It was announced today that Schapelle Corby has been granted yet another reduction in her prison sentence. A further five years will be slashed off her original 20 year sentence and there are reports that she could be back in Australia as early as August. When Corby does return, what sort of welcome mat will Australia lay out for her?
There is a growing trend in Australia of, if not celebrating, then at least normalising and assimilating criminals and dangerous people. The traditional ‘Aussie Larrikin’ sentiment is being abused by those who want to alter their reputation, rewrite their legacy and by commercial interests who seek to profit from their characterisation.
Think Pauline Hanson, who went from caustic, racist politician to ‘celebrity’ contestant on Channel Seven’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’. Her alleged star is not one that should be welcomed into Australian living rooms for family viewing. Think Chopper Read, once notorious hit man, now an almost playful larrikin uncle – he has become so caricatured that we forget what a brute he was. Think Carl Williams, another hit man and cold blooded killer who, thanks to Channel Nine, became the ‘baby faced funny guy from Underbelly’. And the Bra Boys, a gang involved in drug smuggling, thuggery and murder, with some surfing on the side, who released a DVD in an attempt to soften their image it became a national hit. I am sure there are many more examples out there.
This is what I fear Australia will do with Schapelle Corby. Already she is seen by many as having been wrongfully convicted and there is an undercurrent, at least I feel it, of racism entwined in her case. I feel that many Australians still give her the benefit of the doubt, because she is our typical white Aussie surfer girl, who has been convicted by a corrupt, foreign and, worst all – Muslim government. A sympathy which was not extended by mainstream Australia to Nguyen Tuong Van, when he was hanged in 2005 at Singapore’s Changi Prison for drug trafficking offences.
Should Corby return to our shores this August she should not be welcomed and pitied as a poor, innocent, wrongfully convicted little Aussie battler. She is not escaping Shawshank. No doubt the temptation will be there whenever does return. The commercial television and women’s magazines hounds will be unleashed with boogie board bags full of cash. Corby will be thrust offers of prime time slots, book deals and telemovies. Inevitably some will stick and we will have to hear her poor sob story and ordeals inside Indonesian prisons. I will not be tuning in but I can understand the interest and can handle that for a while. What I could not handle is turning on the television to see Schapelle Corby ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or Schapelle Corby invading the Big Brother house or Schapelle Corby cooking an Indonesian speciality on Celebrity Masterchef or the Schapelle Corby spread in FHM.
Then I will know Australia has really got something really wrong.