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Tag Archives: Adam Goodes

Aussie Racism – it’s time to Stop. Think. Respect.

Political commentator Andrew Bolt said recently that Australia is fundamentally not a racist country.

He’s wrong. Ok, that’s hardly a phrase that’s in uncommon usage when talking of Andrew Bolt’s views, but in this case he’s really wrong.

The Anglo-Australian nation and culture was founded in racism, and racism is wound into the fabric of many of the artifacts that still hold Australia together today. Racism is arguably so embedded in the Anglo-Australian culture, that many don’t see it.

This was never made more clear than in the arguments recently around whether or not ‘booing’ Adam Goodes was racist or not. Here’s Charlie Pickering’s commentary on this from The Weekly:


Australia has a problem with racism

There. I’ve said it. And so, according to a study done by the University of Western Sydney, have 85% of other Australians. We, as a country, have a problem with racism.

Here’s what Aboriginal Australian Stan Grant had to say about this recently in regards to Adam Goodes:

I may be overly sensitive. I may see insult where none is intended. Maybe my position of relative success and privilege today should have healed deep scars of racism and the pain of growing up Indigenous in Australia. The same could be said of Adam. And perhaps that is right.

But this is how Australia makes us feel. Estranged in the land of our ancestors, marooned by the tides of history on the fringes of one of the richest and demonstrably most peaceful, secure and cohesive nations on earth.” (Stan Grant, 30 July 2015)

‘Estranged in the land of our ancestors’ – that’s the environment that the Anglo-Australian culture has created for Aboriginal Australians. And while most Aussies of non-aboriginal descent would undoubtedly consider themselves to be more enlightened than our forefathers, we still allow our blatantly racist infrastructure to stay in place.

And while we may be blind to the impact of this racist infrastructure, outsiders aren’t – maybe because it’s often easier to see faults in others than in yourself. In the words of British-American comedian and political satirist John Oliver:

Australia is “one of the most comfortably racist places I’ve ever been”

Comfortably racist. That’s a fairly accurate description. And the reason it’s so ‘comfortable’, is that it’s embedded in the Anglo-Australian culture to such an extent that it’s seen as normal or harmless. Like the chips in the paintwork of your home, you walk past them every day and after a while you stop noticing them.

Racism was embedded in the Anglo-Australian culture right from the get-go

The Anglo-Australian nation was founded in racism

The core principle behind the ‘colonisation’ of Australia in 1788 was a belief in the absolute superiority of the British race. England didn’t declare war on the Aboriginal people when they sent the First Fleet here – they might have undertaken plenty of war-like behaviour after the First Fleet’s arrival – but there was no official war declared. Australia was not taken by ‘conquest’. Furthermore, there was no treaty signed with the Aboriginal people – no exchange of goods to buy the land.

Instead, the English declared that Australia was uninhabited (or ‘terra nullius’) – and therefore up for grabs – ignoring the land rights of the people who had inhabited this country for more than 60,000 years. As historian Bob Reece once wrote about the British attitude at that time:

“The British culture was one with an unquestioning faith in its superiority and in its civilizing role. The whites expected the aboriginal to recognise their superiority and adopt an appropriately subordinate and imitative role.”

And this legal fiction, that Australia was uninhabited at the time the Brits arrived, was maintained for over 200 years. It was only in 1992, that the Mabo case in the High Court overturned this, and that our legal system finally recognised that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples owned the land prior to the Brits arriving. Two. Hundred. Years. That’s how long it took to overturn a racist lie from the 18th century. Are you beginning to get an idea of just how entrenched racism is in our nation’s make-up?

Racism in our national artifacts

There’s no doubt that over the last fifty years, there have been significant efforts to unwind the worst of the infrastructure that has held racism in place since 1788. These include that:

  • Aboriginals were finally given the right to vote (in 1962)
  • The ‘Great Australian Silence’ around Australia’s history was finally challenged by W.E.H. Stenner, which brought the frontier-wars and other aspects of history to the fore (1968)
  • Gough Whitlam adopted the first ‘self-determination’ policy for Aboriginals (1972)
  • Racism was finally outlawed & Aboriginals were finally free to undertake traditional practices on the land again (1975)
  • Aboriginal ‘Protectionism’ which took Aboriginal children away from their families, finally ceased (1970s)
  • Aboriginal right to Land Title in 1788 is finally recognised at law – Mabo (1992)
  • Paul Keating acknowledges past wrongs against Aboriginal Australians (1992)
  • Kevin Rudd, on behalf of all Australians, finally says sorry (2008)

These actions have gone at least some of the way to redress legal issues with equality, but only within the last fifty years, which in history is no time at all. But racism is still embedded in many of our national artifacts. In many ways we’re like an ex-Klu-Klux-Klan member, who after quitting the Klan, keeps all their Klu-Klux Klan posters, books, gear and other mementos and then wonders why people think he hasn’t really left the Klan. Here’s some examples of the racist mementos we’ve kept around:

Our Constitution

A constitution is arguably the most powerful legal document in any democracy. It may seem like a boring document – and having studied constitutional law, I can tell you that it reads like a boring document. But in terms of its power, it sits above the Prime Minister, the parliament and the courts – making it very important indeed.

When the framers of the Australian constitution sat down at the end of the 19th century with the goal of bringing together the various states at the time of Federation in 1901, Aboriginals were not considered by them to have – and I quote – “the intelligence, interest, or capacity to stand on the same platform with the rest of the people of Australia” in order to have the vote. Nor were Aboriginals to be counted in the census. They were literally considered not to count.

Today, while issues with the vote and the census have since been resolved, the Constitution – the legal framework for this country – still fails to acknowledge Aboriginal Australians’ traditional sovereignty.

Our Flag

NewAustralianFlagdesign It’s a small thing. But it’s a big thing. It’s what Australians flash around the place to indicate that they are Australian. And we are one of only two ‘colonies’ – New Zealand’s is the other one – that still retains the British stamp on our flag. New Zealand is about to change their flag. It’s time that we did too.

Our National Anthem – Advance Australia ‘Fair’

Really Australia – ‘Fair’? ‘Young’? Why don’t we just sing the old “White Australia song” from the early 1900s and be done with it. (Yes – there really was a song.)

By way of comparison, the second verses of both the South African and New Zealand anthems are in Zulu and Maori respectively. It’s about time we found an anthem which recognised that our history didn’t start in 1788 and acknowledges and respects the traditional owners of this land.

Traditional language

OK – how many non-Aboriginal readers of this article know how to say ‘Hallo’ in any of the estimated 700 Aboriginal languages that existed here in 1788. I’m guessing it’s the tiniest of tiny percentages. By way of contrast, in New Zealand, the Maori language is taught in over 1000 schools, and there have been discussions about making it compulsory.

Australia day

It’s great to have a day where we celebrate the good things about being Australian. But it’s ridiculously insensitive and – you guessed it – racist when we do it on a day which is considered a day of loss by the Aboriginal people:

loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family, loss of the right to practice their culture

(From Creative Spirits)

There are 364 other days we could pick – we should move it.

Aboriginal Artwork and Traditional Sites

What would Paris be without the Mona Lisa and the Louvre? What would Egypt be without the Pyramids? England without Stonehenge? Florence without the Statue of David? Pisa without the leaning tower? I could go on – but I suspect you get the general idea.

Rock engravings at Burrup Peninsula

Rock engravings at Burrup Peninsula

Around the world great antiquities and ancient sites are valued, protected and appreciated. People queue up to see them. Museums and galleries around the world go to great lengths to identify antiquities and obtain items significant to their culture.

We, on the other hand, have a continent FULL of ancient works of art and sacred sites. But not only aren’t many of them protected, most of us don’t even know where they are. The Western Australian government just deregistered what is arguably the world’s oldest rock art collection so that the Mining companies can get their hands on the site. The site is dated at more than 30,000 years old – THE WORLD’S OLDEST ROCK ART – and there was barely a whimper about it in the news.

What do you think would happen in Egypt if they discovered coal under the pyramids? Do you think they would allow them to be destroyed? NOT IN A MILLION YEARS. Well – unless Abbott was their Prime Minister of course – then the Pyramids would be gone in a matter of weeks.

The above are just examples of the many ways that we disregard and devalue Aboriginal culture due to the historically racist perspective that it is unimportant. With the exception of discussions around the Constitution – which have been in the news quite a bit recently – most non-Aboriginal Australians wouldn’t even notice that the issues above are problems, so embedded are they in the Anglo-Australian culture. And if you think these things aren’t important – think again. They set the tone, they set the framework within which values and behaviours are fostered and learnt – and make it hard for us to root out the racist attitudes that have been a part of the Anglo-Australian culture for so long.

More reasons why racism can be so hard to spot

Another key reason we may not immediatelly recognise behaviour as racist is that we often assume that racist behaviour is associated with overtly ‘bad’ actions like violence or abuse. But this isn’t always the case. Racism is an attitude rather than an action – which means it can also be expressed through actions and speech which might otherwise seem to be ‘good’ – like kindness or patriotism.

And the thing is, even when racism is expressed through kindness or patriotism, it can be just as venomous. Here’s some examples of different ways that racism has been expressed towards Aboriginal Australians over the past 225 odd years.

Racism expressed through violence

It wasn’t long after the British arrival in 1788 that the first massacres of local Aboriginal tribes took place. This violence – recently renamed ‘frontier wars’ – was seen as ‘unavoidable’ by the British, and continued to flourish in the 19th century. The exact number of Aboriginal deaths is unknown, but it was certainly in the tens of thousands, and possibly more than 100,000.

The attitude that allowed this to happen was the unwavering belief in the superiority of those from the British race. Here’s an example of a statement published in the Bulletin in the late 19th century which reflects the beliefs about the superiority of the British bloodline at that time:

“civilization marches over the bodies of inferior races….they are compelled to make room for the superior race” (Bulletin – 9 June 1883 pg. 6)

Racism expressed as ‘kindness’ or ‘protection’

Racism expressed as violence took Aboriginal life and land. Racism expressed as kindness, protection and good works aimed to take away what was left – their culture, their way of life, their families, their language, their history, their spiritual beliefs and their pride in who they were. Here’s how.

The British clearly did not see themselves as violent invaders – they saw themselves as as “enlightened and christian” benefactors of the indigenous inhabitants of the countries they ‘settled’. They looked upon the indigenous inhabitants of the lands they colonised – not just Australia, but other lands – with a degree of pity, and settlers were instructed to use ‘humane means’ to defend themselves when taking control of the land that they saw as rightfully theirs.

Of course, had the Brits been serious in their concern for the well being of the indigenous inhabitants, then they would have stopped their wanton ‘colonising’ – but the racist attitude behind their concern meant that this wasn’t going to happen. Instead, they set up ‘Protectionist’ boards and installed people with the title of ‘Protector of Natives’ to ‘look after’ and ‘civilise’ the ‘indigenous folk’. They also sent out truckloads of missionaries, which they saw as their greatest gift – primarily to educate and ‘improve’ the children.

This theme of ‘protection’ – in various forms – continued in Australia right through the 19th century and into the 20th century, when in 1915 the NSW Aborigines Protection Board was empowered to remove Aboriginal children from their families at will. They had been able to do that prior to 1915, but only with a court order. Similar practices were implemented in other states which continued up until the 1970s. Once in ‘care’, children were instructed to no longer speak the language of their parents and taught to forget Aboriginal culture and practices.

Racism expressed as patriotism

Just as being kind to or protecting someone is normally a positive thing – so is patriotism. But it too can be incredibly destructive when it is driven by racism.

Take the policy of ‘assimilation’ – so admired by the Reclaim Australia folk – which was implemented by the Australian Government in the middle of the 20th century, as a tool of patriotism to ‘unite the nation’. The policy was designed to suppress and kill off the aboriginal culture, language and heritage – again, in the misguided belief in the superiority of the Anglo-Australian way of life. Aboriginals were offered limited citizenship at this time on the condition that they ceased practicing Aboriginal customs, did not speak their native language and did not mix with any friends or families who hadn’t also agreed to the same terms.

Looking at these three examples of different expressions of racism, it’s clear that while the outcome of racism is normally pretty bad for the recipient, the perpetrators of non-violent racist behaviour (such as kindness or patriotism), often believe – albeit misguidedly – that they are doing a good thing. Their racism blinds them to the true impact of what they are doing. And this is another reason why it is so difficult for Anglo-Australians to see this in themselves – because racism can be well-meaning, or at least not intended maliciously – like the booing of Adam Goodes recently.

The opposite of Racism is Respect

By @FirstDogOnMoon. Full cartoon at

By @FirstDogOnMoon. Full cartoon at

Ok non-Aboriginal Aussies – we don’t have a good track record when it comes to racism. In fact we arguably have a bit of a blind spot – often not from any malicious motive, but purely because of how embedded it is in our culture and a misunderstanding of what it is. But that doesn’t make it any less racist in the way it is experienced by those on the receiving end.

But it’s time now to do something about this. It’s time, as Adam Goodes says, to bite the bullet and have a conversation about racism so that we can:

Fix the remnants of racism in our National Artifacts

This includes the examples I’ve noted above, but there are others as well. It’s not hard – it just takes the will to do this. Don’t believe the politicians who want to stall this for their own political motives. It may take some time to get consensus, but if we want to do this we can do it. It’s that simple.

Delaying the rectification of these issues is just more racism, as it undervalues the importance of these issues to Aboriginal Australians.

Stop. Think. Respect.

This was a campaign designed by Beyond Blue to counter discrimination in our community – against a whole host of problems. And it is a key antidote to racism. The way to eliminate racism from our national culture, our national values is first to take the time to notice when it’s there and then to turn a racist attitude into respect.

Last week, after Adam Goodes had called out racism from the AFL crowds, we all stopped, thought, and then – it took a little while – but then we showed respect.

We need to do that across the board.

Stop. Think. Respect.

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.


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Adam Goodes: Free Speech Vs the Moral Authority to Express a View

Our Constitution does not guarantee free speech. It only implies that we have it. That being said, we assume that anyone has a right to express a view. There are some, like Andrew Bolt, who despite us supposedly living in an enlightened society want to enshrine in law the right to hate each other.

What I am getting at here is that having an opinion about booing Adam Goodes has turned into a national pastime. However, all this week, despite the right to free speech, I have been questioning the moral right of some to do so.

Let me make it absolutely clear: I abhor racism with all the intellectual and moral righteousness that has been bequeathed to me by good people. Something unexplainable within me has its way when I am confronted by nefariousness and I speak out.

Adam Goodes is a victim of racism for two reasons. Firstly, because he was named Australian of the Year which obligated him, or gave him license to speak on issues concerning Aboriginality. Secondly, he confronted a young girl who called him an ape. This is the most rancid racist thing you can call any dark skinned person.

He was no longer a champion footballer. He had crossed the line that former Collingwood Football Club President Alan McAlister so ludicrously expressed so many years ago:

“… as long as they behave like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire and respect them.”

Yes, people have a right to free speech but when there is an absence of truth, a distortion calculated to inflame or just common bigotry I unleash my right to question their motives. When there is a racist element in what they are saying I feel duty bound to question their moral authority to opine. Often it simply displays their hypocrisy so this is where I shall start.

Shane Warne in my view is the greatest bowler to ever roll his arm over. As an individual, throughout his career he has been involved in scandal after scandal displaying pathetic social behaviour. What sort of role model has he been? He even started a charity as a PR exercise at the height of his misconduct. You be the judge. Mine is that his comments show the intellectual depth of a flea. And that’s being kind.

“If the public don’t like a sportsman because of the way they play the game, they boo, if they like them they cheer, nothing to do re racism”.

Last September after a Swans game against Richmond, Warne said he was:

“shocked” Goodes had been named Australian of the Year.

Alan Jones, the sanctimonious self-righteous biased shock jock habitual liar from Sydney accused Goodes of ‘playing the victim’. Jones was once arrested in a London toilet and faced two charges of outrageous public indecency while behaving in an indecent manner, said he was affronted that Goodes would challenge a 13 year old girl. Jones completely ignored the facts of the events that unfolded, overlooked Goodes’ efforts to meet with and counsel the girl, and portrayed the girl as the victim. As for the girl’s obviously inherited morality from the mother, what can one say other than feel pity. I have two grandsons aged 9 and 11 who think the treatment of Goodes is terrible and fully understand that racism is inherently a bad thing. They have needed little instruction on the subject. Should I go on about Jones incitement of the Cronulla riots or his proven history of prostituting his ‘opinions’ and repeatedly disseminating falsehoods as well as having publicly endorsed the idea of murdering our then PM by drowning at sea?

You be the judge.

Andrew Bolt, convicted ‘racist’ and all round appalling paid for controversial opinion journalist – individual who demanded the PM give him more free speech to vilify without constraint also expressed his horror at Goodes confronting the girl:

“Singling out a girl for public humiliation, like that, I thought was wrong and if Adam Goodes said it was wrong, I think he’d be a superstar; all people from either sides would rush to embrace him.”

In doing so he too gave a completely false account of the events that took place. You be the judge. If it were my daughter I would embrace Goodes and say “thank you”. As for the mother’s contribution I can only say she needs a lesson or two in parenthood.

Tony Abbot, a leader with little capacity for it offers lukewarm “we should show more respect” support but when it suits his political needs displays racist overtones against Muslims.

Ross Greenwood, economics commentator, said about his booing of Goodes: “There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s got nothing to do with his race, it’s got nothing to do with me being racist”. He didn’t stop to consider that by contributing to the booing himself, he was legitimizing the real racists.

Sam Newman, the resident ageing buffoon and perpetual aficionado of crassness on the Footy Show; the man who bared his genitals on television and who has affronted many with his sexism and disgusting behavior. The man who painted his face black after Nicky Winmar didn’t appear on the show in 1999 opined that “People aren’t booing you [Goodes] because you’re Aboriginal, they’re booing you because you’re acting like a jerk”. (Only he would know).

He went on to state that Goodes’ celebration only served to provoke fans and should have been reprimanded by the AFL. Newman further said:

“As Australian of the year, you should know that- you should be trying to unite people instead of trying to divide them”. (Isn’t that what he has been doing by speaking about the problems facing Indigenous people?)

You be the judge but for me Newman and other white men like him who have made fortunes out of thoughtlessness have not the remotest capacity to understand the emotional torment that racial abuse might incur. He is one of those many men who have never really grown up and his antics prove it.

Jason Ackermanis, former champion and perennial bad boy of the Brisbane Lions parroted the remarks of Alan Jones and in doing so showed little empathy or understanding of the broader picture. He said that Goodes was “playing the victim”. Something that Akermanis made a career of doing. In 2010 he said that gay footy players should “stay in the closet”. In 2005 Akermanis sparked racial controversy when he used his radio program (the Aker and Macca Show) on Brisbane’s 98.9 FM to describe his employers as “monkeys”. It was an Aboriginal community owned station run by the legendary Tiga.

You be the judge but have any of these people made the slightest attempt to comprehend emotionally what it must be like to be being booed by thousands of people every time you go near the ball and not comprehend why they are doing it or conversely believe they are doing it because of the colour of your skin? I can feel it as I write but I bet my feelings are unworthy of his. Does he hear in the raised hiss of intolerance the eco of the wounds from the racism he experienced as a child? Or does he hear in the booing crescendo a symphony of humiliation from the white bastards he seeks to befriend.

The problem here is that the people aforementioned have a common thread. They all are paid huge amounts to be controversial. They are all media tarts with dubious moral standards that brings into question their moral authority to make judgement on their fellow humans. Rather they are insisting on the right to tell them how to behave. And do so while theirs goes unquestioned. What two-faced hypocrisy it is.

These people aside the media generally speaking have made some worthwhile contributions to the issue of race in Australia.

As much as it offends my pride of country I have to admit that the tide of racism flows down the streets of our cities, and through the veins of our culture. And it waters the fields of our play.

As a citizen of the state of Queensland said:

“Let me get this straight … If Adam Goodes stands up against racism that makes him a racist? And if someone makes racial slurs towards him and he doesn’t just “cop it” like all the rednecks want him to, then he’s a sook and a troublemaker?”

These are my thoughts. You be the judge.

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“I’m black and I’m proud to be”

The Adam Goodes’ saga reminds us that racial vilification is one of sport’s most contentious issues.

Racism in sport historically has been a display of taken for granted behaviors and attitudes. Without recourse, Indigenous Australians have been racially abused from the day they first stepped into the sporting arena. AFL, in particular, had fostered an environment where racist behavior happened systematically, and arguably racism become a sporting institution.

In the early 1990s the dimensions of racism were sufficiently bad for the AFL to convene meetings to discuss players’ code of conduct, albeit their efforts never went beyond being merely token approaches. It was not until Essendon’s Michael Long in 1994 made a public statement against the abuse he had to endure exclaiming “I’ve had enough of this shit. I don’t have to take it”, was it seriously addressed.

Despite years of inaction during which racial vilification sullied the football field, the AFL acted with admirable swiftness following Long’s complaint. By June of that year it introduced Rule 30, the Racial and Religious Vilification Rule, making it an offence for any player or official to threaten, disparage, vilify or insult another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national background. The then Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Nick Bolkus called for the punishment of offenders found guilty of racial abuse, as by now the Long appeal was heard in the highest corridors of Australian society. By the start of the 1998 season, the penalties were a $10,000 fine for a player’s first offence and/or a $20,000 fine for the club.

One of the beauties of sport ‘is that it can, in a single moment of clarity, illuminate or delineate a mood or a movement or an era’ (Tatz et al, 1998:96). In 1993, the International Year of the Indigenous Person saw widespread public discussion of Aboriginal issues, but the most articulate summary of the national lassitude was non-verbal: the image of Nicky Winmar raising his guernsey and pointing at his black skin. This defining moment occurred as a response to loud racist abuse from the opposition’s cheer squad. Some reports suggest he yelled, “I’m black and I’m proud to be.” Whatever his words, the classic photograph of him defiantly pointing at his skin was a potent symbol that forced a nation to search its communal soul.

With the reputation of a player prone to extreme bouts of temper – no doubt as a response to the provocation of racist insults (personal view) – he had never been more eloquent or effective for his cause or his colour than he was in that moment.

Twenty years later Adam Goodes is confronted with the same abuse as he raises another potent symbol of his Aboriginality. And again we search our communal soul.


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Racist Australia? Of course.

The Adam Goodes booing saga has me shocked. I’m not shocked at the incident itself; as a lifelong AFL supporter I’ve seen a lot of booing in my time. I’m not shocked at the accusation of some of the booing being racist; clearly we can all acknowledge that even though many of the booers have no racist intent, some of them do and obviously all the booing of Goodes must stop. I’m not even shocked at the saturation media coverage of the story, and the fact that everyone who is anyone has weighed into the debate; social media has also been in a lather all week. This all comes as no surprise to me. The issue is rightly one that should be discussed and I welcome calls for a national focus on combatting racism and discrimination. What does however come as a huge shock to me is that the public seem shocked that racism exists in our country. Anyone who is surprised that in a crowd of around 30,000 members of the Australian public, there are a few hundred racist people, needs to take a closer look at their country. Because of course there are racists in Australia. Have you seen who our Prime Minister is?

I understand that it’s not a nice subject for many people to talk about because it doesn’t make them feel very good about Australia. But let’s take a good, long, hard look at ourselves and avoid the temptation to put our heads in the sands of denial. The election of Tony Abbott and the continued national acceptance of his strategies of using divisive, racist policies to turn Australians against minority groups is all the proof you need of a strong racist element that runs through our national veins.

Let’s not forget that racist attitudes gave birth to Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party. Sure, this party hasn’t had any recent success. But it’s easy to forget that in the 1998 election, Hanson’s party received 9% of the vote. And then of course Abbott set up a slush fund to get rid of Hanson. Because his Liberal Party needed her voters. And his Liberal Party has been courting the votes of those people who supported Hanson’s racist views about indigenous Australians and opposition to multiculturalism ever since. How has this huge population of racist Australians whose votes are so important to the Liberal Party’s electoral success escaped the attention of people so completely shocked by the Adam Goode’s booing saga? This is not some niche success either; this is Abbott’s success at becoming Prime Minister.

Fear-mongering towards racists is at the heart of Abbott’s favourite vote-winning, or poll-lifting policies. Look at Abbott’s obsession with national security, including his reaction to the Sydney siege, which was automatically framed as part of the ‘Islamic fundamentalist terrorist’ threat facing Australia, rather than a mentally-ill-lone-nutter who just so happened to be of Muslim faith. Who do you think Abbott’s appealing to when he talks about ‘Team Australia’ and says ‘whose side are you on’? When he obsesses over taking away people’s passports? Yes, it’s the part of Australia who boos Goodes for racist reasons. And what about Abbott’s asylum seeker policies that block the world’s desperate displaced people from getting to Australia, or living here if they’ve arrived previously. Does Abbott stand up for the indigenous Australians living in poverty stricken remote communities by working to improve their access to healthcare, education and social services that would help to narrow the gap? Of course he doesn’t. Instead he makes racist statements about their ‘lifestyle choice’ after withdrawing Federal support, forcing the WA government to close over 100 communities down. Where was the outrage then?

More recently, Abbott has refused to ban one of his government MP’s from speaking at, and endorsing, a Reclaim Australia rally. These rallies were attended by Australians who hate a particular religious minority so much that they are willing to march in the streets to advertise their hatred. Does the site of these rallies not shock Australia? Do people waving Swastikas in our streets not warrant a national conversation about racist elements in our society? Apparently not.

The point is, Tony Abbott isn’t some bogan at the footy booing an Indigenous footballer. Tony Abbott is our Prime Minister. He was chosen by the country to represent us. He’s supposably the best leader we could find. And his entire political career is reliant on division, scare-campaigns and appeals to the racist element of Australia which people shocked by booing football fans appear to forget exists. So I’m glad that something has put racism on the agenda, even if it’s not the issue I expected to spark the debate. And now that we’re talking about racism, and we’re all determined to do something about it, can we have a look at the Prime Minister we’ve chosen and accept that if we’re going to be shocked that racism still exists in our community, we should be shocked, and ashamed, that Abbott and his government represents us.


The victim mentality

When Julie Bishop appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in December last year she said women should “stop whingeing and just get on with it.”

“Please do not let it get to you and do not become a victim, because it’s only a downward spiral once you’ve cast yourself as a victim,” Bishop told the fashion magazine.

Is this woman who has come from a very privileged background, who has never faced hardship in her life, who jets around the world at our expense “living the dream”, telling women that it is their own fault if they become victims?

She seems to agree with Joe that we should just go and get a good job.

If people are poor it’s their fault for not working harder or being smarter or being born in the right place. They are leaners. People with disabilities are all potential rorters. Asylum seekers are economic migrants who have no right to seek a better life. Women in abusive relationships should be more independent.

Some believe that Adam Goodes is casting himself as a victim. Andrew Bolt says that he gets called lots of names and it doesn’t trouble him so why should Goodes be upset. Aside from the fact that Bolt gets paid a lot of money to be deliberately controversial, he patently has no idea what it is like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia.

None of us can understand what that is like unless we have lived it.

Over the past week we have heard many successful Indigenous Australians pouring out their hearts about the hurt they still carry from childhood experiences, about the discrimination they still face today. Stan Grant’s very moving article in the Guardian, Warren Mundine’s recounting of the humiliation his family faced, Charlie King’s passionate plea – Aboriginal people have been ostracised and vilified in their own country. They have been routinely humiliated and disempowered.

And when someone has the courage to show pride in their Aboriginal heritage, to call out the racism, they are slapped down for daring to speak up.

We’re not racists. We just hate uppity abos who already get given too much. We’re not racists. We just refuse to live under sharia law and eat halal food. We’re not racists. We just don’t want all those Asians taking our jobs.

It’s time for white Australia to stop booing and start listening. Face the ugly truth that we have become a selfish, uncaring society who doesn’t want to hear about other people’s problems. Be like us or piss off. Get a job ya bludger. Toughen up. Assimilate.

Greed, racism, selfishness, ignorance, fear, suspicion and violence are dictating community attitudes and political policy.

How many symptoms do we need to see before we address the illness that is creeping into our society? When will we draw the line and say enough? When will we remember that it is in everyone’s best interests to help vulnerable people?

In times of natural disaster we see the best of Australia. People pull together, communities rally to lend support, strangers stand side by side offering what help they can.

The death of empathy in this country is becoming a national disaster. Let’s drown out the racists and the fearmongers and the greedy. Let’s offer a helping hand to those in need. Let’s feel compassion rather than fear and resentment. Let’s show respect and tolerance and celebrate our diversity. Let’s build this nation together rather than ripping it apart.


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I once booed Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes is an Australian I rate highly as not only a footballer but as a pillar of our society. His performances off the field are just as outstanding as those on it. Unfortunately, because of the continued racist abuse he receives from fans he may not grace the football field again.

Most games I’ve seen him play will at some stage see me applauding his legendary skill, but one game in 2008 I booed hysterically (at the TV in the comfort and safety of my lounge room) after he engaged in some fairly rough play … against a team I follow (hence the fanatical booing).

He was reported for the incident. To my dismay he beat the charge.

The Swans were playing the Lions the following week and Lion’s coach Leigh Matthews was incensed. He obviously didn’t want Goodes lining up against his team, and had this to say:

… Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews described Sydney’s dual Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes as a “protected species” before Saturday night’s Gabba clash.

Asked a seemingly innocuous question on Friday about who would play on the Swans’ danger man, Matthews made it clear what he thought of Goodes beating a striking charge at Wednesday’s AFL Tribunal hearing.

The not guilty verdict that allowed Goodes to line up for a club record-equalling 194th consecutive match clearly rubbed Matthews the wrong way.

“Many players are envious of Adam Goodes for many reasons. We hope that his protected species status ends when he comes over the white line,” Matthews said in Brisbane.

“I don’t know about the umpires (if he’s a protected species), but (at) the tribunal he certainly is.

“And he plays for the Swans so he’s got the double whammy.

“And he’s got the dual Brownlow Medallist `get out of jail free’ card, so he’s got them all.”

Wow. Yes, it was a big deal at the time. Imagine if he said that today!

But getting back to my point … I booed Adam Goodes. I’ve probably booed him a number of times since, and if he continues to play, which I truly hope he does, I will boo him again if he engages in play that is contrary to the rules of the game. I will boo any player for the same reason (except those on my own team, of course). And I will applaud Adam Goodes for his skills, as I would any player of any team (and especially mine, which goes without saying).

It would be sad if we couldn’t engage in some light-hearted or heartfelt booing if it is in the spirit of the game. It’s also sad that Indigenous players are subjected to racist taunts by fans and players.

But most of all, it is sad it has come to this.


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Bishop stays. Goodes goes. Abbott is silent. What is wrong with this picture?

In case you are still in any doubt about what matters and what doesn’t to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony think on this: white Speaker of the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s personal pick Bronwyn Bishop remains in charge of the House, in spite of decades of financial abuse of taxpayer funds, the obscene details of which are unfolding daily before our disbelieving eyes. The only thing that keeps her in her job is Abbott’s support, because while the Prime Minister cannot actually sack a Speaker, there’s little doubt that if Abbott pressured her to get on her bike, she’d be mad not to obey.

On the other hand, Indigenous football star and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes has been driven from his sport and public life by unrelenting racist attacks every time he shows his face. Goodes’ reaction to a thirteen-year-old girl calling him an ape has been held up by the racist commentariat such as Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt as being the reason footy crowds have taken such a set against him. However, it seems to have escaped the commentators’ collective memory that it was in fact the illustrious Eddie Maguire who at the same time called Goodes “King Kong.”

What also seems to have escaped their racist filter is that Goodes did not know at the time that a young girl was responsible for calling him an ape, and when he did become aware of this he handled the situation admirably, meeting with the girl and her mother, and engaging them in conversation about the wounding and divisive nature of racist insults.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, normally a man with an opinion on everything no matter how irrelevant, remains conspicuously silent on both matters. Ms Bishop’s shenanigans with helicopters and luxury limos have left rotten egg splattered all over Tony’s face, an ungracious response on her part to the man who, when he won government, rewarded her with the prestigious job of Speaker. Getting rid of Bronwyn will cause Tony to lose egg-splattered face, as it will be an admission of his lack of judgement of a woman he’s known for decades, and indeed, has been heard to refer to as his “political mother.”

But as Freud would have it, an adult man must at some point cut ties with his mother, and this could be Tony’s moment to sever the umbilical cord.

Abbott apparently can’t say anything on the Goodes’ matter either, given his demographic is fundamentally xenophobic and racist, and he can’t risk alienating them. While the country engages in a national conversation about racism, our leader remains unacceptably silent, missing in action. While the indignation and outrage at Bishop’s fraudulent behaviour escalates, our leader remains silent, missing in action. The number of topics Abbott can publicly engage with seems to be shrinking daily: he certainly seems incapable of entering into the energetic debates that will shape and reshape our nation in a most concrete fashion. In other words, he’s useless.

Ideology can do that to a man. Render him useless.

This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.


We Have The Right To Boo, Do We Have The Maturity Not To?

When somebody points out that Adam Goodes is being booed not because he’s indigenous, it’s because of his “behaviour”, I can almost buy it. After all the argument goes, there are plenty of non-indigenous players who get booed and nobody boos Cyril.

And if most of them stopped exercising their right to free speech there and then, I might be convinced. However, it’s usually the next sentence that gets me, because the next sentence is usually akin to saying, “I’m not being sexist! This isn’t because you’re a woman, this is because of your refusal to understand that you’re the one who’s meant to do the dishes.”

I’ve read one letter in the paper that suggested that Goodes is being booed because he “lacks humility”. Mm, we don’t like uppity people is this country, do we? Uppity? How is that racist? I’m just saying that we prefer those who know their place!

There was also the suggestion that it was his “war dance” that’s caused the booing. Apart from the fact that this overlooks the fact that much of the booing occurred before that, it seems a massive over-reaction to an exuberant celebration after a goal. Have a look at some of the celebrations from players over the years! Can you think of any that have caused such prolonged animosity from fans of different clubs for so long? Nah, it’s not racist, it’s just because he chose to do a particular dance in celebration and we reserve the right to determine which dances people do and the manner in which they do them.

Of course, with his show of support, can we expect Lewis Jetta to be booed every time he touches the ball, or does he possess the necessary humility that we can forgive him and just get on with the game.

But it’s the suggestion that it was “the way he treated that thirteen year old girl” that probably irks me most.

When it’s all said and done, he looked at her and pointed her out to security after she called him “an ape”.

But that was appalling behaviour someone wrote, a great hulk of a man standing over a poor little girl like that.

Except that he wasn’t standing over her, she was in the crowd, he only looked and pointed. Of course, he should have been able to tell that she was only thirteen because, after all, she had her age tattooed on the forehead. And at thirteen, apparently, it’s permissible to make racist comments. Would it have been different if it were this she when she’d reached fourteen? To help, so that I don’t make Goodes’ mistake and alert security to anyone calling out offensive comments, could someone tell me at what age I’m allowed to report someone?

Is this what I should do in future? “Excuse me, but I was wondering what age you are, because I’m about to alert security to your comments and I don’t want to bring criticism upon myself? Oh thirteen, well you go right on with your comments about that guy’s sexuality. Personally, I think he was very brave to be the first openly gay AFL player, but I’m sure that your mother who’s been making those lovely comment about that Asian player will set you straight when you turn 21.”

Hey, she only called him “an ape”, she didn’t know that it was racist. Well that’s what the papers said, and they certainly wouldn’t have watered it down so they could print it, would they? How could a thirteen year old possibly know that it was racist?

And recently we had the mother of the girl saying this:

“If he hadn’t have done it he wouldn’t be having the problems he’d be having now. He probably should apologise because maybe he should have picked his target a little bit better. She’d only turned 13 five days beforehand. She was technically still 12. She had no idea what she was saying.”

Now, I don’t know what part of only turning thirteen a few days beforehand make one “technically still 12”, but it’s pretty clear that this mother has now explained that to her daughter why calling someone an “ape” is wrong.

It’s also interesting that whoever was with her that night at the football was negligent for allowing this poor young girl who – at thirteen – is too young to know anything about what’s right and wrong for allowing to be led off by security all by herself. Surely they should have accompanied her to check she was all right.

Nah, it seems he should have just left it. What till the girl turns eighteen and knows that what she did could have been seen as racist. Just like all those football fans know that it’s ok to boo Adam Goodes because he looked at a white girl and pointed when he should have just accepted that she’s allowed to call him whatever she likes because she’s too young to know better.

I’ll be interested in hearing the same defence should a thirteen year old Muslim boy ever gets themselves into trouble for something they say. More specifically, I’ll be interested to hear people condemn the neighbour or teacher or whoever reported him for not simply ignoring it, because thirteen year olds don’t know any better.

Aboriginality, it’s fine. We even have an indigenous round. But I can’t help wondering how far some people have moved since Collingwood President, Alan Macalister’s remark about aboriginal players all those years ago:

“… as long as they behave like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire and respect them.”

Yep, I can accept people have a right to boo. Free speech and all. But now, we all have a big think about the context. Booing Adam Goodes has become racist, because it is being defined that way, and the Andrew Bolt argument that white people should determine what’s racist and what’s not doesn’t really cut it. If you were in the middle of a crowd that was cheering when someone was being attacked and you began to cheer as well, it doesnt make sense to argue that you weren’t joining in with those cheering the attackers, you were cheering because of some totally different reason.

So by all means boo Adam Goodes if you like. But let’s be clear you’re booing him because he identified a girl who was racially vilifying him, or because he proudly exhibits his heritage. These are the main reasons being given. To say that I’m joining the crowd for a different reason, is a bit like someone arguing that they joined the Nazi party, not for the policies, but because they had such spiffy uniforms (Yes, I know, Godwin’s Law!)

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Adam Goodes Australian of the Year, but some people think it should have gone to an Australian

Image by the author

Image by the author

The comment in the image above says: ??? Accepting an Award given on Australia Day, which we have just been told is not recognised by Aboriginals ????

It’s ok, this Facebook identity – it’s not the person’s actual name. So when I point out that “Aboriginal” is an adjective, I’m not actually humiliating an actual human being.

That comment was one of many on the ABC website. Most congratulated Adam Goodes on being named Australian of the Year. And we could have a long conversation about whether he was the worthiest winner and whether sportsman are given too much prominence in today’s society. We could even speculate about whether there was a bit of tokenism involved…

We could even have a very long conversation about the nature of awards, and whether singling out one person diminishes those very excellent people who are “merely finalists”.

But I just want to concentrate on that simple comment.

Because it shows just how racist Australians really are! Re-read what this scumbag said…

Now, if you’ve responded by saying how unfair I’m being, because not all Australians made that comment…

Good on you. They didn’t. Any more than all “aboriginals” told us that they didn’t recognise Australia Day. I certainly don’t remember any statement from Adam Goodes along those lines. But isn’t that what racism is? Lumping all members of one race together and presuming that they are the same! That they all agree.

Of course, we could also have a long, long discussion about whether being “Australian Of The Year” means that you aren’t allowed think that calling January 26th “Invasion Day” is more appropriate. After all, we’re all meant to be against boat people now, aren’t we?

But I’m not going to have any long conversations tonight.

I’m just going to say, Canpeg Deb. You idiot. It’s January 25th! Australia Day is tomorrow.

Congratulations Adam Goodes!

And Happy Rum Rebellion Day for tomorrow, everyone.


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I’m not a racist, but I know when “those people” have a right to be offended!

Andrew Bolt: “Collingwood was being thrashed and when the bearded Goodes took another possession in front of her, she shouted “ape”.

This is very rude. I wonder at her parents. It’s also possibly racist, though she insisted she didn’t mean it that way. Whatever, she needed a talking-to.

Goodes heard the abuse, and pointed her out to security. A bit over the top, since she’s so young, but Goodes has Aboriginal ancestry and no doubt understandably feels such insults more keenly than I think reasonable.”

Ok, if you’ve read the article in question, you may be angry. You may have been convinced that Andrew eloquently argues that the poor thirteen year old has been given some pretty shabby treatment.

Whatever! (Or, in case there are 13yo’s reading this: woteva!)

But I felt I couldn’t let this comment slip past without me going against my basic belief that talking about Bolt only gives him oxygen.

” …but Goodes has Aboriginal ancestry and no doubt understandably feels such insults more keenly than I think reasonable.”

Now, of course, Bolt claims to have Dutch ancestry, so this may explain his stupidity, and being Dutch, he may feel that my insulting of the Dutch more keenly than I think reasonable. Because, after all, those people can be a little sensitive when it comes to generalisations like suggesting that it was the Dutch that were responsible for Apartheid. Of course, Andrew may be a little sensitive when I point out that I have no reason to believe that his father wasn’t a strong supporter of Hitler. And surely, it’s what I think that counts, isn’t it?

Just as the girl was using the word “ape” – if that indeed is all that she said – in a non-racist way, I, too, am suggesting that the Dutch have a history of stupidity and arrogance in a totally non-racist way. I don’t mean all Dutch, of course, just most of them.

Yes, you’re right I’m being offensive. But it’s the Dutch who are feeling the brunt of my insults in a way that I don’t find reasonable.

I guess I’m forced to wonder that if Bolt considers pointing out someone to security was going too far, how would he respond if Goodes had jumped the fence and slapped the girl?

Probably no differently. I suspect that he will always have a problem when people with a history of being down-trodden – women, unions, aborigines, the poor, etc – find some way to fight back. As a superior white man, he knows that when they do, it’s bullying. When they complain, it’s bullying. When they report, it’s bullying. He’d know – he’s an expert at it!

Of course, he began his article with: “I detest racists. But …”


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