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Around an Aussie campfire of statues

Mark Knight, June 18, 2020 6:30PM Kids News

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Part of Mark Knight's cartoon. media_cameraPart of Mark Knight's cartoon.


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Recently we have seen how one person’s actions can change the world.

When a Minnesota policeman knelt on the neck of African-American George Floyd to restrain and arrest him, it resulted in Mr Floyd’s death.

This killing caused a chasm* to open up in the Earth releasing years of built-up racial tensions and a white-hot* torrent* of protest against the treatment of people of colour, not just in America but around the world.

It led to Black Lives Matter protests being held in cities throughout Australia, triggered by Aboriginal deaths in custody, the high rate of indigenous Australians in jail and police practices here towards our first nations people.

That in-turn made us look at our own historical figures who may have been guilty of dispossessing* Aboriginal people of their lands. In the wave of anti-racist protest, statues and monuments that were deemed to “glorify*” our colonial forebears* were attacked with cries to take them down and consign* them to the dustbin of history.

So charged* was the feeling that it even continued into our popular culture with calls for TV shows and movies that displayed “black face” or cultural insensitivity to be banned. Where would it end, I wondered?

As a political cartoonist it is my job to wade* into important issues that affect our nation, and this was a big one! I wanted to draw a cartoon that summed up how the nation was dealing with this new awakening* of social justice for our indigenous people.

Obviously, as indicated by the protests, there are a number of Australians, black and white, who believe we need to change, that we need to recognise our injustices of the past and present and create a fairer society for our first nations people.

Then there are Australians who believe we are doing pretty well racially. We are a multicultural nation. Sure we’re far from perfect, but Australia is the land of the “fair go” and opportunity and indigenous Australians have achieved many great things since white settlement. Prime Minister Morrison said, “If you have a go, you’ll get a go”.

So I wanted to draw a cartoon that showed these two aspects of Australian society and how they might exist side by side. So I looked for a metaphor* that might help me illustrate the issue. Australians are often described as being “laid back”. One of the laid back things we like to do is to sit around a campfire in the great outdoors. Just kicking back and staring into the hot coals. Ah the serenity!

At the same time I also recalled other sorts of fires in times of upheaval* and social change in history where items that were considered inappropriate were thrown onto the bonfires, cast out. Books, art, any item that did not fit in with the current way of thinking.

So I started drawing and pictured a couple of laid-back Aussies sitting around a large campfire, but the items going on the fire are the controversial things of our colonial past and popular culture of our present that are now causing upset for some and are up for debate. Statues of Captain Cook, comedian Chris Lilley’s TV show Summer Heights High and the character Jonah, history books that do not paint the whole picture of Aboriginal dispossession.

It is a huge blaze. The two campers seem to take it in their stride and sit there enjoying the ‘serenity’.

Right-click with your mouse on the cartoon below and open in new tab for full-sized image

Mark Knight's campfire cartoon media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon.

That is my attempt at humouring this important issue but also, I guess this cartoon asks the question about how Australia will react to this period of self-examination.

Will we be so ‘laid-back’ about it?


  • chasm: a big fault or wound
  • white-hot: super emotional and heated
  • torrent: a big flood, as in of emotion
  • dispossessing: taking something from someone
  • glorify: praise and worship
  • forebears: previous generations
  • consign: put away or hide
  • charged: full of energy or emotion, as in a battery
  • wade: get into, become involved in
  • awakening: becoming aware of something, as if waking up from a sleep
  • metaphor: something that stands for something else
  • upheaval: disruption


Why are there big protests around the world?

Cartoons are not always meant to make you laugh

Taylah Harris ‘The Kick’ statue unveiled


  1. What famous quote of Prime Minister Morrison’s is mentioned? What did he mean?
  2. Who does the statue on the bonfire depict?
  3. What else is on the bonfire?
  4. What recent Kids News story would you like to draw a cartoon about?
  5. What do you like most or least about this cartoon?


1. What Happens Next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the start of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
‘To be a great cartoonist, being able to draw is only one of the skills that you need.’

Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job. Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design

Describe It
Look at the cartoon and make a list of 5 nouns that you see. Then describe those 5 nouns with 5 adjectives.

Be specific and add where those nouns using prepositions and another noun.

Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think we should reconsider some of our historical statues?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in civics