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This wide, brown, racist land

By Stephen Hagan - posted Monday, 31 March 2008

Are Indigenous Australians so economically useless and menacingly unattractive that they need to be relocated away from their birth place or removed from public view?

Just when you think the tide of public opinion in support of Indigenous Australians is turning, after Prime Minister Rudd’s heartfelt national apology on February 13, along comes two unsavoury incidents that staggeringly snap us out of our complacency.

An incident in my home town of Cunnamulla, involving a mayoral candidate’s offer to pay 25 Aboriginal families $50,000 each to leave town, and a backpacker hostel owner in Alice Springs, evicting Aboriginal guests because he feared they scared his Japanese visitors, are sobering reminders that we still live in a country steeped in racism.


Many Indigenous leaders around the nation may even view these offensive acts as trivial compared to the more serious examples of racism their community members can cite regularly - but which fail to gain the media attention that these two issues have in recent weeks.

These communities, in Queensland and the Northern Territory, may be separated by a thousand kilometres of parched landscapes but the bigoted perpetrators’ contemptible acts against their local Indigenous population is a mirror image in intent.

Sadly these two incidents are not a coincidence - this is Australia 2008 - and can be viewed at will on any given day in any community with a significant Indigenous population.

The only positive to come out of both disgraceful events is the exposure of the offenders’ high level of racial intolerance, to their detriment, by national media outlets. The national publicity may well be a result of the media adopting a more objective stance on these occurrences since the stolen generation apology in federal parliament.

Let’s hope the media will continue to be as inclusive in their dealings on topics with a peculiar racial slant.

When I was first approached by family and friends from Cunnamulla, via an email, with the offensive flyers attached my initial thought was not to do anything that would give the mayoral candidate any publicity that might enhance his campaign.


After all it is the publicity that these types of people crave the most and which motivates them to put pen to paper and vent their spleen. We Indigenous Australians are all too familiar with the disdain with which we are held by certain racist elements within our communities, even so very few of these people publicly take their message of racial hatred to the next level through the publication of their troubling thoughts.

A week passed and I still hadn’t bothered to do anything about the flyer when I had a visit to my office from concerned relatives who wanted to brief me further on what they were hearing from their mob back home and the damage this flyer was doing to their morale.

When I was told that this fellow had deliberately placed the racist flyers in letter boxes of local Indigenous families I then felt the need to become more proactive. I am well aware of the anxiety such mail can cause Indigenous families from personal experience with my long running dispute concerning the E.S. “Nigger” Brown Stand controversy - from people purporting to represent the Ku Klux Klan in the Toowoomba district.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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