The Courier-Mail

Bra backflip is proof we’re all going dotty

- MIKE O’CONNOR

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.

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