I want to see a new slogan being pushed in the public sphere: ‘All Aboriginal Women’s and Children’s Lives Matter.’ After all, it’s the appropriate sentiment for those most at risk. I mention Aboriginal women and their children because they are inextricably linked, as Jacinta Price has pointed out. As reported in The Australian, “Ms Price did not shy away from one of the core problems hurting Aboriginal children: the widespread acceptance of the violent behaviour of Aboriginal men towards women.”
Unfortunately it turns out that, for some, no Aboriginal lives matter enough to shift the focus to addressing the real issues that cause lives to be damaged and lost. The cheap thrills of confected outrage, the perverse pleasure of revelling in offended feelings, the thrill of uttering those attention-seeking cries of ‘Racism!’ along with the strangling strictures of political correctness are simply too intoxicating and addictive for camera-ready talking heads to give up. Who speaks for Aboriginal women and children, who takes up the cause of the vulnerable, and forgotten? Certainly not those with the rent-a-quote quips so beloved of those who report but do not wish to understand.
It’s a real shame that the social justice warriors (SJW) and other publicity-hungry agitators never seem to give as much attention to the big issues — and two women murdered must surely be reckoned a big issue — as they do with the petty incidents that are the stock in trade of the offence industry. When two Aboriginal women, Kwementyaye Murphy and Kwementaye McCormack were killed by their Aboriginal partners, the media reported how both women had suffered long histories of violent treatment until, eventually, tragedy was the ultimate result. Murphy was beaten to death, while McCormack bled to death from a stab wound. To my dismay, I never noticed outraged posts on social media in response to those grim deaths.
Nor did I witness any of the myriad Aboriginal activist Facebook pages post any of the news links regarding the deaths of these women. This made for a striking contrast with the explosion of social media commentary following the ‘black face’ incident of a 10-year-old boy who dressed as his hero, Nic Naitanui. Sadly, no-one seems now to remember the violent deaths of Murphy and McCormack but the ‘black face’ scandal still rages, as evidenced by the popularity of a recently released rap song, by Perth emcee Ziggy, in which he bemoans the injustice of black face. Traversing the same lines, when a recent article about Fitzroy Crossing described devastating incidents of child neglect, that scandal passed with little attention, yet Bill Leak continues to be branded a racist more than three months after he drew his infamous cartoon. The cartoon was neither racist nor did it involve stereotyping, despite what his critics would have us believe. The extent of child neglect and abuse in Aboriginal communities is serious enough for Western Australia Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan to express his concerns about the lack of power to remove children from highly dysfunctional homes and to do so in a timely manner. In three months, few will remember O’Callaghan’s words, but Leak’s cartoon will still raise heated criticism — and, quite possibly, the attentions of more of “the offended” and, of course, their lawyers.
The essence of Leak’s cartoon is simplicity itself: Aboriginal children’s lives really do matter, but that, far too often, they don’t matter enough to those people entrusted with nurturing them — their parents. Why do hearts bleed more over a cartoon drawn by a non-Aboriginal man than for incidents of murderous despair playing out in real life? Does anyone care about the actual, real-life children that inspired Leak’s cartoon? In the Koori Mail (November 16, 2016), Gerry Moore, co-chair of Family Matters and chief executive of the Secretariat for Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), was reported as saying “despite good intentions, systems across Australia are failing to support the safety and wellbeing of our Indigenous children.” While it is important that children are able to access services to ensure their well being and safety, it is also vital to acknowledge the best chance children have to thrive is through their parents providing them with loving, safe, and nurturing homes. We should not leave it up to “the system.” Government services, where resources permit, are there to provide safety for at-risk children. Where families have appreciably lower access to appropriate support services, as mentioned in the Koori Mail article, then government should assist, but it hardly needs stating that too many Aboriginal children suffer because their home lives are unsafe and their family situations volatile.
The same article cites poverty and family violence as the main reasons children are removed, but the blame is shifted onto government services. This is a handy device in that it veils and obscures the simple fact that primary and ultimate responsibility for children’s welfare must always reside with the parents, regardless of colour or ethnic heritage. It is interesting to note, that Moore is one of those who claimed to have been offended by Bill Leak’s cartoon. Moore’s reaction reveals how fanatically he is playing the ideological harpsichord of the Aboriginal industry, all strings vibrating in the sombre notes of victimhood. Leak’s cartoon is clearly a threat to the ideology of people like Moore, because, as stated by Peter Baldwin, a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments, “A well-crafted and provocative cartoon can have a greater impact on the wider public debate than a dozen academic papers.”
It is imperative to push for change by challenging those whose ideological convictions are perpetuating the narrative of today’s Aboriginal people as victims of things such as colonisation. Leak’s cartoon opened a debate some aren’t willing to have, a debate they would prefer to suppress by yelling ‘racism.’ Sadly, that tactic is all too often effective in the extreme. Inspirationally, the horrors of violence and neglect experienced by Aboriginal women and children, especially those in remote communities, have recently been called to light by a powerful trio of women, Marcia Langton, Jacinta Price and Josephine Cashman. Langton explained that there are just under 10,000 Aboriginal fathers incarcerated and 30,000 children neglected or in state care. Thanks to these ladies, I am hopeful that we may see the new slogan I mentioned earlier: ‘All Aboriginal Women’s and Children’s Lives Matter.’ Unfortunately, there can be a price to pay when an Aboriginal person speaks out against the poor treatment of Aboriginal women and children, and I am sure each of these courageous women could tell of the rancour and abuse that has been heaped upon them for articulating grim and unpalatable truth.
Price, for one, has explained how her family is at risk of violent retribution because she has chosen to speak out. And while being labelled a racist and threatened with Section 18c has understandably caused a great deal of stress to Leak, his consolation is that he can at least avoid the sort of physical retribution Price talks about and fears. Leak has committed the ultimate heresy by telling the shocking truth so many others shun; therefore, he needed to be branded a racist, harassed with 18C complaints and, if possible, silenced once and for all. That he refused to back down, that he stood on principle and, at much cost to himself, urged his critics to do their worst redounds to his enormous credit. For too long political correctness has been valued more than the lives and safety of Aboriginal women and children.
Excuses for the ongoing violence — and I here I think of the apologists and sophists who would blame the First Fleet for the deaths of Murphy and McCormack– are gagging needed discussion of underlying issues and practical solutions. Until then, sadly, Aboriginal children will continue to overload the states’ care services, just as their fathers disproportionately fill the prisons for their acts of violence. Aboriginal women and children’s lives will remain in danger as long as misguided activists refuse to allow the truth be weighed, reckoned and rectified. That is the real tragedy.
Tanya Rosecky is the founder of Get Real Australia, a not for profit organisation which campaigns through social media on indigenous issues