HOW dare Adam Goodes make a gesture that may stem from his Koori background? Surely he could have used the more civilised mock chainsaw starting, or have pumped his fist, or even the soccer celebration of punching the corner flags or the more entertaining sliding along the ground on his knees.
Are we serious? Goodes is an ornament to AFL football. My only discomfort with his actions was that he was cutting my side up on the footy ground. His people have put up with all sorts of abuse on the football ground and off it, yet we think we can take offence at a gesture that displays aggression with an indigenous symbol. If Goodes’ act was so bad, why don’t we rise in outrage at the Maori haka before a rugby game?
According to the Herald-Sun caption, "Adam Goodes has celebrated scoring a goal with a war cry aimed at Carlton fans."
"Had we known before the game that Adam or the indigenous players were planning to do some sort of 'war cry', we could have been able to educate and understand the situation."
Eddie McGuire, Collingwood president
The uproar around Goodes’ celebration on the weekend stems from the attitude that we’re happy for those Koori “boys” to play footy for us but they should know their place. I’ve just read Bryce Courtney’s book Tandia and I’m incredulous at the depth of racism and the brutality of apartheid South Africa. But we’re not like that, are we? An uncomfortable question – can you be just a little bit racist?
It’s seriously time we grew up as a community and recognises Goodes’ right to use his celebrity to push his people’s interests. Koories have suffered outright aggression, acts of genocide and a paternalistic approach from governments of all persuasions, including a policy of assimilation that sought to breed them out of existence.
Aboriginal youths are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal youths. We spend $440,000 a year to keep someone in jail and starve support services trying to keep them out of it. Charlie Pickering nailed this farce to the wall in his searing commentary on the “Goodes incident” where he highlighted the hypocrisy and cant of the white commentators.
Comedian Andy Saunders put the Koori situation succinctly. “Australia is so welcoming to indigenous people. Sometimes you even feel you belong here.”
In relation to another group in our society who should know their place – women – in a eulogy for Joan Kirner on “Crikey”, Mary Delahunty discussed why women get such odious treatment at the top of the political pole in Australia. She quoted Kirner, Victoria's first and only female premier: "Women are accepted if serving but not if controlling. We might be accepted as a minister, even a deputy leader, but the leader controls, controls the government, influences the state, the country."
Is there a parallel here? I believe there is. Privileged groups stress the importance of knowing one’s place. In her address to the Press Club this week, domestic violence campaigner and Australian of the year Rosie Batty said that as the only girl in her family there were no expectations on her to gain an education, nor could she expected to inherit and run the farm. Not an uncommon experience.
She also drew a parallel in funding the fight against terrorism, largely on foreign soil, and the lack of funding to fight domestic violence. Two women a week are killed by domestic violence – how many die from terrorism? She argued that domestic violence should be regarded as domestic terrorism and then perhaps the money would flow to stem this scourge.
Our failure to address the third world conditions that many Aborigines live in is similarly appalling. Perhaps this should be labelled government terrorism.
A cynical view is that action against terrorism is convenient for governments because it distracts the population from local issues. Pay lip service to tackling domestic violence and racism while quietly recognising that they are just too hard or inconvenient to deal with.
If we are uncomfortable with Goodes’ action, or the rebuke from a woman campaigning for the victims of domestic violence, we need to acknowledge our appalling record in showing respect for these groups in our community. Then get over it and demand proper attention to the policy areas that address them.
June 12, 2015
Thank you for Mike Whelan’s article – I must congratulate him on a very nice piece of writing. We can’t have enough of his sane pointers.
June 7, 2015
Michael Whelan must be congratulated and thanked for his brilliant analysis of attitudes to racism and domestic violence in Australia in his article ‘Thou Shalt Know Thy Place’. His last para is worth reading again and again until we get it right. Here it is again: ’If we are uncomfortable with Goodes’ action, or the rebuke from a woman campaigning for the victims of domestic violence, we need to acknowledge our appalling record in showing respect for these groups in our community. Then get over it and demand proper attention to the policy areas that address them.’
Meryl Tobin Brown, Grantville
June 7, 2015
I really enjoyed Michael's piece about Indigenous and Women's rights. It was a well thought out piece of writing, with touches of sarcasm that made his points quite well.
It is a sad thing that people are still treated as though they have to conform and that White Australia seems to be the only ones with a voice and that a masculine one. Yet it is nice to hear that same voice being used by Michael to speak out on behalf of those who are often overlooked.