Indigenous Australia

Mundine's racist tweet is beyond the pale

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Tony Abbott's new Indigenous Advisory Council chair has launched a vicious attack on IA's editor on Twitter, making Noely Neate wonder if he's right for the job.

Warren Mundine getting a nice back rub from Tony Abbott.

I WILL START with a statement:

I despise racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, sexism, you name it...  I honestly fail to comprehend how human beings cannot be respectful of each other full stop.

I do understand that there are many reasons why people will be bigots or racists and you can’t just wish it away, all you can do is keep working with others to try to stamp it out. Everyday people can assist in this, though good leadership is paramount. So please read this rant in the manner it is intended.  It is about respect — or lack of it; insulting behaviour and extremely poor judgement on behalf of someone who should be displaying leadership qualities.

Last night while checking twitter I was horrified to see the following tweet from Warren Mundine:

Now, I know IA managing editor David Donovan can be acerbic at times, is not exactly well loved by a lot of journalists and to be frank, when he gets a sniff of an issue can be like a dog with a bone, so my immediate reaction was

Oh no! What did you say David to get that awful response?”.

Looking back in his timeline, however, it was clear he said nothing to deserve the above tweet.

There are two very serious issues here that make this tweet so wrong.

To be quite frank,

Put ur hood back on

in this context can only be construed in one way — that David is, or may as well be, a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

For a man in Mr Mundine’s position to say something so racist is beyond expectation and not befitting of the man who is now the chair of Mr Abbott's advisory council on Indigenous affairs. For any Caucasian who is not a racist, who does care about racism and, in the case of David, even has a category of news on his site called “Indigenous Australia” (something most mainstream news sites don’t bother having), this KKK reference is beyond the pale.

The second insult here is the comment:

'You show no respect for Yolgnu, verballing them & using them for ur political points'

This I would assume from previous tweets is in relation to this piece Abbott’s broken Indigenous promise and the Credlin omission, about Tony Abbott breaking a promise that he would spend his first week as PM on Yolngu land. It was an interesting piece, including video of Mr Abbott stating:

And why not, if you will permit me; why shouldn’t I, if you will permit me; spend my first week as prime minister, should that happen, on this, on your, country.

Yes, as far as I can ascertain, David is not a fan of many of PM Abbott’s plans for this nation though, as an editor, not a hope in hell would he ever publish an article or comment that ‘verballed’ anyone. To think he would ‘use’ an Indigenous leader or – as David himself refers, most respectfully, to Indigenous Australians – “Australia's First People”,  particularly not!

In 140 very short characters, Mr Mundine has insulted David Donovan personally, racially and professionally! If it wasn’t so offensive, you would be impressed one person could put so much bang for your buck into one tweet?

Now, I was going to leave this alone; in fact, I was hoping that Mr Mundine may have reconsidered his appalling insult and either retracted it or made an apology to David this morning. This has not happened and we are now left with many questions in regard to the fitness of Mr Mundine to actually hold such an important and influential office in this nation?

Mr Mundine may not like what has been written about him in Independent Australia and I know since his appointment Mr Mundine has also copped a lot of flak from Indigenous advocates — as stated at the beginning of this rant, I will not go there as I am just not qualified. What I do know is that so many mistakes and oversights have happened in the past  in regard to dealing with the myriad of issues that face our Indigenous community, that heading the advisory council on Indigenous affairs is going to be a massive job and will requires a particular type of person of integrity to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated in the future.

I have to wonder if Mr Mundine is ‘that’ person to fill that leadership role?

There is no way a statement like Warren Mundine’s tweet could in any way be misconstrued and if this is his behaviour in the face of comment that he dislikes or disagrees with, then I for one am not hopeful he is the man do this job.

Such short-sightedness and disrespect to another human being is not the sort of traits we want in our leaders. Regardless of the misgivings many may have on the appointment of Mr Mundine, I naively hope that he will prove his detractors wrong and not be just another political PR appointment. He could make a small start in displaying his integrity by apologising for his misguided racial and professional insult to David Donovan.

Once you become appointed in such an important position to a terribly complicated and intricate political and humanly sensitive area – as Mr Mundine has – you become a role model and a leader, and a certain amount of tact, nuance, intelligence, statesmanship and, let’s be honest, just common bloody decency should be displayed in all public facets of your life — and, Mr Mundine, Twitter is public.

Let's hope for better, too many of my friends have been let down in the past by leaders more interested in politics and their own egos instead of doing the important job with which they have been tasked. Let's hope you are not one of those Mr Mundine.


David Donovan

PS: Please be aware that David was not aware of me writing this piece – he certainly does not require me to be a cheerleader for him – it was not written specifically to personally defend him – though I do enjoy his work – more his position and I would have been just as concerned and upset about any journalist I respected being maligned so publicly by one of our national leaders.

Editor's note: The correct spelling for the Indigenous people Warren Mundine was referring to in his tweet is Yolngu (not Yolgnu, as Mundine wrote). 

This story was originally published on Noel's blog and has been republished with permission. Follow Noely on Twitter @YThinkN.

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