- April 18, 2013
Federal Liberal MP Dennis Jensen has told an Aboriginal woman on Twitter to ”get over” colonialism – and later issued a statement in which he regrets using Twitter, but not the comments.
In an exchange on Twitter on Tuesday, the West Australian MP criticised programs aimed at indigenous advancement and told an Aboriginal woman she was being a ”victim”.
”Hell, how long ago was colonialism? Get over it … every country in the world has been successfully invaded in the past!” Dr Jensen tweeted to @TheKooriWoman, who describes herself on Twitter as a ”Big Black Gomeroi Woman.”
@TheKooriWoman responded: ”Do I snap my fingers and forget 213 years of oppression Mr Jensen? Which has created effects that are still being played out.”
Dr Jensen responded: ”It is time to unify Australia, not divide based on a victim mentality. What do you do when knocked down, just blame.” He went on to tweet: ”So you have personally lived 213 years? Work out ways to maximise your own life experiences, you can’t for deceased ancestors.
”Being a victim doesn’t help overcoming those depradations [sic]. All need to progress with positive agenda.”
Dr Jensen said affirmative action policies had failed Aboriginal people. He said Abstudy, which provides an allowance for indigenous students, was ”discriminatory and racist” because it was paid at a higher rate to Youth Allowance and Austudy, the equivalent payments for non-indigenous students.
”Why is Indigenous student living independently given more financial assistance than any other in same possy,” Dr Jensen tweeted.
The South African-born MP said the solution was ”no affirmative action programs, and address issues in terms of need, not race”.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said Dr Jensen’s comments were disappointing.
”It’s extremely disappointing to see comments like this from a member of Parliament. We should all be working towards reconciliation,” she said.
Dr Jensen on Wednesday issued a statement expressing regret about his comments.
”In expressing my desire for true indigenous advancement, I may have used inappropriate channels of communication,” he said in the statement.
”I will in future look at using more appropriate channels to pursue an agenda of generating policies to get true equality.
”I want to engage with the indigenous community constructively.”
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has used the incident to remind his colleagues of the importance of civility.
Asked about Dr Jensen’s comments in Melbourne on Thursday, Mr Abbott said: ”There’s a sense in which all of us have got to focus more on the future than on the past.”
But he added it was ”important that we appropriately acknowledge and recognise indigenous people”, which was why the Coalition had supported the 2008 national apology, and why it supported recognition of indigenous people in the constitution.
”We can have very strong feelings about all sorts of things, but it’s important to conduct our discussion in a civil way, and that’s what I’d urge all of my colleagues to do.”