Students from Cromwell College, in Queensland, were snapped holding sticks, with wild hair and painted faces last Tuesday. After the photo was published online, they received a barrage of complaints from indigenous Australians across the nation.
The outfits have been perceived as insensitive and racist by many users on Twitter and Facebook. One user commented:
“University of Queensland Cromwell College for aspiring racists everywhere.”
The college explained that there was no malice intent involved in the students’ actions, and that it was simply an ignorant choice of costume.
Ross Switzer, the principle of Cromwell College, said “They were not aware of the blackface mocking or demeaning indigenous people,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
The principle defended his students further. “They were trying to give a tribute to indigenous Australians, not mock or demean them.
“I know that ignorance is no excuse for that behaviour [but] it was ignorance rather than an attempt to laugh at indigenous Australians.”
Arguments state that many Australians have a warped interpretation of Aboriginal culture.
Nareen Young, from The Diversity Council Australia, explained to The Sydney Morning Herald that, “because Australia denied Aboriginality for so long, the understanding of the religious and cultural significance of ceremony isn’t in the community.”