Every year, around Australia Day, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price becomes something of a minor celebrity, gracing breakfast television and Murdoch newspapers to push back against the growing campaign to change the date.
Price, a Warlpiri/Celtic woman, is an Alice Springs town councillor, domestic violence campaigner, former children’s television presenter and one-time singer-songwriter.
More recently, however, Price has become the right’s favourite commentator on Indigenous affairs, a speaker of uncomfortable truths willing to go out to bat for Australia Day, and call out what she sees as a culture of violence in remote Indigenous communities. The campaign against Australia Day, Price argues, is a mere distraction from the real issues afflicting Indigenous Australia, driven by the empty virtue signalling of an urban left who have never lived on country.
Price’s substantial media profile could now take her all the way to Canberra — she is running with the Country Liberal Party in the gargantuan Northern Territory seat of Lingiari, currently held by Labor stalwart Warren Snowdon, who has represented the area since the 1980s.
A darling of the right
At the heart of Price’s politics is her claim to authenticity. It was her campaigning against domestic violence, coloured by her own experiences as a survivor, that first brought her national attention.
In 2016, she addressed the National Press Club in Canberra alongside Indigenous academic Marcia Langton and advocate Josephine Cashman to detail her own family’s experiences with violence. Price claimed that Indigenous culture was used as a shield for abusers in communities like hers, and that she had faced pressure from her own family not to speak out.
In a similarly fiery speech at the Centre for Independent Studies, a right-wing think tank, Price argued that domestic violence is an innate and accepted part of Indigenous culture in remote communities.
“Growing up in and knowing my culture, I know that it is a culture that accepts violence, and in many ways desensitises those living the culture to violence”.
Amid fears about the growing number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care, Price has remained a firm proponent of removal, arguing that the spectre of a “second stolen generation” has stopped politicians from taking the decisive action needed to protect communities.
These problems, Price argues, are far more pressing than changing the date of Australia Day, a campaign which Price has “never heard anybody talk about” in Alice Springs.
The ever-bubbling debate around Australia Day has helped grow Price’s profile as a culture warrior. Last year, she denounced the “hollow symbolism” of a proposal by then-NSW opposition leader Luke Foley to fly the Aboriginal flag over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When Alice Springs Council voted to fly the Aboriginal flag above Anzac Hill (which inspired the flag itself), Price dissented, arguing that doing so was “divisive”.
More recently, in the aftermath of this week’s incident on Studio 10 — where Kerri-Anne Kennerley was criticised by Yumi Stynes for remarks about Invasion Day protesters — Price came out on Kennerley’s side. The incident brought Price a lot of publicity — Studio 10 put her on-air to argue Kennerley’s case the next day, while columns in The Australian and The Daily Telegraph followed.
A family affair
If elected this year to the seat of Lingiari, Jacinta will be the second Price to go into politics. Her mother, Bess, was a minister in Adam Giles’ tumultuous Country Liberal government in the Northern Territory, holding a number of portfolios including community services and women’s policy.
Like her daughter, Bess Price campaigned against domestic violence in Indigenous communities, and like her daughter, she often allied herself with the right, putting her at loggerheads with progressive activists. Price continuously expressed support for the Howard government’s Northern Territory intervention, arguing that “it meant at last somebody was acknowledging there was a crisis that needed to be addressed”.
But the Prices’ representation in conservative media as truth tellers who speak up for those suffering in silence in Central Australia is denied by many. Last year, an Indigenous women’s group called out Price’s “divisive” comments and failure to adhere to cultural protocol, while a petition against Jacinta Price did the rounds in Alice Springs. After fellow councillor Catherine Satour appeared to call out Price for failing to consult with Indigenous women, the council meeting descended into a screaming match.
It isn’t just News Corp and the Country Liberal Party taking Price’s message on. Price’s campaign against changing the date saw her join forces with Mark Latham to make a “Save Australia Day” ad.
“The trolls hate her because she’s just the sort of person identity politics would normally applaud,” Latham said of Price.
Increasingly, Price has displayed a proximity with the alt-right. In a Monthly profile last year, Marcia Langton claimed the bulk of Price’s social media following were “rabid racists”, and that her politics were an “appeal to the scientific racism of the alt-right”. When tens of thousands attended Invasion Day rallies across Australia this year, Price shared a video trolling the protesters made by the Australian Liberty Alliance, a reactionary micro-party known for its hatred of Islam. The video featured Avi Yemini, a Jewish alt-right figure who has frequently consorted with Neo-Nazis like Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson.
It’s unlikely that Price shares all the politics of Yemini or the ALA. Still, her steadfast defence of Australia Day, and emergence as a “trigger-the-left” pundit have won her some weird fans.