I’m an Aborigine: just ask Andrew Bolt

‘‘It’s so hip to be black’’ wrote Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun just over a year ago.

Bolt also wrote on his blog under the headline, ‘‘White is the new black’’. Here Andrew Bolt provided an inventory of light or white-skinned people who identified themselves as Aboriginal, and suggested that their choosing to do so was proof of ‘‘a whole new fashion in academia, the arts and professional activism’’. Bolt added that ‘‘for many of these fair Aborigines, the choice to be Aboriginal can seem almost arbitrary and intensely political’’.

Miglo subsequently wrote his excellent and informative article I’m an Aborigine…just ask me where he put forward:

Aborigines face the unending task of resisting attempts, on the one hand to cut them off from their heritage, and on the other to bury them within it as a thing of the past. This statement is indicative of the struggles that Indigenous Australians face in the constructions of their own Aboriginality.

And also:

In denying people the right to relate to themselves through their bodies and where notions of kinship are organised around cultural notions of the body is denying Aboriginal a major aspect of their Aboriginality. The dominant theoretical prescription of ideal Aboriginality would act to prevent Aborigines from creating their identities out of the body and out of biology, and would also in effect prevent them talking descent and moreover reinventing their notions of descent.

The assertion of Aboriginality is part of a political process. Although the legal and social status of Aborigines has changed significantly, they are by no means equal participants in Australian society. They still suffer severe social disadvantage and defacto discrimination; in the eyes of many whites, being Aboriginal is still a social stigma. Against this background, many Aborigines are consciously and actively working to establish positive images of themselves and their cultures. This involves the rejection or reversal of dominant European definitions; the promotion of colour as a desirable feature rather than a taint; and the revival, invention, or adoption of distinctively Aboriginal cultural behaviours and symbols . . . The construction of a new identity in which all Aboriginal people can share.

So there you go. If you want to know if I’m an Aborigine, just ask me.

The action brought by Ms Eatock and others (Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103) claimed that “the articles conveyed offensive messages about fair-skinned Aboriginal people, by saying that they were not genuinely Aboriginal and were pretending to be Aboriginal so they could access benefits that were available to Aboriginal people.” In doing so Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) including sections 18C and 18D were invoked.

In addition, and in order for the claim to have been successful Ms Eatock had to establish that:

  • It was reasonably likely that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the contuct; and
  • That the conduct was done by Mr Bolt and the Herald & Weekly Times, including because of the race, colour or ethnic origin of fair-skinned Aboriginal people.

Andrew Bolt denied the above, plus put forward that the articles should be “exempted or excused”, and that is it was done “in good faith” and was “fair comment”.

Justice Bromberg concluded that the above criteria regarding offence, humiliation and intimidation were upheld. Justice Bromberg also concluded that for the purpose of the Racial Discrimination Act that “Aboriginal people are a race and have common ethnic origin”.

Justice Bromberg also importantly concluded that the actions of Andrew Bolt were not exempt due to “the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language”.

And it’s worth repeating, Bolt lost his case because he got his facts wrong and because he distorted the truth and tried to inflame and provoke.

Addendum: I thought that this might be of interest..from 1970..