Sep 29

Two news stories doing the rounds recently have got me thinking about our society, and what it is to be part of it.

I’d hope that the society I live in will be inclusive and welcoming of all people, no matter what their personal stories or backgrounds are.

The two stories are that of Jeff Kennett, chairman of Beyondblue and Andrew Bolt, journalist for the Herald Sun.

Recently both men have found themselves in some hot water about their attitudes to those around them and how they interact and respond to them

I must say, both men appear to be unrepentant, even when their behaviour is highlighted as unacceptable.  They carry with them a certain amount of arrogance that I find rather grating.

Both men are also rich white straight men.  They have grown up surrounded by the privilege of being a white Australian, with all it’s trappings and comfy lifestyle that that entails.  They have not had to defend themselves because of the colour of their skin or hide themselves because of their sexual orientation.  While I’m sure that their lives have had their ups and downs, they have been very lucky to be born a white Australian in a white Australia.

Bolt has always been controversial in his writing and ramblings.  To me he appears to be a right wing conservative hack.  He recently had a court finding that he contravened section 18 (c) of the Racial Discrimination Act following on from two articles that he’d written for the Herald Sun.  Bolt basically said that because somebody who identified as Aboriginal who was more white-skin than black that they were only claiming their indigenous background because it would bolster their career advancement.

Kennett is a former Liberal Premier of Victoria, he had a reputation for getting the job done, and also had little regard for those people who where struggling.  I recall during his time in the top job that he once described people who took sick leave as being ‘unproductive units’ – charming.  He’s always been controversial, but recently, as head of Beyondblue he suggested that children are happier when raised by a mother and a father.  Check out Doug Pollard’s excellent article on the background and why Kennett needs to step down.

I’m a white Australian.  I was lucky enough to be born into a family that was relatively rich, while at the same time struggling!  My parents had 11 children, we all went through the local catholic private school and most of us did pretty well.

I’ve clearly had struggles with my sexuality.  For years and years I hid in marriage thinking I was doing the right thing.  The ramifications and mental anguish that this caused still linger.  Yet, I think I’m pretty lucky.  I understand how much it hurts to have my ability to raise happy, healthy children questioned based solely on my ability to keep a straight marriage together.  To even begin to suggest that I couldn’t have raised my two wonderful children if I was married to another man creates such a feeling of despair in me.  What would it have been like for me if I’d heard the likes of a straight, white, Kennett suggesting that people like me can’t raise kids when I was younger?  I was surrounded by entrenched homophobia, it’s distressing.  Kennett is adding to the burden of young people who are gay.

I can only imagine what it’s like to have rich white folk take broad swipes at you and question your honesty and interigty based solely on the colour of your skin.  I imagine that these ‘fair skin’ aborigines have had a tough time throughout their life, and they’re still fighting the battle.

It’s all too easy for those who have had a pleasant ride to deride and belittle those who struggle to make their way.  Instead of reaching out and helping those around them, people like Bolt and Kennett (who have enjoyed a luxurious ride in a society that treats married heterosexual, white, able-bodied men as ‘normal’)  seek to tear us down and use us as a way to score cheap politcal points or readers.

It’s a selfish arrogant attitude that they have that seeks to keep anyone who isn’t just like them out of their version of society .

Shame on both of you.




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