable.” I think he asked me if I would speak at his funeral and I suppose I nodded. He died shortly after. I spoke at his funeral in the Wesley College Chapel, a building which I suspect he’d rarely or never entered.

Later I was a student at Melbourne University, and I started out doing law, but I didn’t find it interesting. I found history much more interesting and so I did history. I had this burning desire to write and in my spare time I became the co-editor of the student newspaper, unpaid in those days. Called Farrago; it was an eight-page newspaper which was printed very professionally by the Argus, a Melbourne daily then in its dying stages. That was a wonderful experience for me.

I had this burning desire to write and in my spare time I became the co-editor of the student newspaper, unpaid in those days.

I went to Professor Manning Clark’s lectures in 1949. He lectured twice a week on Australian History in quite a large theatre. His lectures were at about 5:15 pm because, in those days, many students were working in town and would come by tram to their lectures as part-time students. He’d written virtually nothing on Australian history then, but he was working very hard on research. At a time when so few people were researching Australian history, I suspect he knew more than almost anybody about the history of Australia since 1788.

Manning Clark was very engaging to listen to because you knew you were in the presence of somebody who was in the advance guard of research. He was only lecturing in Melbourne for about one more year and then he went to Canberra to take up the Chair of History. We got on well and he was very encouraging of me as a writer. He marked two of my essays and was very generous. I always will feel grateful to him.

Manning Clark was very engaging to listen to because you knew you were in the presence of somebody who was in the advance guard of research.

For years I didn’t see him very often although once I did launch a book for him. When I became the Chairman of the Literature Board under the Whitlam Government, I suggested that Manning should be a member and they appointed him. I saw quite a lot of him in the 1970s and, when  travelling, he used to send me occasional postcards. They were very short postcards and he signed them “Jesaulenko”, who was then a Carlton footballer, Canberra-bred. He must have been the person Manning Clark would liked to have been in another life. Occasionally Manning even sent me a postcard from Tasmania signed Abel Tasman!

Occasionally Manning even sent me a postcard from Tasmania signed Abel Tasman!

In the 1980s, Manning and I began not to see the world in the same way, but I continued to respect him. My own view is that the story of Australia is a success story, though with many failings which we acknowledge, but Australia by-and-large is a success story. And that’s why we have such an immigration and border protection problem. But Manning thought that so much in Australian history was bad or unfortunate, and so our view of the world increasingly differed. I say in my book that we continued to travel comfortably on the same train, but we got off at different stations.

Our view of the world increasingly differed. I say in my book that we continued to travel comfortably on the same train, but we got off at different stations.

As I finished university at the end of 1950, I didn’t know what I’d write or how I would become a writer, but a remarkable thing happened. The Melbourne History school was then led by a distinguished Sydney scholar, RM Crawford, the brother of Sir John Crawford who was so important in Canberra for many years. Max Crawford, or R M Crawford, became professor of history in Melbourne at the age of 31. He built up what people vowed at the time was the best history school in Australia; and I suspect that verdict was true. When I was offered a job as a tutor in the department, however, I said no. Crawford expressed astonishment. Every bright graduate, he implied, wanted to be a tutor. I said I wanted to be a writer.

I said no. Crawford expressed astonishment. Every bright graduate, he implied, wanted to be a tutor. I said I wanted to be a writer.

Through Crawford, I began my research on the west coast of Tasmania, with the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company. I went over there for a year, receiving a small payment from the university and a small payment from the mining company. Then I worked for two years as a geology offsider and at night and weekends I slowly wrote my first book.

I was very lucky to be researching a mining field with the most remarkable history. In 1912, it suffered the worst mining disaster which has ever taken place in metalliferous mines in Australia. Several of the coal mines in NSW and at Mount Mulligan in North Queensland have had worse disasters and heavier loss of life but of all the gold and copper, silver and lead mines, Mount Lyell’s was the worst disaster. Large numbers of men were trapped underground when the woodwork in the mine caught fire and deadly fumes were created. Most men were hidden underground for five days and there was great doubt over whether they would ever be rescued. In the end, 42 men lost their lives.

Most men were hidden underground for five days and there was great doubt over whether they would ever be rescued. In the end, 42 men lost their lives.

At the centenary of the event, I was one of the speakers. All except one or two of the dead miners were buried at Mount Lyell in the bleak valley cemetery.  In remembrance a huge crowd assembled there in October 2012 in a great open, man-made square; it was one of the most moving sights you could imagine. Today, we have grief healers and all kinds of social service professionals, but it’s remarkable to think how, so long ago, those isolated towns on their own bravely coped with their disasters. Mt Lyell was my first book, published in 1954.

You were so lucky if you were a young writer in the 1950s. In that decade, few books came out monthly on Australian history. Nowadays, with thousands of people doing PhDs on history or history-like subjects, many write very impressive books. It can really be an outstanding book, but it probably will not be reviewed in one newspaper, though of course it might be reviewed in a specialist journal. My book was called The Peaks of Lyell and probably it was reviewed in almost every daily newspaper in Australia. That was a great thing to happen when you were young, and I now realise how fortunate I was.

My book was called The Peaks of Lyell and probably it was reviewed in almost every daily newspaper in Australia. That was a great thing to happen when you were young, and I now realise how fortunate I was.

I had a great desire to be a historian and throughout the 1950s I made my living writing history, and researching writing for long hours as my wife will testify. But history is a skilled trade like any other trade, no matter what we say, and you learn largely by experience. I was so absorbed in the history of Australia and easily found so many topics which nobody had written about. I enjoyed it all enormously and I thought I would spend my whole life living in Australia and writing about our history.

One episode I must tell you about. In the early 1960s, I was shown the scrappy typewritten memoirs of a very distinguished and now largely unknown Australian named W S Robinson. He wrote his memoirs and didn’t finish them. But, just before he died, he told almost everybody he’d finished them. Sir Maurice Mawby, who was head of CRA, now part of Rio Tinto, asked me if I could finish them anonymously. So, I learnt Robinson’s impressive prose style and, eventually, I completed them. Robinson had enjoyed great international influence: after the Second World War, an ancient Bible was presented to Scotch College in Melbourne, inscribed by Winston Churchill and Brendan Bracken, who was his wartime Minister for Information, thanking W S Robinson for his innumerable wartime services to the British Commonwealth. Just one of his services should be recounted.

In the early 1960s, I was shown the scrappy typewritten memoirs of a very distinguished and now largely unknown Australian named W S Robinson.

Recalling when Australia was desperately short of aircraft, John McEwen, who later was deputy prime minister, told me he met W S Robinson in Melbourne in the dark days of the war. Robinson casually said, “I’m flying to the United States for a few weeks, is there anything you want done?” McEwen, being a member of the federal cabinet, responded, “We need more war planes, desperately.” To McEwen’s astonishment, a message soon came back from California, from Robinson, saying, “I’ve got another 100 or more.” These Hudson bombers – the outcome of Robinsons’ swift negotiations – were flown here at a time when Australia cried out for fast military aircraft.

To McEwen’s astonishment, a message soon came back from California, from Robinson, saying, “I’ve got another 100 or more.”  

Before the memoir was completed, the chairman of CRA said to me, “You must go overseas and meet important people Robinson knew.” I replied that I was writing Robinson’s view of the world, not their view of Robinson. Persuasively, Mawby assured me his company would pay for everything if I went abroad. Promptly, I went home and told Ann, my wife, that if we wanted to go overseas CRA would pay for us, and we could stay away for two months. I added that I was inclined to say no. But Ann said, “Not on your life.” And so we went overseas for the first time and of course it changed my life. I think that I was then aged 34.

If we wanted to go overseas CRA would pay for us, and we could stay away for two months. I added that I was inclined to say no. But Ann said, “Not on your life.”

In a taxi today, talking to my Chinese-Australian cab driver, he asked me if I’d been to China. I told him I was there in 1966. His hands left his steering wheel and he gave such a shout of astonishment because that was when the Cultural Revolution was just beginning. By chance, I was there in China, having no idea what was happening, meeting no foreigners there, and not knowing the meaning of this tumultuous event. When I was a teenager, I wouldn’t have conceived that I would ever go overseas, Yet, there I was, in China.

I wrote a book about my travels across the Red World. I had travelled by trains from Hong Kong to what they used to call Canton and Beijing and then I got a visa to Mongolia and went by a series of trains on through Siberia and Moscow, Poland and East Germany, and so all the way to Holland. But China then was the most curious of Communist lands because it was not only in turmoil but incredibly backward. If you went into the countryside, there would be a large farmyard where there might be 80 or 90 men with sticks flailing the stalks of grain: all incredibly inefficient, even by the standards of Australia in 1840.

China then was the most curious of Communist lands because it was not only in turmoil but incredibly backward.

Sometimes, if you were on the train and you looked out the window, there would stand a woman with two geese, and her job all day long was minding two geese. It’s not what the Australian Productivity Commission would say was an efficient form of economic activity. Who would have guessed, just a decade and a half later, when by chance I was chairman of the first Australia China Council, and visiting China quite often, that China would possess enormous economic and military strength. The other interesting thing about China is that it’s in some ways such a success story. In the global financial downturn of 2008-09, China emerged from that recession in better form than the United States which is the stronghold of experience in commercial and economic activity.

China will be, on and off, a difficult neighbour for Australia for a long time. China is an authoritarian nation, but an authoritarian nation with its own ideology and we’ve known that for a decades. Religion is one likely cause of trouble, whether the Uighurs – largely Muslims – in the remote western areas or the Christians in the big cities. I think now there are more Christians in China than there are in Italy, and many prefer to worship largely in private houses or semi underground conditions. Likewise when we hear of the massive street protests in Hong Kong we shouldn’t really be surprised. Many people relish freedom even more when they live in restricted societies.

China will be, on and off, a difficult neighbour for Australia for a long time. China is an authoritarian nation, but an authoritarian nation with its own ideology and we’ve known that for a decades.

An authoritarian society is often skilled at stealing new technologies and technological secrets. A democratic society is not skilled in defending its initial monopoly of those vital secrets. The United States is still the most inventive and most innovative nation in the world but whether it will remain so, we don’t know. One disadvantage for the United States is that China will probably continue to take over or borrow these technologies without paying much for them, and it is hard for the USA to prevent it. As we know, China is still a long way behind the United States in certain defence and military skills, but the gap will diminish and that fact or fear will absorb us for a long time to come.

Looking back on myself as an historian, I started off by tackling small scale subjects. Initially I wrote a lot about mining and individual institutions. As I became older, I became bolder; I couldn’t have possibly been bold when I was aged 25 or 30. I didn’t have the knowledge or the temerity.

As I became older, I became bolder; I couldn’t have possibly been bold when I was aged 25 or 30. I didn’t have the knowledge or the temerity.

When I was about 60, I thought I must write the history of the world though I kept on putting it off. But after I ceased to lecture at Melbourne University and had a more flexible timetable, I took every opportunity to see new lands. Whenever a big shipping line asked me to lecture on a passenger cruise I would accept, as long as it wasn’t usually for more than a fortnight. So, I gained an enormous amount of knowledge. If a shipping line rang up and said, “We’ve got a ship going to Zanzibar and Madagascar, could you lecture?” I said, “Of course, that’s what I had in mind all along.” So, I built up a great knowledge of third-world history. Then, in 1998, I decided to make my history of the world my main task. I set to work and eventually completed it in 2000.

I couldn’t conceivably do a thing like that when I was aged 30 or 40. It’s like being a carpenter isn’t it – you start off making a coffin and then you eventually decide you can do a house and, after a while, you do a building. Skills and confidence develop and your sense of your best abilities and your weaknesses grow, although not completely: one never knows oneself completely. It’s harder to know one’s self than to know all kinds of other things.

Skills and confidence develop and your sense of your best abilities and your weaknesses grow, although not completely: one never knows oneself completely. It’s harder to know one’s self than to know all kinds of other things.

The key question in history is about human nature. Democracy is based on the idea that human nature is capable of great things; but it also has serious weaknesses. The essence of democracy is you must accept defeat, if you are defeated by the vote of the people you must accept it, there’s nothing else you can do. I admired Mr Shorten and his brief speech, on 18 May this year, after he realised he was defeated. He said in effect, “We must accept this defeat.” That is a humbling experience, humility is part of democracy.

I’ll add one further point. Justice must be done to the Australian Aborigines by historians. For decades the historians had very little interest in Aboriginal history, the reason largely being that there was no chronology. Before the invention of radio carbon dating you couldn’t give a chronology to Aboriginal history, and nobody knew how long it was.

Justice must be done to the Australian Aborigines by historians.

In 1956, young John Mulvaney, who was in the History Department at Melbourne University, prepared to conduct the first major archaeological dig in Australia, on the banks of the Murray River, upstream from Murray Bridge. We were becoming close friends, he and his wife Jean, and he told me he had no transport; many people still didn’t own cars. I owned a second-hand Jowett Javelin, quite a small English car. He said, “Well that can take six.” There were about 11 on the expedition and I took more than half.

In this way, I was present at that remarkable excavation where eventually our group of researchers invoked the new technique of radio carbon dating and found that Aborigines had been settled there above the river some 5000 years ago. That knocked back, by a huge margin, the tenure of the Aboriginals in this land. And before long that date was jumping back and back. Jim Bowler of the Australian National University, a Leongatha boy by the way, made the later discovery at Lake Mungo, which pushed back the human history of our land  to 40,000 years, with still more to  go. That’s the most astonishing thing in the recorded history of this country isn’t it? Nothing has done more to unfathom the long Aboriginal phase of our history than the work initiated by John Mulvaney, for whom I was a chauffeur.

Nothing has done more to unfathom the long Aboriginal phase of our history than the work initiated by John Mulvaney, for whom I was a chauffeur.

*****

*Note from Geoffrey Blainey — This speech was delivered without notes or script, and so occasionally this printed version has been sharpened and clarified. Where there is repetition, some sentences have been altered or transposed.

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