opinion

The biggest argument in the country this week wasn’t an argument at all.

The biggest argument in the country this week wasn’t an argument at all.

In fact, while sitting on the Studio 10 panel on Monday morning, Kerri Anne Kennerley and Yumi Stynes were trying to make precisely the same point.

It began with television host Kennerley embarking on a criticism of ‘Australia Day’ protesters.

How many of those protesters, Kennerley asked, have “been to the Outback, where children, babies, five-year-olds are being raped? Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. What have you done?”

Her point was inherently flawed.

If one cannot directly ‘solve’ rape, today, should they do nothing at all? Should one only ever focus on the biggest issue facing a community, rather than making meaningful small steps?

Isn’t “there are bigger fish to fry!” just an excuse for apathy? It’s like refusing to throw your rubbish in the bin because you’re not going to solve climate change. Or not bothering with a discussion about equal pay because women are being murdered, which is far worse.

It’s a way of validating doing nothing at all.

Just because things could be worse, doesn’t mean things can’t be better.

Perhaps the intentions behind Kennerley’s comments were racist. Perhaps they weren’t. Intention is a difficult thing to determine.

We explore the discussion between Yumi Stynes and Kerri Anne Kennerley on this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below…

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On the panel, television and radio presenter Stynes confronted her co-host, arguing that her statements were “not even faintly true” and sounded “quite racist”.

Was Kennerley implying that sexual violence or child sexual abuse exclusively takes place in Indigenous communities? It can be read that way. Her phrasing implied an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dichotomy – which isn’t particularly helpful.

But was Kennerley being untruthful? Not really. Indigenous Australians are at least six times more likely to experience sexual violence than other Australians, though the data is not comprehensive. When it comes to sexual violence against children, the picture is similar.

It has been found that Indigenous women are also 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults than other Australian women. If these assaults occur in remote communities, then there are also far less services available.

The point about protesters not visiting Indigenous communities, however, isn’t broadly true. There were a number of advocates involved in protests who spend a great deal of time all over the country.

The question we seem to be obsessed with, however, is: Was Stynes right to call Kennerley racist? 

And I’m not sure that’s the right one to be asking.

Rather, what point was Kennerley making? That First Nations women have it tougher than white women? That there are serious disadvantages experienced within Indigenous communities that we need to address? That, as a nation, the work is not done the moment we change the date?

Well. We entirely agree.

And so does Stynes.

Everything Kennerley is concerned about began on January 26, 1788.

The dispossession. The disease. The violence. The inter-generational trauma. The economic disadvantage. The introduction of alcohol. The reduced life-expectancy. The disproportionately high incarceration rates. The disproportionately high incidence of mental illness. The disruption to a healthy diet. The stolen generation. The racism – systemic and otherwise.

We all agree that these things urgently need to be addressed. That these things are not the fault of the culture that was invaded – and that shuffling around a calendar isn’t going to solve everything.

But we also know the day it all began.

And if we are truly concerned about the treatment of First Nations women, as Kennerley claims she is, then surely that day is nothing to celebrate.

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