Philip Harvey’s assertion that Malcolm Turnbull’s review of my book, 1835, was “full of the oldest clichés and howlers about early Melbourne” (‘Correspondence’, August) doesn’t seem to be based on any knowledge of the book from which the claims were drawn. It is not incorrect for Turnbull to have claimed that there were no convicts involved in the founding of Melbourne. Harvey might not be aware that before convict-carrying government officials and Sydney settlers arrived from the north, Melbourne was an illegal Tasmanian squatter camp. While most of the European population during Melbourne’s first year were former convicts, these were not men under sentence.
Whether the Kulin reached some genuine understanding with John Batman is a question that is also extensively discussed in my book. Suffice to say that this is a separate matter from whether the Aboriginal elders present at the meeting understood the written treaty (which I assure Harvey was taken seriously in London). Rather than targeting the reviewer, Harvey should criticise the book itself. But it would help if he read it first.
West Hobart, TAS