Aboriginal Australians have responded to Bill Leak’s controversial cartoon in The Australian last week by posting touching images of Indigenous children and their fathers.
Using the hashtag #IndigenousDads, users challenged Leak’s ‘absent father’ stereotype with messages of gratitude and Aboriginal pride.
Published last Thursday, Leak’s cartoon depicted a caricatured Aboriginal father, holding a can of beer and not knowing his son’s name.
The image was called out as racist by various politicians, media commentators and members of the public, yet the newspaper defended Leak and publicly praised him for “confronting” the “tough issues”.
But rather than attack Leak, members of the Aboriginal community tweeted images reflecting their positive family experiences – with fathers who ‘knew their name’.
‘I named a superhero after him’
Ryan Griffen, creator of the Indigenous Australian superhero TV series Cleverman, posted a photo of himself and his son.
“No [sic] only do I know my son’s name but I named a superhero after him. #IndigenousDads #Cleverman,” he tweeted.
The post has been liked almost 2000 times.
— Ryan Griffen (@RyanJGriffen) August 6, 2016
Many users paid tribute to fathers no longer alive, thanking them for their hard work and sacrifices.
Indigenous man Paul Dutton, who identified as a member of the Stolen Generation, said he had never met his father but “felt his love” within him.
A number of users indirectly referenced Leak’s cartoon, pointing out that their dads had never “forgotten” their name.
— Paul Dutton (@pauldutton1968) August 6, 2016
“I’m proud to be his father and proud to be Aboriginal. Our culture is our strength.
#IndigenousDads,” teacher Aaron Charles Ellis said, along with an image of his son.
Some users also acknowledged the work their fathers had done outside of the home as well as inside it.
“My amazing dad Tom, social justice fighter Palm Is, died at 46 doing his job; caring for community,” wrote Lynore Geia.
“My dad served his country and gave us unconditional love,” said Daniel James.
— Gina Williams (@Milbindi) August 6, 2016
— Amy McQuire (@amymcquire) August 6, 2016
— Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) August 6, 2016
— Prof M Davis (@mdavisqlder) August 6, 2016
— Kirsty Brown (@callmeKBro) August 6, 2016
— Daniel James (@MrDTJames) August 6, 2016
Leak’s cartoon an ‘attack’
The cartoon was widely condemned by both Aboriginal community members and social media, with one Indigenous leader labelling it an “attack” on her people.
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency chief executive Muriel Bamblett said it depicted Aboriginal people as “not knowing about their children and not having any role in raising their children”.
The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker defended the cartoon in a statement.
“Too often, too many people skirt around the root causes and tough issues. But not everyone. Bill Leak’s confronting and insightful cartoons force people to examine the core issues in a way that sometimes reporting and analysis can fail to do,” he said.
The day after the cartoon’s publication, Leak responded with another image – this time, depicting his critics as white, bat-wielding hipsters.