Remember that Bill Leak cartoon? No, not the one with the teacher in full gimp regalia, and not the one where a Muslim schoolgirl implied her father was a terrorist. That other one, with the police telling an Aboriginal father that his son needed to learn some individual responsibility, and the father responded, “Yeah righto, what’s his name then?”
You probably remember some outrage about it in the twittersphere and media, but it’s a bit of a haze because it was published more than a month ago and most of us have moved on. But one publication never moves on. Not now, not ever. And that is The Australian, which on September 5 published yet another response to the Leak cartoon, which, need we remind you, was published on August 4.
Not that it is the first response to the cartoon in the Oz. There have been many defensive articles and gallons of ink spilled in the national broadsheet on the matter. But it seems there is no statute of limitations on navel-gazing.
The latest comment piece is by Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care CEO Gerry Moore and takes a different line to most of the pieces in The Australian on the matter (there was also a critical opinion piece on August 31). While every other comment piece but the August 31 one thought the cartoon was harmless and laid down some hard truths, Moore disagrees:
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“This cartoon was never going to foster a constructive debate about intergenerational trauma, or issues of alcoholism and family breakdown that are born from it, or the lack of support for frontline services that work to address these issues.
“Personally, as an Aboriginal father, the cartoon offended me. It saddened me to see such tired old stereotypes trotted out in a national publication. It upset me that the cartoon, and all of the debate that has followed, has distracted us from the real issues our children face and the strengths of our communities to respond.
“But it has allowed us to have one important discussion, and that is how we approach racism and the portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our national media.”
The Australian‘s commenters are not sick of talking about the cartoon either, by the looks of things, with more than 100 published on the article by the end of the day. But they did not seem to share Moore’s position. Here is a selection (spelling and grammar left in their glorious original):
“the truth hurts and occasionally the indigenous community have to be told that it isn’t whitey’s fault. at some stage they have to be responsible for their own children, that is what Leak was saying: suck it up”
“Inherited grief, Good Grief, now I’ve heard everything !! Is ‘victimhood’ also inherited ? If so, I’m going to sue those bloody Normans for taking my ancestors country ..”
“If SNAICC has been having meaningful conversations re the problems with dysfunctional Aboriginal families for years, then the current results show you have failed. What part of the cartoon offended you? The fact that a repeat offender in and out of the penal system as shown in articles on the NT detention centre, did not know his father or the Aboriginal policeman suggesting the father get off the grog and start acting like a responsible parent? Victim hood is becoming very wearying.”
“Oh for gods sake your article exposes everything wrong with your overly subsidized culture right now. What have YOU done to resolve the aboriginal on aboriginal crime ? What have YOU done to stop family violence and horrendous child abuse in your communities? What have YOU done to ensure education of children breaks the cycle of wlefare dependence? What have YOU done to prevent alcohol and drug abuse in indigenous communities? What have YOU done to adress the money pit of culture greivances so rife that no one except you and your friends are allowed to talk of issues in your community that WE THE TAX PAYERS fund.? I could go on but I am too enraged by you having all the rights to the moral high ground and to speak and we must shut up!! Bill Leak – more power to you for speaking the truth.”
Meanwhile the Press Council has decided not to adjudicate on the cartoon and no further action will be taken:
“When the Press Council receives a complaint, its processes are geared towards providing an appropriate remedy. This may involve a correction or an apology; the publication of a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece, or in a small proportion of cases a formal adjudication determining whether a publication has breached the Standards of Practice.
“Balancing all of these considerations, and after consulting with key complainants, the Press Council considers that the best outcome in the public interest is to promote free speech and the contest of ideas through the publication of two major op-ed pieces in The Australian, providing Indigenous perspectives on the cartoon and shedding light on the underlying issues.”
— Cass Knowlton