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Race is not black and white

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Thursday, 26 April 2012

Discussing or debating racial, ethnic and gender identity in Australia can be a political and legal minefield for journalists, as witnessed by the Andrew Bolt case. But there remains some inconsistency.

Without rehashing the whole story, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote a number of articles questioning the motives of activists who identified as Australian aborigines. He was sued by those activists in 2011 and found to have contravened the Racial Discrimination Act.

Rival Melbourne newspaper The Age has been active in holding Bolt accountable over his views on race and identity. A recent headline from a story by Saffron Howden, "Bolt link to racist reviews of book", will give you an idea.


One of the litigants, Anita Heiss, has in response to Bolt, written a book titled "Am I Black enough for you?"

Bolt, under the Federal Court ruling, cannot respond to Heiss or anything to do with the court case, and so a war of words has began between Heiss and her supporters on one side and Bolt supporters minus Bolt on the other.

The purpose here is not to take sides in this vital controversy but to point out that a glaring inconsistency on how The Age, a supporter of Heiss, applies the descriptions of ethnicity.

A recent article by The Age's veteran crime reporter John "Sly" Silvester about the late brave Victoria Police detective John Kapetanovski could be construed as deeply offensive and insulting to Australia's Macedonian community.

Silvester wrote that: "The (Kaptenovski) family arrived from the then Republic of Yugoslavia in 1957 when he was six. Unable to speak English, he was taken to his first school in Fitzroy by local migrant kids who asked him his name."

Kapetanovski was an ethnic Macedonian who hailed from the communist Republic of Macedonia, then a part of Federal Communist Yugoslavia. Silvester's article, for some inexplicable reason does not apply the Age's nitpicking on ethnic identity,does not tell us if Kapetanovski is a Serb, Croat, Slovenian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Muslim Bosnian or ethnic Albanian. Furthermore, there has never been a "Yugoslav" language.


There has never been a "Republic of Yugoslavia." There was a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918-23), A Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929-43), A Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (DFY, 1943 – 1946), a Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (FPRY, 1946 – 1963) and a Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY 1963-91) and finally a Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There are now independent Republics of Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia etc. since 1991, which emerged from the collapse of SFR Yugoslavia.

A simple check of Wikipedia would have been sufficient:

Silvester, the son of a high ranking Victoria Police officer, is the co-author with Andrew Rule of the best selling true crime books franchise Underbelly, which has been adapted in a successful television series for the Nine Network. Silvester has no excuse for sloppy research.

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About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

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