A Bill Shorten Staffer Has Resigned Over Blackface

"I was young when this photo was taken and made a terrible decision."

by Wendy Syfret
24 October 2017, 2:04am

Before we get stuck in, let's just clear one thing up: Blackface is fucked. Have all white people figured that out yet? Because it feels like we're having this talk a lot. If you need a refresher, stop by here. But honestly, by this point, you've probably got some bigger and more crucial soul-searching to do if you think having a lol over this type of thing is anything but absolutely, wholly, heinous.

Either way, Steve Michelson—one of Bill Shorten's closest advisors—clearly wasn't up to speed in 2007 when he wore black face paint and a curly black wig to a dress up party. Images from that night began circulating in Labor circles in recent weeks before coming to the attention of Shorten and eventually being leaked to the media.

Following a chat with the Labor leader last week, Michelson has now resigned over the controversy. On FB he explained: "I've decided to hang up my staffer boots to spend more time with my family. Working with Bill Shorten and the entire Labor team has truly been a privilege however the time has come for two little kids to see a bit more of their Dad. I still passionately believe in the Labor Party and the union movement. I'm also more sure than ever before that a Shorten Labor government will do great things for everyday Australians."

Michelson had worked for Shorten for six years. Before his departure, the former ALP branch president had been flagged as a future federal candidate.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten's office commented: "This conduct - which occurred many years ago - is clearly unacceptable, and out of character for Mr Michelson, who was a valued and diligent staff member." In a text to the Sydney Morning Herald Michelson added: "I was young when this photo was taken and made a terrible decision. In the more than 10 years since then I've learnt why this type of behaviour is completely inappropriate."

While Michelson's indiscretion is over a decade old, Australian politics' relationship with blackface is alive and well. Just last month Kerri-Anne Dooley, a Queensland National Party candidate running for the seat of Redcliffe, was was photographed with a man in blackface at a party. The unidentified man was dressed up as Mandawuy Yunupingu, the late singer from Yothu Yindi. The party's theme was "Aussie icons".

Dooley posted the image on Instagram with the caption "Got to meet lead singer of #yothuyini yesterday".

Seriously, if the grossness is still not clear to you, read these:

A Short History of Australians Learning to Not Do Blackface

Why the Dutch Holiday Tradition of Blackface Won't Go Away

We Asked Some Australians to Define What's Wrong With Blackface

Don't Have People in Blackface at Your Birthday Party

Bill Shorten
Australian Labor Party