News­let­ter con­demned for di­vi­sive ‘crit­i­cism’

Albany Extra - - News - Saskia Adysti

The com­mu­nity of Ko­jonup has con­demned the lo­cal news­let­ter’s de­ci­sion to print an opin­ion piece crit­i­cis­ing the town’s Abo­rig­i­nal el­ders.

Ko­jonup com­mu­nity-run news­pa­per Ko­jonup News printed the anony­mous let­ter which ac­cused lo­cal in­dige­nous Noon­gar el­ders of fail­ing to be a good role model for their com­mu­nity.

The anony­mous writer said, “Are you a role model for the Noon­gars in town?"

“Do you hunt with a ri­fle or a spear? Could you make a spear?”

The let­ter sin­gled out the Noon­gar com­mu­nity for ice epi­demic prob­lems that have hit most re­gional towns.

The writer also ask why lo­cal sport­ing clubs have to be bur­dened by the “Noon­gar com­mu­nity cri­sis”.

Af­ter read­ing the let­ter, Ko­jonup Shire pres­i­dent Ronnie Fleay said she was dis­ap­pointed with Ko­jonup News’ de­ci­sion to pub­lish the di­vi­sive let­ter.

“There’s been a fair bit of dis­ap­point­ment from the com­mu­nity,” she said.

“The fol­low­ing is­sue had an ex­pla­na­tion as per why they pub­lished it.

“But I don’t think it was a proper apol­ogy.”

Ko­jonup Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man Craig McVee agreed with the Shire pres­i­dent and ex­pects a bet­ter apol­ogy from the com­mu­nity news­pa­per.

“I un­der­stand that they pub­lished an apol­ogy and use the free­dom of speech to cover the

I don’t think they re­alised the kind of im­pact that let­ter could have on the Noon­gar peo­ple Craig McVee

fact that peo­ple should be al­lowed to pub­lish their opin­ions,” he said.

“But in the end it wasn’t re­ally an apol­ogy.”

In the sub­se­quent edi­tion, Ko­jonup News edi­tor Frankie Trouchet apol­o­gised if the re­cent let­ter printed had caused such heartache and said she would aim to do bet­ter.

How­ever, Ms Trouchet also de­fended the right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion as a rea­son for the de­ci­sion to print the let­ter.

“I don’t think they re­alised the kind of im­pact that let­ter could have on the Noon­gar peo­ple,” Mr McVee said.

“Even af­ter the Ko­jonup News printed the ar­ti­cle I rang the edi­tor to find out why they printed it, but they didn’t see any­thing wrong with it.

“It’s amus­ing when I see a white Aus­tralian telling a cer­tain mi­nor­ity group what is racist or not.”

Mr McVee said the wider com­mu­nity of Ko­jonup needed to un­der­stand and bet­ter as­so­ciate them­selves with the Noon­gar com­mu­nity in town.

“The un­der­stand­ing of Noon­gar peo­ple from the white com­mu­nity is that we’re unso­cia­ble and wild peo­ple, and that is not the case but that is what is of­ten por­trayed,” he said.

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