Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Ballarat Courier journalist Melanie Whelan.
Greetings from Ballarat: home of outdoor gold rush museum Sovereign Hill, a medieval castle with real-life jousting knights (now an official part of the city's full-contact sport offerings) and one of the biggest Bunnings in the southern hemisphere (seriously, take a look at this new epic attraction here).
People also know us for being cold, temperature-wise not temperament.
We are also living in Wadawarrung country with our neighbours in the popular tourist town Daylesford on Dja Dja wurrung country. Only, when we put to our readers this past week we need to have more meaningful conversations about racism towards indigenous people, casual and blatant, the social media backlash was brutal.
Decorated Sydney Swans footballer and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes is one of us. Growing up in Horsham, a couple of hours west of Ballarat, Goodes was drafted from our Greater Western Victoria Rebels football talent program at what is now Mars Stadium where we host AFL premiership season games.
The Rebels hosted a special screening of the Stan Grant-penned documentary The Australian Dream this past week, challenging people to be uncomfortable but learn and move forward together from our shared history.
The Courier challenged our readers to look through Goodes' eyes, and ultimately the heels of the story like controversial right wing columnist Andrew Bolt, because we contest a greater understanding of others' perspectives is when real conversations about what is happening in Australia, in our communities, can be made. How we can move forward.
A flashback opinion piece from Illawarra Mercury journalist and Swans fan Ben Langford in 2015 shows perhaps little has changed along our nation's east coast on race issues.
Social media warriors hit this concept hard, drawing back to old rhetoric without bothering to try and look broadly at the issue.
Interestingly, a couple of hours away, Bendigo Advertiser has hit a similar challenge in confronting sexism.
Battle of Bendigo boxing promoters initially dropped ring girls, the women who hold up cards between rounds, after councillors criticised women being used as token trophy women. But the masses - not unlike the booing crowds for Goodes - won out. At least in this bout. Ring girls were present for the final three rounds.
Michael Zerafa's shock win against 'school teacher turned Australian Rocky-like superstar' Jeff Horn became overshadowed with a war of words on what constitutes sexism and the basis for respecting women.
Sometimes it can take one strong voice to create a cultural shift. Goodes has been pivotal in this for Australian race issues. For Ballarat, it is our readers like "Brutus Maximus" who went against the tide on our social media channels: "You can hide behind 'he's a flog', you can make excuses about 'other indigenous players' (not publicly calling it out) but at the end of the day, that's all about you as an individual not wanting to acknowledge what's transpired".
Journalist, Ballarat Courier