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Tokenistic Vertigo cover under fire from UTS Indigenous Collective

Tokenistic Vertigo cover under fire from UTS Indigenous Collective

As the dust from the UTS elections settle, the front cover of student magazine Vertigo, under the editorial team RUSH, has sparked controversy amongst the university’s Indigenous Collective. The first draft of the cover, depicting a crowd of people in a city street, was initially criticized by the Indigenous Collective for being too “Euro-centric”. After the image was edited, the Indigenous Collective took issue with the fact that a fair-skinned woman was depicted wearing a shirt with the Aboriginal flag emblazoned on it.

The first version of the cover (left) compared to the second version (right) with the differences circled. 

The Indigenous Collective approached PULP after claiming to have felt spurned by their own student journalists. Maddy Norris, President of the Indigenous Collective said, “including an illustration of a woman wearing an Aboriginal flag shirt is a weak and tokenising attempt of 'including' us”. Norris’ main concern was regarding the erasure of Indigenous identities, and the scrutiny many First Nations people come under in regard to their identity.

“If the character was Aboriginal, why would they need to be wearing a flag? If they wanted to explore the ideas of white-passing Indigenous peoples, why didn't they find those stories and put it in the magazine? You don't put it on the front cover and then not allow for actual analysis or exploring of the issue at hand” she said.

The controversy comes at a time where there is already mounting tension between Vertigo and the Indigenous Collective, with the collective releasing a statement earlier this evening claiming that the publication is “lacking in Indigenous contributors”, and a result, were leaving Indigenous student feeling “voiceless” and “disengaged from their student magazine”. The statement has since been endorsed by UNSW Art and Design and Indigenous band Dispossessed.

Georgia Mantle, former Indigenous officer at the University of Sydney, agreed that the image appeared tokenistic. “To me it seems like they are trying to get credit for being diverse and representative yet they aren't really doing anything other than putting a picture on a shirt”, she said.

This comes on the back of a racially-fueled election campaign to edit Vertigo, with members of the Indigenous Collective lamenting the loss of an editorial team that would have seen the first Indigenous editor of the student magazine, Flex for Vertigo. Enoch Mailangi, Flex’s manager, claimed that campaigners and members of Flex faced “the most brutal racism I have ever witnessed”.

Mailangi said they had encountered racism on the campaign trail, with anti-Indigenous phrases such as “'Abo, 'Gumnut' and 'Tokens'” being used to delegitimise members of the ticket. “What shocked me the most was that the current team stood by and let everything happen, never once intervened and took a stance on our treatment,” they said.

“Due to this whole campaign, our collective has fractured, and a lot of Indigenous students have turned their back on the Student Union here at UTS, and honestly I don't blame them. No student should ever have to go through what our collective went through just to have a bit of representation.”

Vertigo was approached for comment and declined to issue a response.


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