CULTURAL RIGHT FOR DUMBARTUNG TO CO-ORDINATE ABORIGINAL RESPONSE
The Role of Dumbartung
Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation was incorporated in 1987. The primary aim of the
corporation is to promote Aboriginal drama, dance, writing, painting, sculpture, craft
work, music and any other Aboriginal art in Western Australia and abroad.
The initiative to establish Dumbartung reflected the concern of Noongah people to
ensure that the Aboriginal community was more in control of the promotion and development
of cultural arts in Western Australia.
As one step towards fulfilling this aim, Dumbartung retains many Aboriginal Artists on
a central register, and approaches through Dumbartung by outside parties have ensured that
many Artists have received commissions for work, thus broadening their own experiences as
artists and creating further opportunities for Aboriginal culture to be promoted with
dignity and integrity.
Protecting, the integrity of Aboriginal Culture is an important function of Dumbartung.
It is often called upon to assist artists whose work has been used by parties in breach of
copyright. Dumbartung's office in Perth, Western Australia has a "Wall of Shame"
with examples of exploitation of Aboriginal Culture, from tourist souvenirs with illegal
Aboriginal designs to anthropological reports containing information that should never
have been released into the public arena.
Dumbartung is an Aboriginal community based organisation. The membership, committee and
staffing management are all Aboriginal people who are responsible for policy development
and the direction of the Organisation.
Dumbartung first became aware of the book Mutant Message Down Under when
Coordinator Robert Eggington was asked by an art therapist in Los Angeles for his comments
on the self-publication version of the book in early 1990.
Concerned about the content of the book, Dumbartung consistently raised the subject of
the Mutant Message Down Under book at meetings with Aboriginal groups throughout
Western Australia during their work. All comments received were negative.
As the Mutant Message Down Under book gathered momentum throughout the world and
recognition given to the author as a messenger of Aboriginal people and their culture
mounted, it became imperative that a united Aboriginal voice needed to be consolidated by
Dumbartung to oppose this hoax.
THE WAGLE, CREATED BY MOVEMENT THE BODY OF WATER NOW KNOWN AS THE
THERE ARE SACRED DREAMING SITES AND STORIES REGARDING THIS SIGNIFICANT ANCIENT PLACE.
THE DREAMING OF THE BLACK SWAN IS WITHIN THESE SPECIAL WATERS.
THIS RIVER FLOWS ITS LIFE ENERGY THROUGH NOONGAH COUNTRY.
The Swan River flows alongside the City of Perth, Western Australia and discharges to
the Indian Ocean at the Port of Fremantle. Noongah country is the southwest of Western
The Black Swan name cannot be used in areas where its dreaming and laws cannot be
identified, such as the central or western desert areas where Ms Morgan claims to have
traveled with the Real People tribe. Noongah Elders are concerned that the name Black Swan
was used out of cultural perspective, with no respect or recognition of its origins or
As a first step towards a unified Aboriginal response to Mutant Message Down Under
and Ms Morgan's teachings, Dumbartung organised a meeting of Noongah Elders, individuals
and organisations to discuss the process of opposition.
Four members of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation traveled extensively to determine
whether Marlo Morgan had walked through these areas and boundaries.
No group or individual representing these areas knew or acknowledged Marlo Morgan.
1.1 MARLO MORGAN AND
MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER
1.1.1 Synopsis of Mutant Message Down Under
A white, middle-aged, American woman from Kansas City named Marlo is invited to
Australia to work in the preventative health field by an Australian she met at a
physicians' conference in California. In Australia she has her palm read and is told that
before her birth she agreed to meet someone in Australia for their mutual benefit.
During her work, she spends time in every major Australian city. She enjoys the
Australian lifestyle. She witnesses a group of Aboriginal youths sniffing petroleum from
cans. Later, after hearing that one of the youths has died, she visits the morgue and
views the body.
She sets up a company manufacturing flyscreens with a croup of 22 Aboriginal youths.
The company is very successful and she is not surprised to receive a phone call from a
tribe on the other side of the country wishing to meet with her. Without asking any
questions and assuming she is about to receive an award, she agrees to the meeting arid
flies across the country.
She is met outside her five-star hotel by a jeep and an Aboriginal driver named Ooota.
After driving for four hours, the jeep leaves the highway and drives along a dirt track
for a further two hours. At this time she is in the desert and they arrive at a shed. Two
Aboriginal women cleanse her with smoke from a fire and burn all of her possessions.
Dressed in a cloth, she enters the shed.
She encounters the rest of the tribe in the shed and undergoes tests. She passes the
tests and is obliquely invited to join the tribe in a three month walkabout across
Australia. Through the interpreter Ooota, she later learns that the tribe is known as the
During the walkabout she gains insights on the following members of the tribe in
particular: Regal Black Swan Elder, Story Teller, Tool Maker, Secret Keeper, Sewing
Master, Bearer of Happiness, Great Stone Hunter, Medicine Man, Game Woman, Kindred to
Large Animals, Spirit Woman, Kin to Birds, Peace Maker, Healing Woman, Memory Keeper, Time
Keeper, Female Healer, Sister to Bird Dreaming, Composer and Dream Catcher.
She learns to communicate by hand signals and mental telepathy. She also learns the
arts of transformation and illusion and the secrets of Dreamtime. She is given the names
Travelling Tongue and Two Hearts by the tribe.
She introduces the tribe to gravy, jumping rope, teeter-tottering, a Texan line dance
called Cotton-Eyed Joe, waltzing and square dancing
Towards the end of the walkabout she is told it is her turn to lead the tribe. She does
so for two and a half days without water in temperatures above 100°
F. She finally leads the tribe to water after abandoning her western, left-side of the
brain ways and using telepathy to request help from the tribe.
At the end of the journey she undergoes rituals to enable her to enter a sacred site.
She is told that she has made an agreement before birth to meet another, Regal Black Swan
Elder, and to work together for their mutual benefit. She is surprised to hear this as it
is the same information given to her by the palm reader. She is told by Regal Black Swan
Elder that the tribe has elected to die out, by practicing celibacy, because they are
upset with the way the world is going. He tells her that she has been chosen as their
Mutant messenger to tell her kind that they are going.
After staying at the sacred site for a few days, she leaves most of the tribe and only
a small portion of the original group accompanies tier to the edge of a city. On the way,
she loses a dilly bag stocked with grasses, oils and powders, her headband and small gifts
for tier grandchildren in a flash flood.
Upon reaching the city, she borrows money for a phone call, telephones her office and
asks them to wire money, walks to the telegraph office to collect the money, takes a taxi
to a shop and purchases clothes and personal items, goes to a market and buys fruit and
juice and goes to a motel. She does this wearing the same piece of cloth she has worn for
over 120 days, with uncombed hair, bare feet that look more like a hoofed mutation than
human appendage and with offensive body odor.
The next day, dressed in western attire, she catches a plane and returns to her rented
property. She tries to speak to people about the tribe and her experiences but it falls on
deaf ears. She finishes her health-care project and leaves Australia.
Back in America, she writes about her experiences and begins speaking about it wherever
she was invited. The response is mixed. She discusses making a movie about her experience
with Roger from Hollywood.
1.1.2 Fact Versus Fiction
The self-publication version of Mutant Message Down Under was published under a
nonfiction label as a true account of Marlo Morgan's experiences in Australia.
The HarperCollins published version has been labeled fiction. Marlo Morgan declares the
fiction label is only to protect the innocence of the tribe that she journeyed with from
any form of identification and exploitation and to protect the secret location of their
sacred site. She identifies no Australian by birth name or Tribal language name. She
identifies no city, town or suburb by name, only the continent, Australia.
In the following ways, and despite the fiction label, Marlo Morgan leads the reader to
believe that the Harper Collins version of Mutant Message Down Under is her true
1. The disclaimer, signed by M.M., states "This book is a work of fiction inspired
by actual experience". In the section from Author to Reader, which comes before
the disclaimer, it is stated that "This was written after the fact inspired by
actual experience". The section is signed by "Travelling Tongue" that
is either the name given to Marlo Morgan by the Real People tribe or a fictional
character. Because the section is entitled from Author to Reader, the reader believes that
Travelling Tongue is Marlo Morgan. As a result, the reader believes the statement "This
was written after the fact inspired by actual experience".
The reader does not follow the line of thought that because M.M. has stated the book
is fiction, Travelling Tongue, as a character in the main body of the book, is fictional,
consequently the from Author to Reader section must also be fiction and that the statement
"This was written after the fact inspired by actual experience." must therefore
be fiction as well.
2. The central character in Mutant Message Down Under is an American woman
whose first name is Marlo, has a daughter Carri and a son, a friend called Jana and an
Aunt Nola. So has Marlo Morgan. The reader is introduced to these facts after reading the
acknowledgments and dedication.
A reader who has purchased the book after learning about Marlo Morgan either through media
interviews, attending one of Marlo Morgan's lectures or watching Marlo Morgan on the Oprah
Winfrey Show would also be aware that both Marlo Morgan and the central character Marlo
are over fifty years of age, are from Kansas City, have bleached hair, are plump, have
worked as an acupuncturist, are divorced, have grandchildren, entered the Mrs America
contest as Mrs Kansas and was born in Iowa.
It would certainly come as no surprise to learn that Marlo Morgan has a sister named
Patci, her daughter's cat is named Zuke, her mother's name is Georgia Catherine and she
attended St Agnes High School.
3. Finally, Elder Regal Black Swan, the fictional leader of the Real People tribe is
quoted in the front pages of the book along with American Chief Seattle, Cree Indian
Prophecy and Marlo Morgan, again leaving the reader to believe that Elder Regal Black Swan
Without the above three points and with a fiction label Mutant Message Down Under
would not have become a best seller. The success of Mutant Message Down Under is
solely a result of the reader's belief that it is Marlo Morgan's true story. Mutant
Message Down Under was not marketed as a novel and, despite the fiction label, no one
reads it as a novel.
Marlo Morgan has used the fiction label to avoid examination on the authenticity of her
claims. However, many non-Australian readers of the book have accepted her depiction of
Australia and Aboriginal culture as a true one. Indeed, for many readers, Marlo Morgan's
depiction of Aboriginal culture is the only one they have. That is why Aboriginal groups
are so concerned.
For the reasons outlined above, and according to the self-publication version, this
report will treat Mutant Message Down Under, as a true account of Marlo Morgan's
journey with the Real People.
1.1.3 Sales and Spin-offs
Marlo Morgan is a white American woman who resides in Kansas City, Missouri, United
States of America. She is a 59 year old divorced mother of two children.
Marlo Morgan claims to have visited Australia in 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1993 (Australian
Article). In 1990 she wrote a book entitled Mutant Message Down Under, and unable
to find a publisher, financed the publication of the book herself. Mutant Message Down
Under was marketed as a true account of Marlo Morgan's three month walkabout across
the center of Australia with an Aboriginal tribe known as the "Real People". Her
daughter illustrated the initial self-publication version and her son became the president
of the family company responsible for the marketing and publishing the book. This family
company has gone to produce by-products of Marlo, Morgan's teachings, such as audio-tapes
of lectures, oils that she claimed healed her feet during the walkabout and other related
Following considerable success of the self-publication version, particularly with the
New Age market, an agent representing Marlo Morgan put to auction the publishing rights of
Mutant Message Down Under. The giant US publishing company HarperCollins
paid a reported $3 million for the rights and embarked on a $300,000 marketing campaign.
Mutant Message Down Under was listed in the top 5 best sellers in the US for 26
weeks and to date, the HarperCollins version of the book, has sold over half a million
copies in the United States alone. Mutant Message Down Under has been translated
into all the major European languages and has a worldwide distribution. Marlo Morgan has
embarked on several, highly popular lecture tours on Mutant Message Down Under in
both the United States and Europe. The movie rights to the book have also been sold.
Following the success of the first book, it is understood that Marlo Morgan is in the
process of having published a second volume titled "The Last Farewell".
1.2 NOONGAH MEETING,
PERTH, 29 March 1995
A meeting of Noongah Elders, Individuals and heads of Aboriginal organizations was held
at the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation on 29 March 1995.
The book, Mutant Message Down Under, was workshopped, dealing specifically with
the content of Marlo Morgan's storyline.
Tapes from one of Marlo Morgan's lectures in the United States were played at the
meeting to indicate the seriousness of her claims.
The Noongah people discussed many issues relating to the long term implications of the
book on Aboriginal culture and the false and distorted information it portrays, as well as
the current momentum of the book overseas.
The primary outcomes of the Noongah meeting were as follows:
- The Noongah voice unified to oppose Marlo Morgan's journey with the "Real
People" tribe told in Mutant Message Down Under as a hoax.
- Legal action to be undertaken to cause the withdrawal of the book from sale in
Australia and to prevent Marlo Morgan continuing her lecture tours on the book.
- Endorsement was given for Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation to coordinate Aboriginal
response to Mutant Message Down Under and to later represent the united Aboriginal
Outlets for the united response to include media interviews, an International press
statement, a comprehensive report to statutory authorities and lecture tour of the United
States by members of Dumbartung.
- Representatives of Dumbartung to meet with as many Aboriginal communities and groups
as possible, particularly those of the Central and Western desert regions, to obtain their
responses to the book and to ascertain if any of these groups had, or know of, any contact
with Marlo Morgan or the "Real People" tribe.
- Dumbartung to feedback information on their progress to Aboriginal groups.
With respect to Point 2 of the above, Dumbartung has entered into discussions with a
leading Melbourne barrister regarding legal action to have the book Mutant Message Down
Under, as well the audio lecture tapes on Mutant Message Down Under, withdrawn
from sale in Australia. Legal action is also sought to have Marlo Morgan banned from
lecturing as an authority on Aboriginal culture.
The barrister involved in discussions has recently won a high profile compensation case
for Aboriginal artists whose designs were being used illegally on rugs manufactured in
Vietnam. This is the first case in which a successful conviction against the exploitation
of Aboriginal culture has been recorded.
The process of coordinating a unified Aboriginal response Mutant Message Down Under,
as required under Points 3, 4 and 5 above, is described in Section 2.0 of this report.
The response itself is presented in Section 3.0.
2.0 ABORIGINAL PROTOCOL
Dumbartung's aim was to meet with as many Aboriginal communities and groups as
possible to obtain full community endorsement and ownership of the opposition to Mutant
Message Down Under and the teachings of Ms Morgan.
Bureaucracies deal with all forums of society through impersonal policies either
existing or inappropriately developed. However Aboriginal people since the beginning of
time have dealt with the same forums through the expressions of dance, music and
storytelling. More importantly it is within the campfire environment all discussion is
raised, issues are dealt with and information is distributed. This is the forum ownership
is endorsed to allow information to be given to whomever a particular group or community
This information is not openly accessible to the International community or
non-Aboriginal people for any purpose and especially not for the purpose of generating
monetary interest regardless of the degree a person may claim they are Aboriginal.
ABORIGINALITY IS A BIRTHRIGHT
Regional meetings were held in Alice Springs, Fitzroy Crossing, Adelaide and Darwin
with surrounding, Aboriginal groups and communities, to access a wide band of Australia,
stretching from north to south, for this report. As Ms Morgan claims to have crossed
Australia from west to east, meeting with Aboriginal communities and groups from north to
south would expose any evidence of Marlo Morgan's past/presence in the area.
Always the appropriate Aboriginal protocol was maintained. This protocol existed before
white colonization and adherence to the protocol continues today. Primary points of
1. Involvement of Elders.
At the Noongah meeting in Perth, two Elders, one male and one female, were selected to
travel with two Dumbartung representatives.
It was important for the woman Elder to attend to discuss the women's business described
in detail by Marlo Morgan, with women community members.
It is unimaginable for women's business to be discussed by men or by women in the presence
The involvement of the Elders reinforces the authority of the Eldership. Elders have a
prominent role in inter-community relationships, and within communities are held in great
value and respect as holders of oral tradition and wisdom.
2. Obtain clearance to enter a community
Under Aboriginal protocol, a person does not enter another person's tribal boundaries
without permission. Before the meetings, an information pack was sent out to each
community or group. The information pack included a copy of the self-publication version
of Mutant Message Down Under, copies of media articles, a cassette of aspects of
Marlo Morgan's lectures in Los Angeles and community response forms. Permission was gained
for the meeting and a right of passage cleared.
3. Privilege of right
This relates to the right to use knowledge offered by an Aboriginal community in good
faith, in a way that will not cause offence or distress to the community or its individual
members. The knowledge is not to be removed from the ownership of the individual to whom
it has been offered, unless a privilege of right has been granted by the community.
The Dumbartung representatives ensured individuals, community Elders and Aboriginal
organizations gave their permission to reproduce their comments Mutant Message Down
2.2 WORKSHOP FORMAT
The meetings between Dumbartung representatives and various members of Aboriginal
groups and communities took the form of workshops. The format of each workshop was as
1. Opening statement of appreciation by Dumbartung representatives for the
opportunity to enter the community.
2. Briefing, on the outcomes of the Noongah Meeting held in Perth on 29 March
1995 including the endorsement of the Dumbartung trip by Noongah Elders.
3. Brief history of Mutant Message Down Under from the self-publication
version to the sale of the movie rights and proposed follow-up book including its best
seller status, Marlo Morgan's lecture tours and differences between the self-publication
and HarperCollins version.
4. Brief synopsis of the book.
5. Recording of Marlo Morgan's lecture tour played to the group.
6. Group discussion on Marlo Morgan's claims and teachings and the impact of the
book on Aboriginal culture.
7. Individuals, community Elders and heads of organizations recorded their
response to Mutant Message Down Under.
It was not possible for Dumbartung to meet with all Aboriginal groups and communities,
however information packs on Mutant Message Down Under were sent out and their
2.3 CENTRAL AND WESTERN DESERT GROUPS, ALICE SPRINGS, 1-5 MAY 1995
Four members of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation met with the following Groups and
Organizations in the Central and Western Desert Regions of Australia.
- Yiprinya Aboriginal Cultural School (Senior Aboriginal staff and Associated Members)
- Central Australia Aboriginal Congress
- Ngaanytjarra Council
- Pitjantyatjarra Women's Council
- Institute of Aboriginal Development
- Central Land Council
- Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association
- Imparja Network
All of the above groups are community based Aboriginal controlled services.
The meetings held in the Central and Western Desert areas were extremely important as
these regions reflect a major focus of Marlo Morgan's claimed walkabout with the Real
Many of the people consulted in Alice Springs were Elders and people of importance
regarding Aboriginal cultural law.
During these meetings, extreme concern was expressed regarding the misleading,
distorted and false concepts Marlo Morgan adopts in her descriptions of Aboriginal
cultural practices and values, in particular as it relates to Aboriginal women's business,
was strongly and profoundly refuted by Aboriginal Elders.
The Elders in the Desert Region were also deeply concerned regarding the cultural
implications that this book presents especially as it claims that the Real People tribe
originally inhabited the coastal areas of the country and was forced to inhabit the
central Desert Region of Australia.
The outcome of these meetings was a consolidated and unified voice to oppose Marlo
Morgan's book Mutant Message Down Under as a fabricated fantasy based on lies and
KIMBERLEY GROUPS, FITZROY CROSSING, 15-19 MAY 1995
The four Dumbartung representatives traveled extensively throughout the Northern Region
of Western Australia known as the Kimberley. The Groups visited were:
- Ngungu Women's Council, Derby
- Kimberley Land's Council, Derby
- Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre, Fitzroy Crossing
- Kaniyilli Adult Education, Fitzroy Crossing
- Goolarri Radio, Broome
- One Arm Point Community, via Broome
- Magabala Books, Broome
Ngungu Women's Group
This meeting was the first held in the Kimberley, we spoke to women from Derby and
Anger and concern was expressed at the way In which Mutant Message Down Under
describes women's business regarding cultural practices.
Kimberley Land Council
The group next met with the Director and staff of the Kimberley Land Council based in
Derby. The Land Council is represented by many various Communities in the west and cast
Extreme concern regarding the book Mutant Message Down Under was expressed by
the Kimberley Land Council.
Full support and recognition by the Kimberley Land Council was offered to Dumbartung
regarding the opposition to this book.
Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre
The Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre is based in Fitzroy Crossing
approximately 250 kilometres east of Derby.
The organization is represents Senior Aboriginal law men and women across the northern
region of Western Australia.
The four representatives met with a large number of women representatives of KALACC who
expressed extreme concern regarding the issues of Mutant Message Down Under.
One Arm Point Community via Broome WA (Bardi Tribe)
The four representatives met with Aboriginal people from the One Arm Point community.
Thirty people attended this meeting ranging from young people to Elders.
One Arm Point community expressed extreme concern regarding the books' content.
content. The Chairperson and Senior law men of the Bardi Community offered full support to
the Dumbartung campaign.
Magabala Books is a community based Aboriginal publishing house in Broome, WA. The
organisation during its inception has published many cultural books written by Aboriginal
authors ranging from children's stories to biographies.
To date, Magabala has not yet identified a book written by a non-Aboriginal person
which is as offensive and dangerous as Mutant Message Down Under. Magabala Books
was offered the rights to publish the book in Australia but it rejected it as being
The Organisation pledged full support for Dumbartung's campaign.
Four members carried out a state wide radio interview to all Aboriginal communities in
ADELAIDE, 25-26 MAY 1995
The Co-ordinator of Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation attended a series of meetings in
the Adelaide area which included the groups listed below:
- Aboriginal Sobriety Group (ASG)
- Aboriginal Child Care Agency (ACCA)
- Aboriginal Task Force, University of South Australia
- Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALPM)
The following provides outcomes from these meetinas.
Aboriginal Sobriety Group (ASG)
The ASG is a community based substance abuse intervention program which facilitates
Police liaison, education, health referrals, sobering-up and detoxification units and work
programs for alcohol and substance abuse affected Aboriginal people of South Australia. In
response to information sent to Adelaide, the Director of the Aboriginal Sobriety Group
expressed the utmost concern for information written or spoken by any non-Aboriginal
person about Aboriginal people or our culture. Consequently an invitation was given for
the Co-ordinator of Dumbartung Corporation to address various groups in South Australia.
The meeting for the ASG Executive Committee, staff and clients took place at one of the
organisation's detoxification centres and the outcome is listed with other comments in
Aboriginal Child Care Agency ACCA
ACCA has a state wide commitment and responsibility to the care and welfare of
Aboriginal families and their children.
The gravest concerns were expressed because of the long term implications that writings
such as Marlo Morgan's Mutant Message Down Under has the opportunity to distort and
misinform the wider community in which our young people will grow up.
The distortion of our culture and people in this writing provides ignorance and can
only jeopardize and compound alienation through cynicism towards our children.
Aboriginal Task Force
The Task force is a nationally recognised Educational facility which provides education
at the highest level for Aboriginal people.
The meetings held with both staff and students highlighted the seriousness of subtle
incorrect information that filters in continually and still exists through misinformed
mediums. Marlo Morgan's Mutant Message Down Under implies education to an
International community but clearly houses all the incorrect information therefore
educates to detrimental extents.
Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM)
The ALRM provides legal support and advice to Aboriginal people and communities
throughout South Australia.
The meeting with senior management at ALRM regarding the book reinforces the need
Indigenous Australians had for developing their own legal entities. By doing so these
agencies have been able to provide support and advice regarding all matters pertaining to
injustices imposed on our people since the beginning of invasion, including exploitative
3.0 ABORIGINAL RESPONSE
It was evident from the regional meetings that Aboriginal response to Mutant Message
Down Under is two-fold. The first response is anger directed at the content of the
book, primarily: that the journey, such as Marlo Morgan describes it, could not have
occurred; the appropriation of Aboriginal culture and meshing with American Indian culture
for the New Age market; the reporting of men's and women's business without respect or
regard; the audacity of an American white woman speaking for Aborigines and the blatant
falsehoods contained within the book.
The second response is a deep concern at the long term implications of Mutant
Message Down Under, and books like it, on Aboriginal culture. To date, over a million
people have bought and read either the self-publication or HarperCollins version of Mutant
Message Down Under. Many in the United States and Europe have believed it. Many people
have listened to Marlo Morgan lecture on the book and have believed her. Aboriginal Elders
are deeply concerned that the already difficult process for young Aboriginals to regain
and own their culture, will be made all the more difficult by the misappropriation and
distortion of their culture by Marlo Morgan and others like her.
3.1 MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER - THE BOOK.
3.1.1 Inconsistencies, Falsehoods and Inclusion
of Native American Indian Culture
There are many inconsistencies and falsehoods regarding Aboriginal Culture and
practices in Mutant Message Down Under. Prime examples are practices employed by
the Real People that are totally alien to desert Aborigines. These include:
1. Walking on, instead of around, spinifex clumps, Spinifex does not grow as a
plain of grass as implied by Marlo Morgan. It grows in clumps with sand collecting around
the roots and it is very easy to steer a path through the clumps.
2. No desert Aborigine adds precious water to cook food. This method of cooking
is unheard of in the desert regions. The carcass is cooked, with skin on, in the ground.
3. Desert Aborigines do not collect dung for fuel. It would take forever to
collect enough of the small scats of kangaroos and dingoes to cook anything and would be
pointless given the availability of dry wood.
4. Also, body-painting designs of flowers and animals, the Elder wearing a
stunning full headdress of bright parrot feathers, putting a rock in the mouth to generate
water, the sacred site containing statues of wood and stone, smoking from a ceremonial
pipe and so on and so on....
Marlo Morgan confuses her portrayal of Aboriginal culture with many North American
Indian concepts. The names she attributes to the tribe members, Secret Keeper, Sewing
Master, Great Stone Hunter, Medicine Man, Game Woman, Kindred to Large Animals, Spirit
Woman, amongst others, are more in line with Native Indian prophet names. This naming
system is irrelevant in non-hierarchical Aboriginal tribes where each person has the same
diverse range of skills and functions.
Chapter 18 is entitled "Dream Catcher", which is an object of indigenous
Native American culture. The German edition of Mutant Message Down Under is
entitled. Traumfanger, which translated back into English means Dream Catcher.
Her descriptions of ceremonial pipe smoking and the full parrot feather headdress have
no role in Aboriginal culture and are more typical of North American indigenous culture.
A full review of tile inconsistencies and falsehoods are chronicled in an
anthropological review (Appendix B). It follows an extended synopsis of Mutant Message
Down Under that includes more of Marlo Morgan's claims regarding the Real People
tribe. The author of the anthropological review is a Western Australian anthropologist who
has had extensive contact and experience with Aborigines of the Western Desert area.
This section will continue to discuss the most serious transgressions against
3.1.2 Disregard for Aboriginal Protocol of Clearance
Marlo Morgan states that the "Real People" tribe once lived and survived on
the coastline of Australia and had actually been forced out into the desert by the
intrusion of the British. She describes this process in passive terms.
Aboriginal People in the southern regions of Australia did not proceed to takeover
other lands outside their boundaries even though authorised massacres, poisoning of
waterholes and other atrocities were committed against them, threatening their very
The overriding Aboriginal law across this country traditionally was that no boundary
was entered until the proper procedure of clearance had been ranted. The recognition and
respect of the boundaries were paramount in maintaining order within each respective
3.1.3 Reporting of Men's and Women's Business
Aboriginal people were outraged that Marlo Morgan does not distinguish between men's
and women's business. Aboriginal law holds severe punishments for women who witness men's
business and vice versa. Traditionally, this is punishable by death.
In Mutant Message Down Under, men's and women's businesses are treated as one
and the same. For example, male tribe members explain birthing procedures to Marlo Morgan.
Birthing is a very sensitive women's issue and is not discussed by men. It is an issue
which Aboriginal women do not dissect or discuss in the public arena. Marlo Morgan
describes this and other sensitive women's business blatantly without any respect or
regards for Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women at all the meetings have found this to be
extremely upsetting. The women's business arrangements and procedures Marlo Morgan
outlines are completely untrue. Even if it was a true account, by writing about it, Marlo
Morgan would have violated the right of privilege laid down in Aboriginal Protocol.
Aboriginal men were just as outraged at Marlo Morgan's claims to witnessed aspects of
sacred ceremony and totems. Three comments from regional meetings reflect the depth of
In our traditional law the author should consult Aboriginal people of the book. No
woman is allowed to see men's sacred ceremony and totem. I believe she should die
exploiting our culture.
Ben Pascoe, Maningrida Community
Any person who believes this book does not have any idea about Aboriginal law.
1) No women are involved in men's business.
2) She would be killed if found anywhere next to man sites. That is law.
It is a shame this woman can come all the way over here and say she's done all these
things when I know I, as an Aboriginal person, can't even do these things myself.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc
3.1.4 Marlo Morgan's "Right to Speak" as an Authority on Aboriginal Culture
Marlo Morgan claims that the Real People tribe practices the only pure form of
Aboriginal culture left in this country and that all other Aboriginal people's culture has
been affected and demeaned by western influences. By being given access to this knowledge
by the Regal Back Swan Elder, she is now proclaimed to be the custodial owner and
messenger of the Real People tribe, to take this knowledge out to the world in order to
save the planet from any further destruction through technology.
Marlo Morgan uses one Aboriginal voice - that of Burnum Burnum - to validate her
portrayal of Aboriginal culture and her role as the sole custodian of pure Aboriginal
Aboriginal culture, which has for millennia been protected in ceremony, has been
forcibly projected into the world arena by Marlo Morgan.
This report speaks for the majority of Aboriginals, either directly or through
membership to organisations or communities, which have pledged their support to Dumbartung
and its effort to unify the Aboriginal voice of the opposition to Mutant Message Down
Under and Marlo Morgan's teachings.
Aboriginal people have never needed anthropologists, lawyers, doctors or non-indigenous
authors to tell their story. Marlo Morgan has taken away the right for Aboriginal people
to tell their own story as she saturates the American market with a complete fabrication.
She states in a letter to the Editor of the Koori Mail "... the world wasn't
listening before, but it is now. My book opens the door to anyone else who wishes to write
a different version of who various tribal people are."
This is in blatant disregard of the nature of the Aboriginal struggle and opposes the
human right to tell our story our way.
3.1.5 Marlo Morgan's denigration of all other Aboriginal People.
Marlo Morgan denigrates all Aboriginal people apart from the pure, albeit fictitious,
During Marlo Morgan's' visit into the sacred site she speaks of the Real People
hoarding evidence of western society in this country such as: magazines, computer
apparatus, empty Coca-Cola tins, and other items representing the western world. This
denigrates all sacred sites. In no Aboriginal tribal areas would a sacred site be used to
collect western rubbish.
Marlo Morgan claims that this sacred site in which the Real People granted her
permission to enter is the ONLY sacred site left undestroyed in this country.
This claim is utterly absurd as it indicates that no other Aboriginal tribe across this
country has access to or involvement in ceremonial activities of any kind.
In addition she
- uses the derogatory statement of labelling urban Aboriginal people as
- states that no urban Aboriginal people have ever worked in their lives, neither have the
generations before them;
- all Aboriginal people, other than the Real People, have sold out to Government policies;
- the Aboriginal people that she had met in the urban or city areas had stated to her that
they would rather have their blood bred out of them to become white.
ABORIGINAL OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL
Aboriginal culture has always provoked broad interest from a wide range of sources.
These interests can be assessed on multiple fronts such as anthropological studies,
scientific research, Eco-tourism, commercial purposes, student studies, medical interests,
herbalists, alternative religious practitioners, humanitarians, self proclaimed healers,
spiritual and psychological refugees.
The ever increasing numbers of non-Aboriginal owned Art Galleries dealing exclusively
in Aboriginal cultural arts with export marketing interests are dominantly established in
every major city across this country, dealing in commodities ranging from tourist
souvenirs to Fine Art pieces.
EXPLOITATION IS RAMPANT WITHIN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES.
In many cases these gallery owners operate without any form of understanding or
integrity regarding cultural arts promotion and development.
This has forced a position where the Aboriginal community has stringent and limited
recognition and control over our own cultural development.
It is imperative that appropriate staffing and resources be made available to
Aboriginal community based cultural centres in order to immediately address the current
and further potential for blatant exploitation of our people and culture.
Aboriginal people have not only the right to ownership of our heritage but are also THE
custodians of the oldest living culture in the most ancient land mass on the face of the