Home » Columns

Aboriginal pawns in nanny state’s porn game

10 November 2008 2,077 views No Comment

THE recent review of the Northern Territory intervention and the recommendation to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT were welcome news to the vast majority of Aborigines in Australia, who lead ordinary lives and who are not drunks or child abusers.

The suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act affected Aborigines living outside the prescribed areas just as much as those living in them. It damaged their self esteem and public standing around the country by saying they were so remiss in their roles as parents, guardians, friends and neighbours, that racial discrimination could be used against them as part of a valid solution to their problems.

In order to clean up indecency and moral decay, John Howard banned the possession of pornography, for one. In many ways this was a master stroke in conveying to white middle-class voters and black leaders, just how honorable his intentions were.

How could anyone think that removing sexually explicit images from a community plagued by sexual abuse would not be a good idea?

But as so often happens in social debates on this issue, pornography soon became pawnography. Howard would have found it very difficult to ban porn on Aboriginal communities without suspending the Racial Discrimination Act.

It’s no secret that many leaders in the Aboriginal community have accepted the negative belief systems of the churches about sex and sexuality.

These days some paternalistic elders are only too willing to toe the church line on matters of morality, and white middle-class critics are often too polite to call them out over it.

These bans on pornography damaged Aboriginal culture in a very devious way. They told white Australians that black Australians were so primitive and so base that even depictions of non-violent adult sex had the potential to turn them into pedophiles and rapists.

Much of what the Howard government banned from these communities was category 1 restricted magazines, which are legally available from every newsagency, service station and convenience store in the country. If Aborigines cannot manage to control their lust while viewing magazines that sit alongside The Australian

Women’s Weekly in a newsagent, what sort of people are they?
Nowhere in the original Little Children are Sacred report did the authors call for bans on porn. This approach was white conservative Christian policy. The report’s authors wanted more education and enforcement of the

Classification Act in the NT. They knew that bans on porn in Aboriginal communities would simply say to the general public that they had a genetic predisposition to sexual assault when confronted with nudity and sexual activity. The report even stated that bans on pornography would not be effective.

In case Howard and Kevin Rudd have missed it, Aborigines had been walking around the continent without clothes on and watching others have sex out of the corner of their eye for more than 50,000 years without a problem. Yet as a result of the intervention, Aborigines in the NT are being unfairly discriminated against, both as a matter of social equity and of racial equality.

The original report that lead to the intervention stated that young children were being shown sexually explicit material in an inappropriate fashion. This was largely because many Aboriginal adults had no idea that it was an offence to do so, but mainly because of serious overcrowding. How do you watch a sexually explicit film in private when there are 30 people living in a dwelling?

The porn industry’s national lobby group, the Eros Association, has claimed in a submission to federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin that the Government’s own censorship bureau is to blame for this situation.

Writing to her about three months before her Government review reported, they said, the community liaison scheme of the Classification Board is funded in part by a percentage of classification fees collected by the commonwealth, including X18+ fees. This scheme includes a permanent and ongoing educational unit with three people in it and a job specification that includes education of the general public about the classification scheme.

Importantly, it contended that this unit has never visited an Aboriginal community over the many years that it has been constituted. Nor has it developed any culturally appropriate translations of the film, publications and computer game classifications. The association maintained that the previous minister should have arranged for this to happen rather than take the populist approach of banning porn. Nowhere in the classification guidelines, the classification code or the Classification Act does it suggest that these films should not be shown to Aboriginal adults (or to any ethnic minority for that matter) or that ethnic minorities may be adversely affected by them. As they argued, this is an important issue concerning free speech, freedom of expression, and especially racial equality.

Macklin’s response to the Eros Association, which pre-empted the federal review’s recommendations by three weeks, politely but firmly rejected their calls for an end to the porno bans in the NT.

In pre-empting the Government’s inquiry this way, she made it clear to white Australia that she thinks that ultimately the colour of your skin determines how you react to sexual imagery and that the Rudd Government will continue to play pawnography games with indigenous culture.