Laughing at the “disabled”, Michael Noonan exposes his naughty bits!

CAUTION!                                                                                                                          Some academics may be offended  by the film footage in this link.     Michael Noonan’s Naughty Bits

The controversial Bris Vegas film maker, Michael Noonan, has been accused of producing “misanthropic and amoral trash” and exploiting people with intellectual disabilities who are not competent to make decisions for themselves in his PhD thesis “Laughing at/with the Disabled.”

This criticism can be found in the now famous Australian (newspaper) article by two academics from QUT -Gary MacLennan and John Hookham entitled “Philistines of Relativism  at the Gates” (link here).   My critique of this article can be found here.

Since the screening of Noonan’s film “Unlikely Travelers” at the recent Brisbane International Film Festival (see my review here)) the supporters of MacLennan and Hookham’s criticism have maintained their rage against Noonan, explaining that the criticism had nothing to do with “Unlikely Travellers” but was aimed at “the other one”. “The Other One” is an as yet unfinished comedy film entitled “Down Under with Darren and James”.

However Darren and James are two of the six stars of “Unlikely Travellers” who showed themselves in the film and at the launch of the film to be much more than competent to make their own decisions about their involvement in this project. One of the controversial scenes criticised by MacLennan and Hookham involving the discussion of Darren and James sharing a woman is indeed in “Unlikely Travellers”.

“Unlikely Travellers” and “Down Under with Darren and James” are both part of Noonan’s PhD project.   Noonan has been heavily criticised for not publically releasing his footage of the unfinished “other one”, attracting the accusation that he is trying to keep his dastardly deeds secret.

Well, that all changed today when Noonan’s naughty bits were published on the Courier Mail website – All the naughty bits (so far) including the woman sharing, the Aboriginal mauling and the oversized pen which was the footage that MacLennan and Hookham found so disturbing and condemned in their article.

I would like to discuss just one of the released scenes – the Aboriginal Mauling at the Boulia Pub. This was described by MacLennan and Hookham in their article thusly – “This produced a scene wherein a drunk Aboriginal woman amorously mauled William.” (“William” is the pseudonym MacLennan and Hookham gave to James for some strange reason).
This was reported on Britain’s “Times Online” – “The film, called Laughing at the Disabled, featured two mentally handicapped men who were sent into a bar to ask if there were any women looking for romance. One of them was severely beaten by a drunken Aboriginal woman.”

Now that Noonan’s naughty bits are hanging out in public, in particular the Boulia Pub Scene, this criticism can be clearly seen as the bitter, repressive, sensational and untruthful bullshit that it is.

Up until this point I have been absolutely supportive of Michael Noonan’s film work. Before I saw Unlikely Travellers I was impressed by his brief public explanations of what he was trying to do. After seeing “Unlikely Travellers”, which I was most profoundly impressed by, I had decided that this man could do no wrong. He was the cinematic messiah!

However since the Courier Mail have described Noonan as “Entirely Honourable”  I feel I have no choice but to now criticise him.

Having seen the controversial Boulia footage I have indeed found a chink in Noonan’s armour, a blemish on his perfect skin.

 The Boulia scenes shine a light on Noonan’s naivety about issues of race.
I hasten to add, Noonan’s naivety is not at all in the same category as MacLennan and Hookham’s racist and misogynist representation of the pub scene.
 It is the naivety of James (the mauled one) that made the pub scene beautiful. In a situation of the unknown, of cultural and consciousness divides, a little love was shown and it happened easily and spontaneously. The Aboriginal woman was drinking beer but showed no signs of intoxication as described by the critics, only sensitivity, love and an obvious sexual attraction to James who is indeed a handsome young man.

Noonan’s naivety, and the focus of my now brutal assault on his charachter and personal integrity, is that he appears to have not noticed the underlying racism of Boulia that emerged in some of the footage away from the pub.

I have just watched the naughty bits with my partner who, coincidently enough, is a traditional owner and custodian of dance for the Boulia region – Pitta Pitta country. Neither of us drink but there is not much to do in Boulia so we spend a lot of time in the pub when we visit there and enjoyed watching the footage.

I make a brief note, but do not want to get too complicated – the Boulia pub mauling scene contained much Aboriginal humour, expressed not just in words but in body language which adds a deeper level, or perhaps a different dimension of humour to a black audience than is accessible to a white one or even to James himself at the time.

Noonan’s introduction to his naughty bits mentions Darren and James as authors of their comedy, the Murri woman in the scene has also authored comedy within an Aboriginal cultural matrix. For those who do not see this immediately be assured it is an accepting, gracious and loving humour, not a derisive or belittling humour, unlike some of the comments form white folks in the footage.
Which brings us back to the underlying racism which if Noonan was not aware of, I now draw to his attention if he happens to stumble on this humble blog.

 The older women and the Aboriginal women in the Boulia footage commented on the spunkiness of James. When one of the white men was asked if there were any available women were around, he responded that there definitely were and that they had black or red hair. Who has black or red hair in Boulia? Murris do! Black hair, sunbleached orange hair or red tinted grey hair. These are the colour schemes of Aboriginal women which appear to be in the eyes of this particular white man the same as MacLennan and Hookham’s, as drunken sluts.

In this short footage the distinction between laughing “at” and laughing “with” is obvious (to me anyway). The Murris found a point of commonality and equality and engaged fearlessly despite the massive cultural difference. The whitefellas could not seem to achieve that same affinity with Darren and James and the fellow I just mentioned found humour in assuring James, who would not be suitable for a blonde haired woman, that he could easily find a black or red haired women from a similarly lower caste of person.

But all that is probably irrelevant as Noonan has said he was not intending to use the Boulia pub scene in the finished product. I hope he will change his mind and include it. The issues of Aboriginal Australia are very different from the issues of intellectual disability. There is however a significant similarity in that they are both perceived as “other” by mainstream culture which predominantly adheres to inaccurate stereotypes of what these “other” people are like. The Boulia Pub scene portrays both Aboriginality and disability in a positive, loving and indeed humourous light.


Filed under Aboriginal, art, australia, disability, film, society, Uncategorized

11 responses to “Laughing at the “disabled”, Michael Noonan exposes his naughty bits!

  1. Darren D

    For a mig that purports to support blackfella issues you are blind to the exploitation suffered by Aunty May in the film.

    Noonan did not ask for or receive permission from Aunty for that footage to be used. He just used it. That you find footage of inebriated Aboriginal women ‘artistic’ and ‘academic’ shows what a shallow little white grub you really are.
    Stinkin anthropologists got nothing on you mate, you beat them hands down.

  2. Rubbish Darren!

    Who are you and what is your connection to May?

    May signed a release giving permission to use the footage just like everyone else in the scenes.

    She spent time with the film maker and crew.

    What is your purpose for making such an accusation?

    What is your relationship to May to make such an accusation?

    You are just a dishonest apologist for MacLennan and Hookham who now have nothing in their defence except lies such as yours.

    I dont know if you are a murri or just trying to sound like one, but by reinforcing Maclennan and Hookhams sleazy and racist misinterpretation of this footage is reinforcing attitudes that cannot see Aboriginal people, in particular Aboriginal women as anything more than drunks.

    She wasn’t even drunk in the scene.

    “Migs” , and you whoever you are, interpret May’s Aboriginal English as a drunken slur, they cannot see her humour, love or humanity.

    shame on you, you racist, misogynist and dishonest grub!

    p.s. an excerpt from my comments on Bush Telegraph regarding the assumption of drunkenness

    “I can’t let this drunken Murri business go unchallenged.

    Firstly, drunken Murris are not allowed in the Boulia Pub. The publican prides himself on his zero tolerance policy, which I have seen in action first hand.

    In Noonan’s film “Unlikely Travellers” the story is told of how Darren was once not allowed on a bus because the driver thought he was drunk. Darren speaks a bit differently to most people and the bus driver just assumed he was drunk.

    It is the same with Murris, and I suggest with Mac and Hook’s labelling of the woman drunk.

    An Aborigine in a pub? Of course she’s drunk.

    Aboriginal english is not the same as white english. Words are pronounced differently and different rules of grammar apply.

    The woman in the pub was speaking in what some may call “broken english” but she was not talking with any drunken slur.

    She was affectionate and she was drinking beer, as adults sometimes do in pubs.

    But she was not drunk.”

  3. Darren D

    So was it Noonan or Aunty that told you that she signed off?

    You don’t know do you because you’re making it all up …like you do for everything you write about blackfellas…a little bit of embellishing goes a long way. You’ve mastered the Helen Demodenko art of masquerade and its works a treat but it don’t fool me for a minute.

    Did Noonan consult anyone about research ethic before venturing out.

    Does he even know of the existence of the
    “Values and Ethics – Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (National Health & Medical research Council, AGP, 2003), and to the Australian Health Ethics Committee’s National Statement on Research Involving Humans (2007).

    Do you? Of course you don’t.

    Cos you’ve positioned yourself as a quasi black activist you don’t see any need to declare yourself or positioning.

    Like I inferred before, dogs have fleas, blackfellas have anthropologists and maggots on like you.

    You’re a grubby little grub Tracey, ready to jump on and suckle on any black issue that sustains your pathetic existence. Get a real life!

  4. Darren D

    are you going to post up my last comment or is it too truthful for your eyes?

  5. Darren,
    It was caught in spam

    The point is I do know about May and Noonan.

    The other point is you do not, yet you make public accusations based on an ignorant dislike of me.

    I ask again, what is your relationship to May, who are you to know more about her will than May herself?

    You are not connected, you dont know.

    As for your references, you may remember Noonan is a film maker, not a health worker. As for his ethical frameworks for his Phd, that has been well publicised by QUT and Spectrum, so I wont bother to deal with that.

    If you read the “about” page you will see that I do not identify as “black”. If you read what I write it is all about whitefellas and colonisation. It is clearly a non-indigenous perspective.

    So you dishonest miserable grub, are you going to identify yourself either here or to the private email I sent you?

    Or will you just remain a snivveling anonymous whinger with nothing but lies and abuse to contibute?

    p.s. I just had a look at your references. They are guidelines for doctors, health academics and clinicians regarding information given by patients. You are an idiot. May was not sick and Noonan was not treating her. The ethics of film maker and on-screen talent (which is a key aspect of Noonans academic stuff) has nothing to do with your bizzarre notion of medical ethics.


    Darren, or Paul or whoever you are,

    I welcome you to offer a substantial critique of anything I have written – in fact I dare you to try.

    However, if you continue to just repeat lies and insults then I will remove your post.

    I notice that you gave a fake email contact when you posted.

    I will leave the above comments up so you can still get your kicks for saying these things, but unless you can either put your name to your abuse or offer an intelligent comment then your crap has no place on my blog.


    I reckon I know who Darren D. is – based on a number of confluences stuck together with assumptions.

    So I can’t “out” him on the basis of what I suspect – that would be a great injustice to my suspect if I was wrong.

    So I really want to know who he is.

    I have allready outed an anonymous teller of lies about Noonan on another thread.

    It is a tradition I want to uphold, not for Noonan’s sake, but for the integrity of this blog.

    I speak honestly to my readers and I expect that honesty in return. I will accept abuse – until it gets repetitive – if that is what someone has to say, but I expect them to put their name to it, or at least a real email address when they post if they use a psydonym.

    If you want a respectful conversation I dont need to know who you are.

    So I am offering a reward to anyone who can tell me who Darren D. is.

    1 original John Tracey painting – acrylic on canvas,

    – posted to your door (its a small painting).

    Please do not put information on this blog – send it to me privately. My contact details are on the “about” page.

    It must be reliable information to qualify for the prize – I have enough speculation at present to work on.

    A clue to get you started!

    The only fact I am prepared to reveal here is that he posted from a Brisbane server.

    Darren D, if you contact me privately you can have the painting.


    response has been good to the competition but just speculative information so nobody has got the painting yet.

    The grapevine is suggesting that persons, who will remain unnamed until there is evidence, have attempted to contact the Boulia woman in Noonan’s clip to try and enlist her support against Noonan.

    This is a dispicable attempt to manipulate an Aboriginal person in this sick campaign against Noonan. I suppose such dishonest and manipulative tactics is all that can now be expected by the supporters of MacLennan and Hookham now that their attacks on disability issues has blown up in their face.

    I am keen to follow up on this story so if anyone has any info about it could they please contact me.


    I have just asked Noonan about the details of May’s release form. He told me. What they are is his and her business and should not be publicised but I will say that there is a signed legal document of consent.

    Readers should watch the video to see how May happily played up to the camera and was an obvious willing participant. There was a film crew in the pub and it was obviously a film set. There are several scenes with May in it. To suggest that May was so stupid that she didn’t know the film was being made or that she didn’t know what she was signing is another example of the repressive and patronising attitudes that have characterised all the criticism of Noonan’s work to this day.

    If there is truth to the rumour that she has been approached to undo her consent then this is a most bitter, dishonest and manipulative act. But I guess that has been the nature of the criticism so far.


    Wow, rumours are flying everywhere. Something is going on. Unfortunately the suspect list of who Darren is has grown, but no evidence as yet. He may even be a she.

    It would be wrong of me to reproduce the rumours here, although given the nature of the campaign against Noonan it is very tempting.

    As regular readers will know I have been following the controversy about Noonan’s films. Until now I have challenged the patronising attitudes towards disability expressed by the critics. However now the target has changed to Aboriginality.

    The question has been often asked by the critics “What next, laughing at the Aborigines?”.

    It is this same patronising and humourless ignorance that is again the front line of attack.

    The critics fail to acknowledge Mary G., the Bush Mechanics, Sean Chilbura and Gary Foley’s “Super-boong” charachter are all clearly laughing at Aborigines. Ah, some will say, these people wrote their own material – so too did May in the footage (see my remarks in the article above).

    Ah, some will say, Noonan is a white film maker. Aboriginal charachters such as Gulpilil in Crocadile Dundee, Barbecuarea, Wrong side of the road (No Fixed Address and Us Mob) were all made by white film makers representing Aboriginal people, including humour.

    Unfortunately I consider it out of my jurisdiction to write about how an Aboriginal woman might feel about the representation of Aboriginal women in Noonan’s footage.

    However Baganan Kurityityin Theresa Creed ( ) is in the process of writing her reflections on the footage and I will post this as an article in the next few days.

  7. Pingback: Laughing at Aborigines now - An Aboriginal woman’s perspective « PARADIGM OZ

  8. Darren D where are you?

    John Hookham also refers to your medical ethics. Perhaps you are John Hookham?

    “At one point in the pub, James is “mauled” (I cannot think of another word to describe this) by a very drunk Aboriginal woman.”

    “The project is also highly unethical in that it portrays Aboriginal people in a disrespectful manner and contributes to negative stereotyping of indigenous people.”

    “Since receiving your email, I have consulted with Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini who is responsible for the Disability portfolio in the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC). Dr Tonti-Filippini’s personal opinion as regards the “Laughing at the Disabled” project is that it “ought not to have been approved by an HREC (Human Research Ethics Committee) as it appears to be demeaning of persons with cognitive disability and causes them discomfort or distress and thus harms them. It would also appear that the participants lacked the capacity to understand the project and hence lacked the capacity to consent to it. The project would thus appear not to meet a fundamental criterion of voluntary participation in research.”

    John Hookham also applies these medical ethics to the Boulia pub scene and dealing with Aboriginal people.

    Darren, Are you Hookham?

    I had you pegged as a trot because of your statement about positioning. Maybe you are just regurgitating Hookhams line?


    I have spoken to someone deep within the bureacracy of QUT, who has an opinion remarkably similar to Darren – but it wasn’t Hookham.

    According to this person, a non-Aboriginal person who I know to be in the MacLennan/Hookham camp, has complained to QUT about Noonan’s representation of May in the Boulia scene.

    Apparently complaints have also been made about research protocol in line with Darren’s issues.

    According to my Darrenesque informant, May, or any Aboriginal person, are not able to negotiate with Noonan, or any other white academic, by her/themselves. The same argument about why Noonan should have sought permission from “the disability” community before entering a relationship between Darren and James is now neing used to suggest Noonan needed the authority of indigenous academics in Brisbane before talking to May in Boulia about her involvement in the film.

    Apparently Noonan was expected to avoid Aboriginal people in his footage of the Boulia community and present only white faces in his film – Terra Nullius research protocol!

    It is this protectionist notion of the vulnerability of Aboriginal people and disabled people that is the backbone, the common denominator of all the criticism against Noonan.

    It is disgusting that Aboriginality is being used as a second line of defence in a squabble amongst white academics.

    There are indeed many issues that need to be explored about the representation of Aboriginal people in the media, especially by non-aboriginal film makers.

    Also there are important issues such as the responsibilities of Aboriginal academics to Aboriginal people in the community who they are not related to.

    I do indeed believe these academics have an important role to guide the students and staff of their institutions in terms of protocol for dealing with the Aboriginal people they work with outside of the campus. But this instruction must focus on the sovereign authority of Aboriginal people to make their own decisions and judgements, and to ensure that the student/academic seeks out and respects those decisions and judgements.

    But providing a black academic/bureacratic filter to restrict interaction with grass roots Aboriginal people only serves to enforce the white institutional power of the campus and disempower all Aboriginal people by reinforcing the notion that Aboriginality equates to vulnerability and incapacity.

    However these issues will be sidelined as this issue is incorporated into the ongoing witch hunt to find any reason to discredit Noonan.

  10. I notice Sally on the other thread also shares Darren’s concern about my “positioning”. I wonder if Sally and Darren D are the same person?

    Or is this the micro-party line of a small band of conspiritors?

    Or is this bland and meaningless analysis of white power what they teach in universities these days?


    How’s that for coincidence? Sally and Darren have the same IP address.

  11. I am closing comments on this thread now.

    The latest round of attacks against Noonan have surfaced and now include allegations of criminal activity, which I am simply not going to comment on except to say I believe them to be false.

    I also dont want to be responsible for publishing the allegations if anyone posts them here.

    I understand the allegations have been made to authorities. I will wait until they make their findings public before commenting further – should be interesting!

    update – discussion re-opened here –