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Published on January 26th, 2016 | by Kurtis Hughes

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Australia Day Lamb Ad Ignores Cultural Sensitivity.

Note: this article is an opinion piece, and the opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s and are not reflective of The Tertangala.

The annual Meat and Livestock Associations ad has provided Australians nationwide with a dish in cultural appropriation, irony and missed opportunity—and has unfortunately left a sour taste in many mouths.

Watching the ad from an objective and passive stand point, it is no wonder that there was heated debate surrounding the seriousness of the clip. However, looking beyond the jokes and cinematic finishes, it becomes quite clear that the MLA needs to take a master class in cultural sensitivity.

Operation Boomerang stars the esteemed Lee Lin Chin who masterminds a team of SWAT-style troops in their efforts to infiltrate countries around the globe in order to ‘rescue’ the Australians ‘trapped’ and bring them back in time for Australia Day. A plight that apparently jeopardises their ability to eat lamb.

This is where the irony of the advertisement lies.

Whether we choose to ignore the fact or not, Australia Day is heavily regarded by the Indigenous community and beyond as Invasion Day. It is a day that both symbolises and simultaneously ignores the attempted erasure of Indigenous culture. The ad, which highlights the apparent tradition of lamb consumption in Australia, involves the invasion of foreign countries to bring a number of white people ‘home’.

The irony is both astounding, and completely bewildering.

Through the inclusion of the boomerang, the MLA is proving that cultural insensitivity and appropriation is not only their forte, but also appropriate when used under the guise of ‘comedy’. The MLA has utilised a powerful and highly recognisable symbol of the Indigenous community, and subsequently used it to rejoice in its attempted erasure. The debate goes far beyond the use of a single word belonging to a belittled culture. The advertisement stands as a poignant example of cultural appropriation, and the way in which indigenous communities experience attempted eradication, whether conscious or not, in their country of origin. The word boomerang here is handled as just another word of the English language, without any recognition of its cultural significance to the culture in which it originally resides. In the context of the ad, the connotations of the word are stripped, and it is used as a vehicle through which another culture can promote its own way of life.

Shockingly, as if these ‘mistakes’ weren’t glaringly obvious to those editing the clip, the entire 2-minute clip fails to include one Aboriginal person returning home, or any other person of colour or background that isn’t stereotypically ‘white’. The clip unfortunately misses a key opportunity at promoting diversity and inclusivity.

The ad further isolates and excludes certain groups with its treatment of the vegan community. It is about half-way through the 2-minute long ad when a man identifies himself as a vegan, only to be scoffed at, have his apartment set alight with a flamethrower, and by virtue of all this, be deemed as ‘un-Australian’. It is no wonder why members of the vegan community would be upset by this– especially considering the lack of harm that the lifestyle causes. As the video was distributed among the varying media channels, the comment’s sections were endlessly filling with unnecessary vitriol targeted toward the vegan community. Now although this sort of behaviour is unfortunately not uncommon, the intensity at which the disrespectful comments generated is cause for concern. Behind the apparent ‘patriotism’ of every abhorrent comment, a large degree of ignorance is driving it forward. Although the popular opinion is that veganism is chosen by the person in spite of the Australian culture, It is important to note that the reasons for this lifestyle are widely varied. Whether that be because of health, moral or religious reason, an individual’s choice to benefit their own life really doesn’t seem fitting to be used as a commercial punchline. By incorporating the unnecessary violence perpetrated within the ad —along with the blatant exclusion of the indigenous community—the MLA advertisement sends a message to the masses that anyone who strays from the desired culture of a place should expect to be met with ignorance and vilification, whether it was intended as a joke or not.

If only a few key changes were made to the structure and content of the ad, it could have been considered as a beautifully inclusive and diverse piece of television. Unfortunately, it seems that the MLA values lamb consumption, and a side-splitting laugh above all else.

 

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About the Author

Kurtis Hughes

Kurtis is a third-year Communications and Journalism student at UOW who specialises in Australian politics, foreign affairs and the LGBTQ+ community.



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