The Australian defends Bill Leak cartoon despite growing condemnation

The Australian has defended a controversial cartoon published today, which suggests indigenous fathers do not know the names of their own children, by insisting it has bought a “crucial issue” into the public domain.

Editor in chief Paul Whittaker said Bill Leak’s cartoons “force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis can fail to do”.

the australianHe said that too often people “skirt around the root causes and tough issues”.

But as the broadsheet defended the cartoon – published on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day – the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council attacked it as “ugly, insulting and embarrassing”.

The cartoon shows a policeman bringing back an indigenous child to his father by the scruff and telling him: “You’ll have to sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility”.

The father responds: “Yeah righto, what’s his name then?”

The Leak cartoon published by The Australian.

The Leak cartoon published by The Australian.

Whittaker said The Australian is “proud of its long standing and detailed contribution to our national over the crucial issues in Indigenous affairs”.

“The current controversy over juvenile detention in the Northern Territory has lifted these matters to the forefront of national attention again,” he said. “Too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues. But not everyone.

“This week on Lateline, Noel Pearson said: “Blackfellas have got to take charge and take responsibility for their own children … That part of the message really struggles to get traction.”

“In our pages, Marcia Langton said: “Instead of talking about personal agency, these people talk about self-determination. It drowns out any message about personal agency.”

“Bill Leak’s confronting and insightful cartoons force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis can fail to do.”

But the NSWALC joined a chorus of criticism aimed at the newspaper and Leak.

In a statement, NSWALC chair Roy Ah-See, said: “Sadly racism and discrimination is a fact of life for Aboriginal people who have lived on and cared for this country for more than 60,000 years.

“Bill Leak’s cartoon is ugly, insulting and it is embarrassing for Australia’s national newspaper to publish it. It is time the decision-makers at The Australian accept personal responsibility for the hurt they have caused Aboriginal people today.”

The Australian Press Council confirmed it has received at least one complaint, with a number of commentators online describing the cartoon as racist and implying that it might be breach APC’s guidelines on the reporting of race.


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