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Goodes, Gillard, and Australia's sick culture of victim-blaming

  • 04 August 2015

Being victimised is not only a horrible thing to experience — it's also not going to win you any friends. On top of being initially mistreated you can generally expect further discrimination for speaking up about it. Don't expect the Australian public to sympathise with you — or even believe you.

This may be confusing for you since your unfair treatment at the hands of others seems so obviously wrong. For example, someone yells a racial slur at you while you were just trying to do your job. Then you get booed for months for publicly celebrating your cultural heritage. You might think, how can anyone say this is okay? With the evidence brought to light, how can it be denied or, worse, condoned?

But the truth is that siding with the bully or perpetrator is psychologically far easier for your average self-serving person. If anyone with a sense of morality allows themselves to be aware of someone being victimised for being who they are — whether that be Indigenous, LGBTQI, or just from a different mould — it demands that they either take some action or feel shame for doing nothing.

American social worker Michelle Sicignano touches on this in a 2013 article on Social Justice Solutions stating, 'Victim blaming alleviates the burden of guilt for doing nothing.' She quotes a 2005 article by Levin, Palmor, Branch, and Harris in the Encyclopedia of Ageism: 'Victim blaming is the tendency to attribute a problem to the characteristics of the people who are its victims.

'An important function of victim blaming', they continue, 'is that it allows those in the advantaged segment of society to avoid blaming themselves for the problems experienced by a subordinate group. From this viewpoint, little reason exists for the members of a majority group to address issues of inequity, discrimination, or bigotry.'

This is a big part of why over recent months we have had a whole lot of Australians booing Adam Goodes, and a whole lot of Australians deeming it acceptable.

Last week, shock jock Alan Jones went on the attack saying that Goodes 'is always a victim' — the implication being that it is Goodes' mindset, rather than his treatment, that is the problem. Several other similarly white and privileged public figures echoed Jones' sentiments.

People like Jones will almost never side with the victim except in one of two cases: either they can closely relate to the victim (thus, self-interest), or