On the Aldi shirts

9 Jan

I agree with Tom Calma on the matter of the t-shirts marketed by Aldi and Big W to celebrate Australia Day. The former Race Discrimination Commissioner does not believe the design to be ‘intentionally racist’ but:

“What we can say is that it is not accurate, is bad taste and does not in itself lead to an understanding of Australia’s history and heritage,” he said. “In the lead-up to Australia Day it is important that we educate the community, the nation and the international community about what Australia Day celebrates.”

However, I think we’ve reached the use by date of the argument ‘not intentionally racist.’ There’s no possible excuse for anyone who is at all engaged in daily life in this country to be unaware of racism,and ignorant of its myriad manifestations. If they are, they are likely intentionally unaware, because you’d have to be living under a rock to not notice the everyday racism to which Indigenous people are subjected.

‘We didn’t mean to be racist’ is the pathetic bleat of a lazy privileged twat. How could those shirts not offend, with their logo stating that Australia was ‘established’ (in itself crap, we weren’t a nation till 1901) in 1788 when white people invaded, leaving a trail of slaughter and tragedy whose aftermath resonates to this day, in their wake?

Incredibly, the shirts were approved by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in July 2013.

What the fucking fuck?

If you ‘don’t mean to be racist’ then fucking educate yourself, and maybe you won’t be. This is the prime responsibility of the privileged. If you are fortunate enough to have been born into the dominant culture, fucking educate yourself about those who are not, and what that means.

But don’t bloody bleat ‘I didn’t mean to be racist’ or ‘I didn’t mean to be sexist’ or what the fucking what. Just learn.

That is fucking all.

36 Responses to “On the Aldi shirts”

  1. doug quixote January 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    An overreaction. Not even remotely racist.

    Whatever was here before 1788, it was not “Australia” and all indications are that nothing would have changed on this continent, whatever it is called, were the Koori left to their own devices.

    Whether or not that is a good thing depends upon your point of view, but may I suggest none of us would be here at all without the “invasion” of 1788. It should be sand in our mouths to decry the events of 1788.

    To say that a T shirt which says “Australia established 1788” is racist is absurd.


    • Michael January 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      I agree that the shirt is not racist, but it is insensitive. To try and argue that our nation was “established” with the British arriving in 1788 basically ignores the thousands of years of Aboriginal inhabitance.


    • megpie71 January 9, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      If we’re going for strict historical accuracy, doug, then it’s “Australia: estd 1824”, because that’s when the British Admiralty officially decided to use the particular label for the continent on their maps. Prior to that it was New Holland, or Terra Australis.

      Alternatively, if we take Federation as the beginning of “Australia” the political entity (which is probably a more accurate dating, since each of the various colony groups were rather reluctant to be associated with the others in many ways) then it’s “Australia: estd 1901”.

      In either case, the erasure of the prior human occupants of this continent is disturbing, and, yes, racist.


      • doug quixote January 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

        Read it carefully, I did not claim it was; the T shirt did. Perhaps it should be canned for historical inaccuracy. What was established in 1788 was the penal colony of Botany Bay.

        Geographically, 1824 as you say; and politically 1901.

        I doubt the T shirt achieves “erasure” of the prior human occupants.



    • hudsongodfrey January 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

      I’m reading Michael below, and I’m starting to think that if not racist then these shirts are at least insensitive. But then what prompted that insensitivity if not some aspect of disregard for one group of people towards another.

      It’s almost too pedantic in those terms to eschew the word “racist” because it might offend….who? Racists right!

      So if you want to argue that the message is lost upon people who won’t own the pejorative term that happens to closely resemble their mode of insensitivity then maybe we’ve slipped so far that some kind of re-education process is called for.

      Otherwise maybe I’d say go and take the Harvard Implicit Attitude Test (link below). It may help some people recognise that we’re pattern seeking primates with faults that we need to work on if we hope to live together in richly diverse communities.


      The t-shirts were dumb I’m glad they’re gone, we might have been as well to rise above that ignorance in other ways, but at the same time it heartens me if we’ve resolved not to need to.


  2. hudsongodfrey January 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    They can have my design that reads “Country Shopping Since 1788” with a picture of an Asylum Seeker Boat and a 1700’s era Sailing Ship.

    They say Samuel Johnson was misquoted by omission in saying “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, and while there may be some better version of the patriotic urge we could laud, for the most part I agree with it as stated. Appeals to fealty with a like group that by nature excludes outsiders usually depend upon narrowly constrained prejudices and lead to inequitable practices of the worst kind. In this case the whole of Aboriginal culture is written off within the space of an ignorant stroke of the designer’s pen. If the majority see this as a faux pas on the stores’ part, evidenced by their withdrawal of the product line, then maybe there’s hope for Australian’s sentiments yet 🙂


  3. Gruffbutt January 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    I think it’s racist, or at least betrays racist thinking (or non-thinking…blah blah blah…). It’s pretty bloody hard these days to deny the existence of indigenous cultures dating back well before the arrival of Europeans. This is a blatant continuation of Terra Nullius. The t-shirts might have had some substance if 1901 was chosen as the date, except that our constitution is undeniably racist in its intent. Maybe we can have some new t’s on the day that we have some sort of independence/republic day that acknowledges and includes indigenous people.

    (And the whole oi oi oi thing gives me the runs…it’s stolen from the Welsh anyway…)

    It’s time to bury the ridiculous PC tag (see the comments section below the Age article) thrown at anyone who asks for a bit of actual f*cking CONSIDERATION. (But how? But how? Excuse me while I go punch a wall…and then an article awaits me about the latest lepers on boats for whom we have boundless plains to share…)


  4. Marilyn January 9, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    I think it is racist because it ignores 60,000 or so years of aboriginal history, Gillard would approve because she is racist and clueless.


    • helvityni January 10, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      Give Gillard a miss, concentrate on Abbott, Morrison, Bernardi, Hunt, Pyne, Bishops….



      • paul walter January 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

        Agreed Helvi. Marilyn, am happy for you and think the world of you, but grow up, re Gillard and Labor, as against the Tories, eh?


        • Marilyn January 11, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

          Gillard approved the frigging TV shirts and the effects of many of her racist policies are still being felt.

          I love it though when stupid people think Gillard should be off the hook because she hasn’t been PM for 3 seconds.

          Many don’t even forgive Fraser so why the hell should she be exempt from criticism now.


          • paul walter January 12, 2014 at 12:28 am #

            Gillard wasn’t “let off the hook”, she was pitched out for the
            Tories last election for being “too soft”.

            But you just keep carping about Gillard, while the criminality of others passes unremarked.

            Notice anything different since Gillard?


            How could we have been so silly, as to keep barbarians in power when true humanitarians like Morrison, Pyne, Bernardi, Brandis and Hockey were waiting in the wings to set things right.

            You didnt do a thing to help the refugees by focussing on Gillard rather than the politics that ensured her ultimate failure.. all you and people like you did was ensure that a Tory take over was inevitable with much worse to come for both us and refugees.

            In fact, it seems now boats disappear at sea and we know not what has even become of them or the people on board.

            And no.

            I don’t forgive the Minister of Defence during the Vietnam War for the Vietnamese refugee problem of the seventies, although I do remember noticing all the new offshore workers at Holdens when I couldn’t even get in the front door to apply for a job.


            • Marilyn January 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

              Oh for god’s sake of course I have noticed the criminals since but Gillard agreed to the fucking T-shirt which is what this story is about.

              She also destroyed the rule of law, destroyed the constitution, destroyed human rights, trashed single parents, and re-started criminally deranged human trafficking.

              Howard was booted out too, is he forgiven for Iraq after 11 years, or for the first human trafficking and criminal push backs?

              Gillard is a racist, she wrote racist laws, why the fuck should I stop mentioning that?

              Without her vicious racist laws Morrison could not do the things he is doing.


              • doug quixote January 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

                Which laws are those? Come on Marilyn, chapter and verse.


            • helvityni January 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

              There would be only few ignoramuses buying those cheap T-shirts, most of them not racists, just ignorant about Oz history,they couldn’t t do much harm….

              Abbott, Morrison, Brandis, Pyne, Bernardi, Hunt, Bishop etc. can do a lot harm to Australia, and ARE doing it, surely Marilyn knows that..


              • paul walter January 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

                She knows it.

                But she still has problems with Gillard and the ALP Right’s complicity in it all.
                Personally, I think she has over-emphasised the Gillard thing, initially it is part of the story but only one component of some thing more complex than she will give credit for.

                She is RIGHT to be sceptical, we shouldn’t forget Labor some times ducked some serious issues in its time, went to water and is still a long way from getting back into government, despite Abbott and his Brechtian clowns, because of certain issues of trust.
                But she sees a particular tree without the context of the forest of which the tree is a part.

                She is angry at the stray dog that bit her to the extent that she has missed the wolf creeping up on the periphery, I feel.


                • doug quixote January 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

                  She is obsessed with Gillard. I have asked her to put up some of the “vicious racist laws”. Since I doubt she knows of any, I expect more bluster from this bigot.


              • hudsongodfrey January 12, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

                Ah well there’s the rub. I couldn’t strictly account for the kind of ignorance involved, but it would seem even worse were they to be not ignorant!

                I gather in fact that some people see the level of insensitivity these T-Shirts exhibit to be of a relatively minor nature thus becoming inclined to the view that the furore surrounding them has something to do with a thing called “political correctness gone mad!”

                This is a view we may agree displays considerable lack of empathy and goes on to apologise for some indefensible things but above all deflects blame away from people like themselves onto those who they roundly dislike.

                Which, when you think about it, is pretty much the exact reverse of inexplicably choosing out of the blue to lay blame at the feet of Ms Gillard.

                Either way I urge more people to try the Harvard IAT racism test, come to realise the problem lies within and do what we can to behave in ways showing our conscious intent is somewhat more respectful of one another. You know little things like not wearing inflammatory T-Shirts or uttering gratuitous insults of the kind we know are apt to offend. Because disguising those as exercises of our freedoms is really just saying that we intend to curtail the freedoms of others, as long as those others are a class of people we can afford to bully with impunity to boost our own egos…. Or something like that.


                • paul walter January 13, 2014 at 2:34 am #

                  I think that is a shrewd judgement..doffs lid.
                  Complexity and existential condition.


  5. pappinbarafox January 10, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    They really stuffed up with those T shirts – got it completely wrong – Australia was established on 1 January1901.


  6. russell January 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    Didn’t the Abbott thing once say (in a speech) that Australia’s first Australians were sent here by the English Judges? This t-shirt appears consistent with that premise or claim.

    Is it an attempt to inure everyday racism?

    Especially for and on Australia Day? Roll on Cronulla Mark II.

    It seems to be loaded against the proven Indigenous history of this country.

    This rot grew and thrived with the warmongering coward Howard trading off the Hanson. It has been consistent with major party political policy ever since.

    Abbott thing uses all tools against the ‘(non-deserving) other’, including his sense of righteous religion as an introductory trojan to aboriginal community.

    To seek to diminish and/or ignore the existence of prior culture is surely a racist act. By commission and omission in this t-shirt caper case.

    Exclusive and fanatic nationalistic fascism rules. OK? (wait for it) What next?

    Are we going to re-write the national curricula or something?

    History wars (all over again) via an ‘innocuous’ t-shirt no less.
    Imho only.

    I’m grateful there is a No Place For Sheep.


    • Gorghast January 10, 2014 at 9:41 pm #


      Hell no… A large proportion of this land proudly trace their association to this great land to that earliest date, and wish to celebrate it.

      It’s their right to do so..

      Aldi had no regard to the esoteric technicality to humanities’ paleoanthropology, and the many debates that arise from those speculations.

      Its a store, that sells what WE want. It isn’t a church, institute of ethics, nor political party. It’s agenda is potatoes & pumpkins and happy customers.

      Others may seek to celebrate their association to this great, great land in their own way. All power & strength them…

      But to accuse anyone of racism (a believer of natural unfavourabilty – after Darwin) is a serious and extremely demeaning accusation, and ought be very measured and well considered.

      For failing that caution, and glib pointing is equally damning, to those that cry racism too freely .

      A turpitude greater by far!

      Hawk, rake, spit on those that do…


      • Jackie Allen January 10, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

        I wish I had said that 🙂


      • paul walter January 10, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

        Well, it’s true you’ve put the diametric opposite of the case, to Marilyn, Jennifer and others.
        My problem is that it is their version that reads the truer, which I find a bit soul destroying.


      • hudsongodfrey January 12, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

        I don’t know about that “large proportion” thing you mentioned. It seems more likely that the proportion who can trace the ancestry to the first fleet are technically fewer than those who make some kind of spiritual connection with a history of overcoming adversity tinged with occasional defiance of authority. When celebrating both Australia Day and Anzac Day I feel we’ve lost sight of the humility either could evoke, replacing it with a shallower less virtuous sense of pride that I find false and uninspiring.

        So let’s say you and I tend to embrace different sentiments when it comes to expressions of the national character. Aldi would still be a business that sells things we want, and doesn’t sell things we don’t want to even see on their shelves. Unlike supermarkets in some States of the US ammunition won’t be found on their shelves. We consider this a good thing by and large regardless of our personal relationship with firearms. There are known regulations controlling the sale of certain items. All of it comes about through the exercise of political will of one kind or another, and in this case the will of the majority seems to have sided against the possibility of unintentional offence and operated purely at the publicity level. I think it is interesting that the means we employ in making determinations about what may be too offensive are really haphazard, but not that the intent to avoid it is such a bad thing.

        There are plenty of things I enjoy sharing in agreeable company that in the public sphere were highly censorious of. I feintly hope some of them might offend you. After all where would be the fun if they didn’t! But I don’t because we’re not acquainted on that level and my first instinct is not generally to gratuitously offend. I think there’s just that level of propriety society employs to defend against bruised sensibilities on a regular basis.

        That’s why I think we should rather be talking in more congratulatory terms about the bounds of tolerance this civilized society exercises than complaining about “political correctness”.


  7. paul walter January 10, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    No, it could be deliberately provocative, for the publicity…some advertising works on that rationale.
    Of all our holidays, the one that has deteriorated most is Australia Day. It has become, each year, a saga of drunken punch ups, self indulgence and empty jingoism and its modern representation is, truly, Hansonist Cronulla.
    Dont expect community literacy or understanding to improve either, at least not after Christopher Pyne’s announcement that Keven Donnelly and some other think tank Blimp, have been instructed to “review” current education curricula in Australia.
    A Murdoch education policy will NOT help.


    • hudsongodfrey January 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

      I don’t think it was a publicity stunt. In this case because it was ALDI and they might have made a poor call I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on at least this one slip up. Forewarned for next time will I hope be enough. I blame the designers.

      As for the holiday itself it seems to have become a football for culture wars. Everyone wants a day off I suppose, but I see too little being done to emphasise some of the positives we might care to think of, and I think it may be a failure of secular thinking that we don’t do anchoring out shared sense of community well enough.

      You’re right to worry too that Donnelly has his fingers in the curriculum. I’ve read some of his essays on The Drum, and honestly you couldn’t find somebody more concerned with engaging in history wars than that bloke. It’s all about too much emphasis on aboriginals and too little on the white man’s achievements with a particular on christianity. It could be worse but only if they appointed Putin!


  8. Jackie Allen January 10, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Does the fact we celebrate Australia Day in itself become something racist? In many places it’s referred to as Invasion Day which given there were people here before the British is appropriate.. So any celebration of such an event is insulting to those who’s lands were invaded.

    How many here are willing to have Australia Day cancelled all together? What day do you suggest is more appropriate or less offensive to someone (anyone?)

    At what point does racism start and celebration begin?

    America have Columbus Day and Independence Day to celebrate. One to celebrate the arrival of an invader and the other freedom from an invader.

    Jennifer is correct, this is not just about a T-Shirt. But is it possible to pick an entirely different day that everyone in this country can agree with and come together and celebrate? Maybe we can then get a T-Shirt that says “Celebration of Togetherness Day” Est. 2014


    • paul walter January 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      That’s it in a nutshell, I think.
      The Australia Day observations used to be a little more humble, grateful and a celebration of a nation we seemed fortunate to live in compared to many countries. That is, rather than a celebration of nation-alism, exclusivity and jingoism.
      But two things may have happened.
      We lost touch with older generations, who understood adversity in Great Depression/Great War terms. We then discovered that the white arm band version of history was well, not quite “honest”.
      This, as we got well-fed, lazy and arrogant and the more easily bullshitted by the media and press, in our complacency.
      We used to “know”. But I don’t think so, any longer.


  9. paul walter January 11, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Actually, back here late.
    I get a feed from the satirical site “Loon Pond”.
    Here, the writers has absolutely gorged out on Piers Akerman’s ridiculous comments in a Murdoch newspaper, re the Aldi shirts.
    If Akerman says some thing is right, you know its bullshit.
    Akerman doesn’t like the resistance to the White Armband version of history, the self same thing that is provoking a war of words involving Pyne, Donnelly and co on one hand and tens of thousands of school teachers fighting an Orwellian rewrite of history, on the other.


  10. doug quixote January 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    As usual, the black armbanders say one thing, the white armbanders say another, and as always the truth lies somewhere in between.


    • hudsongodfrey January 12, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      After some thought I more or less came to the conclusion that I think we ask both to voluntarily self censor out of what passes for tolerant politeness. The rationale being that anyone who knowingly wants to offer offence to another usually has an uphill battle to justify it.


      • doug quixote January 13, 2014 at 7:30 am #

        Another pious wish!

        Ask fanatics and zealots to voluntarily self censor!

        If that is not pious wishful thinking, I’ll eat Rocinante!


        • hudsongodfrey January 13, 2014 at 9:53 am #

          I think the difference between ourselves and the MTR’s of this world might very well be that while it isn’t so much about asking people to moderate gratuitous offence as expecting them to know better we don’t want to use force backed by public policy to suppress the fanatical zealots and bigoted bullies, we simply need to identify them such that they can be tolerated. After all once you learn to pick the idiots for what they are taking them seriously is no longer an option. The more we learn to realise that then the more they tend to find themselves embarrassed by holding certain attitudes that don’t fit even within their own pier group because social pressure resists them.

          You don’t have to eat your horse to recognise that the way we express ourselves varies to fit social situations for a reason.



  1. DUFC #69 - February 5, 2014

    […] (AU) says Australia Day is a day for mourning not celebration. Jennifer at No Place for Sheep on Aldi and Big W selling racist t-shirts. Corrine Grant in The Hoopla calls it Merchandise Outrage day. Wendy Harmer gives us a snapshot of […]


  2. DUFC #69 | Hoyden About Town - March 16, 2015

    […] (AU) says Australia Day is a day for mourning not celebration. Jennifer at No Place for Sheep on Aldi and Big W selling racist t-shirts. Corrine Grant in The Hoopla calls it Merchandise Outrage day. Wendy Harmer gives us a snapshot of […]


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