Cartoonist's 'racist, sexist and homophobic' confession
SOME say the further inland you travel the more politically incorrect the jokes become, but Bundaberg born cartoonist Stuart McMillen is working to change that expectation.
Mr McMillen can now reflect on his years as a racist openly and honestly, but for many years he wasn't aware the inside jokes and belittling of others was going to be something he would grow to regret.
The comic I Used to Be Racist reflects on McMillen's teenage years as a Bundaberg student where he participated in the culture of racism, sexism, and homophobia.
"I want to start by saying I'm not singling out Bundaberg as a racist town, but it just so happened to be where I grew up and that's where this happened," Mr McMillen said.
"What I'm talking about in the comic is that there were undercurrents of making yourself look good by putting others down."
Mr McMillen said the bigotry began for him in primary school by using words such as 'gay' as generic insults, which naturally escalated in his high school years.
"I like to think it was fairly self-contained joking within my friendship group and that it didn't spill over as insults to the other groups we were laughing about, but then again maybe I'm remembering incorrectly," he said.
"For me it was a learned behaviour with a certain group of friends that we encouraged in each other through those years."
After high school Mr McMillen moved to Brisbane for 10 years and now resides in Canberra, but it was the move to different areas that encouraged his reflection.
"It wasn't until I moved away from Bundaberg that I began interacting with different circles," he said.
"As an adult with some distance I can see that my high school behaviour is something I now regret.
"It came down to meeting people from some of the groups I was criticising, meeting people who were gay or getting in touch with people of different religions and backgrounds that I realised I liked those people so how could I make fun of that group."
As a cartoonist Mr McMillen said using that medium as a platform for communication came naturally.
"For some reason when ideas come to me they come as comics, like a panel by panel story," he said.
"By particularly focusing on thought provoking comics I aim to inspire interesting conversations that a viewer can move through at their own pace.
"Comics allow a reader to get both visual and textual information that they can process in their own time as opposed to a video that moves at 24 frames per second that they can't control."
Mr McMillen hopes his comic might be able to stem reflection within communities that don't realise their comments are racist and bigoted.
"Who knows whether today's high school students would even listen to me or consider me a role model, but it's just been a way for me to put on the record that I was involved and give people the opportunity to relate," he said.
"I've been encouraged to see comments on Reddit Australia where people are putting their own hand up and admitting to the fact that this is something that's true for them too and helps them reflect on their past behaviour.
"I was taking the low road by trying to make myself feel good by putting people down.
"I'd encourage other people to be more of a role model and try and get your power from bringing other people up instead of putting them down."