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Identity tags

By Stephen Hagan - posted Thursday, 15 September 2005

It would appear that certain sections of the non-Indigenous community are happiest when they can tag Indigenous Australians - it gives them power and the ability to accept or dismiss our achievements.

I was filled with pride to see front and back page headlines in the last edition of the Koori Mail (August 10) duly promoting the Australian Football Indigenous Team of the Century: "It's our Team of the Century" and "Team for the Ages".

Although I've never played a game of Aussie Rules or met an AFL Indigenous player of note, I feel like I know them all through their media exposure. Most of my "rugby league-crazed" family and friends also expressed their pride in the collective achievements of all those exceptional athletes who made that historic team.


But five days earlier I was aghast at the audacity of Courier Mail sports columnist Mick Colman's pathetic appraisal of the team, which went under the headline of "Time to consign Indigenous teams to history".

Colman, like most so-called experts who have no claim to sporting fame, said, "Is it just me or did anyone else find this week's naming of Australian football's Indigenous Team of the Century a little, um … how should I put this, discriminatory?" He ventured deeper into the racist quagmire of social commentary by suggesting there would be an "outcry if the AFL had named a Non-Indigenous Team of the Century".

Not satisfied at dismissing this momentous announcement, Colman concluded his extraordinary column with a warning to all sports administrators: "The AFL, NRL and other sports have worked hard to combat racial vilification. They will know they have succeeded when the term 'indigenous footballer' is consigned to the garbage bins of history."

I had a bit of a chuckle at the ironic ideological postulation of this ignorant columnist and queried the dilemma he must have experienced when reporting on the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer or Test Cricket. The last time I watched those events, I had a faint memory of competition based primarily on race.

As far as offensive journalism goes nothing beats Howard Sattler of Perth's radio station 6PR who, it would appear, has been consistent over a 15-year period. 

Media Watch, April 1990

Stuart Littlemore: ... six Aboriginal children were joyriding in a stolen car which crashed when being chased by police. All were aged between twelve and fifteen. Three were killed.


Sattler: Well, I say good riddance to bad rubbish. That's three less car thieves. I think they're dead and I think that's good. 

"Taxi Talks" Radio 6PR, August 2, 2005

David: Um, Yeah, I was just inquiring about your justice system right, I reckon it's just too soft mate, you know, like I'm in a wheelchair, and back in August last year I got speared by an Aboriginal glue sniffer.

Sattler: Goodness gracious.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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