Stan Grant and Australian media’s racism reckoning

Trailblazing Indigenous Australian journalist stands down citing racist abuse and media failings

Stan Grant
‘I’m sorry that I must have given you so much cause to hate me,’ said Stan Grant
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

After a three-decade career, the respected Indigenous Australian broadcaster Stan Grant hosted his final TV show on Monday after announcing that he would be stepping down due to racist abuse by viewers.

The abuse, described as “grotesque” and “unrelenting” by The Guardian, came in response to comments Grant made during coverage of King Charles III’s coronation about the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The presenter, who belongs to the Wiradjuri people, took part in a panel discussion on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The debate touched on various topics, including the proposal to have a president instead of a British monarch as Australia’s head of state, as well as the impact of colonisation on Indigenous communities.

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Why is Grant stepping down?

On “Q+A”, his weekly show on the national broadcaster ABC, Grant said he would be “stepping away for a little while” because his “soul” was “hurting”.

Looking “stony-faced and red-eyed”, the presenter “offered a glimpse into the personal toll the recent media and social media barrage has taken on him”, said The Guardian.

“To those who have abused me and my family. I would just say if your aim was to hurt me, well you’ve succeeded, and I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’m sorry that I must have given you so much cause to hate me so much, to target me and my family and to make threats against me. I’m sorry.”

Grant also added that he had seen the media “lie and distort my words” since the coronation, attempting to depict him as “hate-filled” and guilty of “maligning Australia”.

What has ABC said?

In a column for ABC on Friday, Grant detailed the recent racist attacks on him and his family, and accused his employer of not offering enough support, calling it “an institutional failure”.

“No one at the ABC – whose producers invited me onto their coronation coverage as a guest – has uttered one word of public support,” Grant said. “Not one ABC executive has publicly refuted the lies written or spoken about me. I don’t hold any individual responsible; this is an institutional failure.”

Over the weekend, the broadcaster eventually apologised. In a Sunday memo to staff, seen by CNN, ABC’s managing director David Anderson condemned the “sickening” behaviour to which Grant had been subjected, and said the host had “our full support”.

On the morning of Grant’s final TV appearance, hundreds of his ABC colleagues, journalists and supporters rallied in his support, carrying signs that read “I stand with Stan” and “We reject racism”.

What has the reaction been?

Senior staff at ABC said that the attacks on Grant were being fanned by Rupert Murdoch’s Australian news outlets.

ABC news director Justin Stevens accused Murdoch’s News Corp of targeting both Grant and ABC because the public service broadcaster threatened Murdoch’s business model. News Corp Australasia chief Michael Miller defended the company’s reporting of the ABC’s coronation broadcast, however, insisting that the accusations made by ABC were “misleading” and “unsubstantiated”.

“The ABC needs to stop passing the buck and blaming others for its own internal problems,” Miller said yesterday.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, however, on the question of whether Stevens was merely “imagining the Murdoch media in Australia is waging a campaign against the ABC… the evidence would suggest not”.

The newspaper, which is owned by Nine Entertainment, found a huge increase in news stories by Murdoch media outlets about ABC and Stan Grant in the days following the coronation “and virtually all of them were critical”, it said.

Will Indigenous Australians see change?

The incident comes at a time when Australia is considering a constitutional change to establish a new advisory body, called the “Voice”, to represent Indigenous Australians in parliament.

A referendum has been mooted for late 2023, but the debate has become very “heated”, The Australian said. Opposition leader Peter Dutton said recently that the referendum is “a symptom of the madness of identity politics”, which would “re-racialise our nation”. Australia’s minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, responded that Dutton was spreading “misinformation and scare campaigns”.

Yet amid this caustic atmosphere, Grant’s message on Monday was “delivered with an air of grace and optimism”, The Guardian said.

“Sometimes we need to just take time out. Sometimes our souls are hurting and so it is for me. I’ve had to learn that endurance is not always strength. Sometimes strength is knowing when to say stop,” Grant said. “I am down right now, I am. But I will get back up. And you can come at me again, and I will meet you with the love of my people.”

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