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Aboriginal leaders sue Andrew Bolt

Pat Eatock

Andrew Bolt
Anrew Bolt

Chris Peterson Green Left Weekly April 10th, 2011

Nine Aboriginal people have sued Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt in Melbourne over four articles he wrote in 2009.

The court has heard the articles questioned the motives of "light" or "white-skinned" people who identified as Aboriginal.

The people taking the action under the Racial Vilification Act include activist Pat Eatock, former ATSIC chairperson Geoff Clark, artist Bindi Cole, academic Larissa Behrendt, author Anita Heiss, health worker Leeanne Enoch, native title expert Graham Atkinson, academic Wayne Atkinson and lawyer Mark McMillan.

In Bolt's 2009 article, "White is the new Black", he said identifying as Indigenous was "divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences we once swore to overcome. What happened to wanting us all to become colour blind?"

He accused those mentioned in articles of being "Aboriginal bureaucrats", "professional Aborigines" and argued that they referred to themselves as Aboriginal despite "not looking Aboriginal". Bolt further implied they did this for personal gain, at the expense of "darker skinned" Aboriginal people.

Ron Merkel, QC, told the court that Bolt relied on outdated notions of racial identity, dating to the eugenics movement of the 1930s the March 29 Age reported.

Defending herself in The Age, Eatock said: "From when I was eight, and I started skipping school because of the taunting until I was 14, when I left school, [my Aboriginal heritage] became a concrete aspect of my view of myself."

From the age of 14, she said, she publicly identified as Aboriginal

According to The Age: "Her time in the workforce was marked, she said, by short-term jobs and long periods of ill health and joblessness. 'I would say in fact a reasonable person looking at [my CV] would say it's a failed career, six years' employment in 34 years or something. That's a lot of unemployment. Where's my mansion? Where's my car? I live in a one-bedroom flat, Department of Housing. That's not a significant achievement.'"

According to The Age: "Larissa Behrendt Behrendt said she was stunned that Bolt referred to her as a "a professional Aborigine ", referred to her as 'mein liebchen', highlighted an unknown German background and that a photo was used with the column where she had dyed blond hair."

This is not new territory for Bolt, who claimed in a February 2004 Herald Sun article: "The stolen generations was a dangerous myth."
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) is a term used to describe children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by Australian government agencies and church missions. The removals continued until the 1970s.
Bolt's articles also ignore the real causes of Aboriginal disadvantage - the dispossession of their lands.

Despite common racist myths, there is no extra benefit - financial or social incentives - to be gained from identifying as Aboriginal. In reality, federal government funding for Aboriginal programs are greatly under funded in comparison with non-Aboriginal programs.

The only serious way to end disadvantage for Aboriginal people is for the government to redress the historical injustices: pay the rent, pay the stolen wages and compensate Indigenous people for unfair policies of genocide and assimilation since colonisation.


Source: HeraldSun Article

Column - White is the new black

Andrew Bolt Herald Sun April 15th, 2009

Meet the white face of a new black race - the political Aborigine.

Meet, say, acclaimed St Kilda artist Bindi Cole, who was raised by her English-Jewish mother yet calls herself "Aboriginal but white".

She rarely saw her part-Aboriginal father, and could in truth join any one of several ethnic groups, but chose Aboriginal, insisting on a racial identity you could not guess from her features.

She also chose, incidentally, the one identity open to her that has political and career clout.

And how popular a choice that now is. Ask Annette Sax, another artist and - as the very correct Age newspaper described her - a "white Koori".

Her father was Swiss, and her mother only part-Aboriginal. Racially, if these things mattered, she is more Caucasian than anything else. Culturally, she's more European. In looks, she's Swiss.

But she, too, has chosen to call herself Aboriginal, which happily means she could be shortlisted for this year's Victorian Indigenous Art Award.

Shall I go on? Not yet convinced that there is a whole new fashion in academia, the arts and professional activism to identify as Aboriginal?

Not yet convinced that for many of these fair Aborigines, the choice to be Aboriginal can seem almost arbitrary and intensely political, given how many of their ancestors are in fact Caucasian?

Then meet now Tara June Winch, who is just 26 and has written only one book, Swallow the Air, yet is already an ambassador for the Australia Council's Indigenous Literacy Project.

Yes, indeed, because despite her auburn hair and charmingly freckled face, she, too, is an Aborigine, who claims her "country is Wiradjuri".

Yet her mother, who raised her in industrial Wollongong, is in fact boringly English, and her father has both Afghan and Aboriginal heritage.

She could call herself English, Afghan, Aboriginal, Australian or just a take-me-as-I-am human being called Tara June Winch. Race irrelevant.

Instead, she's an official Aborigine, and hired as such in a nation that now institutionalises even racial differences you cannot detect with a naked eye.

Larissa Behrendt has also worked as a professional Aborigine ever since leaving Harvard Law School, despite looking almost as German as her father name, and having been raised by her white mother.

She chose to be Aboriginal, as well, a member of the "Eualayai and Kammillaroi nations", and is now a senior professor at the University of Technology in Sydney's Indigenous House of Learning.

She's won many positions and honours as an Aborigine, including the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers, and is often interviewed demanding special rights for "my people".

But which people are "yours", exactly, Larissa? And isn't it bizarre to demand laws to give you more rights as a white Aborigine than your own white mum?

How much more of this madness can you take? Meet now Associate Professor Anita Heiss, who says she's a "member of the Wiradjuri nation" who prays to Biami, the tribe's creator spirit.

Heiss's father was Austrian, and her mother only part-Aboriginal. What's more, she was raised in Sydney and educated at Saint Claire's Catholic College. She, too, could identify as a member of more than one race, if joining up to any at all was important.

As it happens, her decision to identify as Aboriginal, joining four other "Austrian Aborigines" she knows, was lucky, given how it's helped her career.

Heiss not only took out the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry, but won plum jobs reserved for Aborigines at Koori Radio, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board and Macquarie University's Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies.

I'm not saying any of those I've named chose to be Aboriginal for anything but the most heartfelt and honest of reasons. I certainly don't accuse them of opportunism, even if full-blood Aborigines may wonder how such fair people can claim to be one of them and in some cases take black jobs.

I'm saying only that this self-identification as Aboriginal strikes me as self-obsessed, and driven more by politics than by any racial reality.

It's also divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences we once swore to overcome. What happened to wanting us all to become colour blind?

Of course, the white Aborigine - or "political Aborigine" - is not new.

In 1972, Pat Eatock, founding secretary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, officially became the first Aborigine to stand for federal parliament in the ACT, even though she looked as white as her Scottish mother, or some of her father's British relatives.

Indeed, Eatock only started to identify as Aboriginal when she was 19, after attending a political rally, so little did any racial difference matter to her before her awakening to far-Left causes.

But she thrived as an Aboriginal bureaucrat, activist and academic, leading the way for Leeanne Enoch, who stood for Labor in last month's Queensland election as its "first Aboriginal candidate" in a winnable seat, despite looking as Aboriginal, or not, as Premier Anna Bligh.

The white Aboriginal artist, too, is more than 15 years old. Kim Scott was hailed as the first Aborigine to win the Miles Franklin Award, and calls himself a Noongar, despite conceding that the Aborigines who did not know him called him wadjila - a white.

No doubt he has Aboriginal ancestry, but why does he not also identify with his obvious European background?

That is now a question even for our most famous Aboriginal leaders. Geoff Clark, the last chairman of ATSIC, the Aboriginal "parliament", had an English a Scottish father. Lowtija O'Donohue, another ATSIC chairman, had an Irish father. Blue-eyed Michael Mansell, the Tasmanian firebrand, clearly has more European than Aboriginal ancestry.

Even Professor Mick Dodson, the Australian of the Year and a fierce advocate for a treaty between black and white, had a white father and from the age of 10 was a boarder at a Victorian Catholic school. Sign a treaty with yourself, Mick.

Or take the most prominent Yorta Yorta leaders - Melbourne University academic Wayne Atkinson and Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group co-chair Graham Atkinson. Both are Aboriginal because their Indian great-grandfather married a part-Aboriginal woman.

I think it sad if we keep harping on about differences and rights based on trivial inflections of race.

And how comic it can be. We get fair-faced Dr Mark Rose, director of Melbourne University's Centre for Indigenous Education, falsely claiming as "a member of the western Victorian Gundjitamara Nation" that the northern Australia didgeridoo is banned to women.

We get Daniel Browning, host of ABC radio's Awaye! program for Aborigines, insisting he's Aboriginal when he looks more like one of his West Indian ancestors, and could just as correctly claim to be South Sea Islander, English, Australian or who-cares.

To me, this blacker-than-thou offends the deepest humanist ideals, and our "enlightened" opinion is debased when it takes a Casey Donovan, a mere Australian Idol winner, to hint at the healthier truth, saying she's proud of being Aboriginal, but "proud of being half-white, too".

In fact, let's go beyond racial pride. Beyond black and white. Let's be proud only of being human beings set on this land together, determined to find what unites us and not to invent such racist and trivial excuses to divide. Deal?