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Mutant Message Down Under

Newspaper article #5

Destroy Books: Black Group
By Debra Jopson

The head of an organization which forced an American author to apologize for misrepresenting Aborigines has called for the books of three writers to be taken from all Australian bookshelves and pulped.

The co-ordinator of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, Mr. Robert Eggington, said works by the prominent Australian novelist and poet Colin Johnson - also known as Mudrooroo - should be among those removed from all bookshops and public libraries.

After investigations by the Perth indigenous arts and cultural protection organisation, Mr Eggington said he believed Johnson-Mudrooroo was not Aboriginal, even though he had claimed to be over the past 32 years.

My Own Sweet Time by white male Leon Carmen using the fake Aboriginal name Wanda Koolmatrie, and Mutant Message Down Under, which US author Marlo Morgan had publicly acknowledged was offensive, should also be destroyed, he said.

"They should be mashed into more paper where more sensible or more appropriate things can be written," he said. "People might see it as Nazi-like, or burning books, but spiritually, to us, it is our religion which is a special thing being distorted."

His call came as the management committee of Magabala Books, the indigenous publishing house which published the Koolmatrie novel, prepared to consider today asking all public libraries to remove the book from its shelves.

Claiming it deceived readers, the chairwoman of Magabala Books, Ms Robin Hanigan, said she would be disappointed if libraries did not get rid of them.

Mr Eggington said if bookshops and libraries refused to destroy the books, they should at least label them with a warning sticker in red, yellow and black.

Mr Andrew Wilkins, a director of Hyland House, which has published six of Mudrooroo's works, said the author had assured the publishing house he was Aboriginal and until there was "conclusive evidence" to the contrary, its support was "incontrovertible."

Those who wanted to get rid of books because they did not like their contents were getting into "dangerous territory", he said.

The professor of English at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Professor Bruce Bennett, described Mr Eggington's calls as an "extreme reaction".  "Forms of censorship of that kind are probably a bad idea," he said.

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Ms Morgan's publisher, said her book was sold as fiction, not fact.

Mr Eggington said while author Archie Weller had revealed that his parents did not identify as Aboriginal, Dumbartung was not calling for his books to be removed. An investigation using "Aboriginal protocol" was first needed to decide if his claims were true, he said.

Sydney Morning Herald

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