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From the heartland of privilege: the week in politics

Statues of Lachlan Macquarie and Captain James Cook were graffitied by protesters last week, in an action the most cowardly prime minister in Australian history described as “cowardly.” Angry criticism erupted from the most unexpected of quarters, confirming that the privileged mind governs both the left and the right when it comes to challenging the myths of white heroes.

Apparently vandalism is fine, indeed it isn’t even vandalism if the political class approves of your choice of subjects such as say, Saddam Hussein and Hitler, but stay away from white icons even if they are terrorists.

For mine, spraying some symbols of genocide and ongoing oppression with paint counts as nothing in comparison with the murderous acts perpetrated against your people, but the middle-class commentariat were outraged by the lack of niceness evidenced, niceness being one of that demographic’s primary instruments of control through the exercise of the power of shame.

Their reaction seems a tad hysterical, after all they can white wash their statues just as they’ve attempted to white wash the history behind them. For example, this statement from Macquarie is never seen on or around statues raised in his honour:

How about putting that on a plaque then?

And on the matter of being nice to the commentariat if you want their support, we have this from Caroline Overington on the problem of marriage equality advocates acting mean towards those who would have voted yes if marriage equality advocates hadn’t been mean to them and made them vote no. Because marriage equality is all about how people such as Caroline Overington feel, innit, and if you don’t get that you cannot expect her support.

Here we have a further example of the dominant privileged mindset. The privileged can dictate the terms of your protest, and if you are not nice in how you go about it, they won’t help you. Indeed, they will forget all about your cause, and shame you for your bad manners. It’s not what you say that counts for these people. It’s all in the way that you say it.

As you read this post, one hundred asylum seekers are being effectively thrown out into the streets as the Turnbull government’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton implements a new “final departure Bridging E Visa” designed to force those in Australia for medical treatment to back Manus Island and Nauru, or back to the countries from which they fled.

Families, including children born here, are not yet included, though it appears to be only a matter of time before they too will have their income support withdrawn, and be given three weeks to leave government-supported accommodation.

The ALP has protested loudly against this fresh torment of asylum seekers, however, opposition leader Bill Shorten continues to insist that none will be settled here, and he spitefully ignores New Zealand offers to take a quota for resettlement. Shorten refers to un-named “third countries” as a solution (as long as they aren’t New Zealand) and to the doomed plan to resettle refugees in Trump’s America.

It is blindingly obvious that the US project is going nowhere, since we learned that Prime Minister Turnbull promised President Trump he didn’t have to take anyone, he just had to act as if he might. So why does Shorten continue to behave as if the option has any validity?

The PNG government has in the last couple of days informed the Turnbull government that it will not permit the closure of Manus Island detention centre at the end of October, and Dutton’s planned abandonment of refugees housed there to the island community.

The reality is, there is nowhere for the asylum seekers to go, and both parties carry equal responsibility for this disgusting state of affairs. They should be brought here, allowed to stay here, and New Zealand’s generous offer should be accepted.

In the three examples I’ve selected out of the many possibilities on offer this last week, there are common motifs. They are of lies, misinformation, suppression, oppression, persecution, and the revolting self-regard of white privilege.

Yes, this is Australia, no matter how often somebody attempts to claim that we are “better than this.” Clearly, we are not.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. diannaart

    When I heard the cries of outrage over the “desecration” of our so very important statues, I thought someone has spray-painted a dick&balls – not difficult to remove. However, the news caught up with me and I learned from his PMship that a leftie-bleeding-latte-lapper had painted something political. OMG, That stuff can never be removed it seeps into the zeitgeist and floods opinion, stinking of free speech and we can’t have any of that.

    Even if/when Shorten becomes his PMship, we don’t have to change very much, which I guess is reassuring. We will be free to continue to despair at the treatment of refugees, our dependency on the oil reserves of the Middle East, no doubt chaplains-in-public-schools will continue and we can sleep at night in the knowledge the Border Force remains out there wandering around, somewhere…

  2. roma guerin

    And even now, that poor little Rohingyan man with epilepsy has collapsed AGAIN on Manus and there will be no proper medical treatment for him AGAIN. We must remember that he is stateless, can never safely return to Myanmar because he will be killed, just for being Rohingyan.. Most services have been turned off, and if our Australian detainees are returned there, there will not even be shelter because this is all systematically being demolished. Please contact your MP, State or Federal, and ask what you can do to help.

  3. ceridwen66

    Shorten is almost as morally spineless as his close ideological cousins in the LNP. He will do whatever it takes to hold onto the currently burgeoning polls and that most definitely includes condoning child abuse, rape, murder, illegal incarceration and human rights violations.

    Watch how quick he’d scramble if stats were reversed and over 75% of Australians believed that asylum seekers should be eligible
    for permanent resettlement. He is no more humane than the potato headed freak currently heading up the immigration department.

  4. Jack

    Well its still vandalism, that’s what makes it wrong. As for white privilege, now you’re just being racist

  5. wam

    Since Aung San Suu Kyi became leader and was powerless to help. the Rohingya in detention should be treat as automatic refugees and brought to Australia.

    The HMAS Tobruk has been decommissioned and could be converted to become Australia’s Temeraire and anchored in Sydney Harbour. This would alleviate some of the pressure and better describe Dutton’s mindset in following the orders of the rabbott.

    Do you think WASP/WASC Australians have ever been better than this or ever will be able to see ourselves as racist, cruel, selfish and ignorant in order to change?

  6. guest

    Woooah, everybody! Haven’t we had all this thrashed out before? The Howard/Windshuttle/Donnelly/Murdoch etc team has told us time and time again that such a view of history – of shootings and hangings and poisoning of waterholes etc – is the “Black Armband” view which is not to be indulged.

    According to the Terra Nullius doctrine, Europeans came to Oz with Enlightenment, Sweetness and Light, imbued with rich Judeo-Christian values.Consequently, we should not be burdened with guilt about anything that happened in a past when slavery, for example, was a noble and prosperous enterprise. And if we did take a few children from families it was for the good of the children – no need to apologise.

    There have been national History syllabi written to tell the proper story of what happened, so that we must be truly proud of our achievements, such as turning the country into a quarry and getting rid of pesky varmints that come out at night and frighten the sheep.

    No, no – scribbling on national icons, protesting where no protest in such a scribbly way is tolerated, is a criminal act. It is not the kind of thing we expect or condone in a Christian country. Anyone might be tempted to think we are racist. But we are not. See how we have saved people in boats from drowning, how we have deprived the wicked people-smugglers from their vile trade. And now we are continuing to help the USA under Big Trumpie to police the world. What’s not to like?

  7. Peter F

    “Well its still vandalism, that’s what makes it wrong” . . . . It does appear that someone has defaced a white sacred site,

  8. Johno

    Too true guest, and we have a ring of steel, wow.

  9. ceridwen66

    I don’t much respect white Australian history. I have reason not to. Yet I am forever being told that I should, that we need to move on, get over the atrocities of the past, that it’s 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017 for god’s sake. I am a culturally and racially dispossessed and displaced Australian. The accident of birth and the cruelty of misguided white men make me so.

    As the middle daughter of a father stolen from his Indigenous mother when he was eighteen months old, I more than many Australians sadly understand and see through the racial lines which are so permanently inscribed in the Australian societal narrative. I stand on both sides of that sometimes insurmountable fence.

    Remember Bolt’s filthy comments about pale Indigenous people? I am one of ‘those kind’. Blonde, light skinned and green eyed, educated within a white man’s world, raised by a father who didn’t learn the truth of his Indigenous ancestry till he was well into his seventies. No time for my father to search for his long lost birth mother, no time for him to find his place within his newly discovered heritage. Yet there is time for me.

    Within the reconciliation process, apology and forgiveness are acts only the individual can effectuate. Rudd apologised on behalf of the Australian Parliament and the Australian people for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians”. However, sincere apology largely depends on the conciliatory sentiments of the perpetrator, the extent of the transgression and the varied composition of injustice, crimes and transgressions. Yet, in the nine years following Rudd’s apology, Australian culture itself has construed his heartfelt apology into not much more than empty, vacuous political rhetoric.

    For the Indigenous, Australian culture itself generates two distinct obstructions to Rudd’s political apology. Firstly, in the Australian cultural vernacular, apologising can be construed as disparaging or derogatory while the refusal to offer apology – especially for an apology based upon colonial wrongdoings against the Indigenous – is by far the more culturally acknowledged and accepted Australian sentiment.

    Secondly, nine years on from Rudd’s apology, Indigenous Australians remain Constitutionally unrecognised. This continued omission and the raging public and political debate which accompanies it signals to the Indigenous Australian community that even though the Australian Government acknowledged collective guilt for past wrongdoings, this lack of lawful recognition stands between forgiveness and building reconciliation on stronger, mutually beneficial and sustainable foundations. Therefore, when the Australian Government took the initial step toward Indigenous reconciliation with an unprecedented apology for two centuries of institutionalised, discriminatory and invasive wrongdoings, the process should have been accompanied with a gesture of genuine public repentance substantiated and solidified through Constitutional recognition.

    True reconciliation is not just concerned with apology and forgiveness but how these two concepts integrate within a multifaceted and complex system which incorporates accountability and liability for previous injustice and wrongdoings. In the creation of an egalitarian and democratic society after historical conflict such as this, the reformative concepts of apology, forgiveness and reconciliation acknowledge and accept the extremes of troubled, violent historical injustices; prioritise the creation of genuine, peaceful and mutually beneficial relationships and greatly assist in the development of significantly sustainable cultural, social, economic, and political change.

  10. Michael Taylor

    As the middle daughter of a father stolen from his Indigenous mother when he was eighteen months old …

    I’d be interested in hearing the story. I met dozens of stolen people through my years at ATSIC or in my studies at UniSA.

    What mob was he from? (‘Mob’ being the accepted term to use with the Adnyamatha or Pitjantjatjara people who I did most of my work with).

  11. Phil

    Thanks for the article Jennifer – you make so many valid and accurate points – enough to make one weep at what the nation has become under hard right authoritarianism.

    I have not lost hope however. There is so much push back occurring and despite appearances from the idiotic main stream, there is a strong spine running through the centre of decent Australia, and it will win out. Your writing is part of the evidence.

    Macquarie’s call to terror needs to be more widely seen if only to challenge the myopia of white privilege.

    I think all public statues should have a rotating plaque system – one to three months display before rotation with rules to ensure the good, the bad and the ugly of the commemorated all get an airing – and no side gets to hog the history as at present.

    I’m sick of listening to weak apologists like today on afternoon ABC radio the announcer agrees Macquarie did some dastardly things, sure, but lets give him credit for the greatness blah blah blah – nothing stated to expand on the brutality, left that behind to spend time on the details of supposed greatness.

  12. ceridwen66

    From what his adopted family say, my father was Koorie – Victoria. He was adopted into a white family in Maroubra, NSW. Strange though, I did a truly unconventional thing when I learned about my heritage, I moved to the NT and worked out at Amata and Pukatja with youth substance abusers. I so desperately wanted to find my culture if that makes sense. We don’t have a lot of information, my elder sister and I continually search though we’ve found so many records were destroyed. My younger sister will not be part of any search, it’s driven chasms through our family.

    I’m in my third year of study through UniSA. It is a comprehensive and interesting university, yet last year I was told by a fellow student that because I didn’t know about my ancestry until I was matured aged, I shouldn’t be entitled to speak at either a Multicultural event or a Reconciliation one. Her reasoning? I wouldn’t know enough about it.

    I’ve a reflective PP presentation I did for an intercultural communication course I did last year, I included much of what we know about Dad’s history within it. I can send it to you if you’re interested.

  13. diannaart

    We don’t have a lot of information, my elder sister and I continually search though we’ve found so many records were destroyed. My younger sister will not be part of any search, it’s driven chasms through our family.

    The ramifications of the patronising and patriarchal intervention continues to send ripples throughout the generations.

    FFS Jack.

    Am I being anti white for the above comment? It is always about power. If it was little green men who stole a generation of purple babies, the fault would lie with the little green men and the history of the greens and purples should reflect such behaviour.

  14. Harquebus

    Great post. I read it twice.
    It’s hard to tell but, is that Noam Chomsky in your gravitar? I’d like to read the text whoever it is.
    Thank you.

    BTW: I also am a UniSA graduate.

  15. Michael Taylor

    Yes, send it to me. I’d appreciate that. You can send it to theaimn@internode.on.net and it’ll be passed onto me.

    Amata and Pukatja – I’ve been to those places. Bloody long drive from Port Augusta.

    UniSA is where I did my BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration and my Honours degree in Aboriginal Studies. What are you studying, may I ask?

  16. Michael Taylor

    BTW: I also am a UniSA graduate.

    Damn. We’ve got something in common. ?

  17. Harquebus

    Michael Taylor
    I also have relatives on K.I. which, you would probably know. That’d make your day wouldn’t it?

    I can’t decide between Chomsky and Pilger in ceridwen66’s gravatar.

  18. Michael Taylor

    I left the island in 1968, so unless they were there before then, it’s unlikely that I know them.

  19. Harquebus

    Michael Taylor
    A large clan and been there for generations. You would know some of them I’m sure. I’ve also been there several times so, I know where you are from, roughly.
    Off topic I know so no more on this from me.

  20. ceridwen66

    Michael, I am studying a double degree in International Relations and Social Work with Honours. I wanted to do a dedicated political science degree but as I live in Whyalla due to my partner’s then work with OneSteel, the options to do so were severely limited through this campus. The choices were nursing, business, social work and engineering, so I picked up social work which seemed to me the best of a rather unexciting bunch. Once I graduate we’ll move to Canberra so I can do post grad politically focused study in the peace and justice studies field through ANU and the IR degree will assist with entrance. I will send the PP to the above addy, thanks for taking an interest :).

    When I worked on the Lands I was based out of Alice, a place of soul which holds an immense piece of my heart.

    Harquebus, I think tutes with you would have been amazing! I have enjoyed your outspoken but very relevant commentary for quite awhile.

    And it’s the irrepressible Chomsky of course, though Pilger runs a very close second in my estimation 🙂

    “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”

  21. Harquebus

    Thanks and for the quote as well. A few of us here collect quotes.

  22. NC

    Perhaps if it is put into context…There is a statue of Martin Bryant in Tasmania – the victims families find it distressing (it reminds them of a time of pain and anguish) however historians/Politicians/public feel it is important for everyone to remember ‘gun control laws’ and an important part of Australian history……now repeat to the victims families of Martin Bryant what is said to Aboriginal people about ‘historical monuments/statues’…i.e. “You have to get over it, it was a long time ago”, “We didn’t do it so why should the statue be pulled down” “You have to move on”, “you are not the majority – you are only a small percent of Australians”, “Its what the laws were back then”, “Stop playing the victim and get over it already”….sounds insensitive right?

  23. paul walter

    Guest’s comment re Macquarie is solid, highlighting the shrewd blow Wilson aims at the foundation of orthodox Oz history, the tale of Macquarie as being the unimpeachable Wise Father or Moses who led the struggling colony out of darkness and toward the Promised Land.

  24. Johno

    NC… It seems really odd that there was a statue of Martin Bryant erected. Was that John Howards idea.

  25. NC

    There is no statue of Martin Bryant…it would be insensitive to put it up…and there are better ways to celebrate ‘gun control laws’ – and thats the point – nobody would allow a statue of Martin Bryant – as we respect our fellow Australians so very much and mourn that senseless loss – but we also need to show Aboriginal Australians the same respect..for each statue in question, put a plaque or even a statue showing the Indigenous story…therefore giving a full account

  26. Johno

    NC… Okay, I misunderstood your first comment. I agree with you.

  27. diannaart


    Excellent analogy – really puts the issue into context (way better than greens & purples).

    I agree adding historically accurate inscriptions to existing statues better reflects actual events and leaving statues in place should mollify those addicted to pigeon spattered statues of old white men.

  28. Jack

    diannaart, there you go with colour again. You seem to have some hatred within that you need to address. The people who landed here 200+ years ago were British, 100 odd years before that there were Dutch, a little further back still there were Chinese. Their skin colour is not important.

  29. diannaart


    You have misunderstood me. Completely.

  30. Harquebus

    I know how you feel.

  31. diannaart



  32. Michael Taylor

    Harquebus, no you know how we feel. ?

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