Bra backflip is proof we’re all going dotty
WHEN Nicole Onslow saw a design contest being run by a bra manufacturer to support breast cancer research, the memory of her mother’s death from the disease moved her to submit an entry.
To her surprise and delight, she won but then the howls of online outrage began for she had included in her design dots and swirls which can occur in some Indigenous art.
Dots and swirls, apparently, are an exclusive Indigenous province with Indigenous woman Madison Connors – who submitted an entry which alas, failed to win – accusing Onslow of cultural appropriation and using “sacred Aboriginal symbolism.”
“Aboriginal art can only be created and sold by Aboriginal artists. You will get sick from our Ancestors if you use it in your ‘style’ and say you were inspired then proceed to profit off it,” Connors said.
I viewed the offending bra on the company’s website and it seemed to have as much in common with Indigenous art as it did with da Vinci’s The Last
Supper. Freedom of artistic expression, surely, is an inalienable democratic right as long as it is practised within the boundaries of copyright and trademark laws but not so, it seems, when it comes to dots and swirls.
One can but wonder if the outrage would have been quite so intense had the judges been more appreciative of Ms Connors’ artistic endeavours and relegated Ms Onslow’s dots and swirls to the ranks of the also-rans.
Before long Onslow and the bra manufacturer were joining the longest queue in the nation, this being the one to apologise, lining up behind men apologising for being men, white people apologising for being white and entire nations apologising for events which occurred centuries ago.
Also standing in the queue was the ABC, forced to make a grovelling apology to Indigenous woman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price who had sued the national broadcaster for defamation.
In a statement of claim Ms Price, who is deputy mayor of Alice Springs and director of the Indigenous research program at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the ABC had defamed her by suggesting she “spreads racist vitriol about Aboriginal people” and “vilifies and ridicules Aboriginal people and cultures.”
The case related to the ABC’s coverage of a speaking tour to Coffs Harbour by Ms Price which was opposed by the local Aboriginal Land Council.
The ABC’s lawyers took one look at their client’s reporting of the issue and obviously decided it was on a hiding to nothing and elected to settle out-of-court, apologising to Ms Price for causing her “hurt and distress”.
Were there torrents of outrage at Ms Price’s disgraceful treatment by the ABC? Surprise, surprise – there was barely a whisper.
Ms Onslow’s bra and her appropriation of the dots and swirls pales, however, when compared with the transgressions of Ms Price who dares to criticise her own people. This is not a narrative which sits comfortably with those who prefer to view all Indigenous problems through the twin lenses of victimhood and white oppression.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody last week, Ms
Price made the following observations: “The Australian Institute of Criminology reported in 2019 that Indigenous people were around eight times more likely than non-Indigenous people to commit a domestic assault that was reported to the police.
“Indigenous children are likelier to be victims of child abuse, neglect and sexual abuse and exposed to family violence at a far greater rate than non-Indigenous children. These crimes, as well as the lack of respect for property rights, result in the horrific levels of incarceration of Aboriginal Australians – meanwhile unemployment, the failure of the education system, substance abuse and acceptance of violence as legitimate self-expression all contribute.
“As long as Aboriginal leaders and academics insist, without clear evidence, that it is all caused by racism and colonisation and continue to ignore the real causes, we cannot begin to reduce homicide, violence and sexual abuse and, in turn, incarceration rates. Why do we insist governments alone can solve our problems?
“As long as there are no targets to reduce family violence and the abuse and neglect of our children, incarceration rates will continue to climb. To suggest that we can’t solve our own problems, that we are nothing more than victims, is racism of the worst kind.”
So there you have it – people can be outraged by swirls on a bra but when it comes to real issues confronting Indigenous people the ones who can make a difference look the other way.