Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here Comes The Judge

ANY day now Judge Mordecai Bromberg, failed candidate for Labor pre-selection, will rule if Andrew Bolt needs to be speared in the thigh or somesuch for ruffling the feelings of nine people who believe it a shocking and racist thing that others find it difficult to perceive them as they prefer to see themselves.

The case has received much attention, including this entry on the website of Victoria Museum:

Bolt’s posts imply that Aboriginal identity is solely related to biological or racial categorisation. For communities and Aboriginal people themselves, Aboriginality is a much deeper and much more complex question, related to cultural backgrounds, familial and community ties, and self-identification.

Because the Museum takes very seriously the obligation to expand public knowledge– always in the fairest and most impartial way, mind you -- it has helpfully augmented its coverage of the trial with a video interview with photographer Bindi Cole, proud Aboriginal woman and one of the aggrieved nine, who explains why much of her shutterbuggery is inspired by  “how I was perceiving the world perceiving me.”

There appears no way to embed the video, so readers might wish to check the link., where they will also find Cole family snapshots of Bindi’s father and proud Aboriginal granny. The family resemblance, generation by generation, is very strong.

As for poor Judge Bromberg, Crikey reports – and The Australian relays -- that he can expect an all-out assault by the villainous Murdoch press if the decision goes against the News Limited’s star columnist.

Bolt has remained steadfastly silent about his legal travails, the day-by-day details of the case and the issues of identity at the centre of it, lest he land in trouble with the law. Does that same constraint not apply to publicly funded institutions, internet newsletters and plaintiffs?


  1. No. I suspect Bolt has remained silent for reasons that are (1) diplomatic and (2)to avoid adding fuel to the fire on penalty if he is found liable.
    But this is a civil case without a jury, and her Majesty's judges are not considered susceptible of influence like jurors are. There is no reason in law why anyone may not comment on such a case pending judgment - there is no "sub judice" rule in civil, non-jury cases. The only limit is the ordinary one of not "scandalising the court".
    Of course, it would be unwise, in a practical sense, for Bolt to be sounding off about the case.

  2. Is it explained how what Bolt says implies that Aboriginal identity "is solely related to biological or racial categorisation". Do they point to any particular texts? Or do they just assert,in the manner of the modern academic?

    Insert the words "not simply" for "solely" and one is much closer to Bolt. The articles in question imply that for the purpose of awarding grants to assist Aborigines, 'need for help' should be critical, together with whatever other criteria to establish the threshold racial classification.

    Concerning your question: silly Prof Bunyip! Aborigines expect (and are accorded) favourable treatment in the administration of the criminal law; (and here we are considering a proceeding for contempt of court).

  3. PhillipGeorge(c)2011May 19, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Can the good judge deliver their verdict on Q & A?

  4. That Cole video offered me marvelous amusement about the claim it purports to support. Comdey gold!

  5. If I described myself as a "Proud White Woman" I'd be derided as a racist.

  6. I have a solution to this problem. If every naturalised Australian claimed Aboriginality there would be no differential. It is obvious that to be Aboriginal requires no more than a statement of that fact. Alternatively aboriginals could become Australians.

  7. Are we sure that the video wasn't produced by Chris Lilley?

  8. I can see this going to an appeal if Bolt is found guilty. The consequences for the nine plaintiffs will be more dire than for Bolt. Already one (or more) of the plaintiffs have put their feet in the mouth. What it is doing however is exactly what Bolt intends. To draw the public attention to taxpayer funded rorts where the money could and should be spent on Aboriginal projects of greater need. No one can disagree with that. Not even a judge.

  9. That Cole Video was amusing. I am sure if there were not "benefits" for her to self identify she wouldn't make a big deal about it .. just like the rest of us should not.

    Take away the extra benefits and then who cares who she self identifies as ?

  10. Am I wrong or are they actually saying that you do not have to be biologically of racially aboriginal to identify as an aboriginal. This appears to be getting a bit like a club. I guess that it would not really matter if it did not automatically entitle the joiner to significant taxpayer largess. When will this irresponsible atitude to wasting taxpayers money stop?

  11. This is not about race or the individuals dignity, it is about industry protection, public notoriety and government grants to assuage the egos of otherwise unremarkable people unable to succeed on merit alone and who promote yjeir aboriginal ancestory to be seen under a brighter light.

    Don't the litigants understand that as artists or lawyers etc., it is what you do which is important, not who you are.

  12. What about Bindi Cole's Wookie heritage on her grandfather's side?

  13. How can one comment on this travesty WITHOUT scandalising the court?
    Why has the judge not excused himself when he sought to represent a political body which sees Bolt as a deadly enemy?

  14. Some do say that that you do not have to be biologically of racially aboriginal to identify as an aboriginal, and in the case of someone like the late Bobbi Sykes I can see the point (no space to elaborate). More say the opposite - that its not enough to self-identify, and that in addition one must be "accepted" by an "Aboriginal community". As the Tassie experience shows, there is opportunity here for some particular "community" to gain State recognition and control who of the identifiers get to share in at the rent on offer (no space to elaborate). The notion that a person gets to control whether they are Aboriginal, even if they are biologically part Aboriginal, is denied by this commonly employed definition.

  15. Bloody farce, the result. All gov't help should rely solely on need, not greed. Up here in the 'Territory there are many full blood Aboriginals who need help, well, firm direction, and they are the ones who live in far out remote communities, not in Darwin.
    Part Aboriginals who were born and bred in remote communities are the same as the fullbloods, mostly, and require the same assistance (unless they have a white father living with them in the community).
    Southern people who claim Aboriginality have no idea of how the real ones live up here, and elsewhere, yet they are the ones who are availing themselves of the black dollar, due to their mainstream education, and totally at the expense of those really in need.
    They should be ashamed of themselves.

  16. I have sent the following to the Museum.
    I would ask the Museum to consider the following:
    1.Did you or the artist seek permission to replicate Mr Bolt's emails in this display or discuss your presentation with him? This is a normal professional courtesy and I believe is a Museums Australia protocol relating to Museum collections and displays.(And I notice a protocol that is very clearly articulated in your indigenous policy.)
    2.If you were awaiting the outcome of a legal judgement, do you think it would be ethical for a public institution to display materials and opinions relating to your case without your approval?
    I fear the Museum of Victoria has breached a number of public ethics that will likely result in more harm than good in the longterm.You will likely lose many patrons and donors if this direction is pursued.My understanding is that a museum is there to report on, interpret and reflect on history, not to create it.I look forward to your reply and I think it would be professional to apologise to Mr Bolt.