White-Black Couple ‘Rob And Karen’ Revert To Their Middle Names Amid Mildura Racism Row

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If you haven’t followed the latest Australian racism scandal, I strongly suggest you do. At one level, it’s as disgusting as any garden variety Australian racism scandal. But at another level… it’s quite something to watch.

The reaction of Aboriginal people – the target of the racism, as if I even needed to point that out – has been pretty inspired. But before we get to that, in case you missed it… a couple from Mildura, ‘Rob and Karen’ were filmed over the weekend confronting a local Aboriginal man, Robby Wirramanda Knight.

Knight is a well-known Aboriginal artist, and a Traditional Owner, and obviously proudly embraces his culture including by flying an Aboriginal flag out the front of his property.

This appears to have been too much for neighbours ‘Rob and Karen’, with ‘Karen’ filmed trying to rip it down – unsuccessfully, as it turns out, because in Knight’s words it’s ‘too strong for you Karen’.

While this unfolds, Knight films Rob ranting about some of his ‘best friends’ being “real Aboriginals”, unlike Knight who is “1 per cent Aboriginal”.

The washup is that ‘Rob’ – real name Robert Vigors – has lost his business. McDonalds Australia immediately cancelled his franchise of the Mildura store upon the video going viral. As for Karen, real name Karen Ridge, she might also lose her business, Mildura Travel and Cruise, after already losing one key partnership (with Express Travel Group). It might seem a high price for people to pay for a racist rant… but at least they didn’t lose their kids. Or their land.

But back to the response of the mob….

If you’re friends with a lot of Aboriginal people, then your social media feeds would have been full of comments like, ‘Goodnight Karen is the new OK Boomer’, and ‘Too strong for you Karen’.

And then this, from Aboriginal performer Briggs – Victorian-based himself and a friend of Knight’s.

And then he upped the ante a little more in song form with this one.

But by far, my favourite response was from Karen Paterson, the new General Manager of the National Indigenous Radio Service (and not simply because she’s taken that job over from me!)

At the risk of spoiling the punchline, Karen recently married the love of her life… a man named ‘Rob’. Thus:

As a final aside, it’s worth noting while media reporting on the issue has gone around the world – even BBC picked it up – reporters have completely missed the ‘other’ story in all this –the reaction of the Victoria Police to the ‘other’ thing that Rob and Karen did.

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Over to Knight, who explains it on his Facebook page:

It’s great to see the coverage from media however it’s disturbing that none of them have mentioned the real reason for the police being called on my neighbour.

The racist rant wasn’t the reason the police were called.

It was the moment my 12-year-old son and his cousin were peering out the second story window 10 minutes after the racist rant when they seen who they believed to be Rob kneeling at the front tire of my vehicle They were looking directly down at him.

My son ran up to my bedroom and told me.

I grabed the torch and went downstairs to see what is going on but by the time I got downstairs there was no one there.

As I was walking around my car to see what he may have been up to or looking for I started to look around with the torch, it was then I spotted it, a large four or 5 inch screw wedged on an angle up under my front tyre at this moment Karen came out on her balcony. It was then I told her Rob shouldn’t of done that Karen, she told me I don’t know what’s going on I just woke up. however this was only minutes after she was trying to pull my flag down, I told her Karen I found the screw Rob should not have done that. Now I’m calling the police.

I then called the police they attended and I told them the full story of what had happened they collected the screw and told me they didn’t think it would be a good idea to approach the Neighbours at this stage as it may only inflame the situation since they may be intoxicated.

It wasn’t until the video went viral that police decided to take action.”

It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Rob and Karen’ are ever charged, let alone brutalised or shot and killed during the arrest.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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