Australia’s indigenous community protests a cartoon it considers racist

Australia's indigenous community protests a cartoon it considers racist

Australia’s indigenous community protests a cartoon it considers racist.

This is the scene:

Police: you must sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility Father: yes, very good What’s his name then?

On Thursday 4 August this cartoon by Bill Leak (1956) –(Bio) was published in the News Corporation (Rupert Murdoch) owned Australian newspaper The Australian (also popularly known as The OZ)

The scene features a father. He is holding a can of beer. He is unable to remember the name of his son, who is handed to him by a policeman.

And all hell breaks loose in Australia. And if there is one thing that is certain, as the English cartoonist Michael Heath (1936) says today, it is that:

It is now dangerous to be funnybecause people are so quick to take offence”.

Although perhaps the problem is to define what is funny, when and for whom. In the end it all comes down to the same old thing, the eternal confrontation between the supposed intentionality of the messages, the tone and their interpretations.

Among many other criticisms of the cartoon from people from different walks of life, there was that of Nigel Scullionthe Minister for Indigenous Affairs, who called the cartoon“particularly distasteful” as it was published on the same day as the National Aboriginal and Torres Islander Children’s Day(Children’s Day)

In a statement he also described it as racist.

“Although Australian cartoonists have a rich tradition of irreverent satire, there is absolutely no reason to depict racist stereotypes”.

South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi responded to Scullion’s comments in a statement to the ABC, saying

“there are too many hypocritical Je suis Charlie”.

In reference to the millions of tweets posted after the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015.

On the same day, Malcolm Roberts said that section 18C in the Racial Discrimination Act was blocking free speech.

Nor did the NSWALC mince its words in its statement, which called the cartoon disgusting (ugly), insulting and racist and denigrating to Aboriginal people.

More reactions

And it ends with a sentence. “It is time for the management of The Australian to accept personal responsibility for the damage they have caused to Aboriginal people today.

Racist cartoon causes hurt and humiliation

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) will lodge a complaint to the Australian Press Council urging action against a racist cartoon in today’s edition of The Australian.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chair Roy Ah-See said Bill Leak’s cartoon – based on the Royal Commission into the shocking mistreatment of children in the Northern Territory juvenile justice system – insulted and denigrated Aboriginal people.

“Sadly, racism and discrimination is a fact of life for Aboriginal people who have lived on and cared for this country for more than 60,000 years.

“The hurt and humiliation that victims of racism experience is real and has a terrible toll on the health and well-being of Aboriginal people.

“The Land Rights network in New South Wales works hard to ensure Aboriginal people are proud of their identity and culture.

“Bill Leak’s cartoon is ugly, insulting and it is embarrassing for Australia’s national newspaper to publish it.

“It is time the decision-makers at The Australian accept personal responsibility for the hurt they have caused Aboriginal people today.”

The Australian NGO SNAICC (National Voice for our Children) also took a stand in a statement saying:

“The cartoon published today in The Australian, one of the country’s largest newspapers, is disgusting, disrespectful and hurtful.

Those involved in the publication of this clearly racist cartoon should be ashamed of themselves and should issue a public apology to all Australians”.

Protests by indigenous parents

Criticism mounted to the point that parents began posting photos of their children on Twitter in response to Bill Leaks’ cartoon under the hashtag #IndigenousDads.

On the afternoon of Thursday 4 August, the newspaper defended the cartoonist’s work in a statement the paper’s editor-in-chief, Paul Whittaker, said they were proud of his important contribution to the national debate on the crucial indigenous issues and felt that the cartoon forced an examination of those fundamental questions.

La comunidad indígena australiana protesta por una viñeta que considera racista

On Friday 5 August, the author sent the newspaper a version of the controversial cartoon where the cartoonist stood in for the child and was handed over for punishment to someone armed with a bat and rope wearing a T-shirt with the Twitter logo.

Police: this guy has been telling the truth and he thinks it’s funny Man with a stick: leave it to me…

For this image, The Australian and the cartoonist were warned of a possible investigation by the Human Rights Commission for breaching section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The case was closed in November 2016 without investigation.

The cartoonist defended himself against accusations of racism by describing his critics as“tantrum propagators” whom he called“self-righteous Twitterers“. (More accurate translation pending)

He said the “epidemic” of “unchecked rage” through social media in Australia was making it impossible to have any “intelligent debate” on serious social issues. Such as on issues like the “growing violence, abuse and neglect of children in remote indigenous communities”.

However, some cartoonists have unreservedly taken a stand against Bill Leak, and have entered the game by responding with their cartoons.


Cartoon by Ilya Milstein

On 19 September 2016, Survival International, an organisation that advocates for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, included Bill Leak among the four nominees for their racist of the Year Award. In the end, the 2016 Racist of the Year award went to the president of Botswana.

Australia's indigenous community protests a cartoon it considers racistBill Leak died on 10 March 2017 of a heart attack.

Related: 76 cases in other countries


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