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Campaigner For Coon Cheese Name Change Annoyed Indigenous People Weren't Consulted

Campaigner For Coon Cheese Name Change Annoyed Indigenous People Weren't Consulted

The man who campaigned for more than two decades to get Coon Cheese's name changed has spoken out.

Iconic Australian cheese brand Coon has been officially rebranded as 'Cheer' cheese this week after many raised issues in regards to the name's historical use as a racial slur.

Stephen Hagan is annoyed the company didn't consult Indigenous people about the product's new name.

While the author and anti-racism activist admitted he was pleased at the idea of not seeing the racist term in supermarkets, he raised questions over the dairy product's new moniker.

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Credit: Saputo
Credit: Saputo

He told News Corp: "I would have liked it to be something a bit more inclusive of First Nations people. We weren't even consulted on names. We would like to have contributed.

"I'm happy with the name change; the new name doesn't worry me but I wish they'd changed the packaging too. If you look at the packaging quickly, you'd think it was still Coon cheese."

He added that he was given no warning of the announcement and saw it first on the news.

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"Since then, I've had phone calls and emails from good old redneck Australians still holding onto a lily-white view of Australia where there are no challenges to their status quo," Hagan said. "Well, I'm happy to disrupt that."

Dr Hagan is also pursuing legal damages of $2.1 million after he says companies undermined his claims that the cheese brand was not named after American cheesemaker Edward William Coon, and instead believes it was named after the racial slur.

It's also not the first time the activist has campaigned against a product for using words that are historically racist.

He recently lodged a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission against Mattel over the words like 'abo', 'coon' and 'boong' being allowed as words in Scrabble.

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"My wife and I never encouraged our children, when they were young, to experiment with racially offensive words or slurs whenever they played Scrabble," Dr Hagan wrote in his complaint, obtained by NCA NewsWire.

"I would like to think that when they have children they would also explain the importance of not using racially offensive words to gain points in Scrabble.

"It's appalling that Mattel promotes teaching kids that it is OK to use a racial slur if that's what it takes to win a Scrabble game."

"I know that with Covid-19, more people are looking at board games and families actually talking over dinner together.

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Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Speaking to Channel 7's Sunrise on Wednesday's show, Lino Saputo, the CEO of Coon's Canadian parent company Saputo, said he saw 'no harm' in changing the iconic cheese's name.

"Coon is a brand that was known and I would say loved by some in Australia," Mr Saputo told the hosts.

"But it was important for us to understand that name did not please other consumers and created a connotation that was not favourable.

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"We decided to embark on this journey to rename that brand and come up with something that we thought would resonate well with all consumers without exclusion."

Cheer Cheese will appear in supermarkets around the country from July.

Featured Image Credit: Saputo

Topics: Food, Australia

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