Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

K. Gelber & L. J. McNamara, ''Freedom of speech and racial vilification in Australia: ''The Bolt case'' in public discourse'' (2013) 48 (4) Australian Journal of Political Science 470-484.


This article examines the public discourse that emerged in the aftermath of the2011 decision of the Federal Court of Australia in Eatock v Bolt. We characterise the narrative of ‘the Bolt case’ as a ‘mobilising discourse’ that countered rather than echoed the decision itself. This discourse had three main messages: encouraging scepticism about the authenticity of fair-skinned Aboriginal persons and judgment by non-Aboriginal persons about the legitimacy of Aboriginal identity according to skin colour; questioning the legitimacy of racial vilification laws and strengthening a libertarian conception of freedom of speech. We explain how such a contrary discourse became dominant in the wake of a successful racial vilification action and consider the implications of these events.