JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Australia Day T-shirts get thumbs down

An Australia Day T-shirt, purchased in a Canberra store, sporting the "est 1788" words which have been labelled as racist, and caused Aldi and Big W to remove similar shirts from their shelves.

An Australia Day T-shirt, purchased in a Canberra store, sporting the "est 1788" words which have been labelled as racist, and caused Aldi and Big W to remove similar shirts from their shelves. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Australia Day T-shirts recalled amid claims of ''racist'' logos demonstrate the power of social media in the online age, an academic said.

Big W removed T-shirts bearing an ''AUSTRALIA EST 1788'' logo from its Australia Day product range on Thursday, following discount supermarket Aldi which bowed to online pressure and dropped plans to sell similar shirts.

The shirt is Australian made and the company supports indigenous education.

The shirt is Australian made and the company supports indigenous education. Photo: Supplied

Aldi was criticised earlier in the week for the promotional design, which a number of social media users labelled racist and culturally insensitive to Australia's indigenous people, who inhabited the continent for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of the First Fleet from England in 1788.

The move by retailers to pull the clothing demonstrated the power of social media as a campaign tool, Canberra academic Lubna Alam said.

The University of Canberra lecturer said the debate, which pushed ''Aldi'' to the top of trending Twitter terms in Sydney and Melbourne on Wednesday, was the latest among a number of successful online movements.

''It's very easy now to bring that to the attention of the media and a large amount of people,'' she said.

''In terms of campaigns, the internet has been used for a long time. But social media has made it easier for every person to join in an active campaign.''

Ms Alam said the tools had been labelled ''liberation technology'' due to their impact and accessibility.

''This sort of started in 2009 with the Twitter revolution in Iran,'' she said. ''That was the one that got the most attention regarding the power of social media used by activists.''

T-shirts bearing designs similar to those pulled by Big W and Aldi have been found in several other stores around Canberra.

Australian Choice had ''AUSTRALIA EST 1788'' T-shirts advertised on its website, which also promoted its support for Indigenous education group Ngurra Jirrama Foundation.

The Canberra gift shop removed the product from its site after being contacted by Fairfax Media and declined to make any comment.

Discount outlet Top Bargain, located across from Aldi in the Canberra Centre, continues to sell a variety of shirts bearing a similar logo.

A representative was unavailable for comment by the time of print.

Some social media users are claiming the retreat by the major outlets as a victory, but supporters of the products are also activating their online army.

The debate generated significant support for the logo with social media users saying the response to Aldi's branding was an overreaction and that people were being ''way over sensitive''.

Other commentators said the logo was merely incorrect in its use of 1788, while Canberra academic Robin Tennant-Wood said the debate highlighted the divisiveness of Australia Day among indigenous communities. The University of Canberra assistant professor said the annual celebrations had grown to include a ''yobbo element'' of excessive drinking and targeting of racial minorities as nationalism increased following events such as the Cronulla riots.

''There's been a certain aspect of nationalism that has crept into Australia Day celebrations,'' she said. ''We see this particularly in young people, draped in the Australian flag and using it as an excuse to target people who don't look like them.''

Dr Tennant-Wood said the debate around the withdrawn clothing highlighted the need for Australians to recognise their multicultural society and the sensitivities that surrounded Australia Day as a result. with Georgia Behrens

32 comments

  • There is nothing wrong or racist about the T-shirts...........it is just another case of the PC brigade attempting to rewrite history. I will now be seeking to buy one of these T-shirts in time to proudly wear it on Australia Day in protest.

    Commenter
    not
    Date and time
    January 10, 2014, 7:31AM
    • Good on you not, I'm with you ! I'll wear one too as a protest against the cultural amnesia, cultural genocide and bigotry of the left.

      Commenter
      Bill
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 8:16AM
    • Well, if it makes you feel better, you do that. I'm glad you felt it necessary to tell the world how un-PC you are.

      Commenter
      JKL
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 8:54AM
    • The Tea Party PC Mantra. PC, PC, PC, PC, PC..............

      Commenter
      CB
      Location
      Tory Land
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 9:33AM
    • JKL, of course, i would be embarassed to be part of any group like that.
      Oh, and i'm glad you thought it necessary to post such a pointless comment.

      Commenter
      not
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 10:17AM
    • I think the shirts are insensitive and factually inaccurate, not "racist". What rank in the PC Brigade do I get? And Bill, "cultural amnesia, cultural genocide and bigotry..." - Are you being ironic? You guys should sit in your new t-shirts and watch "Utopia" by John Pilger on Australia Day.

      Commenter
      MacNotPC
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 10:24AM
    • Why are you so upset with the PC brigade? Mac users are also aware that the t-shirt slogan is factually incorrect.

      Commenter
      Robert
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 10:27AM
    • MacNotPC, there is nothing insensitive about the T-shirts but yes they are factually incorrect (the nation of Australia was established in 1901), however, so what? They are T-shirts! They don't have to be factually correct and nor should they have been withdrawn from sale because the Left has difficulty accepting reality

      Commenter
      not
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 11:38AM
    • CB, thank you for your intelligent contribution to this issue............

      Commenter
      not
      Date and time
      January 10, 2014, 11:40AM
  • I'm going to make a bid on Aldi;s and Big W's stock, It will be much more than they will get for them at the moment, then I'll Ebay them. Known as a win win with a tidy profit for me.

    Commenter
    The Bujoo
    Date and time
    January 10, 2014, 8:16AM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    Related Coverage

    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo