Kerri-Anne Kennerley has visited a group of Aboriginal women in Alice Springs to ask them for forgiveness after sparking controversy with an outburst on Studio 10 earlier this year about Australia Day protestors and domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.
The TV star, 65, sparked a mixed debate at the end of January when she locked horns with former The Circle star Stynes, 43, over the Australia Day celebrations – with Stynes claiming at the time that Kennerley sounded “racist”.
Hitting out at Invasion Day protesters in Sydney’s CBD at the time, Kennerley said on air: “What about the 5000 people who went through the streets making their point known? Has any single one of those 5000 people waving the flags saying how inappropriate the day is, has any one of them been out to the outback where children, where babies and five-year-olds are being raped, their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education.”
Stynes then responded: “That is not even faintly true Kerri-Anne and you’re sounding quite racist now.”
The row escalated from there, with Kennerley claiming not enough is being done to stop abuse in the local communities and it led to several people protesting outside the Channel Ten studios the following day.
Seeing the mixed response, Kennerley agreed to visit Alice Springs on the invitation of Shirleen Campbell – a 36-year-old grandmother who has lost several female members of her own family to abuse.
Campbell admitted she initially felt upset to hear Kennerley’s views, but then decided to invite her to see the work they’re doing to stop abuse in their community for herself.
While Kennerley was due to visit several weeks ago, she had to delay it following the death of her beloved husband John. But, keen to honour her promise, she has now gone ahead with the visit and it aired on Studio 10 on Tuesday.
Sitting down with Campbell, Kennerley heard about her work reinvigorating women’s group the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group, which works to stamp out abuse once and for all.
Taking her hand, Kennerley listened as Campbell told her how upset her comments initially made her, before asking: “Wasn’t I being your voice?” to which Campbell agreed.
Kennerley then asked: “Do you forgive me by the way?” to which her companion eventually agreed.
“We’re sick of it,” Campbell said of the abuse. “We’re parents now, we need to end it.”
Thanks to their ongoing work in 16 Aboriginal town camps around Alice Springs, men who commit family violence must now undergo behavioural change courses.
Kennerley met groups of women in two town camps and, speaking on camera afterwards, said she sticks by her initial views that abuse is taking place – but added that she now understands more about the hard work being done to stop it.
“The fact I stated is that Aboriginal women and children are being abused. That is absolutely correct and right,” Kennerley said. “I understand it may have been a bit clunky and I’m a white person saying it. That doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Speaking of Campbell, she added: “She’s a very impressive woman. They’re making great inroads… they have some successful programs and those programs need to be expanded.”