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Decades In The Red: Trump Tax Figures Show Over US$1Billion in Business Losses

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Donald J Trump

Trump Business Tax Losses

Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known.

 

 

Donald J Trump has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

A Deal Maker in Financial Distress

Discover The Shuttle

Every year from 1985 through 1994, Donald J. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income on his tax returns. That number grew as new losses were combined with those from prior years. The New York Times previously found that Mr. Trump declared an adjusted gross income in 1995 of negative $915.7 million.

May 8, 2019

This feature article originally published in The New York Times

By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir “Trump: The Art of the Deal” hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns.

Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.

The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.

The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.

In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.

Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Mr. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. While The Times did not obtain the president’s actual tax returns, it received the information contained in the returns from someone who had legal access to it. The Times was then able to find matching results in the I.R.S. information on top earners — a publicly available database that each year comprises a one-third sampling of those taxpayers, with identifying details removed. It also confirmed significant findings using other public documents, along with confidential Trump family tax and financial records from the newspaper’s 2018 investigation into the origin of the president’s wealth.

The White House’s response to the new findings has shifted over time.

Several weeks ago, a senior official issued a statement saying: “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”

On Saturday, after further inquiries from The Times, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, wrote that the tax information was “demonstrably false,” and that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate.” He cited no specific errors, but on Tuesday added that “I.R.S. transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate” and “would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer’s return.”

Mark J. Mazur, a former director of research, analysis and statistics at the I.R.S., said that, far from being considered unreliable, data used to create such transcripts had undergone quality control for decades and had been used to analyze economic trends and set national policy. In addition, I.R.S. auditors often refer to the transcripts as “handy” summaries of tax returns, said Mr. Mazur, now director of the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington.

In fact, the source of The Times’s newly obtained information was able to provide several years of unpublished tax figures from the president’s father, the builder Fred C. Trump. They matched up precisely with Fred Trump’s actual returns, which had been obtained by The Times in the earlier investigation.

Mr. Trump built a business licensing his name, became a television celebrity and ran for the White House by branding himself a self-made billionaire. “There is no one my age who has accomplished more,” he told Newsweek in 1987, adding that the ultimate scoreboard was “the unfortunate, obvious one: money.” Yet over the years, the actual extent of his wealth has been the subject of much doubt and debate. He broke with four decades of precedent in refusing to release any of his tax returns as a presidential candidate, and until now only a few pages of his returns have become public. Last year’s Times investigation found that he had received at least $413 million in 2018 dollars from his father.

The new tax information does not answer questions raised by House Democrats in their pursuit of the last six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns — about his recent business dealings and possible foreign sources of financing and influence. Nor does it offer a fundamentally new narrative of his picaresque career.

But in the granular detail of tax results, it gives a precise accounting of the president’s financial failures and of the constantly shifting focus that would characterize his decades in business. In contrast to his father’s stable and profitable empire of rental apartments in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Trump’s primary sources of income changed year after year, from big stock earnings, to a single year of more than $67.1 million in salary, to a mysterious $52.9 million windfall in interest income. But always, those gains were overwhelmed by losses on his casinos and other projects.

The new information also suggests that Mr. Trump’s 1990 collapse might have struck several years earlier if not for his brief side career posing as a corporate raider. From 1986 through 1988, while his core businesses languished under increasingly unsupportable debt, Mr. Trump made millions of dollars in the stock market by suggesting that he was about to take over companies. But the figures show that he lost most, if not all, of those gains after investors stopped taking his takeover talk seriously.

In Washington, the struggle over access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information has sharpened in recent days, amid partisan warfare over the findings in the Mueller report. On Monday, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he would not deliver the tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee. And after vowing that “we’re fighting all the subpoenas” from House Democrats, the president has filed lawsuits against his banks and accounting firm to prevent them from turning over tax returns and other financial records.

In New York, the attorney general’s office is investigating the financing of several major Trump Organization projects; Deutsche Bank has already begun turning over documents. The state attorney general is also examining issues raised last year by The Times’s investigation, which revealed that much of the money Mr. Trump had received from his father came from his participation in dubious tax schemes, including instances of outright fraud.

The first of the two previous glimpses of the president’s tax returns came from his 1995 filings, pages of which were anonymously mailed to The Times in 2016. They showed that Mr. Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million, giving him a tax deduction so substantial that it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars of income for almost two decades. Several months later, the journalist David Cay Johnston was mailed pages of Mr. Trump’s 2005 returns, which showed that by then he had significant sources of income and was paying taxes.

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The Art of Losing Money

Mr. Trump spent $365 million in 1989 to buy a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines. It never turned a profit. Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

The year was 1985, and Mr. Trump appeared to be on top of the world.

He was still riding high from the completion of his first few projects — the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Trump Tower and another Manhattan apartment building, and one Atlantic City casino. He also owned the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.

As the year played out, he borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to fuel a wave of purchases, acquiring a second casino ($351.8 million), a Manhattan hotel ($80 million), the Mar-a-Lago property in Florida ($10 million), a New York hospital he intended to replace with an apartment building ($60 million) and an undeveloped expanse of railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan ($85 million), where he planned to construct an entire neighborhood, including a 150-story tower envisioned as the world’s tallest.

For the first time, Forbes’s ranking of the wealthiest Americans listed Mr. Trump individually, independent of his father — with an estimated net worth of $600 million that included the real estate empire Fred Trump still owned.

“What I have done is build the most beautiful buildings in the best locations,” Donald Trump told the magazine.

But what the newly revealed tax information makes clear is that, with his vast debt and other expenses on those properties, Mr. Trump’s fortunes were already on the way down.

His yearly carrying costs on the rail yards would rise to $18.7 million. He would not be able to convert Mar-a-Lago into a moneymaking club for another decade. The apartments on the hospital site would not be ready for sale, as Trump Palace, until 1990, and another residential project would be stalled for years. The football league would soon fold.

Because his businesses were generally created as partnerships, the companies themselves did not pay federal income taxes. Instead their results wound up on Mr. Trump’s personal ledger.

Beyond the $46.1 million loss that his core businesses logged in 1985, Mr. Trump’s tax information shows that he carried over $5.6 million in losses from prior years. The I.R.S. data on one-third of high-income tax returns that year lists only three taxpayers with greater losses.

In his letter, Mr. Harder, the president’s lawyer, took issue with comparing the tax returns of “a real estate developer to the returns of all taxpayers.” But most of the high-income taxpayers appeared, like Mr. Trump, to be business owners who received what is known as pass-through income. (That data does not include businesses, like most large corporations, that pay their taxes directly.)

The next years were a time of continued empire building. The information also documents, year by year, a time of gathering loss. Here is how it added up.

In 1986, he bought out his partners in Trump Tower and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. He bought an apartment building in West Palm Beach for $43 million. His business losses for the year: $68.7 million.

A Deal Maker in Financial Distress

Every year from 1985 through 1994, Donald J. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income on his tax returns. That number grew as new losses were combined with those from prior years. The New York Times previously found that Mr. Trump declared an adjusted gross income in 1995 of negative $915.7 million.

About two weeks before the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, he spent $29 million on a 282-foot yacht. Months later he bought the Plaza Hotel for $407 million. He recorded $42.2 million in core business losses for 1987, and $30.4 million for 1988.

In 1989, he bought a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines for $365 million. It never made a profit, and Mr. Trump would soon pump in more than $7 million a month of his dwindling cash to keep it airborne, New Jersey casino regulators, who closely monitored his finances in those years, found.

Mr. Trump’s business losses that year soared to $181.7 million.

Then came the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, which opened in April 1990 saddled with more than $800 million in debt, most at very high interest rates. It did not generate enough revenue to cover that debt, and sucked revenue from his other casinos, Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza, pulling them deep into the red.

As a result, 1990 and 1991 represented the worst years of the period reviewed by The Times, with combined losses of $517.6 million. And over the next three years, as Mr. Trump turned over properties to his lenders to stave off bankruptcy, his core businesses lost an additional $286.9 million.

The 10-year total: $1.17 billion in losses.

Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.

This is not to say that Mr. Trump never made money on a deal. One that turned out quite well came in 1985, when he bought the Hotel St. Moritz in Manhattan for $73.7 million. Mr. Trump has said he sold it for $180 million in 1989. His tax information showed long-term capital gains of $99.8 million, accounting for the vast majority of such gains in the 10 years reviewed by The Times.

But that rich payday was overwhelmed by his business losses, and Mr. Trump still paid no federal income taxes that year.

Some fraction of that ocean of red ink represented depreciation on Mr. Trump’s real estate. One of the most valuable special benefits in the tax code, depreciation lets owners of commercial real estate write down the cost of their buildings.

“I love depreciation,” Mr. Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016.

Mr. Trump defended this tax strategy on Wednesday and said in a pair of Twitter posts that this was what real estate developers did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Developers “were entitled to massive write offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases,” Mr. Trump said.

He continued, “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes….almost all real estate developers did – and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport.”

Mr. Trump also called The Times’s investigation “a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!”

In “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump points to one of his Atlantic City casinos to illustrate the magic of depreciation. If the casino’s cost was $400 million, he says, he would be able to depreciate it at a rate of 4 percent a year, allowing him to shelter $16 million in taxable income annually.

But while this example is intended to show the benefits of depreciation, it also demonstrates that depreciation cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Mr. Trump declared on his taxes.

The tax code also lets business owners like Mr. Trump use losses to avoid paying tax on future income — a lucrative deduction intended to help troubled businesses get back on their feet. Mr. Trump’s losses over the years rolled into the $915.7 million free pass from income taxes — known as net operating loss — that appeared on his 1995 returns.

The newly revealed tax information sheds light on how those net operating losses snowballed. By 1991, they had grown to nearly $418 million, accounting for fully 1 percent of all the losses that the I.R.S. reported had been declared by individual taxpayers that year. And the red ink continued to accumulate apace.

Because Mr. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income in each of the 10 years, he was not allowed to deduct any charitable contributions. So while he has boasted of making large donations at the time, the information obtained by The Times shows no such itemized deductions. Potential deductions could have been carried over to a future year, should Mr. Trump have reported a positive income.

As losses from his core enterprises mounted, Mr. Trump took on a new public role, trading on his business-titan brand to present himself as a corporate raider. He would acquire shares in a company with borrowed money, suggest publicly that he was contemplating buying enough to become a majority owner, then quietly sell on the resulting rise in the stock price.

The tactic worked for a brief period — earning Mr. Trump millions of dollars in gains — until investors realized that he would not follow through. That much has been known for years. But the tax information obtained by The Times shows that he ultimately lost the bulk of the gains from his four-year trading spree.

The figures do not include an itemization of individual trades. But The Times was able to align the reported total gains with details on trades publicly documented by casino regulators at the time.

As with many things Trump, his adventures in the stock market were more image than substance, helped greatly by news reports quoting anonymous sources said to have knowledge of Mr. Trump’s actions. An occasional quote from an associate — including his stockbroker, Alan C. Greenberg — helped burnish the myth.

“He has an appetite like a Rocky Mountain vulture,” Mr. Greenberg, the legendary chairman of Bear Stearns, told The Wall Street Journal in 1987. “He’d like to own the world.”

In his actions, Mr. Trump was more like a peacock.

An early and profitable gambit came in February 1987, when Mr. Trump started buying stock in the company that owned United Airlines. That April, The Times reported that Mr. Trump was “believed to own 4.9 percent” of United and was “believed to have paid” about $50 a share.

Trump takeover speculation set off a rally in the stock. At the end of the month, Mr. Trump quietly sold nearly all his shares. The next day, The Journal reported that Mr. Trump’s gamble appeared to have netted him $55 million.

It was a gross exaggeration. New Jersey gaming regulators later determined that he had purchased only 2.3 percent of the company and gained $11 million, before interest and commissions.

The same tactic continued to work through 1988. Mr. Trump made a total of $57 million by briefly presenting himself as a takeover threat to, among others, Hilton Hotels, the Gillette razor company and Federated Department Stores, casino regulators found.

In all, from 1986 through 1989, Mr. Trump declared $67.3 million in gains from stocks and other assets bought and sold within one year.

By 1989, investors were less fooled by his moves. That September, he bought a large stake in American Airlines and announced a takeover bid.

“I’m very skeptical of everything this man does,” Andrew Geller, then an airline analyst at Provident National Bank in Philadelphia, told The Associated Press.

Mr. Trump was rebuffed, and the stock price fell sharply. Though at the time his losses were reported to be modest, the new tax return figures show that in 1990, the year he sold his American Airlines stake, Mr. Trump lost $34.9 million on short-term trades, wiping out half his gains from the previous four years.

He appears to have held only one other significant chunk of stock by decade’s close: a 27 percent stake in the Alexander’s department store company.

Mr. Trump had bought those shares for $67.9 million and held on, hoping to gain control of the company’s real estate with a partner.

After climbing on the possibility of a takeover, the stock price slid.

Mr. Trump ultimately agreed to turn over that stock and most of his other assets — including the yacht, the Trump Shuttle and his stake in the Grand Hyatt — to his lenders.

On the day in 1992 when he gave up the stock, it was trading at about $9 a share — which would represent a loss of $55.5 million.

And with that,

Mr. Trump’s days as a market mover were over.

As would be expected for a business owner, the line on Mr. Trump’s tax returns showing regular wages and salary does not represent the bulk of his income. But one year stands out: 1988, when he recorded $67.1 million in salary — 90 percent of his total regular wages for the 10 years.

The figure appears to include a payment he received as part of a deal to buy the unfinished Taj Mahal casino from Merv Griffin, the talk show host turned businessman. Mr. Griffin’s company had agreed to pay Mr. Trump to manage construction of the casino, among other services, and the resolution of a bitter dispute between the two included Mr. Griffin’s company paying Mr. Trump $63 million to buy out that contract.

That windfall contributed to Mr. Trump’s making his biggest income tax payment of the 10 years reviewed by The Times. Even so, his overwhelming business losses meant that he paid only $1.4 million in alternative minimum tax that year.

The only other income tax he was required to pay in those years was $124,344 in 1987, also under the alternative minimum tax, which was created to make sure wealthy people could not avoid all income tax through loopholes and deductions.

One number from Mr. Trump’s tax returns is particularly striking — and particularly hard to explain: the $52.9 million in interest income he reported in 1989.

Mr. Trump reported $460,566 in interest income in 1986. That number grew to $5.5 million the next year, and $11.8 million the next. Then came the outlier 1989.

Taxpayers can receive interest income from a variety of sources, including bonds, bank accounts and mortgages. High-yield bonds, though less common today, were popular with institutional investors in the 1980s. And to make $52.9 million in interest, for example, Mr. Trump would have had to own roughly $378 million in bonds generating 14 percent a year.

Hard data on most of Mr. Trump’s business life is hard to come by, but public findings from New Jersey casino regulators show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating close to $52.9 million annually in interest income.

Similarly, there is no such evidence in a 1990 report on Mr. Trump’s financial condition, prepared by an accounting firm he hired at his bankers’ request and based on his most current tax returns and audited financial statements.

Mr. Trump’s interest income fell almost as quickly as it rose: He reported $18.7 million in 1990, and only $3.6 million in 1992.

At his nadir, in the post-recession autumn of 1991, Mr. Trump testified before a congressional task force, calling for changes in the tax code to benefit his industry.

“The real estate business — we’re in an absolute depression,” Mr. Trump told the lawmakers, adding: “I see no sign of any kind of upturn at all. There is no incentive to invest. Everyone is doing badly, everyone.”

Everyone, perhaps, except his father, Fred Trump.

While Donald Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for 1990 and 1991, Fred Trump’s returns showed a positive income of $53.9 million, with only one major loss: $15 million invested in his son’s latest apartment project.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

The president Donald J Trump has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show.

Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

The president declined repeated requests over several weeks to comment for this article. But a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Charles J. Harder, provided a written statement on Monday, one day after The Times sent a detailed description of its findings. “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Mr. Harder said. “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

Mr. Harder sought to distance Mr. Trump from the tax strategies used by his family, saying the president had delegated those tasks to relatives and tax professionals. “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters,” he said. “The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and therefore relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.”

[Read the full statement]

The president’s brother, Robert Trump, issued a statement on behalf of the Trump family:

“Our dear father, Fred C. Trump, passed away in June 1999. Our beloved mother, Mary Anne Trump, passed away in August 2000. All appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed, and the required taxes were paid. Our father’s estate was closed in 2001 by both the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State tax authorities, and our mother’s estate was closed in 2004. Our family has no other comment on these matters that happened some 20 years ago, and would appreciate your respecting the privacy of our deceased parents, may God rest their souls.”

The Times’s findings raise new questions about Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. According to tax experts, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution for helping his parents evade taxes, because the acts happened too long ago and are past the statute of limitations. There is no time limit, however, on civil fines for tax fraud.

The findings are based on interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers and more than 100,000 pages of documents describing the inner workings and immense profitability of his empire. They include documents culled from public sources — mortgages and deeds, probate records, financial disclosure reports, regulatory records and civil court files.

The investigation also draws on tens of thousands of pages of confidential records — bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices and canceled checks. Most notably, the documents include more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. While the records do not include the president’s personal tax returns and reveal little about his recent business dealings at home and abroad, dozens of corporate, partnership and trust tax returns offer the first public accounting of the income he received for decades from various family enterprises.

[11 takeaways from The Times’s investigation]

What emerges from this body of evidence is a financial biography of the 45th president fundamentally at odds with the story Mr. Trump has sold in his books, his TV shows and his political life. In Mr. Trump’s version of how he got rich, he was the master dealmaker who broke free of his father’s “tiny” outer-borough operation and parlayed a single $1 million loan from his father (“I had to pay him back with interest!”) into a $10 billion empire that would slap the Trump name on hotels, high-rises, casinos, airlines and golf courses the world over. In Mr. Trump’s version, it was always his guts and gumption that overcame setbacks. Fred Trump was simply a cheerleader.

“I built what I built myself,” Mr. Trump has said, a narrative that was long amplified by often-credulous coverage from news organizations, including The Times.

Certainly a handful of journalists and biographers, notably Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, David Cay Johnston and Timothy L. O’Brien, have challenged this story, especially the claim of being worth $10 billion. They described how Mr. Trump piggybacked off his father’s banking connections to gain a foothold in Manhattan real estate. They poked holes in his go-to talking point about the $1 million loan, citing evidence that he actually got $14 million. They told how Fred Trump once helped his son make a bond payment on an Atlantic City casino by buying $3.5 million in casino chips.

But The Times’s investigation of the Trump family’s finances is unprecedented in scope and precision, offering the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald J. Trump a gilded life. The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth.

By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.

Fred Trump’s real estate empire was not just scores of apartment buildings. It was also a mountain of cash, tens of millions of dollars in profits building up inside his businesses, banking records show. In one six-year span, from 1988 through 1993, Fred Trump reported $109.7 million in total income, now equivalent to $210.7 million. It was not unusual for tens of millions in Treasury bills and certificates of deposit to flow through his personal bank accounts each month.

Fred Trump was relentless and creative in finding ways to channel this wealth to his children. He made Donald not just his salaried employee but also his property manager, landlord, banker and consultant. He gave him loan after loan, many never repaid. He provided money for his car, money for his employees, money to buy stocks, money for his first Manhattan offices and money to renovate those offices. He gave him three trust funds. He gave him shares in multiple partnerships. He gave him $10,000 Christmas checks. He gave him laundry revenue from his buildings.

Much of his giving was structured to sidestep gift and inheritance taxes using methods tax experts described to The Times as improper or possibly illegal. Although Fred Trump became wealthy with help from federal housing subsidies, he insisted that it was manifestly unfair for the government to tax his fortune as it passed to his children. When he was in his 80s and beginning to slide into dementia, evading gift and estate taxes became a family affair, with Donald Trump playing a crucial role, interviews and newly obtained documents show.

The line between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion is often murky, and it is constantly being stretched by inventive tax lawyers. There is no shortage of clever tax avoidance tricks that have been blessed by either the courts or the I.R.S. itself. The richest Americans almost never pay anything close to full freight. But tax experts briefed on The Times’s findings said the Trumps appeared to have done more than exploit legal loopholes. They said the conduct described here represented a pattern of deception and obfuscation, particularly about the value of Fred Trump’s real estate, that repeatedly prevented the I.R.S. from taxing large transfers of wealth to his children.

“The theme I see here through all of this is valuations: They play around with valuations in extreme ways,” said Lee-Ford Tritt, a University of Florida law professor and a leading expert in gift and estate tax law. “There are dramatic fluctuations depending on their purpose.”

The manipulation of values to evade taxes was central to one of the most important financial events in Donald Trump’s life. In an episode never before revealed, Mr. Trump and his siblings gained ownership of most of their father’s empire on Nov. 22, 1997, a year and a half before Fred Trump’s death. Critical to the complex transaction was the value put on the real estate. The lower its value, the lower the gift taxes. The Trumps dodged hundreds of millions in gift taxes by submitting tax returns that grossly undervalued the properties, claiming they were worth just $41.4 million.

The same set of buildings would be sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount.

The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.

After this article was published on Tuesday, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said the agency was “reviewing the allegations” and “vigorously pursuing all appropriate areas of investigation.”

All told, The Times documented 295 streams of revenue that Fred Trump created over five decades to enrich his son. In most cases his four other children benefited equally. But over time, as Donald Trump careened from one financial disaster to the next, his father found ways to give him substantially more money, records show. Even so, in 1990, according to previously secret depositions, Mr. Trump tried to have his father’s will rewritten in a way that Fred Trump, alarmed and angered, feared could result in his empire’s being used to bail out his son’s failing businesses.

Of course, the story of how Donald Trump got rich cannot be reduced to handouts from his father. Before he became president, his singular achievement was building the brand of Donald J. Trump, Self-Made Billionaire, a brand so potent it generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through TV shows, books and licensing deals.

Constructing that image required more than Fred Trump’s money. Just as important were his son’s preternatural marketing skills and always-be-closing competitive hustle. While Fred Trump helped finance the accouterments of wealth, Donald Trump, master self-promoter, spun them into a seductive narrative. Fred Trump’s money, for example, helped build Trump Tower, the talisman of privilege that established his son as a major player in New York. But Donald Trump recognized and exploited the iconic power of Trump Tower as a primary stage for both “The Apprentice” and his presidential campaign.

The biggest payday he ever got from his father came long after Fred Trump’s death. It happened quietly, without the usual Trumpian news conference, on May 4, 2004, when Mr. Trump and his siblings sold off the empire their father had spent 70 years assembling with the dream that it would never leave his family.

Donald Trump’s cut: $177.3 million, or $236.2 million in today’s dollars.

Britain’s Slave Owner Compensation Loan, reparations and tax havenry

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British Government pays slave-traders

Hidden taxes pay "slave-traders"

So basically, my father and his children and grandchildren have been paying taxes to compensate those who enslaved our ancestors, and you want me to be proud of that fact. Are you f**king insane???”

And the slave owners not only received compensation from the British taxpayer, they won another concession, the euphemistically titled “apprenticeship” system. What this meant was that the slaves themselves were forced to work the fields for a further six years after the supposed abolition of slavery – 45 hours a week for no pay.

It is hard to imagine why somebody at the Treasury thought that the subject of slavery was fertile territory from which they might harvest their weekly “surprising #FridayFact”. Just after lunchtime on 9 February the department’s Twitter page presented its third of a million followers with its latest offering. “Millions of you helped end the slave trade through your taxes,” it trumpeted.

 

Below, under an image of Africans being marched, in yokes and ropes, into slavery, the tweet continued: “Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade.”

Bristol's Slave Traders

Discover hidden shame

For people who don’t know Bristol, the real shock when they heard that the statue of a 17th-century slave trader had been torn from its plinth and thrown into the harbour was that 21st-century Bristol still had a statue of a slave trader on public display.


The modern equivalent of £17bn was paid out to compensate slave owners for the loss of their human property. Some people believe we should be proud

Britain’s Slave Owner Compensation Loan, reparations and tax havenry

It’s hard to believe but it was only in 2015 that, according to the Treasury, British taxpayers finished ‘paying off’ the debt which the British government incurred in order to compensate British slave owners in 1835 because of the abolition of slavery. Abolition meant their profiteering from human misery would (gradually) come to an end. Not a penny was paid to those who were enslaved and brutalised.

The British government borrowed £20 million to compensate slave owners, which amounted to a massive 40 percent of the Treasury’s annual income or about 5 percent of British GDP. The loan was one of the largest in history.

We wanted to find out which financial institutions were involved in this loan, so I sent two Freedom of Information requests to the UK Treasury and the Bank of England about it. I received two responses, which I’ll detail later, but the names and details of those creditors and investors remain frustratingly out of sight. If you feel you have the skills and time to help us continue the search, please get in touch.

The tweet was subsequently deleted, but not before this insult, and the secret was out, which David Olusoga writes about here. Here’s one of the responses to that Treasury tweet he includes:

So basically, my father and his children and grandchildren have been paying taxes to compensate those who enslaved our ancestors, and you want me to be proud of that fact. Are you f**king insane???”

As Olusoga writes:

“The Treasury’s tweet shows slavery is still misunderstood”.

Soooo misunderstood!

There is so much painful history to face up to, and the process is only just beginning. The University of Glasgow has shown leadership in this area by conducting a kind of ‘slavery money audit’ and announcing long-overdue ‘reparative justice’ measures:

The slave owner’s compensation, and absence of any compensation for the enslaved remain at the heart of inequalities in Britain today. That compensation provided further enrichment opportunities to slave-owning families, some of whom remain at the top of the tree in Britain, with generations still being born into that inherited wealth.

David Olusoga details some of the big names that benefited from this compensation and remain part of the British elite, including former British Prime Minster David Cameron’s family.

Incredible research and information on the compensation paid to slave owners, as well as the big companies, art collections and institutions that can trace their existence back to slavery, is freely available on University College London’s Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project website.

Other institutions must follow Glasgow University’s slavery money audit example.

As the toppling of the statue celebrating slave trader Edward Colston by Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol shows (after years of trying to have it removed, placed in a museum, and being ignored) it’s never been more painfully apparent that, as Kris Manjapra writes,

legacies of slavery continue to shape life for the descendants of the formerly enslaved, and for everyone who lives in Britain, whatever their origin. The legacies of slavery in Britain are not far off; they are in front of our eyes every single day.”

‘s article, along with the work of historian David Olusoga inspired this blog, our investigations, and our Freedom of Information requests on this subject.

British taxpayers would never have discovered they’d completed these loan repayments in 2015 if someone in the British Government’s Treasury Department hadn’t posted this on its official Twitter channel to its hundreds of thousands of followers

A nation that doesn’t understand its own history and the roots of its wealth will struggle to understand how power, finance, politics and economies work. A nation that doesn’t understand its past can’t understand its present, and how the legacy of slavery and empire remain at the heart of British life today. Some of our families were enriched by it, and some of our families were impoverished and brutalised by it. It is alive in almost every aspect of modern British life you care to name.

Yet surveys tend to show that most British people declare themselves proud of the British empire. These young students, all with families from former British colonies, recently highlighted the urgent need to teach Britain’s history of empire in schools by hacking a daily newspaper, with 17 year old student Antonia saying:

After a lesson at school where Britain and its Empire was glorified, with my teacher stating “look how powerful we were”, it took four years for me to go and find a book which accurately articulated the impact that colonialism has had on this country.”

What does London owe to slavery? (26 Oct 2010)

A lecture with Dr Draper on how the City of London was built from slavery:

Organisations, councils and institutions have ignored years of campaigning to put slavery and colonialism into its proper context. People have tried for years to persuade councils to remove statues of slave traders and place them in museums so they can be viewed in their proper shameful context, rather than than as figures to be proud of.

Activists inspired by those who made history by toppling slave trader Edward Colston’s statue are already preparing to target other offensive celebrations of slave traders and brutal colonial enforcers across Britain. Some local councils have now ‘discovered’ the urgency of this by announcing a review of all statues, such as in London and Manchester.

A statue of 18th-century slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its place in London’s docklands. Statues around the world commemorating slave traders are also being removed. After years of ignoring people, are authorities finally starting to listen? Would they have listened if protestors hadn’t toppled slave trader Edward Colston from his pedestal in Bristol?

Those empty plinths should be replaced by memorials to slaves who, as Liverpool historian Laurence Westgaph has argued for years “deserve to be respectfully commemorated” and many were “not only interred without a marker, but without even their names.”

Removing statues and replacing them with memorials is crucial in this unstoppable movement.

And there’s another dimension to all this. We think there’s much to learn from the University of Glasgow’s ‘slavery money audit’ and ‘reparative justice’ measures when it comes to some of the former British colonies, like the overseas territories. They were focal points for slavery and empire. Then they were encouraged by the British government to develop their harmful finance sectors we see today, offering secrecy services and opening up a whole new era of exploitation and inequality.

And then the British government abandoned them, reaping the rewards of hot money being laundered there before arriving in London, yet with no benefit to the citizens of those island nations. It’s time for Britain to take responsibility.

Yet while British society has seemed comfortable with the idea that those who profited from slaves deserved compensation, while their slaves didn’t, ideas about reparations and compensation going the other way, to the enslaved, towards redressing these historic injustices, remain controversial. Most people can understand inheritances and fairness. They can immediately see why the inherited wealth of someone like the 26 year old 7th Duke of Westminster should be taxed, but not how historical wrongs related to slavery and colonialism that persist to this day, can, and should be addressed.

British responsibilities, British taxpayers

Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles points out that taxes from people in the Caribbean diaspora in the UK (many of them descendants of slaves) will have been used to repay the slave owner compensation loan. He describes it as “the greatest act of political immorality.”   Some of the commission’s 10 Point Reparation Plan could be incorporated into a Plan B for rejuvenating British ‘satellite havens’, as full as any other location on the planet of brilliant people fizzing with innovative ideas and creative potential, yet starved of meaningful investment.

Rather than investing in people, as the Tax Justice Network’s John Christensen says: it’s “crucial to understand that the UK has created conditions of path dependence on these islands that makes economic transition hard to manage and finance”. He warned in 2002 that the dominance of finance in small island economies has crowded out prospects for diversification, as they’ve “become locked into their relationships with the offshore finance industry…any attempts at diversification into other sectors would be constrained by the need for wholesale re-skilling and the acquisition of new knowledge bases.’

In 2011, John wrote a paper with Mark Hampton on the need for more sustainable economic planning: Looking for Plan B: What next for island hosts of offshore finance?  There’s much more work to be done in this area and the Tax Justice Network aims to support research where it can, and where it’s invited by those nations to do so.

As we have written, the history of abuse by Britain of its overseas territories and former Caribbean colonies is long and deeply painful. The tax havenry models Britain pushed them towards after the decline of the official empire means it has continued a self-interested exploitation that has yet to be rectified. The governments of those island nations aren’t entirely blameless, but Britain has worsened inequality and deprivation for the majority of people there, who are experiencing all the disadvantages of what the Tax Justice Network calls the Finance Curse.

And if the British government felt its responsibilities to slave owners lasted until the present day, or at least until 2015 when the original slave owner compensation loan was finally settled, what of its responsibilities to those who suffered enslavement and continue to suffer from its legacy?

Stepping up?

A UK Parliamentary vote on the creation of public registers of the real owners of companies by 2020 was aimed at ridding the overseas territories of dirty money attracted by the secrecy services offered there, from which the City of London then benefits in terms of ‘cleaned up’ money flows. However one might criticise the UK as a centre of filth (and we do), it introduced public registers of the real owners of companies in 2016. But, as Tax Justice Network’s CEO says in our statement here:

As we have documented at length, the UK’s financial secrecy network is the biggest in the world. While the UK itself is only moderately secretive according to our Financial Secrecy Index, this reflects the deliberate outsourcing of secrecy to the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) and the more numerous Overseas Territories (OTs) such as the Cayman Islands, number 3 in our most recent Financial Secrecy Index, and the British Virgin Islands at number 16.”

But as we point out on the Parliamentary vote for public registers to be implemented in the overseas territories, “Britain’s not the saviour here. This is just the first step in putting right a great wrong, and if it is not followed by financial assistance to help reorient the Overseas Territories’ economies, the wrong will be compounded once again.”

But as it’s turned out, the British government has now delayed beneficial ownership register requirements to overseas territories until 2023 ‘at the earliest’. Although globally, public registers are now emerging as an international global standard, there’s a long process ahead (we need public registers to include trusts and foundations, and enforcement needs to be taken seriously).

For now it seems the opaque nature of the finance sectors in British overseas territories is too useful to the City of London. But an alternative development path is needed that benefits all citizens and not just a tiny financial elite. And taking action to support that is the very least Britain can do, given the history.

Not only was the response from the British government inadequate in assisting its current and former colonies after the 2017 hurricane season, there are further serious problems in terms of projections that, “on its present course, by 2020, debt will remain unsustainable in 11 Caribbean small states, and there will be no change in 2030 when the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development will have run its course”. And what shape will the overseas territories be in as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Following slavery money

Back to the revelation that it was only in 2015 that British taxpayers completed servicing the loan which the British government used to compensate slave owners in 1835.

Director of the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at UCL Dr Nicholas Draper described what he discovered about the loan in his book The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery. He confirmed to the Tax Justice Network that

Nathan Mayer Rothschild and his brother-in-law Moses Montefiore led a syndicate underwriting the issue of three new series of securities to raise £15 million: we don’t know how much they retained and how much they distributed or sub-underwrote. A further £5 million was paid out directly in government stock.”

He writes more on this in his book in pages 107-112.

The UK Government Treasury answered a Freedom of Information request in early 2018 regarding the loan, confirming that compensation payable under the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was indeed paid off by taxpayers in 2015, and providing the following explanation:

The majority of Government borrowing is financed through the issuance of UK Government bonds known as gilts by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and as such, the majority of the Government’s debt is held in gilts. A gilt is a financial instrument that pays coupons (interest payments) twice per year to the holder of the gilt, up to and including the date on which the amount borrowed is finally repaid. Gilts are typically sold to large investment banks which, in turn, sell the gilts on to end-investors. These banks are known as the Gilt-Edged Market Makers and consist of 19 firms.

The Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan was rolled over into the Government’s gilt programme, ultimately into an undated gilt, the 4% Consolidated Loan (1957 or after). The term ‘undated’ refers to the fact that this gilt was issued with an earliest potential redemption date of 1957, but it was not compulsory for the gilt to be redeemed at this date. The 4% Consolidated Loan was redeemed on 1 February 2015, as part of the Government’s decision to modernise the gilt portfolio by redeeming all remaining undated gilts. More information about undated gilts can be found on the DMO’s website here.

Money borrowed to fund the Slavery Abolition Act (1835) was therefore fully repaid in 2015. The long gap between this money being borrowed and its repayment was due to the type of financial instrument that was used, rather than the amount of money borrowed.”

So, we know a bit about the mechanics of how the loan was managed, and that there were changes made in, or after 1957. But this raised more questions. We sent our own Freedom of Information request to the . We wanted to know more about how the British government or the banks renegotiated the loan terms, and so, among other questions (which they say they don’t have information on) they’ve answered us as follows:

it is likely that the terms of the loan would have changed over time, but we cannot distinguish the evolution of this particular loan from our records. By way of background, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the practice was to borrow by issuing fungible tranches of undated bonds. The outstanding balance of the undated bond would subsequently be varied by the issue of additional tranches and, in periods of debt reduction, by partial or full cancellations; in addition, some of these bonds were consolidated into other undated bonds.”

And so it looks as though the financial institutions or other investors would have been unaware of their precise nature because they were bundled up with other things as a general investment vehicle. After all, who would want to openly hawk an investment in government debt incurred by compensating slave owners?

1) What was the cumulative cost to the British taxpayer of servicing the loans over the entire period from 1835 to 2015 expressed in 2015 values?

2) Within the cumulative cost, how much was the principal, and how much was the interest, including a breakdown of the compounding effect of the interest? (also advising if there were any costs or charges such as penalties for delayed payments).

We then submitted two further questions in an information request to the Bank of England:

1) What were the names of the creditors and those financial institutions involved in trading these gilts or ‘fungible tranches of undated bonds’? Who held, sold or invested the gilts in question?

2) Who renegotiated this debt and what was the full process of decision-making from 1835 to 2015?

We received the following response:

Thank you for your email of 27 February in which you ask the following under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FoI Act’) in relation to ‘The Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan which was rolled over into the Government’s gilt programme’ and the 4% Consolidated Loan (1957 or after) government stock…

…We have searched the catalogues of all files (both open and closed) held by the Bank of England’s (the ‘Bank’s’) Archive but have been unable to locate any specific files relating to the 1835 loan.

We have found a file (known as the ‘Stock Jacket’) for the 4% Consolidated Loan (1957 or after) which contains administrative information on the set up of the stock but does not contain any references to the history of the 1835 loan. We do not appear to hold any further information relating to this stock.

The letter goes on to suggest further searches of its online archives or to make an appointment to visit the Bank’s Archive. We did that, but drew a blank.

Which ‘tainted corporations’ profited from the slave owner’s compensation loan?

What I really had my eye on is the names of financial institutions which knowingly invested in, or were involved in the Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan. It is possible that we might find records of the process by which it was rolled over into government gilts around 1957. A visit on our behalf to the Bank’s archive led historian Michele Christensen to some private investor institutions but there we drew a blank when they told us they couldn’t release that information to us because it was ‘private.’

I want to find out which financial institutions were involved because I’d love to be able to replicate in the UK what happened in the United States back in 2005 when, for the first time, a US American company, JP Morgan Chase, paid reparations for slavery. The case is described here:

J.P. Morgan Chase filed a disclosure statement with the city of Chicago on January 20 acknowledging that between 1831 and 1865, two of J.P. Morgan Chase’s predecessor banks – Citizens Bank and Canal Bank in Louisiana – accepted approximately 13,000 slaves as collateral for loans and ended up owning approximately 1,250 of them as a result of defaults.

The company apologized on its Web site and to employees and said it will provide $5 million over five years for full tuition for African American undergraduates from Louisiana to attend college in their home state.”

It’s worth reading in full. As reported in the same article, slavery reparations campaigner Deadria Farmer-Paellmann responded that this was a “step in the right direction for a tainted corporation,” but that “the nation’s no. 2 bank has a long way to go before it has fully paid its debt to African Americans”.

As the comprehensive evidence of ‘redlining’ shows, US financial institutions have a great deal of more recent structural racism to make amends for, too. The New York Times’ 1619 Project provides a deeply moving case study (podcast episode 5, part 1).

It’s frustrating that the information we seek on those financial institutions involved in Britain’s slave owners compensation loan may well be in an archive, but cannot be opened up to us. For now it brings this investigation to a close, even though it feels tantalisingly close. Those terrible wrongs from which some in the finance sector profited as recently as 2015 can never be put right, but apologies and a well-administered multi-million pound fund is the very least that those financial institutions can do now. If we can find them, and name them, we will.

A slavery money audit of those ‘tainted corporations’ in London’s finance sector would surely lead to pressure on them to apologise and make reparations.

And it’s very likely that those same institutions in the finance sector are now profiteering from depriving poorer nations of tax revenue, hiding the wealth of their richest citizens, and fuelling climate crisis. They, and their CEOs are increasingly likely to become to targets of direct action as the consequences impact on the world.

Quantifying exploitation, and steps forward

This is about clarity for a former colonial power which has barely begun to deal with its past. For a long time there have been attempts to minimise the brutality of slavery, to glorify and romanticise colonial rule, over-hype the role of British elites in abolishing slavery and underplay the grass roots struggles to end slavery and colonial exploitation. Those working to draw attention to Britain’s hidden histories often find themselves at the centre of a storm of controversy.

If British people don’t understand the past, they can’t understand the present. It is vital to understand how the City of London and Britain thrived from slavery, and colonialism, and how that continues to be played out today, nationally, and globally.

Quantifying that and trying to address it is critical. And there are precedents.

In the United States University of Connecticut researcher Thomas Craemer calculates the value of reparations with present day equivalence of between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion. He was inspired to undertake his research based on reparations Germany agreed to pay to Jewish victims of the Nazis, an amount of over $89 billion since 2012.

Recent research by the economist Utsa Patnaik calculated how over around 200 years, the East India Company and the British Raj siphoned out at least £9.2 trillion (or $44.6 trillion; since the exchange rate was $4.8 per pound sterling during much of the colonial period). According to research by Robert Allen in 2005, real wages in India declined by 23.3% during the 350 years of British colonial rule. Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion in the UK, Britain de-developed India. I discussed immigraton as reparations in the Taxcast, the Tax Justice Network’s monthly podcast here with award winning author Suketu Mehta speaking about his new book: This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto on what he sees as the fastest way to fix global inequalities and injustices.

The purpose of this blog isn’t to debate the many ways reparations for slavery and colonialism could work, a lot of great research continues to be done in this area. My focus here is about doing what we can to expose London’s financial institutions involved in the ongoing legacy from slavery and empire so they can acknowledge their role and do something about it.

Legislative efforts are just beginning to give some teeth in these matters, but in non-binding ways.

In 2016 the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent found that the US should pay people of colour reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism.’ This group of experts, which included leading human rights lawyers from around the world highlighted the live link between present injustices and the US’s dark past.

And in March 2019, there’s been another watershed moment – again, it’s non-binding but the European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to tackle structural racism faced by an estimated 15 million people of African descent, declassify colonial archives and consider “some form of reparations” for colonial era crimes.

Let me know if you have expertise and can help us continue our search for the names of the financial institutions that were involved in the slave owner’s compensation loan. We’ll report back to you if we have any new findings.

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A monumental, crowning failure

Ben Boyd

An increasing clamour of calls to wipe slave trader Ben Boyd off the NSW map has come after state environment minister Matt Kean said he would investigate replacing the controversial name.

Boyd in the 1860s was responsible for ‘blackbirding’, a slave trade practice which involved tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders being forcibly brought to Australia to work on plantations in Queensland.

Statues are Not history

Commentorium

Ben Boyd’s memory is commemorated in and around Eden in southern NSW with Ben Boyd National Park, Boydtown – a village with a population of 70, Boyds Tower and Ben Boyd Drive. In Sydney there is Ben Boyd Road in Neutral Bay and a Boyd house, one of four houses for school competitions at Neutral Bay Public School

The furore over vandalised statues masks a set of deeper unresolved problems that need to be addressed.

History’s a funny thing. It gives the impression of being fixed, chiselled into monuments and memorials, but it really exists as a matter of storytelling. What ends up mattering most is who gets to tell what stories and what value the rest of us choose to give them.

That’s why the string of vandalised statues of colonial figures we’re seeing (with the occasional demand they be torn down) seems to elicit such a different official response than does the physical destruction of ancient, sacred Indigenous sites by mining companies across the country. The former is an expression of political resistance that is either lacerated or humoured, but ultimately dismissed. The latter is a repeated occurrence that occasionally evokes some hand-wringing but is almost always officially permitted.

And yet, for those truly concerned with history, it’s worth noting that only the Indigenous sites represent the true destruction of history and cannot be replaced. What’s being defaced in the case of those statues is not history itself, but rather commemoration. That’s quite a different thing.

The statues or memorial plaques are not historical artefacts in themselves and the protesters that want to remove them are not arguing for history to be forgotten or erased. They’re complaining about the way history is told. Indeed they’re asking for it to be more fully told, less airbrushed.

This discrepancy reveals that Indigenous history and culture has no serious purchase on the national imagination and no particularly grave place in the reckoning of government.

When the ministers give permits to mining companies to destroy these sites, they’re assessing whether the economic benefit outweighs the cost of lost heritage. But it’s not Indigenous communities that determine that cost and in some cases the law doesn’t require them even to be consulted.

That’s a problem because lost heritage is something you feel in your bones. Remember the ritual public mourning that overcame the world when Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire? That registered with us as tragedy because we value that expression of history and culture instinctively.

It’s impossible to imagine us tolerating a mining company destroying something like that for money. But when it comes to our Indigenous history, we’re so systematically separated from it that we lack those instincts. Many sites don’t even have heritage listing. Their routine destruction can only be possible because, on balance, we see that history not as invaluable but as an obstacle to profit.

That, I suspect, is partly what’s driving protests against colonial commemoration. Official celebration of explorers and governors, with no mention of the Indigenous people they killed or the slaves they drove, obscures not just the oppression of our First Nations, but the very notion of them as fully formed peoples with history and culture.

And you can’t be very well connected to a culture you won’t let yourself see. In that sense, I suspect this isn’t really about statues at all, which are probably a sideshow. It’s more about the idea that the commemoration of these figures is an extension of the colonial attitude itself, where Indigenous populations become unpeople: obstacles to enrichment, much like their culture before mining companies.

The protesters’ complaint, as far as I can grasp, isn’t that the people these statues sanctify failed by today’s standards. It’s that the legacy of their world view lives on, that the standards of their day still persist in subtle ways. Whether Australians are inclined to accept that argument or not, the trouble for us as a country is that we seem to have no real way to engage with it.

We might acknowledge the facts of Indigenous disadvantage and declare some targets for ‘‘closing the gap’’ which seem never to be met. But that approach might give the impression the problem is a technocratic one, to be solved by tinkering with policy settings. That rather sidesteps the point of the protests, which is to bring the whole colonial project into focus. That’s exactly why it won’t be seriously considered by people in power.

As things stand it can’t be, because its challenge is inevitably existential: the logical extension of saying Captain Cook should be torn down is to question the legitimacy of the nation itself. Not many countries respond well to that kind of thing, which is why these arguments so often produce a visceral response.

What we perhaps euphemistically call ‘‘settler societies’’ demand nothing as fundamentally as the acquiescence of the people they dispossessed. Without it, the questions become too big to process. The more these questions are asked, the more stuck we seem to become. It’s like we lack the political technology to come to a resolution.

That impasse will only change when we feel less existentially threatened by the fundamental objections of our Indigenous communities. That means finding a way to incorporate the grievances of dispossession into the very idea of Australia, somehow reconciling the modern nation unto its ancient ones.

That’s the role a treaty might play, for instance, because – in theory at least – it would mean some basis for coexistence has been agreed, making honest conversations about history less existentially loaded. But more broadly, it’s the national project of reconciliation, which strikes me as so important but which I hardly recall being discussed in the fury of this past fortnight.

Perhaps that idea died when a previous version of our government took the Uluru Statement from the Heart and then blatantly misled the public about what it meant and dismissed it without even leading a national conversation on it.

Perhaps that act of astonishing bad faith blew up the project of a reconciled Australia like so many sacred sites before and since.

Perhaps our crowning failure is to recognise that reconciliation isn’t some gift to give magnanimously to Indigenous people, but is rather something the nation as a whole needs for its own sake.

And perhaps in its absence there is nothing left any more but protests, anger, and statues.

Waleed Aly is a SMH regular columnist.

This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate

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Australian work gang
No slavery in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's statement

No evidence

Colonial Australia

The well informed? and university educated?
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
colloquially known as #ScottyFromMarketing
loudly and publicly asserted there was there was

No Slavery in colonial Australia

Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate

In 1891 a ‘Slave Map of Modern Australia’ was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter.
Author provided, Author provided

Thalia Anthony, University of Technology Sydney and Stephen Gray, Monash University

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview that “there was no slavery in Australia”.

This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.

Morrison followed up with “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history”. Unfortunately, his statement is at odds with the historical record.

This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.

What is slavery?

Australia was not a “slave state” like the American South. However, slavery is a broader concept. As Article 1 of the United Nations Slavery Convention says:

Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

These powers might include non-payment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, controls over freedom of movement, or selling a person like a piece of property. In the words of slavery historian Orlando Patterson, slavery is a form of “social death”.

Slavery has been illegal in the (former) British Empire since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807, and certainly since 1833.

Slavery practices emerged in Australia in the 19th century and in some places endured until the 1950s.

Early coverage of slavery in Australia

As early as the 1860s, anti-slavery campaigners began to invoke “charges of chattel bondage and slavery” to describe north Australian conditions for Aboriginal labour.

In 1891 a “Slave Map of Modern Australia” was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter, a journal that documented slavery around the world and campaigned against it.

Reprinted from English journalist Arthur Vogan’s account of frontier relations in Queensland, it showed large areas where:

… the traffic in Aboriginal labour, both children and adults, had descended into slavery conditions.

Seeds of slavery in Australia

Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery, originally in the pearling industry in Western Australia and the Torres Strait and then in the cattle industry.

In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they “went with” the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.

A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled:

… whitefellas would pull their gun out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!

Aboriginal woman Ruby de Satge, who worked on a Queensland station, described the Queensland Protection Act as meaning:

if you are sitting down minding your own business, a station manager can come up to you and say, “I want a couple of blackfellows” … Just like picking up a cat or a dog.

Through their roles under the legislation, police, Aboriginal protectors and pastoral managers were complicit in this force.

Slavery was sanctioned by Australian law

Legislation facilitated the enslavement of Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Under the South Australian Aborigines Act 1911, the government empowered police to “inspect workers and their conditions” but not to uphold basic working conditions or enforce payment. The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) allowed the forced recruitment of Indigenous workers in the Northern Territory, and legalised the non-payment of wages.

In Queensland, the licence system was effectively a blank cheque to recruit Aboriginal people into employment without their consent. Amendments to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave powers to the Protector or police officer to “expend” their wages or invest them in a trust fund – which was never paid out.

Officials were well aware that “slavery” was a public relations problem. The Chief Protector in the Northern Territory noted in 1927 that pastoral workers:

… are kept in a servitude that is nothing short of slavery.

In the early 1930s, Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook pointed out Australia was in breach of its obligations under the League of Nations Slavery Convention.

‘… it certainly exists here in its worst form’

Accusations of slavery continued into the 1930s, including through the British Commonwealth League.

In 1932 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) characterised Aboriginal workers as “slaves”. Unionist Owen Rowe argued:

If there is no slavery in the British Empire then the NT is not part of the British Empire; for it certainly exists here in its worst form.

In the 1940s, anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt surveyed conditions on cattle stations owned by Lord Vestey, commenting that Aboriginal people:

… owned neither the huts in which they lived nor the land on which these were built, they had no rights of tenure, and in some cases have been sold or transferred with the property.

In 1958, counsel for the well-known Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira argued that the Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) was unconstitutional, because the enacting legislation was:

… a law for the enslavement of part of the population of the Northern Territory.

Profits from slaves

Australia has unfinished business in repaying wages to Aboriginal and South Sea Islander slaves. First Nations slave work allowed big businesses to reap substantial profits, and helped maintain the Australian economy through the Great Depression. Aboriginal people are proud of their work on stations even though the historical narrative is enshrined in silence and denial.

As Bundjalung woman Valerie Linow has said of her experiences of slavery in the 1950s:

What if your wages got stolen? Honestly, wouldn’t you like to have your wages back? Honestly. I think it should be owed to the ones who were slave labour. We got up and worked from dawn to dusk … We lost everything – family, everything. You cannot go stealing our lousy little sixpence. We have got to have money back. You have got to give something back after all this country did to the Aboriginal people. You cannot keep stealing off us.


UPDATE: This article was updated on June 12 to add detail about the pearling industry.The Conversation

Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney and Stephen Gray, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Forced to build their own pyres: dozens more Aboriginal massacres revealed in Killing Times research

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The killing times: the massacres of Aboriginal people Australia must confront

The truth of Australia’s history has long been hiding in plain sight.

The stories of “the killing times” are the ones we have heard in secret, or told in hushed tones. They are not the stories that appear in our history books yet they refuse to go away.

The colonial journalist and barrister Richard Windeyer called it “the whispering in the bottom of our hearts”. The anthropologist William Stanner described a national “cult of forgetfulness”. A 1927 royal commission lamented our “conspiracy of silence”.

But calls are growing for a national truth-telling process. Such wishes are expressed in the Uluru statement from the heart. Reconciliation Australia’s 2019 barometer of attitudes to Indigenous peoples found that 80% of people consider truth telling important.

Almost 70% of Australians accept that Aboriginal people were subject to mass killings, incarceration and forced removal from land, and their movement was restricted.

The Killing Times is a Guardian Australia special report that aims to assemble information necessary to begin truth telling – not just the grim tally of more than a century of frontier bloodshed, but its human cost – as told by descendants on all sides. This is the history we have all inherited.

Our interactive map details massacres in every state and territory but the research is ongoing. It does not count all the sites of conflict, or clashes over land and resources, in which lives were lost in the colonisation of Australia.

The numbers we have drawn on are conservative estimates.

There are more massacre sites to be added – places where the true death toll may never be known – and many more we are still working to verify, particularly in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

In this first snapshot of the continent, we have found that there were at least 270 frontier massacres over 140 years, as part of a state-sanctioned and organised attempt to eradicate Aboriginal people.

Starting in 1794, mass killings were first carried out by British soldiers, then by police and settlers – often acting together – and later by native police, working under the command of white officers, in militia-style forces supported by colonial governments.

These tactics were employed, without formal repercussions, as late as 1926.

Using data from the colonial massacre map at the University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities, and adopting its stringent research methods, Guardian Australia has surveyed the rest of the country.

  • Government forces were actively engaged in frontier massacres until at least the late 1920s.
  • These attacks became more lethal for Aboriginal people over time, not less. The average number of deaths of Aboriginal people in each conflict increased, but from the early 1900s casualties among the settlers ended entirely – with the exception of one death in 1928.
  • The most common motive for a massacre was reprisal for the killing of settler civilians but at least 51 massacres were in reprisal for the killing or theft of livestock or property.
  • Of the attacks on the map, only once were colonial perpetrators found guilty and punished – in the aftermath of the Myall Creek killings in 1838.
  • In NSW and Tasmania between 1794 and 1833, most of the 56 recorded attacks were carried out on foot by detachments of soldiers from British regiments, and an average of 15 people were killed in each one. The weapon most often used was the “Brown Bess” musket, which was issued to British forces in the Napoleonic wars.
  • In NSW and Victoria between 1834 and 1859, horses and carbine rifles were used in at least 116 frontier massacres of Aboriginal people in mostly daytime attacks, with an average of 27 people killed in each attack.
  • From the late 1840s, massacres were carried out as daylight attacks by native police, sometimes in joint operations with settlers. They most often used double-barrelled shotguns, rifles and carbines.
  • Preliminary data from Queensland shows that between 1859 and 1915 an average of 34 people were killed in each attack.
  • There are at least nine known cases of deliberate poisoning of flour given to Aboriginal people.

There were also efforts to cover up the atrocities.

In 1927 a royal commission into the Forrest River massacre in Western Australia concluded that a police party had killed at least 11 people then burned their bodies in makeshift ovens. In his report the commissioner, GT Wood, said a “conspiracy of silence” in the entire Kimberley district had thwarted attempts to find out what really happened.

These massacres are challenging to read about. It can be even more challenging to discover a personal or family connection to them. Nevertheless, many Australians have come forward to share their stories, some for the first time.

Sandy Hamilton is descended from a soldier in the 46th Regiment which, on orders of the NSW governor Lachlan Macquarie, killed at least 14 Aboriginal people at Appin in 1816.

“We need to take ownership of our history,” Hamilton says. “We deserve to know the truth of how we came to be who we are.

“Then we can also make real choices about who we want to be as a society, as Australians.”

This map shows evidence of mass killings from 1788 until 1928: a sustained and systematic process of conflict and expansion.

Data used in this map is reproduced with permission of the University of Newcastle Colonial Frontier Massacres Project team.

This site is a collection of as much accurate information as we can provide at this time about what took place on the frontier of colonisation. What happened near your suburb, town or district? Search by location, postcode or time to find out.

The mapping of our turbulent history is happening in many forms across the country, through painstaking research by historians, archaeologists, artists and descendants on all sides.

The process of truth-telling is ongoing. Verifying sites takes time and care. To find out what we did and why, read the “About” section. “Tips” will help you navigate the map and its features.

We will update this site as more information comes to light. You can contact us about this project at killingtimes@theguardian.com.

A warning: this contains information about acts of violence, strong themes and archaic language.

Last updated: 18 November 2019

“It happened all over Australia and this is a part of our history,” Dale-Hallett says. “I’ve got a direct connection to it – but that doesn’t make it my history and not yours.

“Part of the reason they are continuing to cause harm is they haven’t been properly acknowledged. The simple act of listening is a really important first step in a more complex conversation that needs to be had about how did Australia settle itself.”

Evidence of 250 massacres of Indigenous Australians mapped

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There have been as many as 500 massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. And mass killings occurred well into the middle of the 20th century, researchers have said.

The disturbing revelations were released by the University of Newcastle on Friday as part of the second stage of its online massacre map, which now covers frontier violence that occurred from the arrival of the first fleet in 1788 to the colonisation of the Northern Territory, South Australia and remote Queensland up to 1930.

The map now details about 250 massacres that meet strict criteria of standards of proof, covering every state except Western Australia.

The estimated death toll from those incidents is about 6,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and fewer than 100 colonists, with an average of 25 Indigenous people killed in every massacre.

The lead researcher, Prof Lyndall Ryan, said that she believed the updated map only listed about half of the massacres that took place on the Australian frontier, and that the real figure was closer to 500.

“Most Australians have been brought up with the view that the settlement of Australia was largely peaceful,” she said. “This map turns that on its head.”

Ryan said massacres in the early 20th century were even more deadly than those a century before, and many had either the clear involvement or tacit approval of police.

“They are more carefully planned,” she said. “More people are killed in each incident. And massacre has become a professional business.”

The most recent incidents included on the map are the Coniston massacres, which occurred between August and October, 1928 on and around Coniston Station in the NT. It is often referred to as the last known massacre of Indigenous Australians, although Ryan says that will prove incorrect.

The murdered were Warlpiri and Arrernte people. The first massacre was a punitive police expedition, a reprisal for the murder of dingo tracker Fred Brooks, who had abducted the wife of a Warlpiri man.

A police party killed more than 50 people over the course of a few weeks. A short time later, after Warlpiri allegedly attacked and wounded a man named Nugget Morton on the Lander River; another massacre was conducted by settlers. More than 60 Warlpiri and Arrernte died.

“I am surprised at the number of times that we find that the state is present in something, or condoning it, or turning a blind eye,” Ryan said. “I had not expected to find that. Although it is what Aboriginal people have been saying forever – I have had to learn to listen a little more closely.”

The map was first published in August 2017 and detailed events up to 1872. A third block of research, including WA and expanding the reference area from 1788 to 1960, will begin soon.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, Ryan says. They have received more than 400 submissions, mostly from locals and historical societies who are keen to share their own records.

It is a significant shift from the “history wars” of the 1990s, when accounts of massacres were heavily disputed as part of a broader debate on how to frame Australia’s national identity.

“I think during the history wars 15 years ago, people were saying things like ‘that’s just a story’,” she said. “Now we can show that the evidence is undeniable. It’s widely corroborated. It comes from a clear range of sources. And people want to help.”

However Ryan said there were some massacres that took place in New South Wales which she still cannot verify, because those who may have information or source documents are still unwilling to talk.

“I suspect the cone of silence is still in operation along the Hunter River, and I suspect in other parts of NSW,” she said. “They are not disclosing what they know.”

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Aboriginal massacre now supported by scientific evidence

For almost 100 years, the Aboriginal people of the Kutjungka Region in southeast Kimberley, Western Australia, have reported through oral testimony and art how many of their ancestors were killed in a massacre.

Until now, their evidence has been the only record of this event. No written archives, including police records, have been found.

But we are part of a team that has now uncovered physical evidence of human intervention at the massacre site, comprising highly fragmented burnt bone. The results of our study were published in October’s Forensic Science International journal.


Read more: DNA reveals a new history of the First Australians


We believe our results go some way to providing public recognition of this atrocity. It also gives a model that can be used at other similar massacre sites in the search for evidence to verify the oral testimonies of Aboriginal people.

 

The massacre at Sturt Creek

Tjurabalan, or Sturt Creek, provides water for life to flourish in this desert margin. The surrounding landscape is harsh, with pale green spinifex set against the deep red of the soil.

This is a terminal river system ending in Paruku, or Lake Gregory. Both the river and lake are places of spiritual significance to the Walmajarri and Jaru people, owners of the Tjurabalan Native Title claim.

It was here, during the early years of the 20th century, that an unknown number of Aboriginal people were killed in at least three massacres reported in either oral testimonies or archival documents.

These events include one on Sturt Creek Station, where an adult man and his son escaped – it is their report that is recounted today by the descendants of those killed.

We were asked by the Kimberley Land Council to search for archival evidence of the massacre on Sturt Creek Station and to record the site. In 2009 a group of descendants took us, both archaeologists, to the massacre site.

Colleagues from CSIRO Land and Water, Flinders University and the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Adelaide, also collaborated through the Kimberley Frontier Archaeology Project at Flinders University.

The search for evidence

Oral testimonies and paintings record that many Aboriginal people were shot and their bodies burnt. The number killed is not known.

The descendants reported that the massacre took place following the well-documented murder of two white men at Billiluna Station in 1922, and the subsequent police search for their killers.

But the search for written evidence of this massacre in the documents, diaries and newspapers of white people failed to find a reference, apart from a police diary with missing entries for four days.

Two scatterings of burnt bone fragments were identified within a short distance of each other. All had been weathered in the harsh desert conditions for more than 90 years and all bone fragments were small, less than 20mm by 20mm.

For almost 100 years, the Aboriginal people of the Kutjungka Region in southeast Kimberley, Western Australia, have reported through oral testimony and art how many of their ancestors were killed in a massacre.

Until now, their evidence has been the only record of this event. No written archives, including police records, have been found.

But we are part of a team that has now uncovered physical evidence of human intervention at the massacre site, comprising highly fragmented burnt bone. The results of our study were published in October’s Forensic Science International journal.


Read more: DNA reveals a new history of the First Australians


We believe our results go some way to providing public recognition of this atrocity. It also gives a model that can be used at other similar massacre sites in the search for evidence to verify the oral testimonies of Aboriginal people.

The Sturt Creek Massacre: the full undated painting by artists Launa Yoomarri and Daisy Kungah under direction of Clancy and Speiler Sturt. The Aboriginal prisoners are chained between two trees. The four figures (two left and two right) hold guns. The footsteps end at the well and goat yard, and both contain fragmented bone. The white line and black stones on either side of the creek, Sturt Creek, represent the ‘milky’ coloured water of Sturt Creek and the black stone along the banks are what Daisy Kungah described as purrkuji, the jupilkarn (cormorants) in the dreamtime. Kuningarra School, Billiluna Aboriginal Community, Western Australia., Author provided

The massacre at Sturt Creek

Tjurabalan, or Sturt Creek, provides water for life to flourish in this desert margin. The surrounding landscape is harsh, with pale green spinifex set against the deep red of the soil.

This is a terminal river system ending in Paruku, or Lake Gregory. Both the river and lake are places of spiritual significance to the Walmajarri and Jaru people, owners of the Tjurabalan Native Title claim.

Map showing the location of Sturt Creek Station and the study area on Sturt Creek, southeast Kimberley Region, Western Australia. Robert Keane, Spatial Systems Analyst, Flinders University, Author provided

It was here, during the early years of the 20th century, that an unknown number of Aboriginal people were killed in at least three massacres reported in either oral testimonies or archival documents.

These events include one on Sturt Creek Station, where an adult man and his son escaped – it is their report that is recounted today by the descendants of those killed.

Dr Keryn Walshe (right) talking to members of the descent group at the massacre site. Pam Smith, Author provided

We were asked by the Kimberley Land Council to search for archival evidence of the massacre on Sturt Creek Station and to record the site. In 2009 a group of descendants took us, both archaeologists, to the massacre site.

Colleagues from CSIRO Land and Water, Flinders University and the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Adelaide, also collaborated through the Kimberley Frontier Archaeology Project at Flinders University.

The search for evidence

Oral testimonies and paintings record that many Aboriginal people were shot and their bodies burnt. The number killed is not known.

The descendants reported that the massacre took place following the well-documented murder of two white men at Billiluna Station in 1922, and the subsequent police search for their killers.

But the search for written evidence of this massacre in the documents, diaries and newspapers of white people failed to find a reference, apart from a police diary with missing entries for four days.

One of ten scrapes made in the dry stone wall enclosure. Scrapes into the loose top soil revealed burnt bone, all highly fragmented and embedded in burnt soil. Pam Smith

Two scatterings of burnt bone fragments were identified within a short distance of each other. All had been weathered in the harsh desert conditions for more than 90 years and all bone fragments were small, less than 20mm by 20mm.

Bone fragment No 2 from the Sturt Creek site. Author provided

Proving that the bones were of human origin, based on the few samples our team was permitted to collect, was challenging. Two bone fragments from a human skull were identified; the challenge then was to identify evidence of an intense fire.

This evidence was provided through X-ray diffraction analyses that determined the temperatures at which the fire burnt and the length of time.

Maintaining a fire of such high temperatures over many hours using timber as fuel must have involved human intervention and an intention to destroy the bones beyond recognition.

This was not a traditional hearth fire, as later experiments demonstrated, nor were Indigenous artefacts or cultural material found.

An objective of our study was to demonstrate that scientific research at massacre sites can verify the oral testimonies of Aboriginal people. We believe this was achieved at Sturt Creek.

Recognition of a massacre

Many people, both Aboriginal and white, lost their lives on the Australian frontier, but in most documented massacres it was Aboriginal people who were killed.

Scholars of Australian frontier history have argued the deaths of Aboriginal people should be acknowledged without political prejudice as grave injustices. Others have argued the many reported massacre events in Australia were fabricated.


Read more: Of course Australia was invaded – massacres happened here less than 90 years ago


This debate is now known as the “History Wars”, and are generally views expressed by non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people, particularly the descendants of those killed, still bear the pain of these past conflicts.

Memorial erected at the Sturt Creek massacre site by the descendants in 2011. John Griffiths, Author provided

They know that grandparents, aunts and uncles were absent when they were children, and deep sorrow took their place. The descendants are also the custodians of the oral testimonies recording these events.

We believe our research confronts a significant cultural boundary that – apologies aside – political leaders have failed to address. We cannot undo the past, but we can acknowledge that these events are part of both Aboriginal and white histories – they are real and Aboriginal people still suffer the pain of the past.

Of all outcomes from this project, an email from a resident of the Balgo community gave the most hope for the future. The correspondent concluded by saying thank you for “contributing to bringing some closure to my friends”.

We ask little more than for archaeologists and scientists working with Aboriginal descent groups to achieve a level of closure, no matter how small, for the descendants of this and similar places of atrocities committed on the Australian frontier.

Garry Linnell: Advance Australia Fair is just ‘beautiful lies’

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Garry Linnell: Advance Australia Fair is just ‘beautiful lies’   Every nation tells lies about itself. It’s how history is made. Little fibs are buffed and shined...

Britain’s Slave Owner Compensation Loan, reparations and tax havenry

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Of course Australia was invaded – massacres happened here less than 90 years ago

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Of course Australia was invaded – massacres happened here less than 90 years ago

There’s too much evidence of violence in Australia’s past to hide behind euphemisms.
The Founding of Australia, Algernon Talmadge, 1937.

Bryce Barker, University of Southern Queensland

Much has been made in the last few days of the University of New South Wales’ “diversity toolkit” offering teachers guidelines on Indigenous terminology.

The most controversial directive was a line about using the term “invasion” to describe Captain Cook’s arrival here:

Australia was not settled peacefully, it was invaded, occupied and colonised. Describing the arrival of the Europeans as a “settlement” attempts to view Australian history from the shores of England rather than the shores of Australia.

This story made the front page of The Daily Telegraph. Radio personality Kyle Sandilands quickly condemned it as an attempt to “rewrite history”.
But detailed historical research on the colonial frontier unequivocally supports the idea that Aboriginal people were subject to attack, assault, incursion, conquest and subjugation: all synonyms for the term “invasion”.

This was particularly the case in Queensland, where the actions of the Native Mounted Police were designed to subjugate Aboriginal resistance to European “settlers” on their traditional lands, and to protect pastoralists, miners and others from Aboriginal aggression.

The UNSW guidelines are not “rewriting” history – they are simply highlighting a history that has never been adequately told in the first place. This history is one that certain sections of Australian society are determined to deny, led by conservative media commentators who recently whipped up an indignant storm about how a university chooses to educate their students.

It is telling that Sandilands suggested people “get over it – it’s 200 years ago” when we so revere the notion of Lest We Forget when remembering our role in a foreign war (WW1) 100 years ago.

It is also worth remembering in this context that large-scale massacres of Aboriginal people were still being carried out through the 1920s and early 1930s in some parts of Australia.

A newly begun project focusing on the archaeology of the Queensland Native Mounted Police and Indigenous oral histories will look at the physical evidence of frontier conflict, including the range of activities undertaken by the Queensland Mounted Police, and the effects of their presence on both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The first step will be to listen. As Jangga Elder Colin McLennan, from Central Queensland, said in a recent project meeting:

this subject has been left idling too long. Aboriginal people are very sensitive about what happened. We need to investigate these places and we need to talk about them openly and honestly … I’ve kept a lot of this knowledge in my head about Aboriginal people being slaughtered and the locations of the killing fields in my country. It’s like an open wound that needs to be healed and it needs to be dealt with. This history belongs to all of us. We need to share it with each other.

In a way, Sandilands isn’t trying to deny the scale of frontier conflict (although many do) – he just wants us to forget about it. But who we, as Australians, choose to remember and what events we commemorate are inherently entwined with how we view ourselves and how we want the world to see us as a nation.

Official records of the Coniston massacre, which took place in the Northern Territory in 1928, admit to 31 Walpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye men, women and children being killed by Constable William Murray and his men. Is not an event on this scale – which happened just 88 years ago – worth remembering? Is not a Walpiri man’s death defending his way of life just as worthy of remembrance as a World War I digger’s ten years earlier?

Why are we as a nation so reluctant to face up to this part of our past? Inconvenient truths that risk tainting the white “pioneer/settler” narrative are, it seems, not to be commemorated but forgotten.

Although the historical record documenting frontier conflict is a powerful and unequivocal record of our colonial past, it is mostly limited to written records that largely exclude Indigenous voices.

Yet the magnitude, persistence and near-universality of Aboriginal oral narratives of frontier violence are surely telling.

Combining the material evidence for frontier conflict through archaeology with written records and Aboriginal oral tradition and memory might be the one way to track events and their repercussions more clearly.

Along with oral tradition, monuments and sites are powerful tools in remembering. They are physical markers on the landscape of events that happened.

For many Indigenous communities, the physical evidence of frontier conflict in Queensland in the form of Native Mounted Police camps and locations where people were killed are — just like Gallipoli — important places of remembrance that should never be forgotten.

Hopefully one day non-Indigenous people will be able to visit these sites and reflect on our collective history, rather than being threatened by it.

 


Professor Bryce Barker is part of an ARC-funded archaeological study into the activities and legacies of the Queensland Native Mounted Police, along with Assoc. Professor Heather Burke, Professor Iain Davidson, Dr Lynley Wallis, Dr Noelene Cole, Elizabeth Hatte and Professor Larry Zimmerman.The Conversation

Bryce Barker, Professor in Archaeology, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Garry Linnell: Advance Australia Fair is just ‘beautiful lies’

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Garry Linnell: Advance Australia Fair is just ‘beautiful lies’   Every nation tells lies about itself. It’s how history is made. Little fibs are buffed and shined...

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The crackdown before Trump’s photo op

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Trump photo op Wsahington 1st June 2020

Protestors never had a chance

Late in the day on June 1, demonstrators gathered near the White House, on the edge of Lafayette Square, to protest police abuse following the death in custody of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. Similar protests had erupted across the country. Many were peaceful, but some included property destruction and clashes with police.

Earlier in the day, President Trump berated local and state leaders as “weak” for not doing more to quell unrest, and in a call with governors he pledged decisive action. “We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before,” he said, “but you got to have total domination, and then you have to put them in jail.”

Gas canisters

Move and arrest command

Drawing on footage captured from dozens of cameras, as well as police radio communications and other records, The Washington Post reconstructed the events of this latest remarkable hour of Trump’s presidency, including of the roles of the agencies involved and the tactics and weaponry they used.

Watch the reconstruction above to see how it unfolded.

Atthar Mirza, Nick Kirkpatrick, Alice Li contributed to this report.

Honest Government Ad | Economic Recovery

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Strong, Offensive, Crude Language

Street Art

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Art has been changing its appeal to the man on the street. You no longer have to visit museums and art galleries to get a taste of contemporary art. You can easily find wall paintings, graffiti and murals that resonate with your feelings, cultures, beliefs, as well as with the changing times.

They often carry a message for the common man: live a little, open your eyes, breathe, play. And yet, there are still places where there is little appreciation for street art. This boggles the mind because some of the street art you see here are hard to miss and doubly hard to ignore.

Here are 30 bizarre, creative, and eye-catching street art that the world can totally live with.