The Australian needs to continue its constructive dialogue

Author: Ben Wyatt MLA

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Ben Wyatt is a Yamatji man, and is currently the Member for Victoria Park, WA.

The Australian newspaper, to its great credit, has consistently and reliably covered the plethora of issues confronting Aboriginal Australia. Importantly, the Australian editorial position has been willing to cover the large diversity of views from the national Aboriginal leadership.

Bill Leak’s cartoon today does not add to this constructive dialogue. Indeed, it demeans the important role that The Australian newspaper has played over a long time. Contrary to the view that it raises important issues for debate, it has only had the impact of portraying a view of Aboriginal Australians that is, frankly, offensive.

All Australians know that, from time to time, the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia erupts into periodic tension. It is important that institutions like The Australian newspaper understand that they have an important role to play, not only in fleshing out these arguments, but in ensuring that it does not seek to demean those involved in the debate.

The recent 4 Corners regarding the treatment of juveniles in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is yet another flash point in the debate around the treatment of Aboriginal people, in this case juveniles. Clearly the Leak cartoon, in this climate, was never going to add to the debate in a constructive way, but simply cause anger and humiliation.

For those who argue that complaints about the Leak cartoon are misplaced political correctness, you are wrong. Nobody is hiding from the necessity of the debate about the rights, and responsibilities, that parents have in the raising of their children. However, if we are, as a serious nation, going to have a serious debate about a serious issue then this must be done so in a respectful manner.

I have been involved in the frontline of the debate around Aboriginal Affairs for over a decade. I understand that difficult issues must be confronted. However, I do not accept that a popular critique of political correctness can become a shield by which the most offensive things can be said, or drawn, about particular members of the Australian community.

Time and again I have seen the terms of this debate play out – offensive comments written, or pictures drawn, and upon complaint those protagonists hold up, in defence, political correctness as though only the truly offensive will enable us to confront the truly important issues, like the safe upbringing of our children.

It is an argument that can only spiral into the truly darkest part of our character.

I have come to rely on The Australian newspaper to be the main media outlet in Australia that consistently and reliably covers all angles of the various debates around Aboriginal Affairs. And in a manner that represents all views.

Bill Leak’s cartoon is not consistent with the leadership role that the Australian newspaper has taken in Aboriginal Affairs over a long period of time. Indeed, it demeans all Australians.

This article was originally published here and is reposted with the permission of the author.

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