An Australian newspaper has not just refused to apologize for the highly racist cartoon portraying aboriginal people in its pages, but its editor-in-chief, Paul Whittaker, is “proud” of its coverage of indigenous communities.
The world has been in a state of acute shock and outrage since the emergence of pictures and videos of the appalling treatment of Indigenous children at Don Dale Detention Center, but apparently some in Australia are not at all remorseful. In fact, The Australian has once again targeted the marginalized group by posting a cartoon depicting a disheveled and potentially inebriated aboriginal man who does not recognize his own son, who has been apprehended by the police.
This is in one of Australia's most influential newspapers today. Absolutely racist. Absolutely inexcusable. pic.twitter.com/UsBSlKNGRW— Allan Clarke (@AllanJClarke) August 3, 2016
The cartoon implies the high rate of aboriginal incarcerations in juvenile prisons is due to lack of personal and parental responsibility, rather than the rampant inequality and systemic racism.
“Too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues,” Whittaker have said in regards to the issues surrounding detention of children in Northern Australia. “But not everyone,” he added in reference to his newspaper.
In defense of Bill Leak, the illustrator of the satirical cartoon, Whittaker cited Aboriginal leader Marcia Langton and Noel Pearson and said both called for indigenous families to take responsibilities for their social problems.
However, the Press Council of the country has received numerous complaints from the indigenous community and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council that have prompted it to investigate whether the caricature breaches their guidelines, which forbids publishers to place “gratuitous emphasis on the race, religion, nationality, color, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness, or age of an individual or group.”
Greens' leader Richard di Natale called the cartoon "disgraceful" and said it reminded him of the worst days of the White Australia policy.
“I've written to the editors of The Australian newspaper asking them to apologize for those awful stereotypes ... Fancy a cartoon implying that aboriginal parents don't love their children.”
“It is disheartening in the extreme to have such a cartoon published on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day when we are celebrating the achievements of our children,” said Professor Muriel Bamblett, AM, the chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Co-Operative, who believes the cartoon was a deliberate act to insult aboriginal people.
Remember: The Australian and Bill Leak are actually making money off trauma and racism to the Aboriginal community. https://t.co/u99m7JeZAu— Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) August 4, 2016
I wonder if Bill Leak will take personal responsibility for the harm he's caused the Aboriginal community with his comic? #ItStopsWithMe— Miranda Tapsell (@missmirandatap) August 4, 2016
That racist cartoon by Bill Leak in The Australian would have caused outcry 30yrs ago. How it's published in major outlet now beyond belief.— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) August 3, 2016
next time anyone complains about the left controlling the media point out that Bill Leak still has a job https://t.co/2jL1nbnORW— thomas violence (@thomas_violence) August 3, 2016
As for Leak, he has been the subject of numerous such controversies over the years.
A reminder that The Australian, a national broadsheet, has been publishing Bill Leak's racist scribbles since '06: pic.twitter.com/XzY6xANZzv— Vanessa Lawrence (@nesslawrence) August 3, 2016
Just last year, Leak drew this cartoon depicting impoverished Indians eating solar panels. The message apparently was that India had need for food, not solar panels because it’s such a poor country, despite the fact India has proven to be a much better adaptor of solar power than Australia.
Another illustration, published in 2014, apparently sent the message that Hamas fighters had no love for their children and only used them as a shield from the firing line.
Leak’s reputation as a cartoonist has been controversial since the beginning but this latest publication demeans all aboriginal people by judging them on prejudice and stereotype and is inflaming the already simmering racial tensions.