Andrew Bolt is a popular Australian journalist with a huge following. He's a champion of the Liberal Party and has powerful friends. Yesterday he looked rather shocked and confused as he stood outside the court after losing a Racial Discrimination case that had dragged on for two years.
Yesterday Justice Mordacai Bromberg found that two of his newspaper columns were unlawful under the Racial Discrimination Act and News Limited, the paper he works for, has had to cough up huge dollars in legal costs.
In 2009 he jumped to a conclusion. In his opinion, there were Aborigines who could pass for white but deliberately chose to identify as black for personal or political gain. Judge Bromberg said that if Bolt intended to accuse people of having appalling motives, he better get his facts straight.
Bolt said that Anita Heiss (who is very light skinned) chose to be Aboriginal because it would help her career. She vehemently denied it and said "I have always identified and lived as an Aboriginal woman, I'm a Williams from Cowra, a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation. Bolt said she chose to be black so she could win plum jobs reserved for Aborigines at Koori Radio, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Arts Board and Macquarie University's Warawara Dept of Indigenous Studies. The facts are that she has a PhD in Media and Communication and none of the jobs he mentioned were reserved or identified as Aboriginal positions and the Koori Radio was voluntary.
Bolt's lawyers had to agree that nine of the "white" Aborigines named were not given any choice on how they were brought up, they were all raised as blacks from childhood. Bolt also made the incorrect assumption that Larissa Behrendt's father was a white German when in fact he was a black Australian and she was raised as a black child.
Judge Bromberg said Bolt made "gross errors" in the genealogy of the nine people involved and inferred that he used online research instead of making diligent enquiries to get at the truth.
Some people are saying that Bolt is now a martyr but it's clear he made mistakes and should say so. The nine "white Aborigines" said they don't want to sue, they don't want any money, they are happy with the public correction that this case has provided.