Racism against Indigenous Australians on Twitter

Australia and New Zeland. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Earlier this month we looked at racism against Indigenous Australians on Instagram and Facebook. In this briefing we look at Twitter.

Positive use: IndigenousX

Twitter has been used very successfully as an anti-racism tool that gives Indigenous Australians a voice, most notably by IndigenousX (see website). It is based around the IndigenousX Twitter account setup by Luke Pearson, himself a Gamilaroi man. Each week he gives control of the account to different Indigenous Australia. The author of the Tweets on the account therefore change periodically, but they always give an Indigenous person’s thoughts and people invited are always interesting.

At the time of writing the article the account is being run by Dr Derek Chong. Coming from the Mullanjarli, Walkamin and Kunjin First nations, Dr Chong started work as a care worker, then became a nurse, then a doctor, then specialised as a psychiatrist. He is the first Indigenous Psychiatrist in Queensland and is today a Senior Psychiatry Registrar at Queensland Health.

Dr Chong has made a call through IndigenousX saying social distancing is a must and we must all take responsibility, but adds that we also need solidarity to galvanise us together as a community.

Harmful uses: Yolngu_Boong

There are, however, also many harmful uses of Twitter. Yolngu_Boong is a fake Aboriginal account created on February 2nd, 2020. The account is also antisemitic, incorporating in its name the triple ellipse recognised as an Alt-Right way of identifying Jews as well as more widely recognised Stars of David.

The account also has a go at the Baby Boomers claiming it is a “boomer”. The Boomers are the generation born between 1946 to 1965, the account lists its fake birthday as 20 April 1969 – well outside of this and one of the inconsistencies in the fake profile. A few non-racist posts made by this profile suggest it is most likely run by someone in their 20s.

Example 1

In this example, posted a few months after Uluru was closed to climbers, the account posts that they are arranging a party at the top of the climb. They mock the traditional smoking ceremony, a serious religious / cultural right, by saying there will be beer, weed, handouts of welfare cash and petrol. They even translate the word petrol into gas to appeal to a US audience. This promotes multiple negative stereotypes of Indigenous Australians, as substance abusers, alcohol dependant, welfare dependant etc., as well as mocking their culture both by belittling the custom of the smoking ceremony and promoting the climbing of Uluru, a practice the Indigenous community has been against for many years.

See it live and report it.

Example 2

This Tweet again promotes the idea of substance abuse with respect to petrol. It also promotes a racist idea that Indigenous Australians are of low IQ. Environment plays a far larger role than genetics in the sort of reasoning ability IQ tests actually measure – the racial science claims are the Alt-Right, like those of the Nazis before them, are simply untrue.

See it live and report it.

As we discussed in our Instagram article:

Substance abuse in the form of petrol sniffing has been a major health issue in some Indigenous communities. Thankfully research commissioned by the National Indigenous Australians Agency has shown that measures to address this health crisis have been very successful resulting in a decline in petrol sniffing of 95.2%.

Example 3

This example promotes the idea of Indigenous Australians as being lazy and dependant on welfare. The account it is retweeting we will look at next in a second briefing on Twitter.

See it live and report it.

Example 4

In this example the attack is transphobic, while also highlighting the Indigenous status of those being attacked.

See it live and report it.

Example 5

This is just outright promotion of racism. It is not Australian, but US styled racism.

See it live and report it.

Example 6

This post also uses US racism. As the New York Times explains, the noose has long been a “powerful symbol of bigotry and hatred directed at African-Americans” and has increasingly been making a resurgence.

See it live and report it.

Comments and support

Comments on this briefing can be made on this Facebook post.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a Registered Charity that tackles all forms of online hate. You can support our work by making a donations at https://ohpi.org.au/donate/. You can also join us on Facebook, or join our mailing list.

This article is part of our March 2020 campaign tackling racism against Indigenous Australians. We are currently running a fundraiser to expand our April 2020 campaign tackling Islamophobia. The full plan for our campaigns in 2020 can be seen here.