• Manjimup Returned Services League. The president resigned after expressing racist views at a council event. (www.mignor.net)Source: www.mignor.net
The Manjimup RSL president resigned after a Noongar woman was the only person to call out his racist comments.
Nadine Silva

8 Oct 2021 - 2:51 PM  UPDATED 8 Oct 2021 - 2:51 PM

Noongar woman Lisa Smart was the only Indigenous person in the room when Manjimup RSL President Rex Brown spouted a racist tirade at a local pub.

She was also the only person to call him out in the moment. 

An army veteran, Mr Brown resigned on October 2 after making the comments at a gathering of candidates running in the upcoming council election.

“I was absolutely appalled,” Ms Smart said.

“He openly expressed how he's sick of smoking ceremonies and how our Aboriginal flag wasn't welcome flying next to the Australian flag.”

Mr Brown’s views were an unwelcome interruption to candidates responding to a question from an 18-year-old man about their vision for increasing Indigenous representation on the council. 

Ms Smart said she was the only person who stood up to him.

“I just started speaking passionately about our people, the traditional and true owners, and how disrespectful he is to speak of people in such a way,” she said.

“It was racist and showed he had a complete lack of respect and acknowledgement of what our people have been thorough.”

Manjimup resident Jo Hanna said she hasn't stopped thinking about the incident since.

“Rex gave us an opportunity (to contradict him), we missed it, and thank goodness Lisa was there," she said.

“It's been a big learning thing because we didn't handle it as well as we should have."

Ms Hanna said she’s not the only local in the regional Western Australian town feeling this way. 

“We have these old white guys down here that actually feel safe on Facebook, for crying out loud, to say, 'I come from a racist family, my dad's racist, my siblings are racist and sometimes I'm racist, and I need to work on that,'” she said.

“To actually say that in a group down here is a massive thing.”

While Ms Hanna said the community was bending on “long-held social norms” online, Ms Smart said she was encouraged by the response to the incident. 

“It’s good to have the courage to stand up and say this isn’t on and there was a lot of support from people, which is even better.”

The RSLWA released a statement saying they were “extremely disheartened in the disappointment caused” by Mr Brown’s comments.

While Mr Brown will no longer be president of the Manjimup branch, he will continue to be a member.

Ms Smart said she was glad to hear he resigned.

“I don't think it’s good for reconciliation and the future for our country to be united as one when you've got someone like that who is an important role model in the community that has those views.”

“Our people and our ancestors are the true custodians of this land, and the true traditional owners and that always needs to come first.”

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