Fighting online hate and racism is up to everyone

·3-min read

Labor Senator Jana Stewart, a Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba woman from northwest Victoria, has called for people to be more considered when talking about Indigenous communities in the wake of the abuse of ABC journalist Stan Grant.

Senator Stewart posted messages of support for Grant on social media, saying words have been used as a powerful weapon against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for a long time.

"For our mob racism and hate has already been on the rise and on full display for all to see while we discuss enshrining a First Nations voice in our constitution," she said.

"It's awful to see a First Nations person have to make the tough decision to step back from what they love because of racism and hate.

"This is a good reminder to please take care this year.

"Our kids are watching."

Grant announced on Friday he would be stepping aside from his media roles after Monday night's Q+A program, citing racial abuse directed at him and his family and a lack of support from the ABC.

In his closing remarks on Monday night's program, the Wiradjuri man said he was "down right now", but he would get back up again and challenged the media to do better.

"You can come at me again - and I'll meet you with the love of my people," Grant said.

"Don't mistake our love for weakness, it is our strength. We have never stopped loving and fighting for justice and truth."

Media Diversity Australia backed Grant's challenge, calling on news organisations to reflect on how they might improve support for Indigenous and non-white journalists.

MDA recently released a report on online safety of diverse journalists, authored by Faith Valencia-Forrester, Bronwyn Carlson and other academics.

Earlier in the year, Professor Carlson said in the lead-up to the referendum the online environment was becoming even more toxic for Indigenous people.

She said when prominent Indigenous people are racially abused it normalises racism.

Ms Valencia-Forrester said in their report they had found online abuse frequently means that journalists self-censor.

"I think the fact that it's so normalised within newsrooms that we don't notice the extra labour that diverse journalists and media workers are undertaking and that's why many of the interviewees mentioned that they were leaving the profession because they couldn't deal with it anymore," she said.

"It just wasn't worth it to them.

"That's why we're not surprised when Stan said that he's leaving and he's had enough.

"Sadly, it's not surprising to the authors of this report, because we have heard his story over and over in all of our interviews, everything that we've done, it's like a textbook of what Stan said."

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles on Tuesday lauded Grant as a "wonderful Australian" who had made a huge contribution to public debate and the country's broadcasting landscape.

"To see somebody of his calibre, saying what he said and taking the steps that he has, has got to give us all pause for thought about the public debate and the public environment in which we live today in Australia," he told ABC Radio.

ABC staff rallied outside offices in Sydney and Melbourne on Monday in support of Grant, who said the abuse had accelerated following his critical remarks about the monarchy's role in colonialism.

The public broadcaster promised to review its response to racism affecting staff in line with a recommendation from its internal Indigenous advisory committee.