Rumblings at the ABC: Not everyone is happy with coverage of royal family

Loyal ABC listeners and watchers are appalled, and, as a consequence, the national broadcaster’s ratings are in free-fall.

The reason? Regular programming was blacked out so that every radio and TV channel in every State and Territory captured (kidnapped?) an audience devoted entirely to the funeral of Mrs Brenda Windsor and the elevation of her eldest son Charles III as the new Emperor of Australia.

Both Charles and his wife/partner Camilla are divorcees. Will Camilla become Empress of Australia, or will she walk a few steps behind and be a consort as the Duke of Edinburgh was to QEII? These questions have been buried amid the choreographed mourning, but will need answers.

Why Indigenous Australians can’t be expected to shut up

Stan Grant is an Indigenous Australian and TV presenter. He is the presenter of Q&A on Thursday night at 8.30pm, and China Tonight on Monday night at 9.35 pm. He is the ABC’s international affairs analyst.

Grant grew up with the story of his mother meeting Queen Elizabeth in cast-off socks. This, and other memories, came flooding back as Grant watched the mass media accept, without complaint, the deceptions, inaccuracies, hypocrisies and lies spread by the royals for generations. On Sunday, 18 September, 2022, Grant wrote this article for the ABC news site – and it’s so powerful that I take the unusual step of quoting it in full:

“When the Queen first visited Australia in 1954, my mother almost did not get to see her. Like millions of other school kids, mum was expected to join the throng flocking to glimpse the young royal. The problem was, my mother didn’t have any socks.

“She was a dirt-poor Aboriginal kid living in a tin humpy on the outskirts of Coonabarabran, in north-west NSW. Socks were a luxury. Clothes and shoes were shared among a dozen siblings.

“The school said, ‘No socks, no go to Dubbo to see the Queen.’ Mum’s older brother met mum at the back fence between the primary and high schools and threw his socks over.

“It is memory a that has stayed with mum. She has told me the story many times – wearing her brother’s cast-off socks to see the Queen.

“It is one of the rich memories of a long life. And she has other memories, other stories that she has told me. Stories of my father being tied to a tree like a dog by police and left all day without food or water to swelter in the sun.

“Seeing Aboriginal men arrested for drinking alcohol and roped together and marched down on the main street of her hometown. Stories of two young brothers who died as children. Stories of her siblings taken to welfare homes.

“Stories of aching hunger. Of once following a white girl eating a cake around the schoolyard and pouncing on a crumb that the girl dropped. My mother still says it was the best cake she ever tasted.

“The girl with no socks got to see the Queen, while her family and other black families lived in poverty that the Crown inflicted on them. Living homeless in a land that had been stolen from them in the name of the Crown.

“I called my mother this week and she told me the story of her childhood brush with royalty over again. I have thought about mum and dad and all of my family, of my people – First Nations people – who die young and live impoverished and imprisoned lives in this country.

“We aren’t supposed to talk about these things this week. We aren’t supposed to talk about colonisation, empire, violence, about Aboriginal sovereignty, not even about the Republic. Everyone from the Prime Minister down has told us it is not appropriate.

Aborigines in chains under the rule of the British Crown

“I’m sure I am not alone amongst Indigenous people wrestling with swirling emotions. Among them has been anger. The choking asphyxiating anger at the suffering and injustice my people endure. The anger is not good for me. It is not good for my mental health. It is not good for my physical health. I have been short of breath and dizzy.

“But that is nothing compared to what too many other Indigenous people go through day after day. Those languishing in cells. Those who take their own lives. Those who are caught in endless cycles of despair.

“Writing this is not good for me. I feel my pulse racing now. I feel the tensions building in my head. The veins constricting.

“I know what will come. I know the abuse that will come from those who don’t like Aboriginal people who speak up. I know that online trolls will target my family with the most foul language, even threats of physical violence.

“Why do I do it? I ask myself that, too. Why do we have to explain ourselves, why do we have to relive pain?

“Why? Because a voice is all we have. Because too often that voice is silenced. Like this week.

“I have wondered where that voice is. If it has spoken, it has more often been in muted tones, lest anyone be offended.

“I have wondered where the voices of Indigenous political leadership have been. Where they have been as Indigenous rugby league player Caitlin Moran received a suspension equivalent to a quarter of her salary for an Instagram post deemed offensive to the Queen?

“Australians will likely vote in a referendum for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament, but what good would that voice be if at times like these it is reduced to a whisper?

“This past week, I have been reminded what is to come from the other side of history. History itself that is written as a hymn to whiteness. History written by the victors and often in blood. It is fashioned as a tale of progress, as a civilising mission. As historian Caroline Elkins writes in Legacies of Violence, her history of the British Empire, for hundreds of millions of people ‘the empire’s velvet glove contained an all too familiar iron fist’.

“From India to Africa to Ireland, the Caribbean and of course here, Australia, people from the other side of history have felt that fist. It is not a zero-sum game. There are things in the British tradition that have enriched my life. But history is not weighted on the scales, it is felt in our bones. It is worn on our skin. It is scarred in memory.

“How do we live with the weight of this history? How do we not fall prey to soul-destroying vengeance and resentment, yet never relent in our righteous demand for justice?

“At times like these I struggle with that dilemma. Because Australia has never reached a just settlement with First Nations people. The Voice to Parliament – whatever its virtues – falls well short of justice. It is another step on the long journey to justice. But again, we don’t talk about that this week.

“I have felt a sadness at feeling adrift, estranged from friends and colleagues. Sadness at knowing that at times like these there is a chasm between us.

“I have watched as others have worn black and reported on this historic event, participated in this ritual mourning. And knowing I cannot.

“They come to this with no conflict. I cannot. My colleagues can extol the Queen’s undoubted and admirable devotion to duty. They can lament the passing of ‘everyone’s grandmother’. My thoughts have been on my grandmother.

“My people have a word, Yindyamarra – its meaning escapes English translation. It is a philosophy – a way of living – grounded in a deep respect.

“I have sought to show Yindyamarra to those for whom this moment is profound. This is their ‘sorry business’ and I respect that.

“But it will pass. For Indigenous people, our sorry business is without end.

“At times like these I wonder what it would be to not know apocalypse. To not know what it is to come from a people who face an existential threat. Who have clung on to their very place on this earth.

“I wonder what it would be like for me to be like my colleagues for whom this is one of the defining stories of their lifetime.

“Sometimes, I wonder what it must be like to be white. But then I would not be my mother’s son.”

How many ABC staff are in London to mourn the queen?

According to the ABC website, the total is 27. The ABC has a London-based team of 12 journalists and a production staff of nine (who do most of the work). The basic staff was bolstered by two former journalists who were in Europe at the time and volunteered to “help out”. They included veteran (and retired) ABC correspondent Phil Williams, a “safe-as-houses” chap who could relied upon to mourn and weep at the funeral, and cheer at the coronation of King Charles III.

ABC Radio sent six people including three presenters: Virginia Trioli, formerly a devout republican of militant Italian heritage; Rafael Epstein, with an influential audience among Jewish Victorians and Palestinian-hating pro-Zionist Israelis; Richard Glover, the travelling guru and Sydney’s Drive host; and three production staff. Trioli, Epstein and Glover reportedly travelled business class. Guess where the production staff travelled? Economy, stupid!

Another Black Voice raised

On Monday 12 September Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe raised her voice to tell senators, “We don’t need a new king” – what we need is a treaty with Indigenous Australians – and then a republic.

She called on Prime Minister Albanese’s Government to “show ambition”, but he was too busy grovelling at the funeral of one monarch and celebrating the coronation of her successor, King Charles III.

Ms Thorpe is the Djab Wurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara senator from Victoria. In August, after calling the British queen a “coloniser”, she was forced by an orchestrated army of British monarchists to re-take her parliamentary oath.

But when the queen’s death was announced she expressed her “anger and disbelief”. First Nations people, she said, were greeted by “the glorification of our oppressor”.

She launched a scathing attack on Australia’s political leaders for showing “zero regard” for indigenous people who had been calling for “a Day of Mourning for more than 80 years”.

Senator Thorpe added: “This country has a new King. This parliament and the Prime Minister are subjugated to someone we didn’t elect. We don’t need a new King, we need a Head of State chosen by the people.

“We could use this moment and momentum to empower people to democratically elect our own leader. Someone who represents all of us – a united country that has owned its past and chosen its own future. That unity would be more powerful than any King.”

She called on the Labor Government to forge a treaty with First Nations people, saying it would help to “end the war” between settlers and Indigenous Australians.

“Incarceration rates, deaths in custody and child removals are all symptoms of an ongoing war against First Nation people in this country. Treaty is an end to the war. We have an opportunity to do things differently in this country. It’s time for the Government to show some ambition.”

Mehreen Faruqi, Greens deputy leader, was savagely attacked by opponents in the Federal Senate, when she said that she “cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples”.

Pauline Hanson, fish & chip owner and millionaire leader of the racist One Nation Pty Ltd, told Senator Faruqi to “piss off back to Pakistan”.

Hanson continued on Twitter: “When you immigrated to Australia you took every advantage of this country. You took citizenship, [required by law], bought multiple homes [urged by banks and real estate agents as “being Australian”], and a job in the [NSW] parliament [as a researcher on Islamic discrimination]. It’s clear you’re not happy, so pack your bags.”

But Prime Minister Albanese cheered all royalists when he arrived in London by ruling out a referendum on an Australian head of state. “It is not appropriate now to talk about constitutional change. What is appropriate right now is to commemorate the life of service of Queen Elizabeth II.

“I could not envisage a circumstance where we changed our Head of State to an Australian Head of State but still didn’t recognise First Nations people in our Constitution.” The pro-royal media noted: “Anthony Albanese has been quick to hose down debate, saying it is a time for national mourning.”

Champagne corks popped wherever royal influencers and public relations staff met. They receive the total loyalty of Tory toffs, foreign emperors, kings, queens and potentates – but what really counts is having a Labor politician, especially one from Australia, grovelling before royalty.

Photographs and messages of support descended on Albanese and he was moved up the pecking order. Doors suddenly opened for the previously shunned Oz media.

Nobody noticed that Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall divorced in a hidden settlement. Once again, Australia was “flavour of the month” in London. But how long would it last?

Other ABC voices raise alarm   

Congratulations to Catherine Taylor, Matt Martino, Joshua Byrd and Georgina Piper from the ABC’s Story Lab team. They have compiled a compelling story of the British Crown’s massive growth and political twists and turns during the 20th century up to the present. Entitled, Britain used to rule a quarter of the world. What happened? it starts with a flourish: “For centuries, British monarchs – including Elizabeth II – ruled over vast swathes of the globe as head of the most powerful empire in history.” Credit must also to be paid to designer Georgina Piper, digital producer Leigh Tonkin and story editors Cristen Tilley and Matt Liddy. The story is hard to find beneath all the gushing reports of recent days, but you can read it in full here. Well done, team, you have done remarkable work which shames most of your ABC colleagues.

Now for something completely different     

The investigative journalism of Peter Pringle. Coming soon to my band of loyal followers. Exclusive and Free!


  1. Stan Grants piece was a masterpiece of Australian history writing . I think the ABC took the chance to shut the conservatives up about bias in the ABC. There was a good article the other day about that….where do the tories go now in complaining about bias in the ABC. They have just been served a feast that should keep them happy for a very long time. Now the funeral is over, time for the serious discussion of future directions for Australia. We are long overdue for a Republic (thanks to John Howard).

  2. That is indeed a powerful piece worth quoting in full. I agree ABC’s stance is risible.

    Up close this has been a gloomy couple of weeks. The death of our longest serving monarch and ensuing rituals and events has been hard to avoid. Apparently 26 million of us here in Blighty watched the funeral.

    We shared our house with an electrician, doing his part to install a new heat pump on a national (‘bank’) holiday. We both have younger brothers who became Australians, both part of the 30% of 26 million Australians not born in Australia. Having worked as a self employed individual aka consultant I was sympathetic to his loss of income had we refused to let him interrupt a national holiday. (Also it is getting chillier …)

    I was struck reading this piece by our tendency to blame the sins of the fathers upon their sons (and daughters!) To blame the Royal Family for wrongs committed against indigenous peoples centuries ago (carried out by others in their name) seems to me to be over simplifying. Don’t forget we beheaded our monarch (Charles I) in 1649 and since then the UK monarch has been increasingly a figurehead.

    While not without a turbulent past and love life, Charles III, I anticipate, will accept any member of the Commonwealth, which wishes to do so, to drop the UK monarchy from their constitution. He has a mind of his own. He was ahead of his time in views on ‘green’ matters and he will listen and act with good grace, I believe, carrying out peoples’ democratically expressed wishes, not just in distant lands but also hopefully on the island of Ireland.

  3. one of the best writings by Stan Grant. to put yourself in his shoes would bring any thinking person to understand we have a long way to go in dealing fairly with racism in with domestic violence and sexual abuse it needs to be spoken about and high lighted as Grace Tame did.
    farmers can’t get labour to pick crops because they are among the worst offenders of all sorts of violence with past workers and underpayment as well .they have a bad reputation up this way

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