On November 17, the Centre for Independent Studies organised an event at the National Press Club that brought together three Indigenous women to discuss violence against Aboriginal women. The trio — Jacinta Price, Marcia Langton and Josephine Cashman — have had plenty of experience speaking on this topic. But bringing these three sharp minds together was nevertheless a very significant moment. As emissaries of reality, these women did not play the usual blame game and nominate racism and colonisation as the root causes of the violence seen today. What they did instead was quite remarkable: they told the truth and, more than that, they held their National Press Club audience to account for propagating comforting myths and indulging in wilful blindness.
Discussing the high level of violence in the Aboriginal population, particularly against women, has never been a popular topic, so I half expected to see a warm and fuzzy reaction — the promotion of photos, for example, of Aboriginal men as caring mates to their partners and good, dutiful fathers of their children. This was, after all, what happened when Bill Leak published that cartoon and the twitterati went look-at-me big with the #IndigenousDads hashtag. The well-meaning (?), though easily offended, activists felt Leak’s cartoon was racist. Of course, no evidence or argument was offered as to why it was racist, it was just denounced as such. The virtue-signallers of social media felt they had to prove there are actually good Aboriginal dads, as if the existence of such specimens had ever been in doubt. Such a mission may have been warranted had Leak’s intention been to communicate that every Indigenous father (and/or mother) is bad. I could not imagine one person in Australia with an IQ larger than their shoe size would have seen the cartoon and concluded, “This cartoon clearly shows that all Aboriginal fathers are bad.” Yet that was the bogus message Leak’s critics insisted they discerned in his artwork. So, if not stupid, they must be … corrupt? After all, a mentally challenged person who did draw that erroneous conclusion would likely also reach the equally absurd conclusion that, because the cartoon also depicted an Aboriginal police officer, “all employed Aboriginal men must be police officers.” More about that policeman shortly.
So I’m left wondering, why wasn’t there the same morally outraged response to what those three Aboriginal womeen had to say at the Press Club. Allow me to “read between the lines” , as did Justice Mordechai Bromberg in the case of Andrew Bolt and the white Aborigines, and conclude that perhaps the key difference between the two events is that Leak is not Aboriginal, but the three superstar ladies are. The issue that riles me is that ‘outraged’ protesters felt the need for a hashtag campaign denigrating Leak, but have not been forthcoming with a #SweetIndigenousHusbands hashtag in response to the message on violence against Aboriginal women. If the differing responses are due to race, is that not itself a racist response? I am reminded of Theodore Dalrymple commenting on Leak’s cartoon:
There is no racist like an antiracist: That is because he is obsessed by race, whose actual existence as often as not he denies. He looks at the world through race-tinted spectacles, interprets every event or social phenomenon as a manifestation of racism either implicit or explicit, and in general has the soul of a born inquisitor.
The three ladies were not for one second suggesting that all Aboriginal men are wife-beaters. And similarly, Leak was not for one second suggesting that all Aboriginal fathers are negligent parents. The ladies and Leak were each simply raising awareness that Aboriginal women are over-represented as victims of violence, just as Aboriginal children are over-represented as victims of abuse and neglect. However, Leak was portrayed as a racist who promoted hateful stereotypes — even to the point where Race Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane went pimping for complaints on Facebook.
Now some members of the victim brigade might be quick to justify their actions with, “Yes but Leak’s cartoon showed an Aboriginal father.” That’s true, as the cartoon was about the neglect of Aboriginal children and given the context inspired by the Four Corners show about the treatment of black teens in Darwin’s youth-detention centre. The cartoon also showed an Aboriginal police officer, yet nobody claimed that the image inspire pride. Again, there is a gross inconsistency at work. As the son of a retired police officer who was highly regarded in his profession and just happens to be Aboriginal, I thought of claiming to be offended because nobody praised the Aboriginal cop in Leak’s cartoon. I even thought of claiming I had been traumatised. But would anyone care? Not likely! As there is no use claiming to be offended if nobody is going to pay attention, I did not contact Gillian Triggs at the HRC and demand a $250,000 payout.
Sweep away the hashtags, the posturing and the hissing of the politically correct chorus and what remains is a simple, straightforward and indisputable fact: Leak’s cartoon was not racist, only inconvenient to those who have trouble admitting that far too many Aboriginal children come from homes where they are abused and neglected.
As I said, if Leak’s critics were honest, or at least consistent, they would be howling down Langton, Price and Cashman. But that isn’t happening. Rather, as the attention their remarks garnered fades away, they will be ignored. It’s so much easier to attack a white cartoonist as a racist than to actually address the problem three black champions of truth have laid out chapter and verse.
Anthony Dillon identifies as a part-Aboriginal Australian who is proud of both his Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestries. Originally from Queensland, he now lives in Sydney and is a researcher at the Australian Catholic University