One of the Abbott Government’s handpicked curriculum reviewers has been shown to be a disgusting bigot, however proud member of the Kamilaroi people, Natalie Cromb, says the problem is much bigger than Barry Spurr.
An academic so apparently linguistically endowed he was appointed as the English curriculum reviewer by the Federal Government, used words such as ‘abo’, ‘mussies’, ‘chinky-poos’, ‘fatsoes’ and ‘bogans’ over at least a two year period, in emails disseminated internally and externally in his capacity as Sydney University professor of poetry and poetics.
This Sydney University professor is none other than Barry Spurr — an advocate for the removal of Indigenous literature from the curriculum in the interests of promoting the Judeo-Christian literature because, after all, that is our “culture”.
This ‘man’ ‒ if I can use that word without insulting all of the fair minded men that may read this ‒ referred to Tony Abbott as an ‘abo lover’, considered the royal visit to Uluru was inappropriate and derides Indigenous neighbours as ‘rubbish’. When exposed, however, he claimed the comments were taken out of context and were merely a tongue in cheek stab at extremist language.
Whilst Mr Spurr has demonstrated a very clear disdain of those who do not possess the same complexion and outlook on race as he does, I query how someone who has risen to the position of professor at Sydney University and Federal curriculum reviewer could seriously be so arrogant and daft as to attempt to play that weak card.
Indeed, a subsequent more detailed publication of Spurr’s repugnant emails indicates that his defence was nothing more than a blatant self-serving fabrication.
Sydney University has, quite rightly, suspended Mr Spurr while an investigation is undertaken.
Obviously, there is an internal procedure that needs to be followed, however, the only reasonable outcome is that he ought to be removed from his position. He does not deserve the position of educating others if he holds such insular and disgusting views.
But what of the Federal Government?
This hand-picked member of Christopher Pyne’s education review was implicitly supported by the education minister — who refuses to reconsider Spurr's review of the English curriculum and, indeed, explicitly supports his reviewer's stance on the supremacy of Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
“Before 1788, our history was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history almost exclusively. Since that time, obviously since colonisation, Western civilisation, our Judeo-Christian heritage has been the basis of our development as a nation.”
“The First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent.”
Shorten said the government needs to:
“… reassure Australians that the views of the reviewer and the disgusting remarks have in no way infiltrated the curriculum which is taught to all our young Australians.’’
That reassurance is likely never to be made given the Government is whitewashing the curriculum and focussing solely on the Indigenous culture as a fixture in history rather than a living, breathing, developing cultural reality.
In short, it is clear that the Government supports the underlying bigotry and white supremacist views of Barry Spurr.
The evidence continues to mount that this is a government that seeks to divide, not unite.
Barry Spurr is a symptom of this nation’s problem; its disease; its virulent case of prejudice.
We have a culture among a large portion of the majority ‒ that is, white Australians ‒ that accept a certain level of prejudice.
This attitude is supported in everyday conversations where you may hear varying examples of the same recurring themes:
- I don’t have a problem with migrants, provided they come the right way…
- Aboriginal people need to get over the past and get on with things…..
- I don’t have a problem with racism, I just don’t like Muslims, that’s different….
- Don’t be so politically correct, it’s all in good fun [usually said after racist remark]…
- I’m not racism my [insert friend, colleague etc] is [insert race reference]…
At no point is racism or religious bigotry funny.
At no point is it “good fun”.
At no point is it acceptable to denigrate a group of people based on the views you hold — even if there are a group of equally herd-minded people ready to follow along with you on the path to intellectual nothingness.
This issue is pervasive.
It is in schools among teachers and students, it is in the workplace, it is in the media and it is in the community.
Racism and religious bigotry is rife and the division in society is being actively contributed to by the Abbott Government.
The Government is asking you to be vigilant (read: fearful) of terrorism, whilst instructing the media to release images of citizens that prescribe to the Islamic faith; it is asking us to get on board with “Team Australia” — meaning assimilate to the Judeo-Christian ‘culture’.
Barry Spurr’s attempt to deflect from the atrocious views he has put into words speaks to his complete lack of remorse.
He said initially that it was a play on words. He later accuses the journalists at New Matilda of having hacked into his email and makes all sorts of assertions about his legal team investigating the alleged hacking — however he has not once come out and said that what he wrote was wrong.
He has not given voice to the concept that to condemn a group of people on the basis of race or religion is reprehensible.
Barry Spurr is not sorry for the remarks he has made, nor the offence caused, he is outraged that he got caught and was the alleged victim of an invasion of privacy (as he puts it).
Whilst Barry Spurr clearly deserves our disgust, we must remember that he is the symptom, not the disease.
This problem is larger than Barry Spurr, it is larger than Sydney University and it is larger than some disgusting emails.
Racism and bigotry like Spurr’s is a cancer eating at the core of Australian society, tearing us apart from within — and will only get worse while our Government tries to whitewash our history and heritage.
You can follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieCromb.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License