Featured Image for Q&A: An Indigenous actress spoke powerfully about Bill Leak’s cartoons while protesters heckled
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Q&A: An Indigenous actress spoke powerfully about Bill Leak’s cartoons while protesters heckled

Q&A Recap: There are ways to deal with the death of controversial and polarising individuals.

Shouting down a panel doing their best to have a civilised discussion about someone is not the way to do it.

Protesters shouted “Bill Leak is a racist” when the topic turned to the divisive cartoonist, convincing absolutely nobody of their point.

Indigenous actress, Ursula Yovich, however, spoke poignantly and powerfully about the pain and heartbreak his *highly problematic* illustrations caused:

“Sometimes you do have to check yourself because I have to speak about my own mental illness … I have had some times where I can’t handle this and I would rather not be here.

I don’t like who I am because of the way Aboriginal people are portrayed at times,” she said.

“And we need to have control of those stories. I need to be able to put something out there and go, ‘That’s not all Aboriginal fathers. That’s not all Aboriginal women.

That’s not all mothers.’ I am a mother first and foremost. I don’t identify as an Aboriginal mother. I’m a mother. I was mortified when I saw that particular cartoon.”

She was backed up by Adelaide Festival director, Neil Armfield, who said that Leak’s cartoons got progressively more indefensible towards the end of his life:

“I knew Bill. And enjoyed his company. Respected him. I thought those cartoons in The Australian were despicable. I think that as he grew older he became more and more, for whatever reason, sort of narrowed into a corner.

And I thought that he was playing into an attitude which was completely the attitude of the racist and the powerful. And that he was ignoring the inheritance of rage and pain that those social situations that he was … showing in his cartoon are the result of.”

Shouting five-word slogans over the tops of people when they’re trying to have a discussion isn’t doing your cause any good – moving, nuanced, personal statements like Yovich’s have a far a greater impact.

Well done.

About the author

Technically, Riordan writes culture, politics and sport, but 80% of his words are direct quotes stolen from The Simpsons. He promises to tweet more at @riordanl and speaks words for The Zero Thumbs Down Podcast.

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