On reactions admirable and otherwise to Stan Grant’s stepping aside

This man and this speech.

Watch on YouTube

And here is just a sample of what caused him to say and do this.

On Wednesday night Charlie Pickering skewered the pathetic attempt by the Murdoch media to deflect attention from their key role in stirring the pot that harboured this wicked and shameful brew.

All he had to do to prove Patricia Karvelas right was play one after the other poisonous grabs from the claque pictured on the left of screen there.

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Just after the story first broke I posted on Facebook:

I watched the Coronation on 10 because they had the best coverage from the BBC. I did not want pontification or discussion to detract from my enjoyment, and as you know I did enjoy it. I think the ABC would have been well advised to separate commentary from presentation that night. It is not what I wanted, irrespective of what views may or may not have been expressed. Let that top and tail the event, talk your heads off then — no worries! I just wanted to see the Coronation so that night the ABC was not to my taste.

But I DO NOT blame Stan Grant. I deplore the comments he has been getting. I am deeply saddened by what he has experienced lately and by his decision to get out. His story is in so many ways an inspiring one, a great example to all Australians. Any who are gloating and putting laugh emojis on stories about his decision to leave are just scum.

I have quite often referenced Stan on my blog in the past. For example: Living with the facts of our history (2017) and Free E-book from ANU: The Lives of Stories (2019).

My free e-books from ANU Press include some excellent publications on Indigenous Australian History, Emma Dortins, The Lives of Stories: Three Aboriginal-Settler Friendships (2018) being one. The three friendships are: Arthur Phillip and Bennelong (see cover), James Morrill and the Birri-gubba people of Queensland, and Windradyne and the Suttor family of Brucedale, Bathurst NSW. The first story is the best known, the third less well known by most Australians. The Windradyne/Suttor story features in Stan Grant’s excellent family story, The Tears of Strangers (Harper Collins 2002), which I read recently courtesy of Wollongong Library….

One of the finest responses I have seen to all this came from my cousin Ray Hampton Christison on Facebook. Ray is no mean historian himself.

I respect this man. I have been reflecting on the difficult conversation our nation in engaged in as we collectively confront the violence and injustice at the root of our national story. Stan Grant has been a wise, gentle and compelling voice in this conversation.

I fear that the conversation may have led many Australians of European descent to an underlying fear that they are outsiders. I was born on Eora land and grew up on Dharawal land, the fifth generation of my family to inhabit this land. I hold a deep and visceral love for this country but am fully aware of the much deeper connection and history that precedes our coming.

When I was a young boy my Sunday School teacher took our class on an excursion to Jibbon Head, near Bundeena. We walked along Jibbon Beach (to me one of the most beautiful of Australian beaches) and on to the headland. Here there are ancient Dharawal rock carvings – a whale, an octopus and the image of a man. I now recognise that image as Baiame, the creator. Back then those carvings told me that this land has custodians who were here long before the British flag was raised at Kamay or Warrung.

I am faced with a conflict. I love this land and my desire is to respect its ancient peoples. I must recognise that my family’s presence is just a blip in the 60,000 year story of this great land. I hope that as a nation we can come to a place in which the first peoples have a true say in how the nation moves forward together.

I replied:

Yes indeed, Ray Hampton Christison! Looking out every day on Mt Keira I can never forget I am on Dharawal country. According to what my father and mother told me about my father’s mother even likely of Dharawal or Yuin descent myself.

See November 25th is a day of some family significance.

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Watched Episode 3 of “In Our Blood” last night

On ABC TV. Oh the memories!

Here is the real Australian Health Minister in those days: dead-set hero!

There is no doubt my own reaction to the Covid pandemic was much influenced by what we went through in those years. There rather than in some other ideological battle you can find the reasons — and it was right then and far from entirely wrong later.

Watch this from 1985 — it is an hour long. The person who posted it on YouTube says:

An early documentary in the wild early panic phase of the AIDS epidemic, which gives credence to a theory (based on a single anonymous letter) that gay men were deliberately donating AIDS infected blood in order to spread it to the rest of the community so that the government would fund research into a cure. It was almost certainly total bullshit, but with Neville Wran and Fred Nile giving it credence but it definitely would have gotten Ten the ratings they wanted. Recorded from TEN-10 Sydney on Tuesday 15 October 1985 at 7:30pm.

Those wonderful volunteers and activists

An atmosphere of fear

The Real Patches

I was more often here

The Albury Hotel

Sylvana in the Albury Piano Bar 1980s

The Grim Reaper 1987


In his 2013 speech Neal Blewett names a key adviser who had links inside the Sydney gay scene: Bill Bowtell.

Listen to that.

His bio — thanks to Griffith Review.

Bill Bowtell is a strategic consultant specializing in health policy, and the application of new technologies to social marketing.

From 1983–87, he was senior adviser to the Australian health minister, involved in the implementation of the Medicare scheme; and for the development of the Australian response to HIV/AIDS in which he has maintained a long and close interest. Between 1994 and 1996, he was senior political adviser to Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Bill has served as National President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, a trustee of the AIDS Trust of Australia and served on many HIV/AIDS-related committees and task forces. He has a particular interest in developing effective preventive health campaigns at national and international level.

As at the beginning of the Covid situation he was Adjunct Professor UNSW Strategic Health Policy. He had a lot to say. I knew who he was and thus treated anything he said with the greatest respect. Not all did.

Yes, Chris Kenny has a point. Bill Bowtell is a mere BA — but with a depth of experience in dealing with HIV/Aids and public health issues that few can match. Not entirely wrong about John Howard in 2007 either.

Nor would Chris Kenny’s strictures apply to the extraordinarily well-qualified Professor Raina MacIntyre, equally an expert seen on ABC during the Covid times.

MacIntyre has just written a book, Dark Winter, which will be released next month, which reflects her specialisation in pandemics, bioterrorism and public health.

It obviously canvasses much about the COVID-19 pandemic: how it unfolded, what went wrong and what went right.


It is not hard to find parallels with Bill Bowtell in the fictionalised In Our Blood!

Watched Episode 2 of “In Our Blood” last night. Oh my!

It follows people from politics, medicine and affected communities grappling with a new disease. They realize they must work together to succeed, requiring something radical: trust.

IMDb — rating 8.5/10

A still from last night’s In Our Blood

It is not a documentary — it is a musical! But is cleaves close to the truth, to real events. From 1985 I was on the scene myself. See among my earlier posts World AIDS Day.

– William Yang

Malcolm — Hospice 2007


Phil Ainsworth, English teacher at Sydney High School.

Some true stories

See also In Our Blood: Sex Worker Rights Advocate Julie Bates Reflects on the ABC Miniseries.

While it is important to learn from our past, we must remain vigilant in the present and whenever you see ideology being used over evidence, you must call it out as we did back then.

A key lesson from our approach of the 1980s is to allow health promotion initiatives to be community-driven and for services to be person-centred.

Perhaps, if they had taken a leaf out of our 1980s song book, the COVID pandemic might have been better managed.

Finally, for a society to be truly humane, governments must not only continue to listen and learn but lead through inclusion, empowerment, accountability, courage and humility: the five best practice pillars attributed to feminist leadership.