Indigenous Australians have criticised the Meat and Livestock Association’s (MLA) latest Australia Day ad for simplifying and trivialising the realities of what really occurred on January 26.
The advertisement was widely celebrated on Thursday for its originality and progressive depiction of Australia Day while its director, Paul Middleditch, said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
But Aboriginal activists said the ad ignored the real reason behind recent debate over whether the January 26 date should be changed: it signified the day Indigenous Australians were brutally invaded by Britain.
Nakkiah Lui, a prominent Aboriginal writer and actor, took to social media to congratulate the creators for showing a diverse Australia – but said the ad inaccurately represented history and the genocide, segregation and oppression of Indigenous people.
— Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) January 13, 2017
“I wonder how people would respond to the ad if it started with a more accurate portrayal of the arrival of the Tall Ships,” she wrote on Facebook.
“An arrival that resulted in years of government enforced genocide, segregation and oppression; would the end of that ad still result result [sic] in a celebration and a bbq?”
Creator of hit ABC TV show Cleverman, Ryan Griffen, claimed the ad was done in “poor taste”.
“As important as it is for Australians to celebrate multiculturalism, I feel for us to be able to appreciate an ad like this on screen a lot of work needs to happen off screen,” he told Fairfax Media.
In November last year, Buzzfeed leaked a script of the controversial new Australian lamb ad.
It reportedly had a tough time casting Aboriginal characters “due to Indigenous actors feeling like the commercial trivialised the violent British settlement of Australia.”
An ad about lamb isn't going to bring us together because you didn't mention 'that' day.
— Ryan Griffen (@RyanJGriffen) January 12, 2017
According to Mr Griffen, it was a missed opportunity for the creators to amend the advertisement’s issues.
“… [the creators] received slack for an earlier script around a similar issue. It feels like they’ve tried to address these issues but at the same time the ad is riddled with very strong stereotypes not only of Aboriginal history but of the Chinese and other cultural groups,” he said.
“It feels like the ad is addressing modern day issues but remains stuck in 1980s stereotypes we as a society have worked so hard to push past.”
Many Australians echoed the statements, taking to Twitter to show their disdain towards the ad.
Wow what a way to sideline the invasion, massacres and theft that January 26th symbolises https://t.co/llME77YKmA
— Amy McQuire (@amymcquire) January 12, 2017
This is what goes wrong when ppl misinterpret #changethedate as an [-o-] request to make Australia Day more diverse, rather than decolonise.
— alison whittaker (@AJ_Whittaker) January 12, 2017
Lamb ad likens Australia Day to coming over for a BBQ… except the guests leave after a BBQ usually ends right? https://t.co/uXtq9rDM7g
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) January 12, 2017
@Ebswearspink Like, people are applauding erasing genocide, repercussions of colonialisation, offshore refugee imprisonment …
— Anna Spargo-Ryan (@annaspargoryan) January 12, 2017
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson also slammed the ads, but for a different reason.
“It really is pretty sad, isn’t it?” Ms Hanson told News Limited. “It’s bloody idiots out there, ratbags. It’s pretty sad when it’s basically shutting us down for being proud of who we are as Australian citizens.
“It’s the day we celebrate forming our nation, our federation, our government, and it’s being shoved to one side for this political correctness and making everyone feel good about themselves,” she said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with marketing site Mumbrella, Mr Middleditch said he would be proud to tell his children, “I did that”.
“There’s something quite profound about ‘let’s look at this from 2017,’ let’s sit on a beach and our Indigenous roots and look at what this country is,” he said said, adding: “This was really scary too, because there was so much riding on it, but I think everyone who was involved in it, there was so much love and care put into this.”
Indigenous reporter for NITV Luke Pearson said the ad was “rife with cultural stereotypes” and that the MLA had a history of “simply ignoring Aboriginal people and other minorities in order to be more inclusive”.
“The ad perhaps is a fitting theme for Australia Day: forget about or completely misrepresent Australian history and contemporary society, and buy stuff instead,” he wrote.
“The idea that we have a national ad campaign aimed at telling a version of Australian history where each new group that arrives in Australia simply ‘joins the party’ is simply something I just can’t swallow.
“The attempt to include ‘boat people’ at the end, with the response: ‘aren’t we all boat people?’, does nothing to redeem the caricatures we’ve just witnessed.
“Just change the damn date already.”