Journalists, Writers, Academics Sign Open Letter Condemning Bill Leak Cartoon


A group of 173 media and communications professionals have signed an open letter slamming The Australian newspaper for publishing a racist cartoon by Bill Leak, implying Aboriginal fathers are drunks who do not know their own children’s names.

In a brief statement published on health blog Croakey, writers, journalists, photographers and artists condemned the newspaper and acknowledged the long history of media perpetuated stereotypes relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The statement reads:

We are journalists, writers, photographers, artists, publishers and others who work in the media and communications industries. Signatories also include journalism, media and communications researchers and academics.

We condemn The Australian’s publication of Bill Leak’s racist cartoon. Racism damages the health and wellbeing of those it targets.

We acknowledge that the media industry has a long history of perpetuating harmful and racist stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that it is well past time that this stops.

Among the signatures are a number of prominent journalist and educators including Editor of the Koori Mail Rudi Maxwell, Meanjin editor Jonathan Green, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism Professor Margaret Simons, as well as Celeste Liddle, Dr Anita Heiss, Jenna Price, and Wendy Bacon.

A number of New Matilda’s columnists have signed the letter, as well as Publisher and Editor Chris Graham.

Croakey are now encouraging further journalist and communication workers to come forward and sign on to the statement. To do so, send an email to

The Australian has ardently defended not just its right to publish the cartoon, but the content of Leak’s drawing. Editor Paul Whittaker issued a statement celebrating it, while News Corp corporate affairs manager Campbell Reid described the cartoon – and a follow-up in which Leak depicted himself as the victim of a lynch mob – as “the best thing I have read this week”.

Melissa Sweet, the founder of Croakey, said there had been some disquiet within News Corp about the cartoon and the way it had been handled by senior executives. But Sweet said that, as far as she was aware, none of those who had signed the open letter were current News Corp staff members.

Last week, one company which runs advertising in The Australian criticised the cartoon and said it would be considering whether to return to the publication, while SunCorp Bank said it would remove advertising content.

The full list of signatories is below.

  1. Amy McQuire, journalist
    2. Allan Clarke, journalist
    3. Dr Justin Coleman, GP, Inala Indigenous Health Service, Immediate past President, Australasian Medical Writers Association
    4. Fiona Katauskas, cartoonist.
    5. Rudi Maxwell, editor, Koori Mail
    6. Kodie Bedford, writer and producer
    7. Leigh Dayton, journalist and researcher
    8. Dr Michelle Dunne Breen
    9. Bjorn Stewart, Actor
    10. Celeste Liddle, writer
    11. Colin Kinchela, actor and performer
    12. Jarni blakkarly, journalist
    13. Vernon Ah Kee, Artist
    14. Amy Coopes, journalist, Croakey
    15. Dr Anita Heiss, author
    16. Bronwyn Carlson, Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at UOW
    17. Dr Tanja Dreher, University of Wollongong
    18. Dr Sandy O’Sullivan, Director of Centre for Collaborative First Nations’ Research, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Darwin.
    19. Kerry McCallum, News and Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.
    20. Karen Wyld, freelance writer, author, and admin of #ProjectAntiRacism (@AntiRacismAust)
    21. Summer May Finlay
    22. Jack Latimore, Indigenous Writer
    23. Max Chalmers, Journalist, New Matilda
    24. Ben Eltham, National Affairs Correspondent, New Matilda
    25. Michael Brull, columnist, New Matilda
    26. Jeff Sparrow, journalist, broadcaster
    27. Leesa Watego, Iscariot Media
    28. Jonathan Green, meanjin editor
    29. Clem Bastow, journalist
    30. Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Filmmaker
    31. Dave Graney, musician, author, broadcaster
    32. Jenna Price, UTS academic and Fairfax columnist.
    33. Liam McLoughlin, journalist, New Matilda.
    34. Jennifer Doggett
    35. Richard Bell, artist
    36. Marie McInerney, freelance journalist
    37. Siobhan McHugh, writer, documentary-maker and Senior Lecturer in Journalism, University of Wollongong
    38. Liz O’Reilly, Independent Artist and Educator
    39. Dr Sandra R Phillips, Writer and Academic
    41. Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta. I am a plangermairreenner man from meenamatta country, NE Tasmania.
    42. Felicity Biggins, Lecturer in Communication at the University of Newcastle
    43. Fiona Martin, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney
    44. Dr Andrew Dodd, Associate Professor and Program Director, Journalism, Swinburne University.
    45. Melissa Lucashenko
    46. Johan Lidberg, Monash University.
    47. Tara Wynne, literary agent, Curtis Brown
    48. Wendy Bacon, Contributing editor, New Matilda
    49. Jeanti St Clair, Lecturer Media Program School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University
    50. Jessica Friedmann, writer
    51. Dr Meera Atkinson Writer and academic
    52. Tanya Ashworth-Keppel, writer and editor
    53. Alex McKinnon, journalist
    54. John Paul Janke, Indigenous communications specialist
    55. Catherine Deveny, writer
    56. Bianca Nogrady, journalist
    57. Keren Heenan, writer
    58. Simon Chapman AO, columnist, The Conversation
    59. Linda Doherty, director, communication & leadership, NSW department of Education
    60. Michael Meadows, Adjunct Professor Griffith University
    61. Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, writer
    62. Danielle Binks, author and literary agent (with Jacinta di Mase Management)
    63. MJ Leaver, writer
    64. Helen Signy, Senior Communications Officer, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre.
    65. Dr Beth Spencer, author.
    66. Marge Overs, health writer
    67. Tracey Johnston, health sector communications professional
    68. Jenny Noyes, writer and producer @ Daily Life
    69. Amy Gray, writer
    70. Keira Jenkins, Journalist, Koori Mail
    71. Dr Cristy Clark. Lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University
    72. Dr Chelsea Bond, Senior Lecturer, ATSIS Unit, University of Qld
    73. Nina Funnell, commentator
    74. Angela Romano, QUT
    75. Dr Bonita Mason, Journalism Lecturer, Curtin University.
    76. Greg Truman, journalist
    77. Dr Ruth Armstrong, Moderator, Croakey
    78. Melinda Shobrook – Facilitator of Indigenous Rise (a Facebook group).
    79. Isabelle Oderberg, journalist and communications professional
    80. Kate Doak, Investigative Journalist.
    81. Josh Ridgeway, journalist
    82. Meg Bastian
    83. Dr Thor Kerr School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University
    84. Julie Kivuyo
    85. Anne Ryden, Lecturer, Curtin University
    86. Dr Antonio Traverso, Curtin University
    87. (Aunty) Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Wiradjuri poet, artist & activist
    88. Angela Dewan, freelance journalist.
    89. Michelle Lovegrove, journalist
    90. Sophie Black
    91. Dr Ray Moynihan, author, medical writer
    92. Professor Chris Nash, Monash University.
    93. Dr Lesley Russell, writer
    94. Sara Saleh, Human Rights Advocate and Artist
    95. Angela Schilling, Editor, Five Thousand
    96. Ian McAuley
    97. Eliza Henry-Jones, author
    98. Colin Cowell, Media and Communication Consultant, NACCHO, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Editor, NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper
    99. Dr Courtney Pedersen
    100. Mark Ragg, Ragg & Co
    101. Jane McCredie
    102. Dr Christine Black, Gold Coast
    103. Jane Armstrong, Lecturer
    104. Ruth Dawkins, Tasmanian Writers Centre
    105. Lea McInerney, writer
    106. Chris Graham, Publisher, New Matilda
    107. Wendy Orr, author
    108. Associate Professor Liz Byrski, Writer and academic
    109. Andrea Dodo-Balu, Curtin University School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts
    110. Professor Margaret Simons, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, and a freelance journalist and author
    111. Mark Demetrius
    112. Margaret Scheikowski
    113. Mitchell Ward, creative director, Croakey
    114. Michelle Bui, Research Assistant, Curtin University School of Media Culture & Creative Arts
    115. Jenny Fraser, Adjunct Research Fellow
    116. Katie Ellis, Senior Research Fellow, Curtin University
    117. Kathryn Greenhill, Lecturer in Information Studies
    118. Catriona Bonfiglioli, PhD Senior Lecturer Media Studies UTS
    119. Professor Anna Haebich, Historian and author
    120. Rose Hanley, Roleystone WA
    121. Pablo Leighton, Independent researcher / Latin American Research Group Australia
    122. Dr David Nolan, Senior Lecturer, Media and Communications, and Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne
    123. Faustina Agolley, TV presenter
    124. Tom Ballard, comedian
    125. Namila Benson, broadcaster/producer
    126. Karen Pickering, writer and organiser
    127. Ruby Hamad, columnist, Daily Life, SBS Life
    128. Scott Edgar, songwriter, Tripod
    129. Dr Helen Merrick, Curtin University
    130. Shannon Harvey, Journalism lecturer and tutor, Curtin University
    131. Kirsten Hudson, Curtin University
    132. Michael Keane, South Perth
    133. Dr Tama Leaver, Curtin University
    134. Dr Liam Lynch, Curtin University
    135. Dr Leanne McRae, Curtin University
    136. Kenta McGrath, filmmaker and academic
    137. Dr Marilyn Metta, Curtin University
    138. Jennifer Martin, principal tutor for the Centre for Advancing Journalist at the University of Melbourne, editorial assistant at the Citizen
    139. Dr Samantha Owen, Curtin University
    140. Suvendrini Perera, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University
    141. Dr Joy Denise Scott, Academic
    142. Professor Kim Scott, author
    143. Dr Greg Watson, Curtin University, WA
    144. Dr David Whish-Wilson, Curtin University
    145. Irma Woods, Nyungar Research Assistant
    146. Jessica Robyn Cadwallader
    147. Dr Sukhmani Khorana, University of Wollongong
    148. Dr Lisa Slater, University of Wollongong
    149. Dr Siobhan McHugh, University of Wollongong
    150. Prof Elena Marchetti, University of Wollongong
    151. Samah Sabawi, Playwright and Commentator
    152. Dr Leah King-Smith
    153. Vicki Kyriakakis, writer
    154. Meg Madden, Writer and editor
    155. Mary Ellen Jordan, writer
    156. Holly Ringland, writer, novelist, educator
    157. Jacqui Katona, a law student from Djok clan, Kakadu, the Centre for Indigenous Story
    158. Debra Jopson, journalist
    159. Melissa Sweet, journalist
    160. Angela Savage, author
    161. Paul Daley, author and journalist
    162. Dr Gael Jennings, Honorary Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne
    163. Jaelea Skehan, writer
    164. Dr Stephen Hagan, Editor, First Nations Telegraph
    165. Tess Ryan
    166. Daniel James
    167. Palani Mohan, photographer
    168. Eliza Metcalfe, health communications specialist
    169. Ross Green, health communications specialist
    170. Rob Oakeshott, writer and author
    171. Philip Moore, Anthropologist, Curtin University
    172. Amber Cunningham
    173. Dr Kate Bowles, Media & Communications, University of Wollongong

174. Journalist Bob Beale supports this alternative version:

“We are journalists, writers, photographers, artists, publishers and others who work in the media and communications industries. Signatories also include journalism, media and communications researchers and academics. We condemn The Australian’s publication of Bill Leak’s racist cartoon. Racism damages the health and wellbeing of those it targets. We acknowledge that the media industry has a long history of perpetuating harmful and racist stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that it is well past time that this stops. We urge the editorial leadership of all Australian media to reflect on the hurt and distress all racial stereotyping causes and to eliminate it from our news and current affairs media.”

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