Joke defended by newspaper co-owner after waves of criticism

THE CO-OWNER of a free community newspaper has defended publishing a joke that has been found to be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.

In July last year Sydney Water and one of its supervisors were ordered to pay half of an employee's costs, along with $5000 in damages after the supervisor told the same joke in the workplace in the presence of an indigenous employee.

The article written by Mullumbimby Saturday Star co-owner Harold Ross discusses how people are offended by racist or religious jokes, before going on to list six such jokes.

Mr Ross said he didn't consider the joke and the article to be racist before he published it in the November edition.

"I didn't think it would be in breach of anything," he said.

"You can joke about the Irish or the bloody Aussies but as soon as you mention Aboriginals you are going to get complaints.

"I did not know that such a joke like that would be considered racist by anybody." Harold Ross

"If it would have been about anybody, other than an Aboriginal, everybody would have thought it was hilarious."

Mr Ross said he downloaded the joke from the internet.

Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Yvonne Stewart called for the Mullum Saturday Star to apologise for publishing the article titled "racism".

Ms Stewart said she was disgusted and appalled when she read the joke, which she regarded as racist.

"It sounds pretty rude and arrogant to me and I have found that this paper does this a lot," she said.

"This paper is not sensitive to Aboriginal issues, so it doesn't surprise me." Yvonne Stewart 

Ms Stewart said there was no place in the media for offensive comments.

"Those days are over when you can get away with saying things like that, it's just totally inappropriate."


Associate Professor Baden Offord, senior cultural studies lecturer at Southern Cross University
Associate Professor Baden Offord, senior cultural studies lecturer at Southern Cross University Jay Cronan

Associate Professor Baden Offord, senior cultural studies lecturer, in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University said Mr Ross' article and jokes demonstrated the underlying racism within Australian society and how unconscious we are about the effects of what we say and do.


"Sydney Water was found in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011 for the very joke that is used in Mr Ross's article about Aborigines, and for good reason, it was demeaning," he said.

"One person's joke can be another person's hurt."

Topics:  mullumbimby saturday star racial discrimination act

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