Apology for past experiments on Aboriginal people

Friday, 8 February 2002

Adelaide University has apologised for scientific experiments conducted on Aboriginal people by some university researchers in the 1920s and 1930s.

The experiments have been documented in a new book, The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia by a Melbourne academic and medical doctor, Dr Warwick Anderson, from the University of California. The book is due for release next month.

"Adelaide University acknowledges that many of the tests and experiments carried out on Aboriginal people in South Australia in the name of science in the 1920s and 1930s were degrading and, in some cases, barbarous," said Vice-Chancellor Professor Cliff Blake. "On behalf of the University community, I express my deep sorrow for what happened. I apologise to the descendants of all those who were subjected to this treatment and to their communities."

Professor Blake said that the practices of the 1920s and 1930s would never be permitted by any Australian university today. Modern university researchers were accountable to ethics committees and to a range of other review bodies, he said. Professor Blake said that during its 128-year history, Adelaide University had been enriched beyond measure by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Indigenous cultures had been shared with, and incorporated into, the work of past and present University academics, bringing great honour to the institution and its staff, he said.

On National Sorry Day 2000, Adelaide University apologised publicly for the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their homes. In September last year, the University's Vice-Chancellor's Committee agreed a Statement of Reconciliation committing the University to:

  • promoting an understanding of Indigenous issues, cultures and history in programs and courses;
  • directing strategies towards increased participation of indigenous peoples as students and staff in the full range of University activities; and
  • contributing to the process of Reconciliation by educating the Australian community about the cultures languages, history and contemporary experiences of Australia's indigenous peoples.

The Statement of Reconciliation concludes: "Adelaide University is deeply sorry for all of these injustices. And so, we pledge ourselves to stop injustice, overcome disadvantage, and respect the right that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to self- determination within the life of the nation."


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