Changing Skin Colour in Australia: Herbert Basedow and the Black Caucasian by Heidi Zogbaum


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When in 1997 the Bringing Them Home Report about the forcible removal
of part-Aboriginal children from their parents was published, many
Australians felt stunned and ashamed. What was such a brutal policy of
biological engineering meant to achieve, and who were the men behind it?

One of them was Dr Herbert Basedow 1881–1933 from Adelaide, a
geologist, medical doctor, M.P., and anthropologist. He unwittingly
provided the administrators of the White Australia policy with a
bloodless method of ‘breading out the colour’, of biologically absorbing
Aborigines into the white-settler society. His studies in Germany had
convinced him that Aborigines were the racial ancestors of Europeans,
that they were black Caucasians, and therefore Aboriginal features
disappeared for good after three or four generations of intermarriage
with Europeans.

Dr Basedow was a scientist and he never intended to harm countless
Aboriginal families. On the contrary, he dedicated much of his short
life to extending their future. But the removal of children did not stop
in 1953 when the structure of DNA was discovered and rendered Basedow’s
findings of 1910 untenable. It only ended the White Australia policy