David Leyonhjelm Rounds Out Latest Blackface Controversy By Complaining About ‘Whiteface’


Australia, take a bow. While the officials from the Guinness Book of World Records are yet to confirm it, we feel confident in saying the nation has set a new international standard: we managed to hold out a full 20 days without a blackface scandal.

Sadly, the glorious run came to an end in somewhat dramatic fashion this weekend after Opals star Alice Kunek posted an image of herself in blackface, apparently “in support of” rapper Kanye West. No word from Mr West on how he feels about that ‘support’, but we’ll hazard a guess that an African-American musician would not be overly into the idea of reappropriating the aesthetic of a famously racist musical form.

After Kunek was called out by teammate Elizabeth Cambage, a furious reaction ensued. (Against Cambage.)

Enter David Leyonhjelm, the ardent champion of free speech whose future political prospects would likely improve if only he chose to wave that right to speak a little more often. The keen-eyed senator had a hot take on the sad episode, and it wasn’t that white people will be just fine if they stop performing this racist act.  

Yes, David noticed that in the image of Kunek another unidentified woman had painted her face white. Contacted for comment, Leyonhjelm’s staff said the tweet appeared to be tongue-in-cheek.

“I’m sure we could say it was a satirical comment but David is of the opinion that offence is taken not given, and he’s spoken quite a bit about that sort of thing,” Leyonhjelm’s media adviser said.

Or maybe Leyonhjelm was just doing his bit for the Australian right, which has made complaining about complaining, and being offended by people being offended, a chief pastime of late.

Either way, with a powerful white guy making a joke about people being offended by racism, so ended another episode of Blackface Australia.

Meanwhile, Kunek offered a not-quite apology.

Be sure to tune in next week or, if we’re lucky, in a few of weeks’ time, as we inevitably go through the whole absurd motion once more.


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.