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I’ll Keep it Brief Mia – Australian Blackface

1. As most of us know Delta Goodrem retweeted the other night a chap in blackface and thought it “Hilarious”

2. Mia Freedman uses her popular website Mamamia to defend Delta and suggesting “there is a huge difference between painting your face black to mock an entire race and painting yourself black to respectfully dress up as someone who has black skin.”

Well that is where you are dead wrong Mia, your whole article is wrong, but this is particularly offensive. There is a misconception in your article and in most of what is written about Blackface that it began as a way of white actors painting on the black and playing buffoonish characters. This is flatly incorrect! Although this is what would become of Blackface it actually started much earlier in serious theatre were the complete lack of black actors meant the roles were filled by white folk with their faces and arms painted black.

Now why couldn’t black people simply play those roles like we would expect now. Geez we got a whole season of Redfern Now with an Indigenous cast playing their own black roles. What on earth was going on back in the halcyon days of blackface that required white folk to black up.


This is what was happening Mia, this is where the black men were in this country! I know you probably think slavery was confined to the United States and ended with the Civil War and stamped out with the Civil Rights movement. But how about looking back at the history of your own country, the massacres, the forced labour, the removal of children, the brutality. This is why these men were not available down at the local theatre to play a black role, in Australia they were in chains!

So when blackface is used in Australia, when a famous person thinks it is “Hilarious” and when you believe in can be used “Respectfully” look back at this photo and have a think. This is the real past of where Blackface in this country comes. And now fast forward to today, a life expectancy for Aboriginal people at third world levels.

Look above at the photo again, they are black faces, they are slave chains around their necks and the use of Blackface is the re-attachment of those handcuffs and padlocks!

Racism, Gurrumul and #TheDrum

Yesterday I posted the article below about a racist incident that saw Indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu refused service by a Taxi driver. As the article pointed out and as the witnesses there attested to, this was racism no if’s or but’s about it. Cab had been called, others were waiting outside with the Cab and all was fine until the Taxi Driver spotted Gurrumul and sped off refusing the fare. End Story…

… Or so I thought. After reading a variety of newspaper articles that detailed the facts I was waiting for my first taste of media “opinion” on the issue when I noticed it would be discussed on ABC’s The Drum, a show I watch regularly anyway. If it had have been on ACA, Today Tonight or a Morning Show I wouldn’t have bothered, the comments would have been as predictable as they would have been wrong. But from the National Broadcaster we are entitled to expect a little different. But I had mistakenly assumed this would be an informative discussion, the host of the show John Barron then finished his introduction of the story with this, “In a way you can see two sides to this”. You can?

The Host then detailed a possible scenario, which has no basis in what we know about the incident from the witnesses there about how the Taxi driver could possibly be forgiven for making the conclusion that Gurrumul had possibly been turfed out of the pub yadda yadda yadda. Now I am not suggesting John Barron is racist or anything of the sort, from his journalism I take him to be a very decent man. But there are in some cases simple rights and wrongs. And after more than 200 years if we are still excusing or finding reasons to excuse the perpetrators of racism against Aboriginal people then something is clearly wrong.

So let’s be real for a few moments, if there is one group in Australia you can still get away with wholesale racism against it is Indigenous Australians. From the daily verbal abuse all Indigenous people have experienced to the Racial Discrimination ACT being suspended for the implementation of the NT Intervention denying it exists simply means you are blissfully ignorant, seriously sheltered or dabble in a little yourself. As both Jane Caro and Johnathan Green pointed out as guests of The Drum, both stories they have heard and from surveys and data widely available these incidents are both common and racially based. It was only a week ago that a twitter follower of mine and her young family had experienced racism from a Taxi driver.

But all of this simply highlights a broader point, if we are to “Close The Gap” then racism is one key area that must be addressed with as much vigour as Health and Education. That one of Australia’s most famous Indigenous people, blind, soft-spoken and whose music brings audiences to tears can be the subject of such public racism then this is but an indicator of how bad and entrenched this is in society and many of the policies we still see implemented to this day. That in such a glaring example of racism it could be suggested that two sides exist is but an example of how even the best journalists on the most respected network still have a lot to learn.

Perhaps the conversation would have been better served on The Drum if the panelists were not all middle-aged and white. But then again being middle-aged and white should not prevent you from seeing the blindingly obvious. So when you question why many Aboriginal people live with such despair, life expectancy at third world levels, suicide at epidemic proportions, incarceration rates at obscene levels, drug and alcohol abuse rife… ask yourself this. Why am I questioning the pain of a fellow human being, when a crucial factor in their suffering is so obvious. So obvious, so damaging, so ingrained… but even in 2012 a victim of such abuse is told perhaps there is two sides to the story, perhaps it is not real.

Or perhaps it is so real that the gap cannot be closed until it is addressed with absolute truth. That it is challenged at an individual level by all on a daily basis and at a national level with a new beginning. And perhaps by not giving it an excuse that there are two sides to this story. There aren’t, racism in Australia directed in a variety of ways at Indigenous people is real. And it has damaging, far-reaching consequences that see the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians unacceptably wide to the point of a grave injustice that can no longer and should never have been tolerated. That is the only side to this story!


Racism in Australia: Taxi driver refuses singer

Multi-award winning blind Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu has been refused a cab on the basis of the colour of his skin, according to his managers.

Gurrumul was leaving The Palais in St Kilda on Tuesday night after performing with Missy Higgins when the incident occurred.

When the taxi driver saw them, he said, ‘Oh no, don’t worry about it mate,’ and just drove off. 

He was making his way out of the venue after the concert with his partner, Bronwyn, and the help of security staff while his co-manager, Mark Grose, went to hail him a cab.

Musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.Musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

Grose said he hailed a cab out the front of the Palais and asked Gurrumul’s co-manager and double-bass player, Michael Hohnen, to wait with the cab outside until Gurrumul exited the building.

“When the taxi driver saw them, he said, ‘Oh no, don’t worry about it mate,’ and just drove off,” says Hohnen. Hohnen says that the cab had not been told of their intended destination and therefore would not have refused the fare on that basis.

“I was half way between the building and the cab just imploring the cab driver to wait a second,” says Hohnen, who is reluctant to describe the taxi driver, other than to say he looked about 45 years old.

“I think that just sort of draws negative elements into the whole story,” he says. “All I know is that he saw Gurrumul and Bronwyn come outthe door and said, ‘Nup, I’m not taking them.'”

Grose told ABC radio this morning that the driver was subcontinental in appearance.

Hohnen angrily yelled after the cab as it drove off, but did not tell Gurrumul that he thought the driver’s reaction had been motivated by racism.

“I said it just drove off. He and Bronwyn were laughing at me because he never hears me yell.”

It was a bitter end to what had been a great night, Hohnen said.

“Missy Higgins had tweeted that the song she’d performed with Gurrumul was a career highlight, and we were all on a high and then we come out and this happens.”

He says it’s not the first time it’s happened. “We work with a lot of Aboriginal artists and you see it happening all the time.”

An incensed Grose called the ABC this morning to report the incident, which is earning Gurrumul sympathy and support on Twitter and Facebook.

Gurrumul himself is yet to comment. “He would have heard about it by now, I’m sure,” says Hohnen. “He doesn’t really express a lot, he’ll process it for a while I’d say. He’ll probably watch how everyone else reacts before he makes up his mind.”

The Victorian Taxi Directorate is investigating the claims, but spokesman Steve Bright says it will be “very difficult” to track down the driver without a taxi number or license plate.

“Otherwise it’s just one of 6000 taxis on the street,” he said.

If caught, the driver could be charged $305 for a first offence, said Mr Bright.

“Depending on the seriousness, the accreditation may be reviewed, he may get a warning, he may get his accreditation suspended, or even cancelled entirely.”

Mr Bright said the directorate gets about 300 to 400 fare refusal complaints a year, but that “zero” complaints in the past year have been made on the basis of race.

Anyone with any information on the incident is encourage to call the VDT complaints line on 1800 638 802.


She Can’t Help Being Deadly…

… She was born that way!

It comes as no surprise that Andrew Bolt has found himself involved in yet another controversy surrounding race.  We all know Bolt lost a high profile case and like the guy who doesn’t accept the umpires decision in a game of street cricket he’s taking his bat and ball and going home. But first he is going to throw around a few names and smash some bins as he marches off down the street.

But Bolt doesn’t simply play with a bat and ball, he plays with peoples lives, with the identity of an entire race and as the most read journalist in Australia, with how we shape public discussion on such issues for generations to come. Bolt and his supporters would have you believe that he lost a free speech case and that he has been silenced. This is a lie!

He breached the Racial Discrimination Act and returned to work as Australia’s most read columnist & blogger who also has a TV show and a radio program. Silenced? And how much did the applicants ask for in damages, landmark case like that would have to get you a few million each surely? Not a cent! No victims here, just folk wanting the record set straight and for Bolt to tell the truth and not abuse them racially. This does not seem like too much to ask, In fact as someone who knows a thing or two about handling high profile court cases I would say the nine individuals who took the case against Bolt are brave for what they did. Brave because going through any legal battle is awful, especially one where you have been wronged and it is played out in the media.

Six months later and we arrive back at the present time and Bolt having come to terms with his error has had the chance to meet with Indigenous leaders, think about the importance of his own Dutch culture to him and apologise to each and all…

Or that is what would have happened if he was indeed sorry, a decent individual or employed by a media company that respected the law. One of the applicants to the case, Dr Anita Heiss, has written a new booked entitled Am I Black Enough For You? and Bolt & co. are fuming. From reading his column and their ranting it seems they don’t believe Dr Heiss should have written the book, it shouldn’t have been published and she shouldn’t be speaking about the case or her identity.

In short, they want Dr Heiss silenced, they don’t believe in free speech and so they’ve taken to Amazon to ridicule a book they haven’t read. All at the direction of Bolt, who in his Column (most read in Australia) spoke about the book and Dr Heiss.

Hold on a moment, who’s free speech is being attacked here?

Let’s get some fact straight. Dr Anita Heiss is an author of considerable standing in Australia. She has been a prolific writer for two decades with successful works across a wide range of genres. A director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and an author who gives back to the entire community through her promotion of literature and the craft, literacy for all Australian’s and encouraging and assisting up and coming writers with their work. Having been seriously misrepresented by Bolt, something a judge found also breached the Racial Discrimination Act it is only a very nasty individual who would seek to deny her the right of reply.

But to suggest that this is all her new book is about is an insult to Dr Heiss and an insult to anyone who cares about true harmony and understanding in the Australian community. The book is about a woman who comes from the oldest living culture in the world but lives in one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. The story of a woman of colour who has become a leader in her field when very few existed and what it is like to be a high profile Aboriginal Woman in a ground breaking legal case.

What Heiss shows us with her book is that your identity is not one that can be written on an ID card, it is not something determined by where you live and despite any obstacles laid in her way she is not a victim but a success and an example to all of us.

Make no mistake, history will judge this period of time in our Nation. It will judge the fact that Indigenous Australian’s still face a 20 year gap in life expectancy compared to their non-Indigenous brothers and sisters. It will judge how a Government sent the army into communities that needed nurses and teachers and it will judge how a few white men in the media tried to tell the oldest living culture on earth how they should determine their identity.

And then History will turn the page on Am I Black Enough For You? And see Dr Anita Heiss, a writer, an activist, a teacher and a leader who stood up so that future generations can live out their identity as they see fit, not have it questioned or belittled.

Dr Anita Heiss is a proud woman of the Wiradjuri nation, an incredible writer and she is more than Black enough! Andrew Bolt is a convicted racist, one found to be a terrible journalist who relies heavily on google for his research and a man who has contributed nothing to the positive  growth of our country. It is only because Bolt lost in court to Heiss that their names ever need be mentioned in the same breath. And with her new book and dignified response to Bolt’s continued attacks she is winning again!

Buy the book here:-

Racism in Australia, it still exists!

No words required.

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