Does our Prime Minister need diversity training?

During lunch today I glanced at Twitter and noticed an exchange between @Msloulou77  and @RedRoverSays, which I responded to:



I’ve copied and pasted the above to show the full sequence. At that point I didn’t know what the trigger had been for Lou’s original Tweet, I was thinking of the conversation from a colour perspective, but a little research enlightened me. Our Prime Minister had patted a disabled person on the head and Stella Young wrote about it from the perspective of a disabled person, Misguided gestures of a condescending kindness.

Another branch of the conversation went like this:



As you can see, I was thinking colour. We all think of what is most likely to impact us or our loved ones, I suppose.

I’m really not focusing here on the actual act of Kevin being a patter. We can all rest assured, I am sure, he wasn’t in any way being malicious: he was being kind in his own way. Would he pat me on the head? I doubt it. Why not? Because I am neither 4 years old NOR am I different.

Misplaced “kindness” explains much of the stolen generation. How much misplaced “kindness” is behind the Intervention? I wonder every day how much misplaced “kindness” is applied to our kids at school – not just our kids, many migrant kids. Teachers perhaps not pushing them as much as Australian kids out of “kindness”. After all, I did have people ask me had my family ever lived in houses before coming to Australia. Now, we have four teenagers (Miss 10 may as well be one) and as ANYONE with teenagers knows, there are times when we all ask ourselves have our kids ever lived in houses. Who has never asked a kid, “Where you born in a tent?” as said kid merrily dashes out leaving the door open yet again? Like a lot of kids, give these ones an inch and they’ll take a mile! 😛

No, they had never done homework before and it has taken some time to develop that routine. I would say we are still developing good study habits. Yes, they asked on arrival did they have to take their own chairs to school and share them. Yes, the boys arrived from a patriarchal society not understanding gender equality. Does any of that mean they are less intelligent? No, it just means they are different. Yet I remember the look of surprise on an older teacher’s face when I said Miss 18 was definitely aiming for university.

It was these thoughts going through my head when I entered into the above conversations and I can see Stella’s perspective so clearly, that “the condescending attitudes we face IS big picture“.

Here were representatives of three different areas of concern all coming together over the question of condescension, of misplaced kindness. Rachael from gender equality, Stella from disability and myself from ethnicity. Lou, I think, was thinking all three! 😀

Just because people have an accent doesn’t mean they need to be spoken down to or, even worse, shouted at. They have an accent, they aren’t intellectually challenged or deaf.

Carly Findlay has a striking skin condition. Carly hasn’t let herself get sun-burnt, nor is she going to damage the taxi. I was reminded of Carly’s recent experience when I was involved in the above conversations. Carly is now going to be involved in diversity training for the taxi industry.

Given all that Stella, Lou, Rachel and others deal with, we were within our rights to suggest the Prime Minister may not have acted in the most appropriate way. This next conversation snippet indicates we don’t know what we are talking about.


Joe Hildebrand makes a living from satire and usually I quite enjoy his work. Yes, it can be a little extreme at times and I think he is often misunderstood (either that or he is serious and I am the one misunderstanding :razz:). I would like to point out, in more than 140 characters, that to Joe and Sarah we are “do-gooders” being outraged. We are people involved deeply on a daily basis with bigotry, sexism, fear of difference and yes, misplaced “kindness”. Condescension from people who are not malicious, who don’t necessarily believe white is superior to black but do believe there is a difference and the poor little mites need help or lower targets or a pat on the head. We are NOT do-gooders, we are the front line warriors. We are entitled to speak up without being accused of being do-gooders as if we, like you Joe and Sarah, are standing on the sidelines as observers. I am sure both Joe and Sarah really did not mean to be offensive from their perspective, but we don’t want to be patted on the head, figuratively or otherwise. Perhaps we should just “calm down”, do you think? 😀

Which brings me all the way back to the very first tweet I responded to:

Keerist, where do these white,middle class, able bodied minor celebs get off on determining what is racist, discriminatory, patronising?

Forgetting the “minor celebs” bit, because I really don’t know if Joe and Sarah are celebs major or minor, nor do I think it makes any difference. They could be the local greengrocer for all I care. The point is it is not up to them to decide what constitutes inappropriate behaviour towards difference. I agree with Stella it is the attitude that becomes the big picture because it becomes endemic and results in classification of groups as “less” in some way.

Just as Abbott shouldn’t tell a female journalist to “calm down”, neither should Rudd be patting people on the head.

There is a very interesting further discussion around the following Tweet URL if you wish to follow the trail further. https://twitter.com/Msloulou77/status/355151247231303682

12 comments on “Does our Prime Minister need diversity training?

  1. No matter what you do, someone somewhere is going to be offended by it. That said, there are a few things you can do to try to be diplomatic. One is avoid using swear words when referring to people. So Rudd referring to the Chinese as “rat fuckers” wasn’t the ideal choice of words. Likewise, you can try to avoid referencing a culture when explaining perceived flaws in an individual. So Rudd using the words “Adious” to play on the Mexicon stereotype that had been applied to Sol Trujillo was a bit uncalled for as well (and Trujillo wasn’t even Mexican.) Physical contact between strangers is always fraught with danger so a head pat is something that most would advise against as well.

    I must say that I find it amazing that Rudd was ever a diplomat.


    • While I agree with your observations, my concern was more the attitude of Joe Hildebrand and Sarah Harris than Kevin patting heads.

      This habit of people who are NOT discriminated against to tell those who are what we should consider discriminatory is becoming all to common, quite frankly.

      I am reminded of a situation when I was in hospital after the birth of my first child. In the bed beside me was a mid-wife, having just given birth to her first child. While I don’t remember her exact words after all these years, it was something along the lines of “OMG, all those things I said to mothers in the past – I had NO IDEA! I will be a much better mid-wife now! Giving birth is much harder than I ever imagined, even with all my training.”


  2. Of course Kevin Rudd didn’t mean to be offensive (He’s a politician) but the worrying thing is that he seemed completely unaware that it was an incredibly offensive gesture. As an adult the thought of someone patting me on the head beggars belief. If someone did that did that to me I think I’d want to punch them. I’m a school teacher and I wouldn’t even pat a kid on the head.


    • I wouldn’t either. I’ve patted my own kids on the head when they were very little – or older ones when I have very clearly implying they are acting like toddlers!

      I’m with you – I think I’d want to punch the person too. As a joke with a relative – maybe OK – but definitely carries a connotation of childishness to me.


  3. I am in complete agreement with you Robyn. I speak with an accent (Scottish), which isn’t in any way a problem – in Australia. It is sometimes even an advantage. In England on the other hand…well, let’s say many people there seem to be what I like to call ‘hard of listening,’ when it comes to Scottish accent. As soon as they hear it their brains shut down and they simply refuse to hear or understand. For the most part they are, I think, unaware of what it is they are doing. Nonetheless it is undoubtedly racist.

    Perhaps people in Australia aren’t really very aware of this issue, but it was graphically demonstrated last week at Wimbledon. You might have heard – Andy Murray was the first British man to win since Fred Perry in 1936. What you probably didn’t hear, despite my repeated tweeted requests to various news services, is that he is the first Scottish man, or woman, to win Wimbledon, or any Grand Slam (US last year), ever! But like all sport ever since I can remember, you’re only Scottish if you lose. If you win it’s, “Come on in son, you’re British!”

    The more sharp-eyed amongst you might have noticed, at the final, British Prime Minister David Cameron with, in a spectacular example of ‘sport imitates life,’ Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond sitting behind him breathing down his neck. When Murray won and the crowd was on its feet, Salmond and his wife did something any tennis fan might have done. They produced a flag to wave (over Cameron’s head, great pictures). But not just any flag. No, the oldest continually-used sovereign flag in the world, the Saltire. It has been Scotland’s flag for, oh, about 1200 years. This has apparently caused an outcry over there. Words like ‘political’ and ‘stunt’ are being thrown around. Never mind that it was only one of literally thousands of Saltires seen throughout the stadium and all over the viewing area formerly known as Henman Hill.

    Part of this is, of course, simply the grubbier end of the independence debate currently taking place in Scotland, but it also goes back to an earlier time in Murray’s career, when he learnt the hard way what it is to get on the wrong side of the English gutter press. This would have been, I’m going to say, 2006. Because there was a World Cup on at the time. Australians are probably wondering what world cup. THE World Cup. Oh, all right, soccer. Murray was only about 19 at the time. He had won his match and was leaving the venue. An English journo (although we are talking about papers like Murdoch’s Sun here, so perhaps ‘hack’ would be a more appropriate term) asked him if he’d be supporting England (in fact it was a leading question, “I suppose you’ll be…”) in their World Cup match that night. He gave an answer any 19 year old Scot might have given, which was, “Err, no. Why would I be doing that?” When pressed he went on to explain that we Scots, as a default position, support whoever is playing AGAINST England. This is true. All hell broke loose. It was made very clear to Murray that he’d better not say that kind of thing unless he wanted to be the subject of a poisonous and vitriolic campaign in the press, and to be booed whenever he set foot on Centre Court.

    So that’s the background. Channel 7 made things worse by repeatedly playing tunes like Land of Hope and Glory, a song associated solely with England and widely detested in Scotland, every time he appeared. I’m sure they didn’t intend self-conscious racism, but that’s what can happen when you go blundering into an issue size 12s first, without taking the trouble to look into the background, history, etc. Without making an effort to understand the subtleties. You come off looking insensitive, offensive and just plain stupid. Joe Hildebrand please take note.


    • Hello! I think your example is a very good example of not thinking about others – by that I mean not thinking about the very simple fact that someone else is different. Your example is also one that will be easily recognised by many people, involving a high profile sports star as it does.

      I’d like to point you and other readers in the direction of a comment on a an article here http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/kevin-rudd-head-pat/ the comment is by Susi and was made at 3:18 today (July 12). At the moment is is about the third latest comment. I think it is brilliant and wish I could steal it to highlight the woman’s experience. I think you will really like it too.

      I have to love your bit about the default position, that you support whoever is playing AGAINST England. I must admit I missed the flag waving, but it reminded me of the fuss made when Cathy Freeman ran her victory lap with the Aboriginal flag. http://aboriginalflag.com.au/history.html


      • Hi Robyn, I thought you might nominate me for the ‘Long Bow of the Week’ award, but I felt I gathered it up at the end. You clearly saw the point I was seeking to make. Anyway, I think Peter Reith has this week’s award tied up, after blaming the current Egyptian strife on socialism on The Drum a couple of days ago.

        I think the Freeman flag affair is an excellent parallel. In both instances those flags represent a positive association with one’s own community and background, but in both instances the ignorant have taken offense, saying, “You should be flying the Union flag/Australian flag.” Incidentally, the correct name in heraldry for the current Australian flag is ‘British blue ensign with southern cross and federation star.’ Doesn’t sound very Australian, does it?

        I mean, I’m not suggesting we should feel sorry for Andy Murray, he’s loaded, but it’s a good illustration of certain attitudes. And of course the failings of the Australian media demonstrate how easy it is to get it wrong when you can’t be bothered to examine the attitudes you’re unquestioningly repeating.

        As for supporting whoever is opposed to England, I saw an interesting demonstration of this during the rugby world cup that was held here in Australia. I was working in an office with numerous expats, Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish. It soon became clear that the English supporters were supporting all the other British teams, and that the Scots, Irish and Welsh people were supporting each others’ teams, but not England. I felt quite sorry for one young English girl who seemed genuinely hurt on figuring this out. I did my best to explain that this was not in any way personal, but rather because of the whole ‘Great victory for Britain/sad defeat for Scotland’ thing we’d all grown up with.

        I read Susi’s post, and found it a perfect summation of stories I’ve heard from other wheelchair users over the years. It is a great pity so many people seem to be incapable of seeing past the disability and simply engaging with the individual as a person. This was a right Barry Crocker on Kevin’s part, and the responses from yourself, Stella and others should be seen as educational, not precious. I’m sure Kevin will see that and not make such a mistake again. Joe Hildebrand, a bit of a bogan himself, has done Australia’s international image no favours whatsoever with the shows ‘our’ ABC have indulged him by allowing him to make. I sincerely hope no-one overseas is watching and assuming we’re all like him. Simplistic, unsophisticated thinking is NOT a badge of honour Joe.


  4. Craig Emerson’s quote on Kitchen Cabinet the other night (and he was quoting Julia Gillard at the time) is one of the most simple yet meaningful ways I have heard someone explain why people/sections of the community sometimes just don’t get that their behaviour may be seen as discriminatory/condescending. If you don’t think it is offensive, it doesn’t mean that others who are offended are just being hysterical. I am really saddened by the culture we have of defending behaviour because it ‘wasn’t intended to cause offence”, and the anger directed to those who point it out. It just takes a bit of empathy and understanding to see things from a different point of view.


    • Thank you very much Angie. Have you seen the comments made yesterday re our book on Facebook? Discriminatory and somewhat condescending as well, I think.

      I agree with you totally and Craig Emerson has impressed me on more than one occasion. It is a rare thing when a politician impresses me these days!


  5. It is like, when some people talk to deaf people they scream at them. Rudd being at a different height level to the Women in question, without thinking has done what some people do to shorter people. Patted her on the head, automatically without thinking what he actually was doing and that it makes it condecending. P.S I am no lover of Rudd but I feel that is what happened. No disrespect intended. Though I feel we are going through a new phrase of awareness. Where we all need to stop and respect each other better and think about our actions towards each other more.


    • Hi Maureen. 🙂 I agree with you, I think Rudd did it without thinking.

      My problem was much less with Rudd and far more with the people who claimed the “do-gooders” were up in arms. It was like white people telling black people what is not racist, or men telling women what is not sexist.

      Love being told what I am or am not allowed to feel. 🙂 Which fits precisely with your last sentence, Maureen: we need to respect each other better.


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