Bridges Built From Empathy: What We Lose With Stan Grant

Warning: This article deals with the topic of targeted violence against First Nations people and may be triggering for some readers.

You know, my shower thoughts often turn to Stan Grant. And not just because he’s an incredibly attractive man, even though he is. My shower thoughts turn to Grant because I’m in awe of his writing.

Stan Grant has been a prolific journalist since the 1990s, working for the likes of Seven, SBS, and CNN. However, he’s best known for his stint at the ABC, which he has now announced a temporary hiatus from. In 2017, Grant was made the ABC’s Editor of Indigenous Affairs.

Grant has constantly been in front of the camera, discussing First Nations issues. He’s also been regularly writing about such subjects for the ABC’s website. Over the past several years, I’ve been gobbling up whatever he has written on these issues. I’m always impressed with the bridges of empathy he builds.

Stan Grant.
Image: ABC

On Anzac Day of 2023, Grant wrote of his great uncle Ivan Grant, a Wiradjuri man who fought in World War I. He discussed a man who fought for his homeland and a stolen country that didn’t love him.

As Grant wrote, “Somewhere in the fields of France the soul of a Wiradjuri man wanders, restless. He died far from home; killed in a war that he was never meant to fight.”

“First Nations people have sacrificed for this land in wars here and overseas. I know my grandfather was not fighting for Australia, he was fighting for an idea of Australia. An Australia still to come.”

As always, Stan Grant’s words here both wrinkle the brain and tug on the soul. They call on Australia to do better.

Additionally, Grant isn’t limited to writing about First Nations issues. He is also an expert in international politics, having served as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Asia. 

One of my favourite Stan Grant articles was about Barack Obama. On Obama’s 60th birthday in 2021, Grant wrote this man an open letter.

As Grant said to Obama, “Your life looks good. You’re rich, seemingly at ease, have a great family, and are busy with writing, speaking, charity work, and television production. But when I read about your lavish birthday party, I did wonder: Where has Barack Obama gone? Or even worse, were we duped?”

“Of course, you’re entitled to your wealth and privilege, but to flaunt it so? After what America has been through? People have spent the past year locked away… Possibly losing loved ones to this virus. Life has been no party for them.”

Grant’s article then goes on to list the successes and failings of Obama. It’s even-handed and not for the sake of presenting both sides. It’s even-handed because Grant is hunting for the truth.

My shower thoughts often turn to Stan Grant. However, they will now be steamed in melancholy and sadness. For while Grant isn’t dead, I’ve jotted that he’s no longer at the ABC. In fact, for now, he’s stepping away from the media entirely.

Why Did Stan Grant Leave the ABC?

At the start of the month, King Charles III had his official coronation ceremony. Stan Grant was part of the coverage for the event for the ABC. What’s more, Grant used his platform to speak the truth. He discussed how the Crown stole Indigenous land. He detailed how the Crown massacred his people.

However, this truth rubbed some racists and monarchists the wrong way. Additionally, instead of acting reasonably, they decided to sledge Stan Grant and his family. A torrent of racial abuse was sent their way. To make matters more depressing, torrents of abuse have been drenching this fam for years.

I too covered King Charles III’s coronation ceremony. And, mates, I wasn’t as considerate as Grant was. My critique was made from rough hammers.

When discussing the coronation, I wrote, “I don’t believe that political power should be a birthright. Having the authority to change the tides of parliaments should be regulated to those with the right ideas, not the ‘right’ genetics.”

As it stands, I haven’t been abused for this hot take.

So, was it an unjust torrent of abuse that sent Grant over the edge? Well, not quite. Stan Grant was instead disappointed that the ABC didn’t have his back.

Discussing this matter, Grant wrote, “No one at the ABC — whose producers invited me onto their coronation coverage as a guest — has uttered one word of public support. Not one ABC executive has publicly refuted the lies written or spoken about me. I don’t hold any individual responsible; this is an institutional failure.”

What’s more, this experience has made Grant more disillusioned with the media industry. Grant is unsure if the media can actually create constructive conversations

On his final episode hosting Q+A, Grant said, “I fear the media does not have the love or the language to speak to the gentle spirits of our land. I’m not walking away for a while because of racism, we get that far too often. I’m not walking away because of social media hatred. I need a break from the media.”

“I feel like I’m part of the problem. And I need to ask myself how, or if, we can do it better.”

A Little Letter to the Legend Stan Grant

Dear Stan Grant,

Thank you for your years of service. Thank you for leaving us a treasure trove of complex articles. Now that you’re gone, there’ll be a chasm in the shape of your words.

I’m sorry that the ABC didn’t have your back. I’m sorry that the media at large didn’t have your back. My industry has to do better.

I’m also sorry that you feel like you were part of a problem. I both respect and grieve this self-doubt. ‘Cause your words have helped me foster a garden of empathy. From discussing your great uncle, to addressing Barack Obama, your thoughts have helped my thoughts bloom.

You’ve recently said that you might be back. But if you’re not, I hope I can experience what you do next. Stan Grant, my dude, I am sincerely rooting for you.

Joel Burrows

Related: King Charles’ Australia — Should We Love Him Back?

Related: Voice to Parliament Details — How to Access the Truth

If this article brings up any issues for you or anyone you know, or you have experienced targeted violence, please contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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