Must not blow the whistle on "blacks" who are really white
Bolty sued for telling the truth -- that many people with only remote Aboriginal ancestry call themselves Aboriginal for the sake of the government and other benefits that can bring. My sister in law is a tall fair-skinned blue-eyed blonde but is classed as an Aboriginal under Australian law. And her paper-white daughter is too. An absurdity that NEEDS to be questioned
Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is being sued under the Racial Vilification Act by a group of Aborigines led by 73-year-old activist Pat Eatock over two columns he wrote last year.
In the first column, published under the headline "It’s so hip to be black" in the paper on April 15, 2009, and on his blog under the headline "White is the new black", Bolt enumerated a list of light or white-skinned people who identified themselves as Aboriginal, and suggested their choosing to do so was proof of "a whole new fashion in academia, the arts and professional activism". He added that "for many of these fair Aborigines, the choice to be Aboriginal can seem almost arbitrary and intensely political".
Pat Eatock was one of those identified. She is acting on behalf of at least six others.
On August 21, 2009, Bolt revisited the topic in a column headlined "White fellas in the black", in which he derided the granting of an award for Aboriginal artists to white-skinned painter Danie Mellor and an indigenous scholarship to white-skinned academic Mark McMillan.
According to the statement of claim lodged in the Federal Court on September 7, law firm Holding Redlich is acting on behalf of a group who "by a combination of descent, self-identification and communal recognition are, and are recognised under law as, Aboriginal persons".
The document also states that the applicants "were offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated" by Bolt’s writings.
Financial damages are not being sought, but the group has asked for an order restraining Bolt and the Herald Sun from publishing any material containing "substantially similar" content in the future, and for the removal of the two columns from the website.
"We see this as a really important case," said Joel Zyngier, an employment and discrimination lawyer at Holding Redlich, which is running the case pro bono. "We see it as clarifying the issue of identity — who gets to say who is and who is not Aboriginal. Essentially, the articles by Bolt have challenged people’s identity. He’s basically arguing that the people he identified are white people pretending they’re black so they can access public benefits."
Bolt’s first column pointedly stated he was not making any such claim, though the sincerity of that statement has been questioned.
"I’m not saying any of those I’ve named chose to be Aboriginal for anything but the most heartfelt and honest of reasons," he wrote in the piece published in April 2009. "I certainly don’t accuse them of opportunism, even if full-blood Aborigines may wonder how such fair people can claim to be one of them and, in some cases, take black jobs. I’m saying only that this self-identification as Aboriginal strikes me as self-obsessed, and driven more by politics than by any racial reality."
Liberty Victoria president Michael Pearce, SC, said his organisation had concerns about the potential impact on freedom of speech. "It is easy to imagine that it caused offence and hurt to the people against whom it was directed. However, hurt and offence are caused by all sorts of speech all the time. "It would be impossible to proscribe all speech which causes hurt and offence."
Although the action seeks to prevent Bolt from expressing such views again, Mr Zyngier is adamant it is not an attempt to impose a gag order on the columnist. "We’re not seeking to make this a case about freedom of speech, because it’s not," he said. "The issue is essentially about whether or not other people can define identity, and in particular Aboriginal identity, based on how you look.