Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I wonder if I am too weak to write a blogpost?

"Our women are the backbone of our community, and the Aboriginal community is weak if our women are weak, we need to bring our women up with us and embrace that,"  

"We are a dying species, an endangered species, our mortality rate is far worse than our birth rate. We are probably one of the only races on Earth like that right now. So we need to populate and multiply."

Late last week, in amongst a diatribe that can only be described as a severe synaptic misfire, Anthony Mundine made these two comments. You could be forgiven for missing them because the mainstream press seemed more focussed on his disparaging remarks on the identity of his upcoming boxing opponent, Aboriginal boxer Daniel Geale, as well as stupid comments on Tasmanian Aborigines having "died out" and Mundine calling Australia "racist" and calling for a new anthem and flag (that part I don't actually disagree with).

Similarly, the response to what Mundine said, as reported in mainstream and Indigenous publications, has mainly been in response to his comments on Tasmanian Aborigines, his comments about Geale and his family, and, of course, calling out his "racism". Even Danny Green has had a swipe on Mundine's comments about racism on his own Facebook page (guess he is still bitter about losing). Mundine has received a bit of a publicity flogging, and rightly so because him cracking a couple of books could have prevented this in the first place. He has also been made to publicly apologise to Geale's family and to Tasmanian Aboriginal people. A simple google search shows the action-reaction sequence of all this, and frankly, it's quite telling.

So my question to those out there who would read my stuff is this: how is it that Mundine has been allowed to offend pretty much half of all Aboriginal people and it barely raises an eyebrow, much less a commentary and a call for an apology? Is his implication that Aboriginal women are weak and not breeding enough with Aboriginal men at this point in time less offensive than everything he said about identity and Tasmanian Aborigines? What about those Tasmanian women who have been flogged twice by Mundine, firstly for not existing and secondly for being weak and not breeding correctly? Are offences caused to Aboriginal women really that secondary to all other offences that they are barely worth a mention, much less a headline? I myself probably wouldn't have noticed if some of the wonderful, strong Aboriginal women on my Facebook list hadn't reacted to it (not big on reading sport news personally), and I'm usually on the look out for these sorts of things!

Or perhaps it doesn't need to be covered because Mundine's comments were so utterly ridiculous in the first place. Listening to my father talk about my grandmother and all this single mother of 10 Aboriginal children did tells you Aboriginal women are not even remotely weak. Right now, I could tell you the names of 10 strong Aboriginal women who inspired me and probably had some part in creating the ranty monster you now see typing before you... One look at the key speakers in the NT Invention debate on both sides of the argument will show you Aboriginal women leading charges, regardless of whether you agree with those charges or not. Then there's all the conversations I've had in Aboriginal women's groups over the years on how women can best support the men because they have fallen behind as one glance at the statistics will show you. Perhaps check the statistics on life expectancy, educational attainment and mental health in the first instance. Aboriginal women have been pivotal in holding families/communities/societies for a very long time, and the idea that they are even remotely "weak" or not living up to their "role" as the "backbone" is laughable. Indeed, it's as laughable as arguing that there are no Tasmanian Aborigines in my book.

Similarly, the statistics show that the birthrate of Aboriginal babies is still significantly higher than the mainstream rate. We're not going to become a majority any time soon, granted, but looking at the age distribution charts for the mob, I think it is fairly safe to argue that Aboriginal women are breeding (even if I have not personally contributed to that growth rate). But that's not necessarily what he is arguing here, according to the article. Indeed, what he is arguing is that there needs to be less "inter-species" breeding and more "intra-species". It's news to me that we are again a species as I thought we'd moved past Flora and Fauna Act definitions, but the implication here is that when Aboriginal women breed outside the race we don't breed Aboriginal children. Well, I'm personally all for Aboriginal women being allowed to choose their own partners to have children with, and then bringing those children up in the tradition of their Aboriginal family. I certainly don't think that anyone, particularly after years of the discriminatory legislation, has a right to dictate the terms of breeding to anyone in our community.

It's a huge shame. I have, for years, been a big fan of Mundine. I have quite enjoyed that he is an outspoken blackfella in the public eye who has managed to unashamedly get the rednecks all jittery on more than one occasion. I have had stand-up arguments with those who have bought into the media hype and discredited Mundine's amazing sporting achievements with no reason or knowledge to do so except that "he's a loud mouth". I have pointed out to people the community work Mundine does that rarely gets a mention in the media and how many young people he has inspired. But I think I have fallen off that bandwagon now and, as I said, it's a shame. I can't support his comments regarding Geale's identity. I can't support his comments about Tasmanian Aborigines. And I most certainly cannot support, nor ignore as so many others seem to have done, his comments about Aboriginal women. And I am disappointed that the media, and the broader community, have failed to hold him to account for his comments on our women. I believe that this neglect shows us once again to be secondary in consideration and I'm over it.

PS This post was delayed, but the coverage didn't change so I'm running with it.


  1. I got the impression that a lot of what Mundine said was well-intentioned but came out mangled. His comments about Tasmanian Aborigines was based on the general consensus that full-blood Aborigines were wiped out in the genocide of the 1830s. But it was very insensitive to the many Aboriginals born and raised there since. With women too, I thought he meant that Aboriginal men need to respect and support them, and by doing so respect their race as well. It's pretty clear to non-indigenous outsiders that Aboriginal women are not only the backbone of the community, but probably the most strong and resilient group in the country. They have held the community together when, quite frankly, it has been beset on every side. If Mundine starts to engage his brain a bit more he could still be a good advocate for Aboriginal issues. But people like you are going to have to set him straight and point him in the right direction.

    Martin Newman

  2. As much as I want to support Mundine, I just can't anymore. I half wish that when he did press issues he had an aunty at his back ready to pull him aside with a stern word or two when he goes off track. Im not a huge fan of boxing anyway, so all I see of him is his interviews...its disturbing on so many levels I don't know where to start. Thanks for running with this though, its will be shared :)

  3. Great blog Celeste. It is most definitely a shame about Mundine as I too have defended him to the hilt. I certainly was offended when I first heard his comments about Tasmanian Aborigines and questioning Geale's Identity Aboriginal heritage... So much so that I tried desperately to deny this in my head as him being for real. This reverse racism has to stop for so many reasons. After all, it offends so many and all it does it make me (a fair skinned black fella) want to leave the community. It's a really sore spot for me personally.

    In terms of Mundine's offensive commentary towards Aboriginal woman, he has really lost it here. I had no Idea about these comments and as you say I cannot support this one bit. My nanna had 10 children, 6 were taken away from her including my mum. Can one imagine how hard it would have been for my nanna to have had her children stolen? Yet, every time I spent time with nan she'd give me her very last dollar to make me happy, a little hyperactive spoilt shite that I was. Also, my mum raised 3 boys as a soul parent. My older brother John got a TER of 97, is a lawyer and Luke and I too have done pretty well in academia. All this is really due to our mother's, an Aboriginal woman, sheer determination to the best she could for us. She's an Aboriginal legend in my eyes. In any case, Mundine does confuse his words a lot, I like that he is snubbing the Australian anthem at the fight, but he needs to be a lot more careful about his commentary when speaking for the Aboriginal community. He certainly needs to not make any comments on any gender roles, this is long outdated.