Melissa Dinnison’s now withdrawn complaint against Bill Leak was based on the “racial hatred” and discrimination she suffered in the wake of the cartoon’s publication. Dinnison is now furiously back-pedalling:

A WA Aboriginal woman who lodged a racial discrimination complaint against Australian newspaper cartoonist Bill Leak said she dropped the case because she did not think he was going to cooperate with the conciliation process.

Melissa Dinnison, 25, said the cartoon — which showed a police officer returning a child to an apparently drunk father who did not know his child’s name — was humiliating.

She told AM she never lodged the complaint for compensation, and wanted instead to talk to Leak about the impact his cartoon had on real, everyday Aboriginal people.

But Ms Dinnison said Leak and his lawyers had made it clear that they “weren’t going to cooperate with the conciliation process”.

“So I began to feel that I was being used to push an agenda and I felt that The Australian wanted to coax me into taking this to court because they were confident that they would win,” she said.

“And that a second win against 18C would help to push their agenda, and I guess watering down the Australian Human Rights Commission or even dismantling it completely.”

Melissa Dinnison.png
Ms Dinnison


She said she lodged the complaint to hold Leak to account.

“It didn’t seem fair to me that somebody with that much power and that much sway over public opinion could publish such derogatory and hurtful things like this, and then decide that they didn’t want to hear from anybody who had an opposing opinion,” she said.

“Cartoons like this make me feel like it doesn’t matter what I do or how hard I try, it’s never going to be good enough and people will always be able to reduce me and my people and my family to such horrible degrading cartoons.”

Wanting only to discuss the cartoon, Dinnison could have tried to contact Leak via his employer and then take it further if that didn’t work out to her satisfaction. Instead she chose to call in the AHRC heavies so Leak would suffer the punishment of the complaint process. 18C must go.


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