Malcolm Turnbull

Bill Leak defends 'racist' cartoon against 'tantrum throwers' with another one

Bill Leak responds to the Twitter firestorm against his controversial cartoon published on Thursday. Source: Twitter

Cartoonist Bill Leak has hit back with another illustration after claiming he was attacked by 'sanctimonious Tweety birds' for a cartoon published in The Australian that has been slammed as racist towards Indigenous Australians.

Cartoonist Bill Leak caused an outcry on Twitter on Thursday over his illustration published in The Australian that depicted a policeman handing back a boy to his father who is shown holding a can of beer and appears not to remember his son's name.

But he hit back on Friday in defence of his cartoon, that has been described by many Indigenous groups and others as "racist" and "unacceptable", with another illustration.

He explained his rationale in a column in The Australian on Friday: "When little children can’t understand things, they often lash out and throw tantrums.

"The cartoon I drew for yesterday’s paper was inspired by Indig­enous men and people who, without regard for their ­personal safety, feel compelled to tell the truth." 

He said in answer tGuardian Australia's media correspondent Amanda Meade who had asked him what he was attempting to communicate through the cartoon, "I was trying to say you think things are pretty crook for the children locked up in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, you should have a look at the homes they came from."

In a statement on Thursday, Paul Whittaker, The Australian editor-in-chief, had backed Mr Leak.

"Too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues. But not everyone," he said, citing Indigenous leader Noel Pearson who had previously said Indigenous Australians "have got to take charge and responsibility for their own children".

NSW Aboriginal Land Council says cartoon is 'embarrassing' for The Australian

In a statement, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council told SBS that they will be lodging a complaint to the Australian Press Council against the "racist cartoon" that "insulted and denigrated Aboriginal people".

"Bill Leak’s cartoon is ugly, insulting and it is embarrassing for Australia’s national newspaper to publish it," it said.

“It is time the decision-makers at The Australian accept personal responsibility for the hurt they have caused Aboriginal people today.”

The statement continued, "Sadly, racism and discrimination is a fact of life for Aboriginal people who have lived on and cared for this country for more than 60,000 years".

“The hurt and humiliation that victims of racism experience is real and has a terrible toll on the health and well-being of Aboriginal people," the statement said.

Previous cartoon controversy

Mr Leak, who published the cartoon in his regular ‘Bleak Life’ section, has previously been labelled "racist" for portraying Indigenous Australians and other minorities with cultural stereotypes.

In 2015, a cartoon depicting Indian people contemplating eating solar panels was condemned as racist towards Indians.

Mr Leak’s latest commentary comes a week after a Four Corners program aired footage of children in Darwin’s Don Dale juvenile detention centre stripped naked and sprayed with tear gas, with claims that the youths were held for hours at a time in a restraint chair.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since ordered a Royal Commission to investigate the treatment of the minors at the correctional facility, 97 per cent of whom are Indigenous. 

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