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Traditions of Diaspora: A Response to Andrew Bolt

By Robert Wood

Andrew Bolt has been at it again. He has a long history of race baiting, but recently he has been in a purple patch, railing against Muslims, Aborigines, ‘African gangs’, ‘Change the Date’ supporters and others to boot. It might be time to critique his positions rather than react with simple disgust (but then again, maybe not). Although there are many places to start, one of Bolt’s more pernicious falsehoods is his assumption that there is a separation between traditional and diasporic peoples as it applies to internal and external migration. As might be expected from a neo-conservative, the former are authentic, real, fair dinkum. This is the case despite the necessary incursions into their territories, which is to say that occasionally ‘we’ need to remind those Others who is in power. This applies to people from remote communities on sovereign Indigenous land as well to migrants who have come from overseas.

Bolt maintains a caricature of ‘the Aborigine’ who sits cross-legged in the red dirt surrounded by dot paintings, empty beer cans and mangy dogs. Not only does this do a disservice to those people, it allows him to have a go at urban, educated, bourgeois Indigenous peoples as well, precisely because the latter are not the real deal. Hence, his infamous statements on ‘white Aborigines’.

What it mischaracterises is how people move in and out of places, how one can travel to and from ancestral homelands to cliques in the metropole. It should not be surprising that Tracey Moffatt can be successful in New York and return to her traditional country. These are journeys that are being increasingly made by a growing middle class. It goes without saying that Wiradjeri people are as valid as Yolngu people when it comes to being ‘Indigenous’. But nor should Ngarluma or Martu or any other language group be simply flattened into larger categories of assumed identification.

Something similar holds up in Bolt’s discourse about migrants. One assumes that there is a repository of more authentic knowledge in the homelands where ‘these people’ come from; that these foreign places are the ones in need of uplift, or bombing as he may have it. The white man’s burden is alive and well from Bolt to Mark Latham to Tony Abbott. But, this is false because it makes place into an ideal type that was never real. You might reify ‘India’ but I can tell you it is an internally diverse place with a syncretic history. It could be broken down into Kerala or Kochi or Ernakallum. It could be made up of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, and that is not to mention everything else that is happening there and always has been. By citing this example, I not only want to say that it is complicated, but that every person has legitimacy and autonomy; every person can lay claim to a knowledge base that is liberated from assumptions about place that the Bolts would maintain.

Recognising the legitimacy of traditional and diasporic peoples, culture and heritage helps white Australians as well. It helps ‘us’ overcome our peripheral anxiety, our cultural cringe, our tyranny of distance. We do not need to play second fiddle to the British or the Americans, and think that the repository of all wisdom resides in Herodotus or Shakespeare or any other cis, het, white man of the establishment, or even the Queen however benign she seems. And that is liberating because it gives us an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of life in its fecund variety and multifaceted beauty. We do not, of course, have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, to think that we must let go of The Iliad or turn off Beethoven or have a go at Meghan Markle. To do so would be a loss for us too.

What we need to understand however is that identity is not a babushka doll – we cannot assume that Scottish fits in with ‘white’, that Malayali is ‘Indian’, that Ngarluma is ‘Aboriginal’, for each of these larger categories can obscure what are distinct belongings based on language especially. This is not to say there cannot be solidarity but that the internal relations of power and privilege must be recognised if we are to understand the particularity of local, embodied subjectivity. Doing so means that every individual is capable of being their own master, of seeing through to their best selves in such a way that is recognisable to every Other. And that is true liberation and might be worth arguing for in spite of the barriers that Bolt and his cronies would maintain as they continue to build the walls to stop us all.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland, edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories.




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  1. Andrew Smith

    Interesting, however there is not much to discover about Bolt’s utterances as he appears to be drawing directly from the US WASP nativist oligarchs’ or corporate, agenda or .pdf, similar in UK and Europe too. This is exemplified by delineating then demonising and gaslighting of perceived differences and threats to declining conservative and/nativist WASP constituency.

    For guidance one only needs to see independent analysis of US think tanks’ ideology and activities behind and/or associated with not the Liberal Party but the IPA (also with its own US corporate subsidiary supporters in Australia), including the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato, Club of Rome and also a network of white nativists anti-immigration groups who promote passive eugenics (instrumental in Trump’s success and the emergence of the ‘alt-right’.

    The latter was formed by a man, visitor to and admirer of the white Australia policy, described by a former Reagan staffer as ‘the most influential unknown person in America’ who speaks of ‘passive eugenics’, race IQ, Catholic Hispanic and other immigrants, refugees, English language etc. and the need to get people talking (negatively) about ‘immigration’.

    He and fellow travellers are well known to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and also warranted warnings from within the GOP from the Cafe con Leche (Hispanic) Republicans for drawing from the ideology of ‘eugenics’.

    Leading on, many LNP (and sometimes Labor) MPs and supporters (unwittingly) have been used to promote same nativist views through actively promoting antipathy towards or round refugees, immigrants, Moslems, Chinese, ‘population growth’, NOM net overseas migration, trade agreements; some generations ago it was Jews and Catholics. Brexit in UK same influence having MPs and electorate vote against their own interests after a generation of nativist media anti-immigration and anti-EU agitprop creating perception of a problem needing a ‘final solution’; like the Nazis found, administration can be chaotic.

    Trade Minister Ciobo unwittingly stumbled across part of the puzzle this week when he mused what is it about ‘patriotism’ and ‘tariffs’? Old US fossil fuel, auto and related oligarchs have always endeavoured to avoid regulation and policy obstacles while promoting WASP nativism, to maintain the status quo eg. socialism for the top corporates and/or oligarchs but competitive neo-liberalism for everybody else.

    A successful outcome for this movement in Australia is talk of ‘sustainability’ and ‘limits to growth’ of immigration, NOM and population which will be presented on the next Q&A. Meanwhile intense lobbying will continue over corporate tax cuts especially advantageous to global corporates and their local subsidiaries, which ignores local small business.

  2. diannaart

    An excellent analysis of the Bolts – such people enjoy classifying people into neat little packages all the better to take pot-shots – difficult when people insist on being diverse and not fitting into “traditional” boundaries.

    In fairness, to Bolt (I’m being ironic) he is not alone, he has his brethren on the left hand side of politics – they’re the ones hankering for the good old days, when men were manly, women knew their place and tribes clearly delineated into union, non-union or blue-collar/white collar, or gay or straight or black or white, whatever.

    Such divisions worked when populations were small and relatively homogeneous (and more easily controllable).

    These imagined divides do not work today.

    To the tired old traditionalists of all and any political stripes – do try to keep up.

  3. helvityni

    Bolt a son of Dutch immigrants and Abbott, son of an English immigrant father are now all for cutting down on number of immigrants to Oz….

    Queen Elizabeth is married to a Greek, what’s wrong with Harry teaming up with Meghan Markle, an American girl…

  4. Luke Nguyen

    Way above my ejakashun level.
    2 things, new migrants don’t give a f@#k about Aborigines ,and high immigration levels are killing the livability of our metroplolis’ for those of us down here in the cheap seats.

  5. Misha

    Luke…perfectly stated.

  6. Gary Ashton

    I think you should actually listen to his position rather than writing about what you think his position is.
    This is a typical reactionary response to what is a reasonable point. Bolts not as academic as you may like but his point is completely misrepresented by people like yourself.
    I suggest you listen to him, speak with him and debate what he actually says rather than what your preconceived ideas of him is.
    Bolt has quite a lot of support from Aboriginals as well as migrants, and all share a very real concern about a very real issue.

  7. Peter S

    For all your warm and fuzzy rhetoric we’ve still wasted $140 billion closing a gap that we tell Aboriginal people they should take pride in. There are more kids in care than ever and 2 year olds being raped because it’s not culturally appropriate to remove them from an environment in which they’ll grow up deprived and abused.

  8. Mark Needham

    People are often more concerned about who we could be, than what we are. Spot on Gary Ashton.
    The lack of real truth, is abysmal.
    But should never let that get in the way, of a good story.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cV1Enf6Tww as an example

    Just Thinking,
    Mark Needham

  9. New England Cocky

    RAbbott, Abetz, Brandis & Conmann are all post WWII refugees from Europe hoping to make a better life for themselves in Australia milking the Parliamentary Allowances Scheme.

    If you check I think you will find Mr Blot is an internal refugee from Gulwa, that small spot on the South Australian map at the mouth of the once flowing Murray River. I have no knowledge about the antecedents of Ms Blot (nee Devine) the equally untalented and overpaid “feature writer” for the News Ltd rags.

  10. diannaart

    How to tell a satirist from a jerk:

  11. Kaye Lee

    It is very apparent that several commenters here did not understand the thrust of the article. But then again, what do you expect from Bolt fans.

    Some years ago, I attended a few workshops run by two Aboriginal women from the Stolen Generation – sisters who found each other again as adults. One of the things we did was to go into the bush where they spoke to us about “seeing” which is, more or less, feeling a connection to the land. They said we all have a connection to country, that it is not just an Aboriginal thing, that everyone who lives here has a responsibility to feel similarly connected to the land where they live.

    We very diverse group of people are all Australians and should enjoy each other and work together to make this a tolerant, welcoming place.

    If their are societal issues, or safety issues, or economic issues, or environmental issues, then we work together to fix them. As one people, connected by the place we all live.

    Or we can be dickheads who vilify the other occupants of our nest – the loud cuckoo who wants to push the others out so they can have more.

    98% of us are migrants. It’s time we learned to stop pointing and start helping.

  12. Roswell

    Kaye, that’s just from the comments that made the cut. A couple didn’t (you can check them out in our bin).

  13. John

    What a shame Bolt didn’t fall on his head. One less would be good for the country.

  14. Kaye Lee

    I had a look. It’s funny how similar they all are. “That’s not what Andrew said” they all seem to say.

    I am reminded of that scene from Life of Brian. “But how shall we be individuals.”


  15. Kaye Lee

    Peter S,

    I would like your source for stating we have “wasted $140 billion” on closing the gap.

    In 2015-16, there was $6.0 billion in Indigenous specific expenditure (about 1% of total government direct expenditure). In 2012-13 it was $5.6 b.

    Unfortunately, a lot of that money gets wasted on bureaucrats.

  16. Roswell

    While you’re at it, Peter S, perhaps you could provide the source for your claim that more kids are in care than ever, and that two year-olds are being raped.

  17. Kaye Lee


    One 2 year old child got raped. The many reports from the community were ignored.

    There is some validity to the claim of increasing numbers of children in care but putting that claim in the same sentence as “it’s not culturally appropriate to remove them from an environment in which they’ll grow up deprived and abused” is reminiscent of Dutton telling us how migrants were stealing our jobs whilst they languished on welfare.

    Instead of supporting families, we are still taking their children. This article discusses it.


  18. Matters Not


    Unfortunately, a lot of that money gets wasted on bureaucrats.

    Yes it’s those bureaucrats who are at fault. Bad bastards one and all. Just for the record – the term bureaucrats is not an official classification but simply a pejorative term that’s (often lazily) applied to all public servants at a high level of generality. People seem to forget or ignorantly ignore the fact that technically speaking, all teachers who work in public schools, nurses and doctors who work in the vast majority of hospitals, social workers, dentists … and so on – are in fact public servants or bureaucrats if you like.

    But then again – there’s good bureaucrats and bad bureaucrats. And for those who were once good bureaucrats and then became bad bureaucrats, it’s all so confusing. LOL.

  19. Matters Not

    Then there’s the fact that:

    we are still taking their children

    Indeed we are. And often for very good reasons. In Queensland, the number of Aboriginal children in care is an absolute disgrace – put there by social workers who are imbued with the belief that splitting families is not the way to go. Stolen generations and the like being forefront in their thinking. Nevertheless, in absolute desperation, they make that decision.

    And having been close to that action in years gone by – I can only agree.

  20. Mark Needham

    It is very apparent that several commenters here did not understand the thrust of the article. But then again, what do you expect from Bolt haters.
    Muttering away, behind a wall, is not adding to the discourse.
    that’s just from the comments that made the cut. A couple didn’t (you can check them out in our bin).”

    At times there is a smell of, “Holier than thou”

    A Sinner,
    Mark Needham

  21. Mark Needham

    “Kaye Lee March 10, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    One 2 year old child got raped. The many reports from the community were ignored.”

    Is that enough, about the alleged rape, for you Roswell.

    Mark Needham
    PS. The whole saga is disgusting. Why do you wish to make mileage from it. C’mon, lets talk about the problems, or subject. Stop the sniping from the sideline.

  22. paul walter

    Peter S, you were either a deviant or completely misunderstood the meaning and aims of the Howard Intervention and what has followed.

    Really deeply sad and marvel at some of the post Intervention alibiing myths which are really just updates of previous racial smears.

  23. paul walter

    Kaye Lee, you can see that they realised full well at the end that she wasn’t a virgin.

  24. Kaye Lee


    I brought up the bureaucrats because they were mentioned in the submission I linked you to on another thread…

    “In 2003 in the NT public service there were 14,538 full-time equivalent positions for a population of 201,725. By 2016 there were 20,596 full-time equivalent positions for population of 244,900. Public service up 41.7%: population up 21.4%. The increase in the public service over and above the population increase is almost 3000 positions or about $400 million per annum.”

    I do understand that sometimes children must be removed from dangerous family situations but that does nothing to help the underlying problem. It is reactive rather than proactive. Funding should be focused on early intervention and support and placements should be, where possible, with Aboriginal carers and kin.

    Unless we do the hard yards on prevention, we just end up with another Stolen Generation.

  25. tony h ridler

    There’s a little bit of #ABolt, in every screwball!

  26. Roswell

    Being “holier than though” am I, Mark?

    Some comments simply aren’t fit for publication. Fact.

    What’s that about sniping from the sideline?

  27. Kaye Lee

    “The whole saga is disgusting. Why do you wish to make mileage from it. C’mon, lets talk about the problems, or subject. ”

    I have never known you to discuss a subject, Mark. You throw out a few obscure words which don’t even make a sentence let alone discuss a topic.

    As for the “disgusting saga” as you put it, it has nothing to do with the article but was just thrown in by Peter S in some sort of rant against Aborigines in general – the type of spray we have come to expect from those who get their misinformation from Bolt.

  28. Max Gross

    Blot is like a chimp in a cage lobbing turds at everyone that passes by in the hope of hitting somebody.

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