Some Indigenous Aussies Aren’t Stoked “Aboriginal Pain” Is Helping Sell Lamb

Meat & Livestock Australia‘s annual January 26 lamb ad, released yesterday, caught the attention of just about everyone for its nod to inclusiveness, strong message with the exception of Indigenous Australians “we’re all boat people”, and its pointed exclusion of the words ‘Australia Day‘.

“Hey guys, what’s the occasion?” one person asks.

“Do we need one?” another replies.

Its riff on Indigenous people having been at here “since forever, mate” is a straight-up nod to the fact that Australia has existed long before federation, the First Fleet, and anybody started celebrating a day that marks the start of centuries of atrocities against Indigenous people by necking tinnies till they puke.

To that end, it’s been largely well-received (with the major exception of the usual ‘love it or leave it’ knobhead crowd).

However, several Indigenous people are criticising the ad – which, let’s remember, has the core purpose of ‘selling more lamb’ – for its brushing over the horrific acts committed on Indigenous folk by European settlers for centuries.

“The continual pain, the real pain felt on this date for their own purposes, [being used] for a marketing stunt – in the end that’s the most offensive part of it, to use Aboriginal pain,” journalist and Durambal woman Amy Mcquire told ABC Radio‘s Imogen Brennan.

“There’s Aboriginal people dying in custody now, Aboriginal people who’re having their children taken away, Aboriginal people who’re suiciding on a regular basis, and a lot of that oppression does stem from that original invasion, which Australia celebrates on this day.

“So to use that as just a marketing ploy to sell lamb – and I have to note that a lot of Aboriginal people were massacred supposedly for stealing sheep, so that’s the irony here – is even more disgusting.”

Luke Pearson, a Gamilori man and creator of the @IndigenousX Twitter account, penned an op-ed for SBS‘s National Indigenous Television (NIT) lambasting the ad for using playing on stereotypes to sell lamb.

“Apart from a brief reference to Aboriginal people having been here “since forever”, the ad crams tens of thousands of years into a quick sound bite,” he writes. “The ad revels in the last 200 years, because apparently, that’s when pretty much anything worth talking about happened.”

Like thousands of Australians, he’s been calling for the Government to change the date for Australia Day celebrations from January 26 to literally any other date. Just pick a date on the calendar and be done with it.

This week’s current host of the @IndigenousX Twitter account (they rotate weekly, providing a platform the a diverse number of Indigenous voices), Wakka Wakka woman Colleen Lavelle, wasn’t overly impressed with the ad either.

Cleverman‘ creator Ryan Griffen pointed out that simply not mentioning the words ‘Australia Day’ wasn’t going to bring about meaningful change, while rapper / actor Briggs (who appeared in the hit ABC show) joked that the ad was not as great as everyone’s initial reactions made it out to be.


In November 2016, an early draft of the script was leaked to BuzzFeed News. At the time, BF’s Indigenous Reporter Allan Clarke reported that “several Aboriginal people who had seen the script were upset and offended by its portrayal of Indigenous people”. [He did not elaborate further.]

The earlier draft featured a character called ‘Dan Sultan‘ playing the didgeridoo, and another called ‘Kevin Rudd‘ fumbling through a crowd of Aboriginal people and repeatedly saying “sorry” when he bumped into them, neither of whom made it to the final cut.

MLA’s Marketing Manager Andrew Howie told ABC Radio that they consulted several Indigenous groups throughout the process of making the ad, and that the company was using its widespread reach to spark discussions around the highly problematic issue of Australia Day.

“We have a platform that we’ve built over many years, and we’re also afforded an opportunity because we go into the media and we put this work out there that we spark conversations,” he said. “We’re not planning to have conversations ourselves, we’re just a catalyst to bring conversations that are already happening around the water cooler or around the barbie as it may be, and we just give them a larger platform than they might otherwise get.”

Photo: MLA.