UWA student publication sparks racism row

The Student Guild at the University of Western Australia has apologised over the publication of a racist article in a student newsletter.

The Student Guild at the University of Western Australia has apologised over the publication of a racist article in a student newsletter.

 

But for one indigenous group, it's too little, too late.

 

The satirical student newspaper made jokes about petrol sniffing and alcohol abuse in the Aboriginal community.

 

An indigenous education group in WA was supposed to get funds raised by the guild, but now it's announced it won't be accepting any money.

 

Darren Mara reports.

 

It's one of WA's most prestigious universities, but today the University of Western Australia is embroiled in controversy - sparked by the Student Guild's annual satirical newspaper.

 

Indigenous groups around the country have reacted with anger to the dreamtime horoscopes published in the Prosh newsletter.

 

The dreamtime horoscopes read:

 

"Don't get stuck in a rut, shake up your daily routine and grab yourself a block of V-B instead of export."

 

And under the heading "Mabo"":

 

"You will be gifted with large swathes of property. Use this opportunity to sink a few tinnies."

 

For many, it went too far.

 

The New South Wales Land Council says it believes the material has insulted all Indigenous Australians.

 

Council spokesman Chris Munro is calling on corporate sponsors of Prosh to reconsider their support for the publication.

 

"We just couldn't see the humour in any of it. That's been the defence of Prosh so far in some of the online comments- that it's a satirical magazine and it takes the piss out of (mocks) everyone. Well, we don't see what's funny about alcoholism and someone having an alcohol problem. We don't see what's funny about someone having issues with petrol sniffing."

 

The university's Student Guild has issued a statement, apologising unreservedly for any distress caused to Indigenous Australians by the article.

 

The president of the guild, Cameron Barnes, says it will conduct a full and independent review into its editorial processes following the public outcry.

 

Mr Barnes says the guild will also work with the WA Aboriginal Student Corporation and the university's School of Indigenous Studies to promote cultural awareness at UWA.

 

"I have apologised for lack of scrutiny over the charitable paper and the editors and organisers have sincerely and personally apologised for the newspaper's content and they do support our demand for an independent editorial review. As the guild president, I'm committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that future Prosh newspapers do meet appropriate standards."

 

But the apology has come too late for the Perth-based Indigenous Communities, Education, Awareness reconciliation group.

 

Lockie Cooke is a spokesman for the group:

 

"Traditionally, that is what the Prosh paper is all about. It's a satire paper. However, the thing is, what's been brought up in this paper is touching on so many more levels that are so sensitive, and it's actually like it's a reality."

 

The money raised from the Student Guild's fundraiser, estimated to be about 160-thousand dollars, was earmarked to go to four charities, the reconciliation group among them.

 

However Lockie Cooke says the group will now distance itself from the Student Guild.

 

"So we've made the call that we're going to pull ourselves away from receiving any funds from Prosh for 2013 and anything in the future, because we want to set a clear example in the community that this is not tolerated and it's not acceptable, and that money is not going to be something that we can just accept."

 

In a statement, the University of Western Australia's vice chancellor says the student newspaper clearly breached acceptable community standards.

 

It says the University does not condone its content and regrets the offence caused to students, staff and the broader community.

 

The President of the Student Guild, Cameron Barnes, is expected to make a formal apology to Indigenous students at a meeting in the next few days.

 

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