In 1987, Sally Morgan published a book titled My Place. You are not being advised of this to promote further sales, in fact quite the opposite. The publication of this book caused indignation and upset for some members of the Australian Drake-Brockman family as it makes unfounded accusations about how one family treated their Aboriginal staff and included claims of incest. The foundation of these accusations is based on oral stories and hearsay. Morgan's grandmother Daisy claims her mother was a full-blood Aboriginal called Annie Padewan which everyone involved in this dispute agrees with, however, Morgan then states that Daisy's father was Howden Drake-Brockman. Howden was Anglo-Saxon pastoralist who was a descendant of a highly respected Western Australian pioneering family and he owned a cattle station if the far north-west of Western Australia called Corruna Downs.
Howden's daughter Judith Drake-Brockman claims everyone knew Daisy's father was a Torres Strait Islander or Melanesian man called Maltese Sam who was working as the cook on Corunna Downs. To refute the claims made in Morgan's book, Judith published her own book titled Wongi Wongi in 2001. There are a number of photos of Daisy in Wongi Wongi and as can be seen in the photo above, she has thick, fuzzy hair which is unknown to Aboriginal people. It is interesting to note there are no photos of Daisy in My Place in spite of the fact she is Morgan's grandmother and a large percentage of her book is about Daisy's life. Numerous photos of Daisy exist from when she was a young woman to much later in her life so one has to wonder why Morgan chose not to include even one photo of her grandmother in her book.
Morgan goes on to claim in her book that not only was Howden the father of her grandmother Daisy but he also fathered Daisy's daughter Gladys who is Morgan's mother. Howden's daughter Judith refutes this vigorously. The evidence used by Morgan to indicate Howden was the father of Gladys is a story about how Howden supposedly called out wanting to hold Gladys after she was brought home from hospital following her birth. Morgan claims the fact Howden called out to hold this baby is irrefutable proof he was her father.
Now the facts. Howden had a severe stroke on Corunna Downs station in October 1927 and was moved down to their family home in Perth called Ivanhoe. This stroke left him bedridden, severely paralysed and unable to speak. He had to be rolled daily in his bed by a nurse and a visiting policeman just to be washed. Gladys was born 10 days before Christmas in 1927 so in this paralysed state, Howden could hardly reach out and ask to cuddle Gladys. Howden never recovered from his stroke and died three weeks later in January 1928. Obviously this incident does not close off the possibility that Howden could still be the father of both Daisy and Gladys so surely the simplest way to prove or disprove this is for Gladys, Sally Morgan and Judith Drake-Brockman to undergo a DNA test. Judith is very keen to do this but unfortunately Sally Morgan refuses to cooperate and will not even discuss the matter.
Judith is devastated her father's good name has been sullied by Morgan's accusations. In her book, Morgan also makes derogatory claims about how Judith's family treated their Aboriginal workers on Corunna Downs station and at their home in Perth, inferring Daisy was part of the Stolen Generation and just a slave. Judith refutes this. Before Howden died, Daisy was the much loved nanny to the children who was paid a regular salary as an employee. She came with the Drake-Brockman family when they alternated between Ivanhoe in Perth and Corunna Downs each year for 3-6 month periods so Daisy saw her family often and could hardly be described as a 'slave and stolen'.
In 2004, a Channel Nine Network television program called 'Sunday' produced in Sydney ran an investigation into the claims Morgan made in her book. Respected investigative reporter Helen Dalley conducted the interviews with Judith and June Drake-Brockman, the daughters of Howden Drake-Brockman and with a number of others. Sally Morgan refused to be interviewed. Unfortunately this screening is no longer available for downloading online, however, to read a transcript of this program click here. The Age Newspaper also reported the dispute and the questions raised about the validity of the claims made in Morgan's book. click here
An outspoken critic of Sally Morgan's claims is historian, Keith Windshuttle, a former university lecturer in history and Australian Broadcasting Commission Board Member and now Editor of Quadrant Magazine. Windshuttle has written a number of articles criticising the validity and reliability of Morgan's claims. Morgan's success has provided her with a literary award, personal wealth and enhanced career opportunities. Windshuttle quite rightly brings her work under scrutiny because Morgan refuses to respond to the claims her book is a fabrication and will not undergo a DNA test to verify the factual base of her claims. As a historian, Windshuttle questions why Morgan refuses to make available the tape recordings of her interviews with the key people in her book. Morgan claims her book is a true record of events replayed to her through these interviews so Windshuttle quite rightly asks, then why not make these tape recordings available for others to scrutinise and review? This criticism seems particularly relevant considering Morgan holds the position of Professor and Director of the Centre of Indigenous History & Arts at the University of Western Australia which is considered one of the more prominent and respected universities in Australia. In addition, Morgan's book is reported to have now sold over 600,00 copies and is on the English syllabus as a compulsory reading text in secondary schools in a number of Australian states.
Today, many Aboriginal stories are being espoused across Australia about the so called Stolen Generation, however, few are challenged to check their veracity. It appears institutions across Australia and in particular universities, are so keen to be seen as politically correct, they are failing to apply the normal standards of academic rigor to test authenticity. Obviously, these institutions do not want to appear out of step with the goals of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Even though the aims of the RAP are to be applauded, literary work should be judged on merit and not what the subject is or who wrote it. Morgan's work deserves to be scrutinised irrespective of her literary standing and the example she provides for her community.
To read Keith Windshuttle's critique of Morgan's book click here. A more recent comment on this matter can be found in the Letters to Editor of Quadrant Magazine in an exchange of views between Alan Robson, Vice-Chancellor, University of Western Australia and Keith Windshuttle dated 3 October 2011 click here
It is reported the Aboriginal descendants of Maltese Sam may also be unhappy about how Morgan portrayed him in her book and it seems some members of this tribe are now disputing whether Morgan's mother Gladys is actually descended from their tribe.
Consequently, it appears Morgan needs to undertake the required DNA test and make all the research material for her book available for others to review. Only by doing this, will it confirm once and for all, if her book is fact or fiction.
Howden (L), father James Groves and brother George (R) Drake-Brockman
The Sally Morgan Controversy
Daisy Corunna (foreground) as a nanny to the Drake-Brockman children on Corruna Downs c.1920. On the right is Howden Drake-Brockman, who Morgan falsely claimed was Daisy’s father. Daisy’s Melanesian heritage is clearly visible in her thick fuzzy hair, unknown among Aboriginal people
Wongi Wongi - the book written by Howden's daughter Judith in response to Morgan's book. The title 'Wongi Wongi' means.."to speak the truth"
"Esse Quam Videri" - To be rather than to seem to be
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