To The Australian The University of New South Wales is being too prescriptive in its published guidelines for staff concerning Aboriginal history ("Don't put date on Aboriginal arrival, Uni says", 29-30/6). It is laughable to suggest that it can be "harmful or damaging" to anyone if a commentator gives an opinion on the length of time our Aboriginal people have lived on our continent. Seeking to forbid such discussion is indeed an unacceptable intrusion on free speech. At the same time, respect can be paid to the traditional Aboriginal statement that they have been here "since the beginning of the Dreaming". That is a mythological statement that gives meaning to a people's sense of identity and purpose, just as does the Genesis account of the creation of the world in six days. An important distinction must be made, too, between "the Aboriginal people" and Australians living now who have Aboriginal ancestry. None of the latter "have always been in Australia from the beginning of time" or "came from the land." Acceptance of this distinction will curb excessive claims for special treatment.
Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, Vic