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Is Australia unusually racist?

Nick Bryant | 06:18 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

The Channel Nine show Hey Hey It's Saturday was a staple of 1970s Australia. Last week's blackface skit, which has generated so many unfavourable international headlines, also had a distinctly retro and unreconstructed feel. Racist, too, according to the shows many detractors.

For those who missed it, the variety show aired a talent segment in which five men appeared in frizzy black wigs and with their faces daubed in black make-up purporting to be the Jackson Jive. Half-way through the song they were joined by another person impersonating Michael Jackson, whose face was painted white.

The American singer Harry Connick Jr, a guest judge on the show, signalled his immediate offence by scoring the performance "0". Later, he was invited back onto the live broadcast, where the host, Daryl Somers, apologised for causing offence. Connick Jr, who hails from America's Deep South, explained that the skit would have been unacceptable in his homeland. "Black minstrels" have long been a taboo, since they remind people of the Jim Crow era, when the races were separated in the American south from the cradle to the grave.

This controversy has not so much revived the debate about whether Australia is unusually racist as prolonged it. Australia is already in the public stocks over the attacks on Indian students.

The White Australia policy. The condition of indigenous Australians. Pauline Hanson. The Cronulla riots. The opposition to Islamic schools in mainly-white areas. As I've written before, Australia certainly is easy to stereotype as an unusually racist country. There will also be many who think that John Howard's political success partly stemmed from stoking the prejudices of Middle Australia, whether over asylum seekers or his prolonged reticence on the rise of Pauline Hanson.

From the sometimes paranoiac reaction to the arrival of relatively small numbers of boat people on its shores to employment surveys which show that job applicants with Anglo names fare better than Australians with Chinese or Middle Eastern bloodlines, a persuasive case can quickly be assembled.

There's also a counter-argument: that the bigger, more optimistic story about race in post-war Australia is how successfully immigrants from all over the world have successfully been assimilated without any great backlash. Proponents of this point of view would argue that Hansonism was a short-lived phenomenon and that there has been no repeat of Cronulla. Oddly, the doctors who performed the skit on Hey Hey It's Saturday are testament to the changing face of modern Australia. It included a Sri Lankan-Australian, an Indian-Australian, a Greek-Australian, an Irish-Italian-Australian and a Lebanese-Australian.

Earlier in the year, at the height of the Indian student controversy, the Melbourne-based academic Waleed Aly, wrote this piece in The Monthly, which offers a very balanced and carefully modulated assessment. And though he misrepresents BBC World's coverage of the 2007 federal election, we will forgive him that transgression. He is emerging as one of the country's most eloquent public intellectuals.

Elsewhere, Waleed Aly has said that Australia has "a fairly high level of low-level racism," which seems to me, at least, a very neat summation.

For what it's worth, Australian politicians often appear to have a more pessimistic assessment of the level of racism in their own society, and do little to counter it. Kevin Rudd is normally quick to comment on the water cooler issue of the day, and often adopts a populist stance. His condemnation of the photographer, Bill Henson, for using semi-naked adolescent models, was an obvious case in point. But he has not weighed in on the "blackface" row.

Julia Gillard had this to say during a visit to America. "Obviously, I think whatever happened was meant to be humorous and would be taken in that spirit by most Australians," comments which seemed to misunderstand American racial sensibilities on the subject and to have been intended more for domestic Australian consumption.

Perhaps Kevin Rudd does not want to get on the wrong side of public opinion on the issue. Or perhaps he agrees with those who stereotype Australia: that a racist undercurrent still flows fairly deep.


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  • 1. At 07:32am on 12 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    I hate to say it, but there is still a current of racism in Australia.
    It was only in the 1970s that the White Australia Policy was still in effect.
    The older generations in particular were raised ina very different cultural climate.
    Having said that it is a very mild kind of racism, more a patronising ignorance than any kind of virulent, potentially violent xenephobia.
    Having lived in the states, the people there are much more concious of racism, but there are also more examples of racist violence and discrimination.
    All things considered, Australia has maanged alot of different immigrant groups and cultures quite well, considering.
    I'd wager that if other western countries that aren't immigrant nations faced the same diversity of cultural background in their populations, they may not handle it nearly as well.

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  • 2. At 07:35am on 12 Oct 2009, wollemi wrote:

    Difficult questions to answer I think. I'll throw in my 2 cents worth for one of them.

    Regarding the blackface skit. I think the participants were honest when they said that they had no intention to be racist.
    The bottom line though is that it should not have gone ahead, the producers should have realised the implications of airing this, particularly in front of Connick who comes from the US and where this is clearly seen as racist

    I think it raises some issues about the cultural context of racism. Unlike the US and UK, Australia has no history of slavery. The First Fleet set sail in May 1787, the same month that the Society for The Abolition of Slavery was formed in London and as a result there was also an antislavery temper here. What might be seen as degrading to African Americans in the historical context of slavery in the US can not be as obvious to unwary foreigners
    For example..watermelons. A great fruit for a hot climate but there can be certain racial depictions in the US
    The word 'boy' which Bert Newton once used with Muhammed Ali before realising what it meant to Ali
    The word 'niggardly' which has no racial meaning except sounding like a racist word and has led to people being suspended from the workplace
    The complex issues related to interracial marriage, so that if President Obama had been married to a white woman - as his father was - he might not have received the black vote
    There are more, it can be a minefield unless you're familiar with US society

    So I think that is what Julia Gillard was trying to explain - that this was intended as a self mocking humorous skit which unfortunately crossed a US cultural taboo about racism
    However I think the producers should have stopped it


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  • 3. At 09:38am on 12 Oct 2009, Wallsy wrote:

    There is definitely racism in Australia. Spend a few weeks travelling around the top end, and it soon becomes clear that most restaurants run a "white only" policy (dress code only enforced for aborigines, for example).

    What I find strange is that the second generation Australians are among the most xenophobic people I've ever encountered. I went out with a Greek-Australian who told me that she couldn't stand "wogs", and was always outraged when anyone spoke a language other than English in public. Of course, when she went on a trip to Europe she was most upset that everyone didn't speak English...

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  • 4. At 09:51am on 12 Oct 2009, newsobserver87 wrote:

    I made this account for the sole purpose of this issue raised in this blog regarding racism in Australia.

    As a student studying in this country I would like to give it from my perspective.

    I find it very patronising by many people in Australia the way they feel they have to step on eggshells as they talk to foreign students or residents etc. I am a regular human being like everybody else and one thing I absolutely cannot stand is people acting like I must be protected and given special treatment over everybody else.

    I have made many friends with Australians and I shall say in their defence right now, no, many of them are not racist and I think it’s just an easy target to blast them more and more.

    I find it extremely annoying that so many people will pretend they are “against racism” or keep saying “we are too racist” in an attempt to make it look like they are crusaders for a genuine issue which while much more prevalent not so long ago, is not as much of an issue now (though it still exists in every country). I think it is absolutely unfair on the entirety of Australian society for it to be collectively demonised, especially since I actually have been given the opportunity to study here.

    Also, many of the people I have made friends with I think are in my experience kind and generous and from what I have seen they are very helping of those in need and to be honest, I never held this opinion before because I had been constantly told of how “racist” the country was.

    I have been called racial slurs, but it would be foolish to think that these people only exist in certain countries, they exist everywhere all over the world and it’s just a nice soft target to lay the blame on the entire Australian people and possibly even racist in itself (Eg: the student controversy). To just hold up a racist past and constantly use it as an argument to talk about times of today I think is a very weak argument, Australians from what I can see are moving on while many others seem to think the majority of them don’t.

    The Australians are currently helping many people across the world and I think it would be unfair to not defend my friends that I have made during my time here. If this country was more racist then not I don’t think as many people would even be here, I have been given the same chances as many others and I think it’s cruel and unfair to just constantly throw the phrase “Australia is racist” at people every single time somebody doesn’t get what or somebody is rude to them.

    Regarding that sketch, from what I have seen not everybody in it was exactly of a “White, Western European background” anyway like some people think, so they should bear this important fact in mind before they comment on it.

    In summary, I like this country and it’s people for what I have been given and I have made friends for life with some of the people I have met and in their defence I refuse to uphold the idea that the *entire* country is made up of closet-racists just so somebody can pretend to be my friend by saying they “hate racists”. While racism may always exist all over the world, this place is certainly less racist then many others I have seen and people are making mountains out of mole hills on many issues.

    I would also like to thank Mr. Bryant for allowing me to comment.

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  • 5. At 09:59am on 12 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    Isn't it time to put this whole mess into perspective.
    1) The last Hey, Hey, show went to air in I think 1999.
    2) This show was the second of two reunion shows.
    3) The segment causing all the controversy was the Red Faces tallent show segment, where people usually make complete fools of themselves, and no one really takes them seriously.
    4) This particular act was a return to a group that won 20 years ago doing a rendition of a Michael Jackson and the Jackson's song. Then Michael was black, this time he was white.
    5) It was never intended to be racist, as the artists stated later. Every Aussie so are that I have read believes it was a taken out of context beat up.

    Now, as a result of this stupidity, if a white groups wishes to immitate a black group, they will probably have to wear a sign saying 'we are black'...and even that will upset the completely ignorant in the US.
    Wake up US.
    How else can white artists portray blacks artists, especially when they admire them, as this group did the Jacksons, without colouring their face or wearing signs.
    Next we'll ban female impersonators, blacks dressed as whites, adults as childrens...and the list goes on.
    Assuming whites will no longer dress up as blacks, we'll be blamed for reverse racism, because no white will dare do any material that is from a black artist.
    In the meantime, Channel 9 had got advertising they could only have dreampt of.

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  • 6. At 10:28am on 12 Oct 2009, BIgdannyray wrote:

    Regarding racism in Australia, I agree we seem to be an easy target for others saying we are racist - like many other stereotypes sticking (eg Aussies are a bunch of alco's, culture only based on sport & so on). But in my view Australia is no more racist than many other countries with a similar degree of education / wealth. Take for example, Japan: I currently live in Tokyo, where the Mayor of Tokyo is often quoted as saying things like: the increase in crime in Tokyo is due to foreigners (he usually targets Koreans or Chinese)..... Could you or would you say that if you were a leading politician in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter - Pauline Hanson excluded)??
    Similarly an article I was reading over the weekend talked about SE & Nth Asia countries not having a very good relationship & therefore the scope for development of a unified economic body (or having a unified currency like the Euro) is a near impossibility until relations improve. The racism amongst these countries is outrageous, yet if an Australian or other Anglo Saxon nation were to act this way it would be taken extremely poorly & openly described as racism......
    I've just spent the last two yrs living in London...... Boy - do they have some issues. I love their culture & the people, but they have really given away a lot of their "wealth" to incoming immigrants.... For example a British person who has paid taxes their whole life & gets ill should be able to expect a reasonable amount of care from the health system, but it seems the system is over-run, understaffed & generally poor.... (or worse than other countries of a similar level of development). Most informed British people seem to have very strong feelings on these issues & the response they have to Australia turning away ILLEGAL immigrants is often positive. It is also positive with regard to the standards we apply to people wanting to migrate to Australia..... So is that racist ? I don't think so....

    From time to time there are racist events such as the ones mentioned in the article, but these don't occur any more in Australia than they do in the US, Europe & Asia. Regarding Hey Hey - the producer should have known better - it's up to them to stop complete rubbish making it onto the show & leading to an entire country being branded racist... Because anyone who knows that TV show will know that it would never have been meant to be taken seriously.....

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  • 7. At 10:53am on 12 Oct 2009, shesaidthat wrote:

    OK now let me see: Does a BBC news story regarding the arrest of people at an anti-Muslim protest or the BBC's HYS section where comments are posted to the effect that "the country's in a mess, stop immigration - they take our jobs, we don't need 'em " (just one example) mean that the whole of Britain is unusually racist?

    This rehash of a show should have stayed where it belongs - in the archives. To have this 'troupe' back after 20 years to perform their skit in front of an American guest, who surely the producers knew was from the South, shows IMHO either a total lack of sensitivity and consideration on the part of the TV channel and the show's producers or a blatant display of any publicity is good publicity. They are who should be taken to task for ignorance.

    Please don't label every Australian as a racist over this skit just as I won't label every British person a racist over a news story or HYS comments.

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  • 8. At 10:59am on 12 Oct 2009, philipjdowling wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 11:03am on 12 Oct 2009, Austin wrote:

    Interesting ponts made but I clicked on this from the Rugby Union homepage as it promised an article on whether Rugby Union or another of Australia's winter sports would die out and there is nothing relating to that here.

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  • 10. At 11:22am on 12 Oct 2009, BIgdannyray wrote:

    Oh - I forgot the one example of it going completely Pete Tong in the UK of reverse racism: Taxi drivers in Birmingham during the last football world cup were told not to wear their England jumpers while working as it may offend the large Asian population !!! How wrong is that !!! Thank god we have some realistic views on immigration, respecting foreigners cultures & giving them a chance at a nice life.... & if you don't like it you don't have to live here.

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  • 11. At 12:39pm on 12 Oct 2009, Th1nk-about-it wrote:

    You mention the Cronulla riots, as if these were caused by racism. They were triggered by an attack on lifesavers (something that would enrage any Australian, as these people risk their lives to rescue people in trouble) and result from long-term anger about the behaviour of gangs of middle-eastern youths. Having encountered their swaggering aggression myself, it doesn't surprise me that it ended in violence. Don't mix it up with racism!

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  • 12. At 1:04pm on 12 Oct 2009, GlenWriter wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 13. At 2:00pm on 12 Oct 2009, TotallyBaffled wrote:

    Is Australia racist? Well, isn't it odd that Aborigines are almost totally unrepresented in most walks of life which involve interaction with the non-Aboriginal population?

    How many Aborigines present or produce television programs, serve in shops, participate in activities which those of European descent are accustomed to? Very few. Is there a racist element to this? Probably.

    Even in this discussion they seem to have been overlooked.

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  • 14. At 2:19pm on 12 Oct 2009, Thortheprotector wrote:

    This is another example of anti-white race hate. If blacks had been performing with their faces painted white they would not have been subjected to the race hate the white performers have had leveled against them!

    What is alarming is the speed with which the anti-white race hate movement is growing even in Britain all anti-white race hate organisations such as the A F L and Trevor Phillips heading his state funded anti-white propaganda machine receive government sanction to operate with taxpayers money!

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  • 15. At 2:37pm on 12 Oct 2009, shesaidthat wrote:

    #13. Just for your information in case you are unaware: The film Samson And Delilah has received 8 nominations at this year's Inside Film Awards to be handed out on the 18th November. It will also premiere on ABC1 on 24th November. Have you ever heard of the program "Message Stick"? You may be also unaware that one of the indigenous community's most respected leaders was recently quoted as saying that the latest UN reportage "should be binned".

    With regards to this particular blog the BBC reporter chose to focus on a TV program that redid a particular skit from 20 years ago. Again it is down to the producers of the show and the TV channel that they chose to have no indigenous guests on this so called 'reunion' episode.

    Again, Yes certainly there is much work still to be done, but please
    don't use one issue to tar all Australians with the same brush.

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  • 16. At 2:42pm on 12 Oct 2009, Mick wrote:

    We lived in NZ for five years before moving to Oz. Never had any problems in the shakey isles, but as soon as we arrived in Australia we noticed real in-your-face racism from time to time. Everything from snide comments to "**** back to Asia", patronising remarks from the Eastern suburbs crowd (oh you speak such good English) and sometimes being refused service in cafes. Even workmates lapse into a few unintentional insulting remarks about stinky food or sneaky Asians when they've had a few beers and forget there's one in their midst.
    My wife seems to get it a lot more than me, and I'm thankful there is another breed of Aussie who sticks up for the underdog and the victim.
    Of course we don't mind, because it's all just a few Aussie larrikins having a bit of fun, no malice intended. We just need to lighten up.

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  • 17. At 4:07pm on 12 Oct 2009, richiem76 wrote:

    I have recently returned from a year in Australia, mostly in Melbourne and I felt that the level of integration amongst the races was far better than in Britan. I think that in most countries 85% of people would say there is a problem with racism, that doesn't mean that it is a big problem.
    There will always be some form of racism, weather it is white people discriminating against black or middle eastern against Indians. But the majority of people don't behave this way.

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  • 18. At 4:18pm on 12 Oct 2009, aussiedaveni wrote:

    I find it very annoying that the Hey Hey skit has become entangled in the issue of racism. I dont believe the skit was or can be considered racist. It was not displaying hatred or intolerance towards another race. The fact that the performers themselves came from such a diverse background should be testament to that.

    There is no doubt that in America such a performance would be considered racist given their history (the performers themselves said theres no way they would perform it in America) but does that mean that Australians must find it racist as well? Hey Hey is an Australian show intended for Australian audiences, not American audiences. The only reason it has obtained an international audience is because the media have grabbed onto it and labelled it as racist so as to perpetuate the stereotype that Australians are racist. (a whole separate issue....)

    In my opinion the real issue is the insensitivity shown by the producers towards Harry Connick Jnr. Theres no doubt they should have thought about the act a little more before allowing it to be performed in front of him. They should have realised the significance of blackface for an American, especially one from the south.

    Then again, should Harry have realised that he was in Australia and in our country blackface has no significance or racial connotations? Is it the responsibility of the inhabitants of every country I visit to ensure they dont offend me? Or is it my responsibility to respect the customs, traditions, social norms of countries that I visit?

    At the end of the day i think both the shows producers and Harry have to take some blame for the way this got out hand. Oh, and the media played there part as well!

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  • 19. At 4:29pm on 12 Oct 2009, aussieconvict wrote:

    I used to live in Australia, and I noted that as a white caucasian male, my Australian colleagues and friends would regularly belittle Chinese, Indian and African people.

    It used to disgust me and I would tell them to stop, but all that achieved was that they would say the crude, racist comments when I was not around. On more than one occassion I would catch the tail-end of their insults and realise they were saying something derogatory about an Indian or Chinese colleague.

    Just because the Australians are better at hiding their vile opinions these days, doesn't mean they are any less racist!

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  • 20. At 4:45pm on 12 Oct 2009, djavous wrote:

    Every country has a few bad apples who unfortunately tarnish the image of the whole country and so too is the case in Australia.Have you lived in India?Take for instance the many Nepali people who live and work in India.They are automatically called "Kanchas" or "Bahadurs"( the degradatory term used for domestic helps and security men.)So are the Indians racists? Probably not and most dont even realise that they are offending.So to brand a whole country racist based on the actions of a few is wrong and to especially brand Australia as racist is wrong.They have gone to great lengths to undo what elements of racism there was in their country in the past .The prime minister has offered a public apology to the stolen generation.All this has been done with a view to forget the past and welcome a multicultural non racist vibrant country which is desperately trying to cut of from the past and look to the future.
    Im an asian living in Australia and I wont say I havent encountered racism.I have but as someone so eloquently put it it has mostly been" a low level racism".I couldnt be bothered with such low self esteem xenophobic people because I know they are the people who dont matter these days.Anyone with any real sense in their heads know that the time and days of racism are over.The important people who govern education sports and business know this well.They are the ones who make the policies and they are the ones who matter.And I can safely say that in Australia anyone who is a success in their choosen field have long abandoned racism because they realised that it was not getting them anywhere.

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  • 21. At 5:47pm on 12 Oct 2009, Bren54 wrote:

    "The White Australia policy"
    Disgraceful - and hardly any different the equally unofficial "White Canada Policy" or to the US's very official "Chinese Exclusion Act" which carried on in effect long after it was repealed

    "The condition of indigenous Australians"
    Do you mean the condition ALL indigenous Australians, or the minority in remote settlements? Not good

    "Pauline Hanson"
    Let's face it, in most countries she wouldn't have needed her own party. She'd fit right in with the UK Tories for example.

    "The Cronulla riots"
    There was more than one? Do tell.

    "The opposition to Islamic schools in mainly-white areas"
    Fair enough - that is probably racist.

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  • 22. At 5:57pm on 12 Oct 2009, parragirl wrote:

    Is Australia unusually racist? The hedging adverb suggests that new Machiavellian methods have developed to express racism, but they're the same old, thoughtless, cliche things said everywhere around the world to build solidarity amongst people who think they are superior to others, when we know they are really feeling threatened by the unknown. This is a storm in a teacup. Hey. Hey in my time was watched by losers who had nothing better to do on the weekend (oh no, another form of discrimination). Must've been desperate bringing it back, especially with Harry. Aussies can go to bed knowing that disenfranchised young people are not rioting in the suburbs, burning property and shooting at police or that immigrant workers are not being bashed senseless just because they are doing a job the locals wouldn't touch.Common here in Europe. I agree with many other contributors, racism isn't the issue here-only poor taste.

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  • 23. At 10:44pm on 12 Oct 2009, Ifti wrote:

    I have been campaigning for state funded Muslim schools since 70s but neither the Muslim community nor the British Government paid any attention to my proposal.

    Bilingual Muslim children need to learn standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher stuies and research to serve humanity. They need to learn Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.. State schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers have been mis-educating and de-educating Muslim children for a long time. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. They find themselves cut off from their cultural roots, literature and poetry. All of them suffer for identity crises. They do not know where they belong.

    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

    British tax-payers have been funding nearly 7000 Church schools for a long time and not a single Brit ever raised his finger against them.

    Now Muslim community has the right to demand state funded Muslim schools for their bilingual children and each and every Tom and Harry do not want to see state funded Muslim schools. If Muslims have their own school that's indoctrination and segregation, according to British society.

    State schools with monolingual non-Muslim teachers have been mis-educating and de-educating Muslim children for the last 60 years. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. They find themselves cut off from their cultural roots and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

    British schooling is the home of institutional racism and native teachers are chicken racist. This is the main reason why all minority groups would like to have their own state funded schools with their own teachers. Now Hindu community has set up the first state funded school in Harrow and next year in Leicester. Black community is also thinking and planning a school for their children with black teachers as role models.

    According to a recent report, Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country's 7000 schools. Muslim schools do well because of their Islamic ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. They teach children what is right and what is wrong, because young children need structured guidance.

    We would like all Muslim children to be educated in Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models. They need to learn and be well versed in standard English, Arabic, Urdu and other community languages. After leaving Muslim schools they can decide whether to follow their own culture and faith or follow western culture and way of life. For the time being they have no choice. All of them suffer from identity crises. They do not know where they belong.

    Please visit for more information on this crucial and complicated issue.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

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  • 24. At 10:49pm on 12 Oct 2009, Ifti wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 25. At 00:04am on 13 Oct 2009, waterloosydney wrote:

    How do Muslim schools build a bridge between communities? Surely a better bridge would be built by having Muslim children learning and playing alongside other children in non-segregated schools? It seems ridiculous that people in the US fought for to end segregation in the last century and now some people want to have it persist in this century. Segregation does not build bridges between communities. Segregation builds barriers.

    I also disagree with the contention that the state should provide funding for such schools. Personally I don’t believe faith schools of any stripe should exist, let alone receive tax payers’ money. I can see why students for whom English is not a first language might require extra support at school, but separating them from first language English-speaking children, from whom they would pick up idiomatic English quickly, is a mistake.

    Britain and Australia both welcome people from other countries and other cultures – not always 100% smoothly, there is sadly racism everywhere. But no-one expects immigrants to give up their traditions or values. At the same time, immigrants can’t expect the state to pay for their culture to be insulated and propagated. That’s not to say that funding would always be refused, but it shouldn’t be expected or taken for granted, especially when money can be elsewhere spent to benefit the entire population. I could hardly move to Thailand and demand the state set up a British school for my children, nor would I want to.

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  • 26. At 00:22am on 13 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    Iftikhar, while many of your points are more than valid, they are 100% correct, others smack of vitriol.
    For example, I take issue with you suggesting british children (by which I assume you mean white British children) are born with a seed or gene of racism. That's disgusting statement, to suggest that white British people are genetically predisposed towards racism. Waht a ridiculous, uneducated thing to say, supposedley from a man of learning. Disgraceful.
    The sad thing is that I agree with alot of what you say but am dissapointed both with statements like the one I've illustrated and your mentailty of segregation.
    In Australia there is racism certainly, just as their is in many countries. How many catholic schools are built in down town Karachi or Islamabad? Obviously there is racism everywhere.
    It is a problem, but one that is based on ignorance and a focus on what seperates us rather than what binds us.
    You and I are more the same than we are different. That should be our focus.
    So certainly, fight for the rights of Muslim people, their right to maintain their culture, go to their schools (as long as those schools meet the education standards mandated by the law of the land) and have equal opportunity, representation and treatment. Everyone deserves those rights.
    But just be careful that in doing so you don't drive people away. Because it is only through engagement that people become equal in each others eyes.

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  • 27. At 02:04am on 13 Oct 2009, lachlan23 wrote:

    To the poster TotallyBaffled - Your clear lack of knowledge of the Australian television landscape leaves me as your name sake suggests. In regards to Indigenous Australians and the role they play on television on commercial free to air television SBS provides 'Living Black' a current affairs show for the communities which is hosted, produced and pretty much all of its reporters are Aboriginal Australians, every year in the cadet programs for Journalists in the ABC and SBS (Both government television media outlets) there is a position set aside for Indigenous applicants with this year being one of only 2 positions available specifically for Indigenous Australians. The ABC schedules 'dreamtime stories' among there programming, on Subscription TV there is NITV which is a complete indigenous channel, to answer your question in regards to how much of the population consists of Indigenous Australians are they represented? I would say fairly well.

    And to generalise over how many work in shops? What a completely pointless question.

    As an Australian I will be the first to admit that the issue of the Aboriginal Peoples is not an easy one to work out. Past governments have tried throwing money at the problem, others try to complicate the situation with departments and corrupt directors, whilst other governments don't seem to care at all, however to even consider this whole poxy 'Hey Hey' skit as anything related to Aboriginal Australia is a pointless exercise in drawing a very long bow.

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  • 28. At 02:52am on 13 Oct 2009, oioioi2 wrote:

    White Anglo Australia was founded on racism (and xenophobia) starting with the land, pride and dignity of its indigenous people being stolen by the british invaders through to even today where anglophille politicians (look at the stats) are still getting away with bringing in +50% of immigrants from two basically irrelevant countries UK and NZ, all because they are Anglo.
    Imagine if instead we targetted the bilingual, bicultural cream of talent from countries relevant to our future, like the US and Canada currently do.
    The only true australians are ones who can trace they're ancestry back thousands of years, (not a couple of generations) the rest are immigrants and no immigrant group has more or less right to be in this country than any other.

    So is australia more racist than other countries I'm not sure, but white anglo australia's foundations,institutions and history certainly doesn't help.

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  • 29. At 04:54am on 13 Oct 2009, greg00m wrote:

    I don't think the rest of the world understands that "black face" was deliberately used to imitate and belittle the habits of black people, and when it came into existence as a vaudeville act in the early 1900s, there were many formers slaves who were still alive. You can still see quite a few on Youtube I think.

    In many parts of the US, especially the Deep South, there were plenty of whites who knew what was going on was wrong, but if they bucked the system they'd be the KKK's next target for being a "race traitor" and in the rural US, especially at that time, no one could hear you scream.

    Southerners today still try to fight down that image, which is probably what made Harry Connick Jr. offended, it probably wasn't just the blackface itself, it was also a long held stereotype that many other Americans, especially Yankees, have for Southern Americans.

    Racism in the US is generally more out front, and hardly just from whites anymore. Communities dominated by black people are finding themselves in positions of power and being accused of racism by Latinos, Asians and Middle Easterns.

    Blackface also applied to Asians and Native Americans as well. In pre-1950s US movies, Asian, Mexican and Native American actors often played their own ethnic group in the West, war movies, etc. Then they all got "whitified" as color movies became more popular, so you'd see obvious WASPs playing every sort of ethnic group and not doing a very good job of it either.

    But outside of the US, I've heard that the patronizing, quiet sort of racism, which is typically more economic based, is quite embedded in Europe (while the Continentals berate the US). Other than that, the non-western countries like to say "we are not racist, we are traditional" while torching a village of minorities and tossing the bodies into rivers.

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  • 30. At 05:11am on 13 Oct 2009, lordBanners wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 31. At 06:00am on 13 Oct 2009, John_Stone wrote:

    I don't know whether Australia is any more racist than anywhere else but the rest of the world now knows that many Australians and their politicians think the parodying of black people is regarded as suitable prime time entertainment in Australia, which is unlikely to do wonders for the nations's image overseas.

    As to the skit - it may well have been intended as a well meaning impersonation of the Jackson 5 but which one was Jermaine and which was Tito? The fact that the group were identical must surely give a clue as to why it will have been regarded as offensive - or do Australians really think all black people look the same?

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  • 32. At 06:06am on 13 Oct 2009, markjuliansmith wrote:

    Generally every culture has its idiosyncrasies which can be grating to the sensibilities of the other. From clothing, food, treatment of women, personal habits, beliefs religious, secular and supernatural etc. These differences can be perceived as fundamental schisms between cultures as is for me the treatment of women, the imposition of grievous harm for what is in essence simple dissension. As well as Australians have experienced recently fellow Australians targeting other citizens for grievous injury because of a lack of perceived adherence to a particular faiths objectives.

    The nature of cultural interaction in the past, as it is in the present at these points of schism for some there can be no and there will be no accommodation. The trouble is from history we see as the power of one section grows so does the imposition of the others cultural norms. So there is a quite reasonable alarm that what are seen in fact as gross human right infringements could gain legitimacy. To deny this could occur in Australia is to regard the extensive history of cultural interaction as a fiction. Distinct fundamental cultural differences are not a recipe for living happily ever after they never have been nor will be.

    I believe the only way to defuse this issue, not without some alteration of cultural norms, is the acceptance for the basis of society of the notion of human rights as reflected in a bill of rights which lays downs accepted norms of civility.

    The notion we can simply open Australia's boarders to all humanity without controls and life will be better for all is an absurdity for it ignores the reality of limited resources not only physical but socially to absorb changes demanded of existing mores. Flourishing communities and nations as we have seen can be reduced to skeletal concrete shadows within a decade simply because of fundamental social schisms. If to say it is racism to object to the possibility of this occurring in Australia without the imposition if necessary of a society based on Human rights then so be it.

    Also to excuse the acts and thwarted acts of violence as simple aberrations denies the reality of what is in front of us every day, as well as a detailed historical record going back thousands of years and therefore not to insist the forms and text from which these heinous acts are clearly supported, if one cares to simply pick up a book and open to the first page, should not be openly condemned for the sake of appearing to be racist invites further violent attacks on innocent Australian citizens.

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  • 33. At 07:00am on 13 Oct 2009, ggmomo wrote:

    To put this question in perspective, Australia is free of the sort of ethnic violence which exists in so much of the world. Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda (in fact much of Africa),Russia, France, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia etc etc etc. Indeed people come from all over the world to escape ethnic violence and live in the imperfect but benign tolerance of Australia.

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  • 34. At 07:37am on 13 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    Good call ggmomo.
    We aren't perfect, there is racism here, and we should be on our guard.
    But there are much worse situations to be in then to be an immigrant to this country.

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  • 35. At 08:20am on 13 Oct 2009, sydneycynic wrote:

    The question put was "Is Australia unusually racist?". Not only does this question suggest that we are racist but we are worse than most countries around the world. I wish the question was accompanied with a list of countries which compare favourably to that of Australia. Plenty of people have already given plenty of examples of other country's level of intolerance towards outsiders. I find it mind boggling that it could even be suggested that Australia could be ranked at or below countries like Afghanistan, Japan, Zimbabwe,etc,etc,etc. I find it extremely difficult to take this question seriously. I will admit some Australians are racist. There's 22 million of us. How can anyone expect perfection from so many people.

    The Hey, Hey sketch wasn't racist. The participants were guilty of an unfunny impersonation of The Jacksons. I'd like somebody to tell me how you do an impersonation of African-Americans without painting yourself black. There was no racist stereotyping i.e. mimicking something straight out of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It appears as though you can impersonate anyone else (with the notable exception of Mohammed the prophet) but black people are a no-go zone. It's fortunate for comedians like those in Little Britain that a similar prohibition doesn't apply when it comes to sending up gays, old people and fat people.

    I'd also like to know why people of an Anglo-Saxon/Celt background are regularly labelled as racists compared to people of other backgrounds. When other people stick together they are maintaining their cultural heritage. When whites stick together the common criticism is that such people are a bunch of xenophobic rednecks.

    I just found out that Australia has just topped an Indian poll. The poll asked which country Indian students found to be the safest. I don't suppose this will get as much media coverage as when a student is assaulted. A bad story will beat a good story any day of the week.

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  • 36. At 09:54am on 13 Oct 2009, blondblueeyedgoblin wrote:

    Australia is racist? Isn't Iran the country where the President held a "Holocaust Cartoon Contest". It was supposed to be about freedom of speech but talking about Muslims in the same way would get you executed in Iran. Weren't almost 50 Zimbabwians murdered in Xenophobic riots in South Africa? I could go on and on but my point is why should countries that are predominantely white always have to prove they are not racist? Let Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, and Iran prove they are not racist for a change.

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  • 37. At 10:00am on 13 Oct 2009, blondblueeyedgoblin wrote:

    "This clearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools"

    Muslims oppose Christian, Hinidu, Buddhist and Jewish schools in Muslims countries yet build their own religious schools. So why expect more from Australians? Furthermore, Egypt refused to allow a Jewish Museum permission to build recently, while they voiced no opposition to Arab and Muslim Museums being built. So why don't we address Arab and Muslim blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism for a change?

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  • 38. At 10:28am on 13 Oct 2009, bondifireman wrote:

    Being called "racist". It's an easy label to throw about. Whether you disagree with a philosophy or an idea, the easy way to counter is to shout, "you're racist!".
    How can anyone say that a nation of immigrants with a population of 22 million hasn't got some people that can be labelled with this term?
    I would like to think that the vast majority of migrants and visitors to this country would have the same view and experiences as the eloquent "Newsobserver87".
    I know Australia would gladly accept with open arms a person of such intellect and insight regardless of their origins.

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  • 39. At 11:03am on 13 Oct 2009, budgiesmuggler wrote:

    Is Australia unusually racist? There is no denying that actions taken in the past smacked of racism. Yet since the abolishment of the white australia policy, Australia has definately become less racist. Of my friendship group, I'm the only one who has all 4 grandparents born in Australia, the rest are all of Indian, Asian and European decent. This is the same amongst all the people I come into contact with.

    For those saying that Australia still has a white Australia policy, or something similar, here are the major countries of immigration from last year. FYI, there are no visa restrictions on NZlanders coming to Australia.

    Settler arrivals by region of birth between July 2008 and June 2009:

    Oceania and Antarctica 30 010
    Europe 29 294
    North Africa and the Middle East 11 143
    South East Asia 21 008
    North East Asia 20 977
    Southern Asia 25 900
    Central Asia 1 731
    Northern America 2 254
    South and Central America & the Caribbean 1 979
    Sub-Saharan Africa 13 025
    Supplementary Country Codes 671
    Not Stated/Not Elsewhere Included 29
    Grand Total 158 021

    #13 claims that Aboriginal people are under-represented in Australian life, media, politics etc. Well, only 2% of the Australian population is Aboriginal. On this statistic, they are massively over-represented. I support positive discrimination for Australia's indiginious population, however I think we need to look at things in perspective. From this, actually, Australia's Asian and European decendents are more under-represented than Aboriginals...

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  • 40. At 12:08pm on 13 Oct 2009, _surtr_ wrote:

    Nick, didn't you milk this one last year too?

    I heard the old "we're so much less racist than [insert country]" chestnut the last time as well. It's often dragged out as a kind of fallacious argument about why Australia's not racist, but only succeeds in explaining why Australia should be allowed to tolerate just a little, tiny, benign bit of racism (I mean, honestly, racism in other countries? It's just so VIRULENT).

    The comment that the skit indicates a "testament to the changing face of modern Australia" (because of the 'performers' mixed ethnicities) is interesting. Not only does it implicitly excuse racism when it's enacted by coloured people or as part of 'reverse discourse', but contextually that claim is meaningless - the same people performed the same skit 20 years ago. What did it testify then?

    Also disturbing is the fact that there are 5 doctors treating the Australian public who are so thoroughly unaware of how their actions may be perceived by others, whatever their original intentions. I hear Dr Anand Deva continues to proffer rambling ambivalent half-sorries in The Punch. His intent/result excuse reminds of the good intention/Stolen Generations defence.

    Finally, at the risk of having this reported as a racist flame, might I remind defenders of Australian egalitarianism that it's helpful to ensure that it is within the realm of possibility for you to be told to f-off back to Asia or be called a 'b***g', before commenting on whether occurrences like those exist in Australia at all. Best to stick to ethics and numbers in that case (for example, how many Aboriginal senators Australia has had, income gap, or life expectancy gap).

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  • 41. At 2:03pm on 13 Oct 2009, flutelou wrote:

    So much time is spent pointing the racism finger at whites in the West but what about the countries these people leave, just how welcoming and unracist are their countries? Why is there no finger pointing at the East and Middle East - other than poor Israel? Why do people leave their culture and unracist comfort zones to be a minority in the West and then complain about their awful minority situation? Seems odd all round!

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  • 42. At 3:24pm on 13 Oct 2009, LLvibes wrote:

    Well, speaking as an ethnic Chinese Vietnamese Australian whose parents who came out as boatpeople, all I have to say is that racism exists everywhere. Under Howard it was a disgrace but thank goodness that Bonsai Me-too Neocon wingnutter was kicked out of Parliament by his own electorate! To say that Australia is more racist than most other developed countries is however quite ridiculous.
    Have I ever experienced racism in Australia? Yes – by disenfranchised, small-minded and ill-informed, ignorant inbreds - yes. But I’ve also experienced racism overseas from so called white “sophisticated and tolerant” Europeans and North Americans who can’t seem to grasp that I can be an Asian-looking Australian. The patronising comments of how well I speak English, gee - it must be hard living in a white country (never mind most of my friends come from all over the place), where am I from – where am I really really from? or how come you don’t speak Chinese when you look Chinese? DUH! - the comments are quite remarkable and insulting. I thought it was a gem when I was patronisingly complimented on my good English from a British expat in China - who insisted Australia was the most racist country on earth even though he's never been there and his evidence was through the hearsay of a distant cousin somewhere in Woop Woop. He spoke English in a regional accent so thick his Chinese students complained they couldn’t understand his lessons.
    For every mention of the Cronulla riots – I could raise a litany of race riots overseas – anyone remember the Harrow Mosque riots? the Birmingham riots, the Benton riots, the Oldham riots, the Brixton riots blah blah blah – you get the point.
    Pauline Hanson might have had her 15 minutes of infamy and disappeared into a blackhole but what type of people would elect 2 BNP members to the European Parliament? A royal dressed up in a Nazi uniform? His dad thought it was quite “harmless” to call his coloured friend “Sooty” and his grandad calling the Chinese people “slitty” when in China. You'll probably describe that as casual racism if you're being kind...
    In regards to indigenous Australians, Australia still has a lot to do to close the gap in living conditions between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. It’s an ongoing process that the vast majority of people in this country I believe want to play a part in - whether you’re an eighth generation Australian or a newly naturalised Australian because we've all benefitted from the dispossession of our first Australians.
    I agree with one of the above posts however that the blackface skit does not have the same racist connotations here in Australia that it does in other parts of the world where there was a massive trade in human slavery from Africa. We have enough of our own racist past to mend without importing more from overseas. The producers should have known better or done some research to avoid showing such an act to someone who was likely to interpret it through his country’s particular historical and racial context...
    End of rant!

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  • 43. At 4:38pm on 13 Oct 2009, djavous wrote:

    This blog is growing and growing .....and apart from a few people complaining about not being allowed to open a Muslim school the general view is that Australia is not racist .It is a good thing because I dont want to live in a racist nation.:):):)(does bbc do smilies?)I wonder if Hindus and Sikhs also have problems trying to open up schools or are they happy with the current academic atmosphere the state has provided?Im quite happy for my child to attend the nearest school.

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  • 44. At 5:33pm on 13 Oct 2009, baadrat wrote:

    After living in Australia for a decade or so. I think Australia is a deeply racist country.

    maybe they ignornant but they are ok with anyting white or european but anything else destorys their way of life

    just see how people socialise, clear segregration, be pubs, food courts or any social event

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  • 45. At 10:23pm on 13 Oct 2009, Trappedintime wrote:

    Yes, there is racism in Australia - for all that it prides itself on its multiculturalism, Australia is more realistically a multi ethnic nation and between those different ethnicities you will encounter racism as the norm rather than the exception. It does appear though that it is only the anglos who are ever tarred with the racist brush and more often than not it is politically correct other anglos who always raise the issue on behalf of some other supposed victim. Here it is quite OK for a Chinese restaurant to refuse to employ a non Chinese and if a bunch of Lebanese target white girls the racist bellowing never rises above a whisper. But yes, racism is alive and well in Australia but it is only the whites who get accused of it.

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  • 46. At 00:07am on 14 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    There's a reason that white people get accused of racism more than others.
    You know, that whole empire deal, with all the killings, conquerings, slavery and such.
    I know that's an inconveniant thing to have as part of your past, but it happened and the repurcussions of it are still being suffered by millions and millions of people.

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  • 47. At 01:32am on 14 Oct 2009, evoguy6 wrote:

    I believe, racism is a issue brought about by a lot of factors, evolution, colonization, expansion and right now globalization. It is a fact that every breed / race tends to have certain characteristics that they've evolved out of and in my opinion it is this evolution that we'd have to work on to ease this conscious / sub-conscious issue of ' racism ' or the fear/hate relationship towards people who are different. Most humans come with a defensive mechanism to resist change and it shows not always in the prettiest way. I seriously believe adaptability is the way ahead and if people of all races aren't willing to adapt, the issue is never going to be addressed. The under-pinning fact of racism is " difference " and the more we as people choose to differentiate, myself from him and us from them we can see, hear and read more of this.

    Is there racism elsewhere.. Of-course there is.

    If we didn't live in a racist world, the Imperial Crowns of today would have been tried for crimes against humanity as well not just Saddam Hussein and Khmer Rouge to name a couple.

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  • 48. At 02:24am on 14 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    47 = evoguy6: I seriously believe adaptability is the way ahead and if people of all races aren't willing to adapt, the issue is never going to be addressed.

    I totally disagree with you here, because it is adapting that removes individuality. It is tolerance of the differences, not one adapting to another than is needed.
    When Australian Aboritines 'adapted' to the white way, or tried to, they were criticised by whites as having 'the best of both ways' and the comments from the racists towards them is, 'if you want to live black, stop taking our welfare'
    Other comments I have often heard, when an Aboriginal is seen driving in a new car or living in a new house...when they have adapted to white ways...'I'll bet our tax dollars are paying for that" ...when the person concerned is not on any welfare whatsoever.
    Yet there has never been compensation paid or offered to the Aborigines for the land taken from them. In Queensland, for example, wages owing to Aboriginal workers by the Qld State Government has never been fully paid.
    It is an offence for anyone to live anywhere other than designated areas, such as a home, rented accommodation, or the different forms of public housing, so Aboriginal people are forced to 'adapt' to a foreign culture, then they get criticised for using it.
    It is the assimilation, or 'adaptability' that has cause the trouble.

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  • 49. At 02:52am on 14 Oct 2009, vallywilson wrote:

    many of my none white freinds in australia are complaining about discrimination and racism. mankind needs to learn to live in peace and harmony

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  • 50. At 06:47am on 14 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    Well said Petesyc.
    Tolerance is about accepting that people are different, have different traditions and cultures, and being fine about it.

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  • 51. At 07:05am on 14 Oct 2009, AntmaNZ wrote:

    Re: Oioioi2's comment about "irrelevant" countries (i.e UK and NZ). You have just answered the thread of this blog if your comments are at all representative. Wakey wakey, NZ is still consititutionally part of Australia as far as your very 1901 Federal constitution goes. Read it.Learn. People like you don't seem to complain when Aust corporations come in and buy up NZ companies and land, hoover up billions in profit (esp banks)and repatriate it back to OZ. So - suck it up, mate. Whilst I think racism is an intellectually lazy accusation to bandy about and I don't think Australia as a country can be/should be labelled as "racist" , I certainly have encountered a lot of cringeworthy rednecks there (something to do with the climate?). I as a white NZer I can vouch for having been subjected to racist comments in Australia. One case in particular bares retelling: being spat on and physically jostled, along with my sister, by picketing ex-Ansett employees/ trade unionists whilst checking-in for an Air NZ flight at Brisbane airport(post Ansett collapse, Sept 2001) Pretty frightening and humiliating I recall. I boycotted OZ as a tourist destination. Only went back for first time last year. The second disturbing incident I recall is being in Sydney January 26 2000. With all those Aust flags flying, it was reminiscent of a 1930s Nuremberg rally. Creepy. Its one thing to be proud of one's country, another to be a base flag-waving nationalist. Non-Anglo people in Australia just assume that they are the only target of redneck aussie racism. I can assure you that is not so, Brits and Kiwis come in for some pretty moronic cr@p too (oh, unless they are something OZ badly needs: NRL players or Rugby coaches, heads of banks). I think the real issue is that Australia in attempting to shrug off its colonial cringe,and define itself as a contmeproray society is in danger of going to the other extreme of masking inferiority with a superiority complex. Deeply unattractive. Just be yourselves, will you? You are actually Ok people (with a few exceptions) but please: you don't have to bang on telling foreigners ad nauseum how wonderful Australia is.... how much better things are in Australia.. how houses are bigger, the beer colder...the best cricketers.. blah blah blah. Y-a-w-n. OK? WE GET IT!!!! You like Australia!!!! You just don't have to denigrate other ethnicities/countries to make yourself feel good. You just become the Ugly Australians. Just show a little humility and sensitivity to others. You'll find it goes a very long way. Capiche?

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  • 52. At 08:00am on 14 Oct 2009, RL wrote:

    Is Australia racist? For my years over there, YES. But I do not really care.

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  • 53. At 09:22am on 14 Oct 2009, irisav wrote:

    I've followed much of the British coverage and content spinners (public comments) relating to the fallout from the Hey Hey skit and having contributed to many UK news based forums over the past few years felt exhausted at diving into what amounts to more or less the same criticisms thrown at Australia over any number of issues.

    Australia's level of 'casual' racism seems to be a popular criticism that emerges in British comments which is often countered by Australian comments that go along the lines of 'pot. kettle. black'.

    I think that there must be some problem of an unrecognised level of racism that exists within Australian society as it is obviously a persistent and strong perception of Australia held by many British people (who I'm going to presume have spent some time in Australia and aren't basing it on witnessing drunken Australian backpackers - lets face it's unfair to judge any nation on how their youth behave while on Contiki tours).

    However, I'm not convinced that it is likely that Australia is unusually racist compared to other nations. I think that the key to some of the comments is a matter of 'perception'. I think that when in a new country one is far more attuned to the content of dialogue overheard/experienced as representative of that country. Whereas if equivalent dialogue is heard in one's own country we are far more inclined to dismiss it as ignorance/generational/minority opinion.

    The perception also relates to the cultural sub-text of words. For instance in Australia the term 'w-g' can be used derogatorily, affectionately or as part of cultural ownership/pride. From what I understand of Britain though the term is an exceedingly offensive reference to anyone who isn't white. So it seems natural that someone from the UK in Australia hearing its use in conversation would come away with the beginnings of a fairly dim view.

    The perception, however, goes both ways, I've heard British people refer to people of Chinese descent as 'Orientals' which to my ears (and my partner who as been referred to as such) is offensive. I have to assume, however, that it is culturally acceptable in Britain rather than an expression of an endemic form of racism.

    I do think that deciding to revisit the Jackson Jive 'skit' was a moment of breath taking stupidity - but is it evidence of an undercurrent of xenophobia in Australian society? No, not really. Believe it or not it is significant that Australia is a relatively cohesive multicultural society, it is also worth noting that each cultural group will contain within it members who themselves exhibit racist opinions. The statements that my malay-chinese mother-in-law has prefaced with 'I'm not rascist but...' have made me squirm.

    I guess the what I'm asking is when one says 'Australia is rascist...' which Australia are you referring to?

    Also to post #51

    Your likening of Sydney on 26th January 2000 to Nuremburg is a little odd. It was Australia day and the lead into the 2000 Olympics which were held in Sydney and everyone was looking forward to Cathy Freeman winning Gold and carrying both flags - that year people were feeling unnaturally happy to be Australian (despite Howard being at the height of his power - but what joy was felt when an American newspaper referred to him vaguely as an 'Australian Official' when pictured next to the US president).

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  • 54. At 09:38am on 14 Oct 2009, MMercado wrote:

    Is Australia UNUSUALLY racist? NOPE!

    But we do have an unusual sense-of-humour and an unusually high level of freedom-of-expression (which we might take for granted) compared to many other countries.

    From my perspective as an Australian born to Filipino parents, I do get veiled racist comments and sometimes detect different treatment from people I don't know but then so do my Anglo-Australian mates! We're sure it's coming from misunderstandings rather than any deep-seated xenophobia.

    You'd be a naive if you think that any human being in the World escapes the tendency to discriminate! The "everyday" racism in our country is apolitical (a combination of a lack of sensitivity, lack of historical knowledge and the right to freedom-of-expression!) showing its very ugly side with the help of alcohol and mob mentality, ocassionally escalating to violence. This is a sad truth but not UNUSUAL.

    The real problem is obvious- it's the failure/refusal of both sides to make the effort to understand each other on even the simplest of levels i.e that overused word we know as "ignorance". We'll catch up when the rest of the bloody world does!

    P.S I agree, ggmomo

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  • 55. At 10:53am on 14 Oct 2009, sydneycynic wrote:

    To all those people abusing Australians. I just say you're all racists.

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  • 56. At 12:11pm on 14 Oct 2009, NETCRUSHER wrote:

    SO the brown skinned Indian with the white face was not racist? Just the non-Anglo Australians depicting black ppl? Does that make sense in a nation that has had no African-American Slavery HYPOCRICY in the times of Obama......... I hate sensationalism and this is a classic example that is so cringe worthy... The "English Defence League" is a much more serious case of racisms in a country that has been recently hit badly by the economic crisis and stems out the frustrations...Take it in context... Cronulla..... ALCOHOL.....and a lifesaver getting attacked + mob mentality.... not actually as racist as FOX NEWS said it was... The irony is that FOX NEWS was the network over in the US that again really attacked Australia for being " backwards" yet I bet some of those white, blonde fox news reporters have not even walked the streets of Sydney or Melbourne where they would find 60% of the ppl walking around to be from an Asian country.....I have never seen a racist attack on an Asian Australian in my time here.... that says a lot....

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  • 57. At 12:47pm on 14 Oct 2009, Omegasaurus wrote:

    Well if a bitter Kiwi says Australia is racist, it must be. AntmaNZ answered your question Nick, you can go back to talking about sport now.

    As a non-white Australian, my experiences echo LLvibes' - I have been a victim of racism in Australia, just as I've been a victim of racism in every country I've been to. We don’t have a monopoly on small-minded people. However, the worst I've had to deal with in Australia is countering prejudice based on my culture (no, I'm not in an arranged marriage, thanks for asking) and while I'd prefer not to experience either I'd vastly prefer that to being yelled at and called a Paki (thanks for making me feel welcome in your country, English people!). Racist ignorance to me is not on the same level as racist hatred, and while there is certainly a lot of low-level racism in Australia and this is not a feature of any ideal society, I don't think there's any country in the world which is entirely free of racism and I feel far safer and happier here than I have anywhere else.

    I think the Hey Hey skit was undoubtedly in poor taste (although one could make the argument that the entire show is in poor taste), but I think this stems from ignorance of American history rather than of outright hatred of people of colour. Interestingly, French Vogue have included in their latest issue a photo shoot with Lara Stone (a white Dutch model) in blackface, and there's been surprisingly little comment on this. Is going to the length of painting up a white model rather than hiring a black model better or worse than painting faces for an impersonation, or are we more willing to excuse the ignorance of some cultures than others?

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  • 58. At 1:28pm on 14 Oct 2009, Aus_JD wrote:

    No Nick we're not unusually racist at all.

    Just the usual racism around here mate. Not much of it left though......

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  • 59. At 1:53pm on 14 Oct 2009, Aus_JD wrote:

    Iftikhar_Ahmad (posts 23 and 24) said:
    1)"Muslims have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their culture."
    I agree. In a country founded on the ideals of Islam go for it. In other countries, I must ask what constitutes "their culture"?
    To me you preach segregation.

    2)"This notion of "integration", actually means "assimilation", by which people generally really mean "be more like me". That is not multiculturalism."
    Absolutely! Multiculturalism is a crock and in my opinion doesn't work.

    Greek and Italian immigrants to Australian shores came here under the white Australia policy. Their skin colour and religion were the only things familiar to white Australians. Almost every other aspect of their cultures were strange. They had to integrate as they had no choice.

    Did they lose their cultural heritage, history and sense of self?. No. Australian Greek and Italian families exist in a large, fully integrated and social cohesive group.

    Did they enrich Australia with many customs we have since taken a liking to? Yes. Widows in black. Scary fathers with strange dating customs. A strange love of this weird round ball game. The food and the laid back lifestyle that goes with it!

    Did they change the current social fabric for the benefit of themselves and native born Australians. Yes.

    All this was achieved without "multiculturalism" and instead used assimilation as the model. And guess what? It worked.

    Now with "Multiculturalism" we have exactly that. Areas of this city (Sydney) that are a Microcosm of the worlds ill's. Suburbs actually divided along ethnic lines.

    Why do some people have this driving need to not upset anyone? All countries should be strong enough to say, "You are welcome to come and join us as a citizen, but we do things this way. Like it or go somewhere else"

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  • 60. At 2:27pm on 14 Oct 2009, Aus_JD wrote:

    Iftikhar_Ahmad said: "In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school, because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools."

    Unless it was a private catholic school(rare) then it would have been approved as a part of the State Education system.

    Your statement clearly shows that you know nothing of the state education system in Australia yet feel free to make a broad based statement on it. (You are in education right?)

    Catholic Schools are exactly one half of the State school system. You have to go back in history but basically the Catholic church offered to fund a great deal of State Eduction after all religious groups (read Christian) were rather aggressively "locked" out by the man who helped create the Public School system (a rabid atheist), from the old national schools system used before Federation. When the government realised they couldn't afford it the Catholic Church was back in.

    So rather than "This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism." it actually shows the depth of your ignorance and your willingness to slander something that you have absolutely no comprehension of. Some might even call it a bigoted attack on Christianity.

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  • 61. At 6:03pm on 14 Oct 2009, Rossco737 wrote:

    The blog has the wrong title. It should be "Is Australia un-ashamedly un PC?". To which the answer is a resounding YES.
    We can still have a laugh about these things without getting all up tight, there was no malice involved anyone can see that.

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  • 62. At 02:56am on 15 Oct 2009, greg00m wrote:

    46. At 00:07am on 14 Oct 2009, JPWallace wrote:

    There's a reason that white people get accused of racism more than others.
    You know, that whole empire deal, with all the killings, conquerings, slavery and such.
    I know that's an inconveniant thing to have as part of your past, but it happened and the repurcussions of it are still being suffered by millions and millions of people.

    To that I'll reply that while pretty much all of the border problems from Vietnam to Turkey to South Africa were caused by the continental European powers, the racial strife has been in existence long before Europe was a power. Look at how light skinned Asians treat dark skinned ones, and all of them take every pill and cover themselves to avoid looking "dark" for the kind of treatment they receive. How about how Africans are treated around the world, which happens to be inhabited by mostly non-white people.

    It is the kind of excuse making by #46 that allows non-white countries to continue to make excuses for their domestic state of affairs with regards to race and gender: "it's whitey's fault".

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  • 63. At 03:51am on 15 Oct 2009, Ausapathy wrote:

    Is Australia racist? No more or less than anywhere else, it's just that we don't waste or time wringing our hands over it. I've lived in six countries and they've all had racist aspects and elements - all of them.
    Sure we had Pauline Hanson and the one nation party but so what? In Britain you have the BNP and in the US white militias are scattered around the country like a rash. I'll tell you something else about one nation - if old Adolph had people like that behind him in 1928 he'd still be in the beer hall. Our racists tend to be a bit disorganised and largely ineffectual - like the rest of our intitutions.

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  • 64. At 04:44am on 15 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    greg00m, certainly there is racism everywhere.
    It is an unfortunate part of the human condition.
    I'm not attribtuing blame at all.
    What I'm saying is that often white people are held to a higher standard of non-racist behaviour for a number of reasons.
    Now this is dangerous ground, because I really don't want to insult anyone, and this conversation, by it's nature, is really a series of generalisations and fairly trite observations (from me as much as anyone).
    What I was getting at (and looking back I didn't word it very well at all), is that in recent human history (say the last three or four hundred years), Europeans have created a very powerful and lasting legacy.
    Some good things, some bad things.
    In terms of race, European colonial powers destroyed alot of cultures, conquered alot of land and people (most of the world really), murdered millions, commited genocide (the Tasmanian Aborigines for example), had a slavery industry on a massive scale and introduced disease, alcohol and guns to cultures that had never had them before, amongst other things.
    Obviously there are examples of these things in other cultures. But you'd struggle to find anything on quite the same scale for the same sustained period.
    It's a reputation white Europeans still have in many nations of the world, rightly or wrongly.
    But this is really off topic.

    Australia is a pretty peaceful place, and for the most part is quite respectful of other cultures and peoples. There is racism here though, and it is somewhat ingrained. As I've said before it's more of a patronising ignorance than anything virulent or very dangerous.
    But it's there.

    In response to the more general argument that people should give Australia a break because even though we have racism, other countries are worse, I'll simply say that two wrongs don't make a right, and that argument sounds a hell of a lot like a cop out.

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  • 65. At 08:33am on 15 Oct 2009, quiteBigNick wrote:

    I think that generally Australia is less racist than most Western democracies, but the people who are racist are more vocal about it in public.

    Ironically enough, the most racist people I've met in Australia are immigrants from the UK.

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  • 66. At 12:53pm on 15 Oct 2009, BIgdannyray wrote:

    Rossco737 - You're spot on & I'd rather live with the "Unashamedly non-PC" than the total PC that the UK is today...

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  • 67. At 2:19pm on 15 Oct 2009, sickofbeingbashed wrote:

    Why is it that when you poke fun at a person or a group it's racist? Unless of course it's white males, seems to be open season on them.... While I didn't see the particular skit in question, it sounds amusing. It's been a longstanding joke that Michael Jackson was trying to turn white.

    To Rossco737 in post 61, thank you!! Pretty soon all we'll be able to talk about is the weather....unless we offend the weathermen!

    As to the complaint about a lack of publicly funded Muslim schools in non-Muslim countries, why do you live there? Wouldn't it be better to live in a primarily Muslim country where your children would be exposed to the values you want them taught all of the time? I live in the US and I am sick to death of people coming to this country for a better life and then spurning our way of life. If you don't like our county, DON"T COME. Find a country you actually like and settle there. We may not be perfect but everyone is trying to get IN not out so we must have something going for us. And before the "you're so racist" comments come pouring in, all 4 of my grandparents came from foreign countries. They wanted better lives so they came here, learned the language and tried to fit in. I am only the second generation born in this country and I have never thought of myself as anything but American. I know where my ancestors came from by that is not my nationality. Obviously if those places were so great my grandparents never would have left.

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  • 68. At 4:07pm on 15 Oct 2009, greg00m wrote:

    @ JPWallace

    "Obviously there are examples of these things in other cultures. But you'd struggle to find anything on quite the same scale for the same sustained period.
    It's a reputation white Europeans still have in many nations of the world, rightly or wrongly."

    Western countries are held to a higher standard mostly as scapegoats by leaders of non-white countries. Just look at climate change legislation.
    Additionally, many non-white countries like to point out how they were charting the stars while white people where living in caves, scared of the thunder. So how is it that such massively superior cultures with modern (at the time) armies and long strategic and diplomatic histories were to easy to knock over?

    In recent history, the Chinese and Russians (Caucasian, but not really western) have committed spectacular atrocities against their own people, well beyond Hitler. The sponsorship of Pol Pot is another example, so are the butchering of tribal minorities in Africa that start in the 10,000s and reach into the 100,000s on a frequent basis. Machetes and machine guns aren't as efficient as gas ovens, but when the targets are women and children who can't fight back the result is the same.

    And don't forget that the European slave traders needed cooperation with tribal leaders to obtain slaves, who the tribal leaders quickly sold for guns, ammo and European goods.

    Most of the "developing" world's atrocities occurred before Europe took off as a power. And plenty of atrocities continue to be carried out by ethnic groups against each other, often in the name of ancient animosities.

    I'm reminded of a Doonesbury cartoon I read a while back. An Iraqi and a US soldier are riding in a Humvee:

    Iraqi: I have a family duty to avenge the death of my relative.
    American: When did this happen? Last month?
    Iraqi: 1152

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  • 69. At 11:04pm on 15 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    You're drawing a very long bow Greg00m.
    I wasn't bringing it up to debate whether or not the perception of white Eruopeans as racist is true or not.
    I don't think that's an argument that's worth having.
    But the perception is there.
    Some of your points I would take issue with. You have a very limited view of the events you use to illustrate your point.
    Just as an example, Pol Pot was essentially sponsered by the US govt to sieze power, along with many othe horrible, despotic dictators who've oppressed their people.
    The irony in using him as example should not be lost on anyone.
    Equally your example of the american soldier with the Iraqi is flawed.
    What the hell is the American soldier doing in this Iraqi's country, judging his traditions and value? How patronising, and how ridiculous.

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  • 70. At 06:18am on 16 Oct 2009, greg00m wrote:

    "Just as an example, Pol Pot was essentially sponsered by the US govt to sieze power, along with many othe horrible, despotic dictators who've oppressed their people."

    JP, really interesting point of view and revisionist history. Considering that Mao invaded Vietnam to spare Pol Pot's regime, which was Maoist in nature. I've seen some of the articles you will probably refer to, but you miss the point that Vietnam and China were never allies. Remember, China had invaded Vietnam 12 times in about 1000 years with varying degrees of success and some catastrophic failures.

    China did supply Vietnam, but only for competition with Russia for relations and influence, especially since Russia and China had become enemies and the USSR naval base at Cam Rahn Bay was on par with Pearl Harbor.

    What country are you from JP? I'm sure we could find quite a bit of dirt. Or will you claim NZ heritage?

    "Equally your example of the american soldier with the Iraqi is flawed.
    What the hell is the American soldier doing in this Iraqi's country, judging his traditions and value? How patronising, and how ridiculous."

    Well, seeing as how much of Europe, Russia, China, India, Canada and I'm sure Australia though to a much lesser extent sent companies into Iraq They were all behind that American soldier to solidify natural resource and reconstruction contracts with the Iraqi interim gov't, which would pay with loans based on estimated oil/gas/mineral reserves granted by the WB and IMF. The US and the UK did the dirty work, the rest of the G20 came in as carpet baggers.

    And the judgement passed on older cultures that hold family and ethnic grudges for centuries is very justified considering that those grudges lie behind many border disputes and ethnic/religious rivalries. At least those that aren't directly attributable to Europe's redrawing of world borders.

    Do share with us your vast and profound grasp of global politics and history, I'm just an ignorant, white American who is accountable for all of the world's problems.

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  • 71. At 12:17pm on 16 Oct 2009, expatpommie wrote:

    I live in Australia and love much about it, but it is astonishingly, unapologetically racist. Take a look at this article published today,27574,26217208-5007146,00.html, I don't think anybody would allow it's publication in the Uk or US- here it won't even be remarked on.
    I can't tell you how often ordinary people here use the phrase "I've got nothing against (insert name of minority group) but..."and nobody thinks there is anything wrong with it.

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  • 72. At 12:54pm on 16 Oct 2009, wollemi wrote:

    'The US and the UK did the dirty work, the rest of the G20 came in as carpet baggers'

    Well, Australia is in the G20, and there was a scandal about the Australian Wheat Board's dealings in Iraq.....
    However....Australia contributed combat forces to the invasion of Iraq, as did Poland. Then, an Australian deployment stayed on, which was against the initial plan to be involved only in the invasion

    I'm not surprised it has been forgotten. There's a long tradition in Australia of having its military contribution 'forgotten' by the major alliance partner.
    Britain was rather prone to this - there's an unshakeable belief there that 'Britain stood alone' after France fell in mid 1940. This was a surprise to the rest of the British Empire which had been at war since September 1939 and contributed millions of men to the defence of Britain, to the detriment of preparing for the Pacific War

    Then there's Doug MacArthur who felt he won Port Moresby against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1942. In reality, MacArthur hadn't been up to New Guinea and it was a small Australian force led by the remarkable Arnold Potts which forced a Japanese retreat in 1942

    Then there's Robert McNamara who, reflecting late in life, decided that the US went into Vietnam with none of its allies. A surprise for the Asian/Anzac allies, who had fought a 10 year war

    Probably Afghanistan will be the same, it will be remembered as a NATO conflict and Australia is not part of NATO, so no Australians forces were there

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  • 73. At 10:10pm on 16 Oct 2009, BryantObsessed wrote:

    it's not simple.

    I don't believe Australia is rascist, but i'm at a loss to describe what it is.

    My best mate at school was called China. he still is. he was mocked mercilessly but also accepted. The mocking was awful but funny. China thought so too. Is that racist?

    every block of refugees or immigrants has to undergo a period of being 'brought into line' with humour and teasing. Remember all the vietnamese jokes? tough love but we didn't mind their retuarants, bakerys, their role of school councils or them as neighbours. Yep, they smelled different, but over a beer all was forgotten. Is that racist?

    Delving into the past beyond the 70's seems pointless to me. Australia is so different. trying to reconcile a very open and welcoming country built from the very of 'others' when there really isn't a "us" just a whole lot of "thems".

    Waleed ALy was superb on Q&A going head to head against Christopher Hitchens. But i'm still lacking that great essay that can reconcile the australian experience of bringing "thems" into the world of "us" in its brutal but ultimately accepting way.

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  • 74. At 01:55am on 17 Oct 2009, expatpommie wrote:

    The thing is BryantObsessed, whilst you and your friends might have found mocking your friend amusing, the truth is he will face discrimination his whole life here in the job market.
    Those people that grow up making those jokes at school grow up to be bosses who don't hire people because they are not "Anglos". Which surely is when it's not funny any more.

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  • 75. At 04:17am on 17 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    I would love to see, if a study like this was done in the UK, how dark skinned and alternative ethnic persons would fared there.
    It must be remembered, here in Australia, that up till the early 60's, many employers would ask you your religious persuasion on a job application. Very few Irish Catholics would get a meaningful job in the print or private radio industry...with the exception of the Catholic owned papers or radio stations of that time.
    Once that discrimination was removed, many of Irish Catholic backgrounds flooded the ABC, the first to stop the discrimination, and from there came many of today's top journalists, including Mike Willesee, Kerry O'Brian, Barry Cassidy etc.
    As for Aborigines, they didn't stand a chance, especially if they had an Irish sounding name.

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  • 76. At 05:11am on 17 Oct 2009, scrap-the-jack wrote:

    Petesyc, google UK racism and it will take you to the BBC where the same test was done in 2004.

    Strangely enough pretty much same result.

    Expatpommie, I agree discrimination is never funny, but if you make fun of ALL your mates except your non anglo mates is that not a form of discrimination? Are there some subjects that are absolutely taboo?

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  • 77. At 07:07am on 17 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    Thanks scrapthejack...not that strange to me, considering the racist comments I often hear from 'Aussies' with strong British regional accents.

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  • 78. At 10:30am on 17 Oct 2009, expatpommie wrote:

    I have lived in both countries, both for many years and I can tell you, hands down Australia is more racist. It isn't something that we like to admit about ourselves but we are. After you live in the Uk for a while and then come back it hits you hard like a slap in the face. Australia is deeply, deeply racist which isn't to say that many English people aren't. However, the Uk media aren't racist, the Australian media are. Also, in polite London society making a racist comment would get you ostracised pretty quickly, in Sydney it happens every day and noone bats an eyelid. The aussies on here can protest all they like but that is the truth. You only needed to look at the comments on any of the Aussie news sites about the Hey Hey It's Saturday story to see that the majority of Aussies thought it was just a pretty funny joke. If that skit had aired in the UK there would have been uproar, sackings and the general public would have been horrified. Not so here. I can't count how many comments said that it was "just a joke" and that Harry Connick Jr 'overreacted'.

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  • 79. At 12:20pm on 17 Oct 2009, wollemi wrote:


    I would suggest 3 points

    Firstly studies as in #74 have to compare like with like. The US has immigrant numbers of 12% compared to Australia at 24%. Whilst Australia has migrants, what the US has is...minorities, ie groups such as African Americans who began arriving in 1619 and have largely maintained a separate identity within the US. Discussing discrimination against minorities is not the same as discussing discrimination against migrants
    So that might explain why Italian names come out highly in the Australian study. There was an Italian migrant influx in the 1950s/1960s which tailed off in the 1970s. An Italian name rather suggests to the employer the person is a second generation/3rd generation Australian, raised and educated locally
    It would be interesting to follow whether there is discriminatory hiring of Vietnamese, who arrived in the 1970s/1980s and whose children would now likely be perceived as 2nd generation Australian.
    I'm not suggesting any discrimination is positive but I suspect what the researchers have attempted to do is just extrapolate a study from the US without considering what is being perceived. Race or acculturation

    Point 2 is in a society with 24% of people born overseas, who is doing the discriminating?
    People arrive here with some historical 'baggage'
    I doubt an Australian Armenian would work for an Australian Turkish company, do you?

    Point 3 is that the UK deals in the racism of silence.
    This is most obvious in the UK's failure to address the accusations from Aboriginal Australia about how this country was colonised.

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  • 80. At 12:42pm on 17 Oct 2009, Tronbirk wrote:

    Racism is about hating or feeling superior over another race. There was none of that in the Hey Hey skit so therefore it wasn't racist.

    Also, I checked it out on youtube after all the fuss and I must say that Harry Connick Junior was all class. Before seeing it I was under the impression that he thought we were disgusting racist pigs, that just wasn't the case at all, he just gave it an American perspective.

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  • 81. At 1:32pm on 17 Oct 2009, uluru30a wrote:

    Racism exists wherever two racial groups co-exist. They both strive to maintain their identity by highlighting their differences often belittling the other. Does that make racism right? Of course not. But over time the two groups tend to merge and the level of racism dimishes. In Australia that has happened as each new wave of immigrants has arrived. The mainland Europeans in the 50s, the Vietnamese in the 70s, the Eastern Mediterraneans and Africans in recent times. Each have been descriminated against initially and progressively less so.

    And that is what makes Australia. Not perfect - but a safe refuge for those escaping the poverty and/or terrors of their birth nations.

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  • 82. At 3:17pm on 17 Oct 2009, scrap-the-jack wrote:

    expatpommie have you ever seen Little Britian?
    David Walliams dressed as an obese black woman, Matt Lucas coloured up and acting as a computer geek. How many more minority groups do they offend in one of britians top rating shows? How about Goodness Gracious Me, a bunch of actors sending up traditional Indian values. Not to forget Ali G, Bromwell High etc etc.
    So where was the uproar and sackings you tell us about?

    Now tell me how ONE three minute tastless sketch makes us so much worse than you?

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  • 83. At 5:21pm on 17 Oct 2009, LLvibes wrote:

    Thanks for bringing up Little Britain Scrap-the-Jack. I don't know of a show in Australia that would allow the depiction of the Ting Tong character as an Asian mail-order bride/ possibly a prostitute speaking with broken English to be shown on OZ tv, or allow someone to send up an Indigeneous Australian in a fat black suit.

    And while we talk about our first Australians, can the Brits please please please lobby your museums and universities to repatriate all the skulls and body remains of our indigenous people so they can be buried and laid to rest by their descendants and tribal nations? As noted by one of the elders who had travelled to the UK to campaign for their return a few years back and which to this day I have not forgotten - "they called us savages but who were the ones who came to our country to do the headhunting?" It's 2009 people - these so called institutions of progress and enlightenment should show some human decency and respect. Some of your institutions have done what's right but not enough of them are. See for an example of some decency. Others like Oxford and Cambridge should be shamed though! Remaining quiet does not mean that they don't exist and that Britain played no part in the attempted genocide of OZ's indigenous peoples.

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  • 84. At 01:52am on 18 Oct 2009, NETCRUSHER wrote:

    expatpommie - I quote: "Australia is deeply, deeply racist" Is that a true reflection of multicultural Australia? What an absurdist argument to make and just showcases your anger towards this country (probably something personal) If you walk around Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney what do you see? Answer me that? You see the majority of people from an Asian background (meaning tourists, Australian citizens or international students generally) Australia is becoming more and more a part of Asia and the link is a testimony to how we survived the economic disaster that hit your country much harder. Your comments are simply stupid to put it bluntly. I speak an Asian language and so does our PM.....The Melbourne Mayor is also from an Asian background.... does that make us more racist? Can you speak Polish? It makes you British look out of touch of the real Australia and another reason why we were voted most liveable next to Norway in the entire world..... Can a deeply, deeply racist place with such a diverse cultural mix be the 2nd most liveable??? ....... Australia is one of only a few countries that operate a dedicated offshore resettlement program, which accepts the world’s most disadvantaged and distressed people. The program makes available 12,000 new places for refugee and humanitarian entrants each year. Australia does not have a mainstream culture that can be described as “deeply, deeply racist” and I would like you to retract that comment please. It is offensive as an Australian.

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  • 85. At 01:53am on 18 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    LLvibes: "....does not mean that .... Britain played no part in the attempted genocide of OZ's indigenous peoples."
    It seems strange to me that there are those that still believe atrocities against Aborigines were somehow the fault of was done by Brits, in a British Colony. It was the well shod Brits who were given the land for free, who ordered the decapitations, slaughters and wanton murders of our original people, and then when the truth couldn't be kept under wraps, wiped their hands of the whole mess by claiming it was 'Australians' as it we were an independent nation....and nothing will change until we stand alone and completely independent of ALL other nations...particular 'Mother England' and her racist off spring she continues to send our way.

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  • 86. At 1:18pm on 18 Oct 2009, sjw3000 wrote:

    expatpommie: "However, the Uk media aren't racist, the Australian media are. Also, in polite London society making a racist comment would get you ostracised pretty quickly, in Sydney it happens every day and noone bats an eyelid."

    Of course, the anti-immigrant crusades waged by the red tops have no shades of racism whatsoever, right?

    And polite society, that wouldn't include the likes of Prince Charles, Philip and Harry now would it?

    Australia has its problems with racism. But to have Brits sit there on their high horse and lecture Australians on racism, passing such judgement, is utterly ridiculous.

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  • 87. At 2:12pm on 18 Oct 2009, acommontater wrote:

    There is currently a debate in some quarters here in the United States. Are we a democracy or a republic. In a larger sense, is the World one or the other? A group dominated by a lynch mob in number is empowered to do whatever it likes as it is in the majority. On the other hand, people under a republican form of government (i.e. governed by a set of laws, impartially) would not allow the mistreatment of one party over another, no matter how unpopular the particular set of circumstances make up the issue. Therefore I ask, is Australians under the law or under majority rule. Men of goodwill should live under and apply that standard to the United States or to Australia or to the World at large.

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  • 88. At 00:00am on 19 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    acommontater 87: Democracy to me is 'to the people, for the people, by the people'. Any system, be it a Republic or a Monarchy, that espouses to this claim is democratic. America is a democratic Republic, under the understandings of those terms. However,any nation, Republic or Monarchy, whose head of state, Prime Minister or President receives less than 50% of the vote, or in the case of Britain's head of state, no vote at all, can hardly be called Democratic in my opinion.
    Australia has got to be one of the few true democracies because we have compulsory voting, which means all Australians get to vote for the representatives in all we have to do is replace the non elected head of State, who happend to be a foreigner, the British Royals, and we will end up the only true democracy.
    As to you suggesting a democracy is a lynch mob system, while a republic is a follower of law, would you apply this to Cuba? Would you apply this to Venuesela, to Zimbabwe?
    What makes for a good democracy, whether Monachist or Republic, is how informed are the voters. Poor and ill informed voters elect selfish and corrupt minority leaders.

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  • 89. At 03:14am on 19 Oct 2009, krytenwalia wrote:

    Yes Oz is a racist nation, but, whether or not it's worse than others is up for discussion. As a British Indian I've been surprised by comments that I've not heard in the UK since the early 80s-'you're ok but most Indians/Chinese et al....' They seem to think that a London accent means you don't notice bigotry towards others. The place has a chip on its shoulder as it's a white country surrounded by non whites and that causes a 'gather round the wagons' mentality. There is a 'we're better than you' attitude and comparisons with other nations, even though most have never been to them. Aussies love to return from London saying how costly it is and how everything here is cheap and great; it IS costly for the travellers cos it's the 1st time they've left home & mummy'n'daddy aren't paying for toilet rolls/bills etc. They should grow up. But, there's some brilliant stuff here that they don't seem to want to promote. The way they speak about Aboriginal people is disgusting and uncomfortable to hear, but as it's not about Indians they think I shouldn't mind. Most seem to have quite a racist attitude towards "Asians" as if Asians are all the same not the majority peoples on the planet. It's noticable how Aussies don't like being questioned about there racist attitudes and say 'if you don't like it go back'-surprising as all non-Aboriginal peoples are from immigrant stock.

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  • 90. At 08:05am on 19 Oct 2009, LLvibes wrote:

    Reply to post 89 - Most seem to have quite a racist attitude towards "Asians" as if Asians are all the same not the majority peoples on the planet.

    I have to say my experiences have been true of Brits as well – except they don’t say “you’re okay but most Chinese et al”… because they don’t trust that I’m a real Australian. They still see me as Chinese – same as all the other Chinese in China so when I show my familiarity of Western culture (after all it’s what I grew up with) they are always soooo surprised - I’m such a novelty. It’s still a barrier for them to see past my skin, let alone my accent.

    As to the usage of the word “Asian” - I rather have my ethnic background referred to as “Asian” than “Oriental” thanks. I haven’t heard of the term oriental except in re-runs of black and white matinee movies on a Saturday as child or on an antique TV show talking about exotic 18th century oriental rugs and other collectible pieces. In Southeast Asian history and Northeast Asian political science studies (and depending on how long ago the text book was written) the term oriental usually referred to anyone from Central Asia, Turkey, the Middle East through to China, Mongolia, Japan, to India, down to Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia – basically a very large chunk of the world that was not Europe.

    You may think “Asian” a racist term whereas I don’t but I do find the word “Oriental” offensive. It really depends on what words you are familiar with and the cultural subtext behind its use. While most Brits I know use the word Asian to describe people from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), the word Asian in Australia refers to people from Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia (or East Asia). Here it contains a regional meaning. I also refer to myself as Asian when I want to keep conversations about ethnicity/ myself short - but usually people learn not to ask about my ethnicity unless they know me better and know that I know the question is not a form of exclusion but is aked out of genuine curisoity about my heritage. I believe it is possible to have multiple identities even though I have one nationality and when I use the term Asian it prevents me from having to go into a long explanation of my different backgrounds. It is easier for me to say that I have an Asian background than to explain that I am ethnic Chinese Vietnamese with ancestry from the Fujian/ Guangdong Provinces, but have never been to those places. It also prevents me having to explain why I cannot speak Chinese or Vietnamese. I understand bits and pieces (a mongrel mix of several dialects) but not enough to hold a basic conversation independently. No, I don’t speak Chinese and Vietnamese and what Chinese are you referring to? Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Hokkien, Chaozhou or Shanghainese as they are mutually unintelligible from each other but do share the same written script, and with variations. The CCP’s attempt to nationalise Mandarin as the official language has helped to forge one common language but outside of the major cities and wealthy provinces, most don’t speak Mandarin. Or maybe you’re asking about the Vietnamese that my parents grew up with before the civil war there?

    That’s the same with a lot of my Australian friends from Southeast Asia and the South Pacific who are ethnic-Chinese Malaysian, ethnic-Chinese Laos/ Cambodian/ Thai/ Indonesian, Chinese Papuan or ethnic Indian Fijian etc. Unless you’re specifically asked what exactly is your ethnicity you are usually vague about your background or you simply refer to the ethnic group that your parents/ grandparents most strongly identify with – so it could be Chinese, Vietnamese or Malaysian. And depending on the situation and how you feel, you may say your ethnicity is Chinese in one situation but Vietnamese in another.

    Referring to John So (Melbourne Lord Mayor) as having an Asian background does not mean that most educated Australians don’t recognise that he has a Chinese background, or to be exact a Hong Kong Chinese Cantonese-speaking background – you only need to look at his last name to recognise its ethnicity. Or that Penny Wong has an ethnic-Chinese Malaysian Australian background. To add to the confusion on the topic of Australia’s tolerance, she is also a high-profile openly gay senior minister in our Parliament. I’ll like to know how many Western countries have a female politician with an Asian background (never mind an ethnic-Chinese Malaysian one) who is openly lesbian and holds a senior government position. Notice no-one here cares about her sexuality or that of Bob Brown’s or the possibility that our next PM could be an unmarried childless female living in sin (with the exception of some religious right zealots such as Bill Heffernan in the Liberal Party maybe)?

    Okay, I’ve definitely procrastinated enough and will get back to finishing my paper – funnily enough, touching on Australian identity!

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  • 91. At 09:38am on 19 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    LLvibes, your post was very informative and much appreciated. Thank you for it's posting. It reminded me of my early days in and around Sydney when the green grocers, or fruit and vegetable merchants were of Chinese origin. In fact Chinese were amongst the first to settle in Australia at the time of the gold rush. My grandfather told me stories of the 'coolie's' huts at the base of his property where they would farm on his property during the day, and tend their own small plots of land in the afternoon and evening...another part of our history you won't find in the 'redefined' histories of Australia...same with the Indians and Afghanis who were around at the same time.

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  • 92. At 12:42pm on 19 Oct 2009, Missy M wrote:

    I don't think Australia is *unusually* racist. I just think that UK commentators still enjoy taking a colonial view of Australia and patronising it without actually taking events into context - Marina Hyde in the Guardian in particular.

    I note that there doesn't seem to be a similiar level of posturing and outrage about this incident in France:

    or this disturbing survey in the UK (one in Sweden had similiar results):

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  • 93. At 2:34pm on 19 Oct 2009, BryantObsessed wrote:

    Dear Expat Pommie.

    I refer to this post.

    "74. At 01:55am on 17 Oct 2009, expatpommie wrote:

    The thing is BryantObsessed, whilst you and your friends might have found mocking your friend amusing, the truth is he will face discrimination his whole life here in the job market.
    Those people that grow up making those jokes at school grow up to be bosses who don't hire people because they are not "Anglos". Which surely is when it's not funny any more. "

    But i'm not an Anglo. I am a Western Oriental Gentleman (the profanity filter stopped me writing the real word). China was from Thailand (thats part of the gag). my others mates were lebbo's or eye tie's, or from anywhere else except the skippies/convicts who claimed some sense of belonging...until an abo walks into the room, then everyone is a stranger in a strange land.

    You see racism in Australia is not about a majority or a dominant group attacking a minority - its about everyone taking the mickey out of everyone else.

    and in an odd way it sort of works well. and in another way it doesn't work at all.

    Painting Australia as extremely racist is just simplistic and childish. it says more of the speaker than the speaking. the truth is out there...just not well expressed or understood.

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  • 94. At 7:12pm on 19 Oct 2009, SONICBOOMER wrote:

    Scrap The Jack, your obsessive Pom bashing seems to seriously affected you, 'Little Britain' also has jokes about incontinence, a teenager sexually obsessed with his friend's grandmother, a 'teenage' (British) girl who has every tabloid negative and then some, it's equally offensive to a wide range of stereotypes, odd that you chose not to mention them too?
    But you really came a cropper with 'Goodness Gracious Me', since the actors in that show are of Indian descent, (all of whom have had long and successful acting/comedy careers here).
    So your whole posture of painting us as awful racists rather hits a brick wall.
    They are both laughing at themselves and in their most famous sketch, parodied some of the older English pre-conceptions.

    The Anglo Indian community is something I'm familiar with, since my better half is from that, though she is totally British, she was born here after all.
    I grew up around this community, while I'm not about to deny racism exists, including between immigrant groups, interracial relationships are the norm, aside from a very few idiots everyone has in their society, passes without comment. That is something we have done better it seems, at least until recently, the Americans.
    Which I see as the true measure of race relations, does Australia do any better here? I don't the answer to that, I hope so.

    As to the other thing it seems rather insecure types on here try to bash us with, yes, of course the British were involved in the darker side to racial history down under, but so was independent Australia, not just the 'Anglo' ones either, not just back in the mists of time too.
    Had say France or the Dutch colonized Australia it would have been the same.
    If that touches a nerve, so be it.
    Ironic that this stuff is vented on a site paid for the British, how insecure is that?

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  • 95. At 11:34pm on 19 Oct 2009, scrap-the-jack wrote:

    I fail to see in any of my posts where I can be accused of Pom bashing or where I have painted you as awful racists. In the post you refer to I was refering to that awful skit on hey hey where Expatpommie stated "that sort of skit would never be seen on British TV" when it obviously is. He/she was wrong and I pointed that out. I simply wanted to know why the whole of Australia is seen as racist because of a TV skit when these things are seen all over the world and my question was "why does that make us so much worse than you?"

    I did not state the British were worse, I am saying we are the same, no better, no worse. If you read it correctly you will see I was having a go at Him/Her, not an entire nation as he/she was. The fact that I defend my country against blatant lies does not make me anti British it makes me anti idiot.

    Goodness Gracious Me raises a different issue. If a particular racial group makes humour about its own race does that make racial humour acceptable? Is someone from another group allowed to laugh at it? If someone is making fun of stereotypes does it make a difference who is doing it? I saw a Canadian comedian once ask an audience "who here hates americans' huge audience reaction, he then asks "who here hates black americans" stunned silence from the audience.

    So where do we draw the line, who can make fun of who and who is allowed to laugh? Does laughing at goodness gracious me (which I do) make me a racist because I'm not married to someone of Indian descent?

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  • 96. At 11:44pm on 19 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    94 SONICBOOM: "As to the other thing it seems rather insecure types on here try to bash us with"

    From what I have read here, most of the posters are not bashers, but educators. If they were genuine bashers, their comments would have been removed.
    If you genuinely read what the commentators are trying to say it is this, most Brits have a very poor understanding of Australia, what currently makes up an Australian, and anything about out history.
    For example over the past 12 years we have had a flood of British migrants, aproximately 1 million, directly and indirectly via NZ and Africa. Prior to that we had a continuous flow of British migrants after the Second World War. We have lost most of what was considered 'Australiana' because of this. We have lost a lot of our expressions...such as having a 'bingi' ache for a stomach aboriginal world...we no longer have 'cobbers'...or 'struth' and many other words that were Aussie originals....or 'orf' for off.
    As to your comment concerning the French and the Dutch colonies...Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, to mention just a few, were colonies of other nations....they are not being flooded by those countries, and they are now independent.
    As to touching a nerve, it would seem, from your posting, that this is exactly what our comments concerning Britain is doing to you.
    I am sorry if you are offended by the comments, but speaking for myself, the intention has never been to 'bash' but to inform.
    And as to 'Ironic that this stuff is vented on a site paid for the British, how insecure is that?' might I suggest you contact the BBC and have this 'bashing' as you call it added to the rules, so that such comments are banned. Wouldn't ignorance then be added to criticisms of your country on other nation's websites?

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  • 97. At 00:09am on 20 Oct 2009, wollemi wrote:


    '...the British were involved in the darker side to racial history down under, but so was independent Australia, ...'

    Well, Sydney Harbour on Jan 26 1788 wasn't a high point of the British Empire
    Armed RN warships, armed Royal Marines and a 'cargo' of chained prisoners and that enlightened construct, terra nullius. Not exactly the Mayflower with their Bibles, this little venture would not be defined as bringing light to The British troops who fought the frontier for the first 50 years weren't much into 'civilising the natives' either. It might have been better under the French

    You would be one of the few Britons to acknowledge that Britain played any role in the 'darker side'. That's really the point - the impenetrable silence of successive British Governments to accusation from Aboriginal Australia that Britain played a part in the misery inflicted on their ancestors and robbed them of their continent, Ditto the silence of the British media and the ignorance of British visitors and migrants to Australia
    When did Imperial history fall off the British school curriculum?
    A symptom of this is the struggle they've had, even with backing of the Australian Government, to get back body parts taken in the colonial era and sent to British institutions

    All while Canada, the US, NZ, Australia,...,pursued parallel movements over the last 50 years to resolve past injustices amongst their indigenous peoples (and in the case of the US, African Americans also)

    And if you don't know the past then you don't know the present, 200 years to a 50,000 year old culture is just a moment in time

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  • 98. At 03:54am on 20 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    Greg00m, I'll really quickly, because it's an off-topic debate and a complex issue.
    Pol Pot was at different times sponsered by the Vietnamese govt and America and opposed by both at seperate times also.
    The point is that he was a horrible immoral person, when it suited the US govt to see him that way, and a valuable buffer against Vietnam when that suited the US.
    Morality never came into it, it never does in global politics. Anyone can see that. You think we went to Iraq ty overthrow a dictator that we supported and armed for many years, because he was a bad guy to his people?
    Really? How naive do you want to be? You honestly think it's a coincidence that Iraq sits on one of the world's biggest oil reserves?
    And in regards to the American soldier, we should never have gone to Iraq. Of course some of the old hatreds in Iraq are incomprehensible to an American soldier. That doesn't justify going there and blowing the hell out of the place.
    The other thing is that ancient emnities are still very relevant to some people, rightly or wrongly.
    I doubt you'd be as shocked by an Ulsterman swearing hatred of some of his countrymen due to an emnity thousands of years old. You might think it equally ridiculous, but it wouldn't surprise you.
    In regards to my nationallity and you 'digging up some dirt' on me (I've no idea what you mean by that), I am a joint US/Australian citizen.
    I was born in Sydney and live here now, but have spent alot of time in Boston.
    I've also lived in the UK and Ireland, so I hope that gives you some background, for whatever reason you want it.
    Anyway, I actually wasn't seeking to engage you on the merits of various nationalities or their histories.
    SonicBoomer, you see how you justify the Little Britain skits by putting them in social and cultural context?
    That's what Aussies are trying to do with the Hey Hey skit.
    Having said that, I personally think the skit was a disgrace and should never have been allowed on tv. I do think it's reflective of a general ignorance by Australians towards a particular act which is considered incredibly racist in the US, and also a general insensitivity to the insult they may be causing to many people around the world.
    Those are fair critizisms I think. Branding the whole country as racist is stupid.
    Saying that their is racism here is correct. It's true of most countries.
    Unusually so? I don't think so. The fact is Australia has a more varied and diverse cultural background than almost any other country in the wrold.
    Think about the fact that 24% of people who live in this country weren't even born here. Think about that, 1 in 4 people that you meet are from a different country (majority UK and NZ as nationalities but regionally most are from Asian countries). If Australia was virulently racist, how the hell would that even work?
    There'd be chaos in the streets and great misery.
    If you come to Australia you won't find that here. What you'll find is an imperfect situation that works for the most part.
    But it's hard work, and there's always room for improvement.

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  • 99. At 04:41am on 20 Oct 2009, pciii wrote:

    There's some valid comments in here that compare Australia to some other countries where racism really is a massively devisive and goverment-sanctioned fact of life.

    However, perhaps not unexpectedly, the debate has mainly centred on a comparison of English speaking nations (primarily UK and Australia). Ignoring some of the usual rubbish (I'm not quite sure how not being racist helps a country avoid recession, I would have put that down more to a wealth of minerals and conservative banking regulation myself), I feel I should add my own thoughts.

    Firstly, in 'polite' society (and possibly the media) Australians do come across as more racist than their equivelants in the UK, sometimes surprisingly so. This perception is primarily down to a much reduced tendency for political correctness in Australia.

    Now generally, I'm not a fan of PC just for the sake of it, but I can't ignore the fact that 15+ years of ostracising racists in the UK actually appears to have changed people, generally for the better (though in other cases it has hardened attitudes and brought out extremes like the BNP).

    So maybe it's fair to say that, at the extremes, the UK is easily as bad as Australia when it comes to this issue. Whether the continued enforcement of PCness will affect both countries equally remains to be seen.

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  • 100. At 8:30pm on 20 Oct 2009, SONICBOOMER wrote:

    Perhaps lack of familiarity and distance is an excuse, but a quick look through the BBC News site will show just how sensitive British Broadcasters are to racial insults.
    It's the quickest way to lose your job, this has happened a number of times, even in the case of a offhand (but stupid) remark not on the air, but backstage in a recent case.
    This why citing arguably 'Little Britain' and certainly 'Goodness Gracious Me' is wrong headed.
    Quite apart from the ethnic back ground of those who wrote and performed in the latter.

    I don't think Australia is a hotbed of racism, but citing the past, as in some cases an attempt as some do on here (very frequently) to cite the totally enlightened Australians verses the racist, still colonial British, seems to me evidence of a sore point that has everything to do with maybe more recent events down under.
    And why? Australia is no better or worse on the issue of race than other first world nations.
    It's knee jerk and one eyed.
    As are the barbs aimed at 'Anglo Australians' or British immigrants.

    The sad thing is, Australia has had a hugely positive image here for such a long time (and no, not based on Rolf Harris, Clive James, Paul Hogan and Kylie).
    But, it's starting to erode.
    Because of a perceived hostility that goes beyond good natured ribbing.
    The net of course massively amplifies, exaggerates this, on both sides.

    All I'm saying, (and I admit you are nowhere near the worst offender Scrap The Jack), some should just consider how this comes over.
    Not well.
    It does not look like being from those happy in themselves, secure in their identity.
    This of course cuts both ways, from British contributors who do the same about Australia.

    But seeing a show made by Anglo-Indians as an example of a British racism, even at a low level, was just too ironic not to be pointed out.
    And yes, it did annoy, maybe my own experiences and relationships inform this.

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  • 101. At 00:23am on 21 Oct 2009, Jono wrote:

    Sonic Bommer can't you see how trite it is to dismiss what the British did in this country as some kind of resentment by Australians.
    Do you understand that the aborigines are still suffering from what the British Empire did to their culture?
    Are you familiar with the term Terra Nullius?
    It is what the British declared Australia to be, and it means land without people.
    They were therefore classing the aborigines as part of the fauna.
    Most of the damage done to the aboriginal people was done by the British govt, before Australia existed as a country.
    By extension that includes us, but it is something the british never acknowledge, and for a British person to say that Australia mistreated the aborigines is deeply ironic.
    Now this was all many many years ago, but if I hold some responsibility for the acts or my forefathers, so do the British.
    There are still things the British could do to show contrition to the aborigines. Giving back the desecrated remains of their ancestors from their museums would be a start.

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  • 102. At 02:37am on 21 Oct 2009, The_Potter wrote:

    Quite simply, for a country that has a fairly new immigrant society, and with no history of slavery (like the US), Australia is unusually racist.

    In the context of this immigrant background, compared with other, older societies, you would expect people to have more of a welcoming attitude, such as is afforded to people who settle in a country with a similar immigrant history, Canada.

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  • 103. At 2:55pm on 21 Oct 2009, Weagles wrote:

    “How many Aborigines present or produce television programs, serve in shops, participate in activities which those of European descent are accustomed to? Very few. Is there a racist element to this? Probably.”

    That would be a relevant point if the aim was to turn Aborigines into middle class white people. It isn’t. Keep your ignorant judgements to yourself.

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  • 104. At 08:55am on 22 Oct 2009, Richard Ure wrote:

    Perhaps it is a measure of the lack of racism that the skit was telecast at all. Many people coming to Australia bring with them fears about snakes, spiders and sharks. Those who get their noses out of the guide books and British newspapers soon find the locals unconcerned by these perceived threats.

    It’s the same with racism despite the fact the level of recent arrivals is so high at least in the cities, it is almost impossible to avoid dealing with people from diverse backgrounds. Not that most people would care.

    1. Because periodic instances of “racism” are so rare, they are news when they happen.

    2. The level of inter-ethnic marriage is amongst the highest in the world.


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  • 105. At 01:11am on 23 Oct 2009, Petesyc wrote:

    Racism is intrenched in the Northern Territory police force. These kind of stories rarely get a mention in mainstream media, but imagine if this had happened to white Aussies. Nick I hope you don't mind me posting the link:

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  • 106. At 08:06am on 24 Oct 2009, nihtscua wrote:

    Comparing different countries is usually hard. After all, any comparison is work enough already: think of cars, or restaurants, or anything we encounter on a daily basis. Not only does any comparison depend on our criteria but also on our specific experiences: Toyotas are generally reliable cars but I could happen to buy an unreliable one, for example, or such-and-such a restaurant could be having a 'bad night'. Since countries are so much bigger and our experiences of them so much more complex, not to mention how much more our identities are wrapped up in them (from quiet pride to sports flag-waving to drunken braggadocio), controversy is hardly surprising in the sport of weighing countries.

    Mix in 'racism' and sparks start to fly. 'Racism' has the centuries-old historical weight of slavery, the contemporary siren of ethnic cleansing, and of course the abysmal spectre of the Holocaust. Yet the term 'racist' is sometimes quite casually flung about as an accusatory finger of relatively smaller (though non-trivial) problems, or even as an insult. 'Racism' has become a loaded term. It is imperative that we refine our ideas about racism and to question how to generalise about the state of 'racism' for an entire country.

    Two aspects or axes could help in thinking about racism: the degree of physical violence vs verbal/symbolic violence, and the degree of official institutionalisation vs diffuse common practice. Institutionalised racism, for example, can run the gamut from genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, and apartheid (all of which inform our abhorrence of racism), to racially discriminatory immigration policies, racial quotas blocking minorities from certain positions, and even to faint proclamations of supremacy or superiority. Diffuse non-official racism, on the other hand, runs from folk pogroms and lynchings, physical intimidation and verbal threats, to workplace discrimination ('glass-ceilings' and closed doors, to ideas of racial hygiene and purity (in the case of neighbours or mixed marriages). Even a negative look or a tone of voice might be the result of racism (though of course not necessarily so).

    Institutionalised racism is generally easy to measure, as are the more extreme forms of non-official racism. However, while we can conduct surveys on workplace discrimination, counting racial slurs or hostile looks borne of racism on a country-wide level seems (to me) rather hard in practice. So although it is fair to say that Australia is not racist in the institutionalised sense (and is probably anti-racist), and that Australians in general do not engage in physically violent racism, I believe that any claims about 'low-level racism' will necessarily be based on anecdotal evidence.

    Anecdotal evidence consists of pure circumstance: whether you are East Asian, South Asian, Black, Arab etc, whether you were in a rural or urban setting, whether you were in polite company or rough-and-tumble open-heartedness, and so on. Just because of his/her race, an Asian might receive harsher treatment in one country or another, or an Arab might field more suspicious looks at a certain time or another. And in the company of murderous brutes, no country is safe, for any race.

    In order not to ramble any longer, here is my story: born in Hong Kong of Chinese parents, I moved to Canada, then Australia, then back to Canada; I've spent time in both rural and urban areas. I'd say Canada and Australia are in many ways comparable: places with natives/aboriginals, settled by Europeans, a history of discrimination followed by sustained global immigration. (For example, nearly 20% of Canadians are born overseas, compared to 24% of Australians. I'd even hazard to say that the biggest Canadian cities are even more multi-cultural: Toronto and Vancouver are both over 45% non-white.)

    In my personal experience, for someone of Chinese descent, Canada has much less 'low-level racism' than Australia. Whereas I've received racial slurs and insults on multiple occasions in Melbourne and Sydney (and far too many times to count in rural areas) in the 6 years living in Australia, it has happened to me only twice in 15 years in Canada. I have never been physically threatened due to my race in Canada, but twice in Australia. Racist comments, even slightly racist or stereotypical, are almost always denounced in conversation (at least when I was present) in Canada, whereas in Australia, some people are completely oblivious (though of course there are others who rejected them). None of the political parties in Canada oppose immigration. I guess the general ambient racism is lower in Canada than Australia--which is NOT to say most Australians are racist. NOT AT ALL. I've had great Australian friends (including one racist: "I don't like Chinese people but YOU are alright" lol). Just 10% of the people can make the environment much less welcoming and annoying. And on the other hand, of course there are racist incidents in Canada; moreover, racist Canadians do not usually express their viewpoints quite as openly or as boisterously as Australians, especially when drunk. Some racist Canadians don't say things out loud, but they may very well think it.

    Overall, I think Australia is quite a bit more racist (in the 'low-level' way) than Canada.
    But the weather is much nicer down under.

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  • 107. At 3:08pm on 05 Nov 2009, Daniel London wrote:

    You don't realize it's not Australians fault.
    Multiculutralism did not occur really untill like the 1980s? where people from outside europe were finally allowed to migrate to Australia so it's still new to the fact of people from different continents are migrating, hence Australia did not have slaves from india and africa like britain/usa.
    Generally, i do believve they pin point the fact in any given situation if someone is coloured and this is propaganda that influences this sort of bullocks, how about the media doesn't list ethnic origin in a diverse beating for instance, problem solved.
    To be honest, a union with Asia would never work, and we should push for the queen as 100% power monarch e.g a colony of britain would bring about 20th century globalization. God Save the Queen ;).

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  • 108. At 3:11pm on 05 Nov 2009, Daniel London wrote:

    One more thing, yes since it's new to the idea of multiculturalism it's generally like this.
    Be in a migrant from africa shoes for one moment in asia, most countries i noticed are openly racist to them and treat them like 2nd class citizens but they don't give a ****, about who thinks what.
    Even countries in europe e.g Greece, Spain, Italy just quick examples try going there and see if they treat you as good as the 'australians' do.
    I could imagine, if the europeans settled in the middle east, and tried brining their christian schools and christian influence about the continent the kaos this would create.

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  • 109. At 7:38pm on 03 Jan 2010, Anil wrote:

    Thats an intersting and very good question that Nick Bryant had took the courage to highlight it. Well, racism does exists every where in one or other way of life but within acceptable limit. When it exceeds above the unspecified limit of tolerence and one has a low tolerence then it definately does hurt his or her feelings and that develops a feeling of under rated Humanity. Here I share my personal experience that is a self explainatory answer of the Nick's question.

    I am an Indian doctor who had widely tavelled most of the continents. I have heared the word Racism many times , but had never experienced it practically untill I travelled to Australia. First experience in 2000 from the moment I had landed at Brisbane airport while I was proceeding for immigration clearence as a desciplined traveller. The immigration officer looked very starngly at me and allowed me to enter as i had a valid entry permit. Before i could proceed further towards luggage belt to pick my belonging luggage, i was stopped by a team of over ten immigration officers, they took me to a room and asked me over thousands of unrequired questions, i had answered all their questions calmly. Before they let me go off, i asked them why did you pick me , am i look like a suspecious man or just because i am an indian? Their reply was terrible - Hell with you! get lost from here and feel lucky that we didn't lock you up permanantly. Yes, indeed i was lucky.

    Five years later 2005, i was travelling to PNG, had my booking in a hotel of brisbane for two days,I had a valid entry permit. Again little similer episode not of that severity as last time. i made immigration clearence and entered in Australia, but didn't feel comfortable to stay there and luckly got a flight the same day to say bye bye to the land of International House of Racism, parhaps forever. I had visited UK, Germany, and a few other European countries many times but had never been treated in such a way as in Australia.

    In contrast look at Singapore, while returning from PNG, I ignored the land of International House of Racism and preffered a flight to India via Singapore. At Singapore Airport, though I had no entry permit to enter Singapore. I just went to the Immigration and told them that I have my flight next morning to Delhi and I wish to visit Singapore. Beleive me dear readers, with a smile the immigration officer looked at my ownward journey document and issued me a special pass of two days validity to enter to Singapore, not only this one of the immigration officer took me to the desk of free trip to Singapore for transit passanger and told me , this would be better for you as can visit Sigapore free of cost. Indeed, it was a free trip, well organized, funtastic and amazing. I still remember the smiling face of that immigartion officer and I appreciate the coopretive attetude of Singapore airport immigration. No where in this world I enjoyed such a free service and such a cooperative behaviour of Immigration officers.

    Australia and Singapore are two different world.
    I would love to visit Singapore and other destinations as a traveller with my family. But never to Australia - God save me to any further visit to this INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF RACISM.

    Dr. Anil Khari, M.D. - Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.

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  • 110. At 3:26pm on 10 Jan 2010, kobieroxx wrote:

    Aussie Suckssssssssss.

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  • 111. At 5:59pm on 10 Jan 2010, desi-rascal wrote:

    Australia, is a little like britain 40 years ago, is a comment i hear from alot of people. Not perhaps racist, but with a undertone of right wing, myopic viewpoints in certain sections of society. This is obvious for most to see, from the "little islander" stance some mainstream politcians take to gain votes, to the lack of social mobility of the aboriginee peoples and perhaps more importantly the international newslines, of riots, stabbings etc.

    Given time (probabaly gearations) the old prejudices will be dying / weeded out, if the australian politicians wake up to it like most of the western world has. Saying the problem is worse in other countries - esp the third world is not an excuse.

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  • 112. At 12:29pm on 13 Jan 2010, Jono wrote:

    I would say that there is just as much racism in the UK and the US, and I've lived in both countries.
    Racism is a human issue, not a national one, which I would think would be obvious.

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  • 113. At 11:09pm on 14 Jan 2010, Lifelibertyproperty wrote:

    Tolerance is the problem in Australia. Australia does not have a problem to take in people. In case of Indian student, one hand, education is a part of economic machinery of the Australian, it wants to have Indian or Chinese student to come in; on the other hand, Australia does attract Indian or Chinese to come to be immigrant for a better social system. Except, most of these people do not think in advance whether Australia can truly absorb well-educated young people; whether Australia can offer enough job opportunities or equal employment. Australia is a small country on these terms. Its own young talents often have to go to elsewhere. Therefore, when suitable job opportunities are scarce, the feelings against aliens arise. Hence, it is not a typical Australian thing.

    I have seen too many, talented Indian or Chinese engineering or science professionals have to bend themselves to be a taxi driver, trades man or accountants (I do not know whether it is a better life). People do hope their sacrifices would pay off in next generations. Therefore, that is the choice of those people. In Australia, Science or engineering requires much lower scores upon university admission than in India or China compared to other disciplines. Simply, there is not many jobs available after university. This is a black and white contrast to US. Innovation is on a smaller scale. It certainly can not absorb enough people from its education system. However, again, Australia is a 14 times smaller than US in terms population. The major industry in Australia is mining.

    For these people did stay, Australia has not yet offer tolerance. In another words, people in Australia does not offer tolerance towards each other. However, it is the tolerance of mainstream that counts. Government certainly continues efforts, but effectively?

    I am an Australian citizen. About 10 years ago, I set foot in US. The moment I landed, I felt as if I were one of "them". I were treated as one of "them" during my years in US. I did feel that opportunity was not unfair because of my skin color or culture I brought with me. US has higher tolerance towards race and culture. You need not have to be one of American until/unless Americans need to act as one. It accepts who you truly are. Instead, in Australia, "you have to be us" otherwise you are not us. You will have a problem.

    Skin color is one of the race thing. When I came to Australia, I had to put down my skin color "yellow" in an application for driver's license. There was no other choice. I looked my skin, it was definitely not yellow. In America, "complexion, Asian" on the application of driver's license. Some Asians have really white skin color except facial features and body builds.

    English language is another race thing. I was subjected to the English language school by the employer. "For your own good", it said (the statement would be always true). I did start to seriously questioning my own English skills. Scientifically, if you learn 2nd language after your puberty (around 13-y-old), your second language will never be as good as the native speaker. I was at US top institute for years, neither my superiors, colleagues nor my friends complained or felt discomfort because of my English. Again, Indians will have even better English skills compared to Chinese, trouble is accent. We do not tune our ears to understand others in Australia, instead, "we are not going to listen to you unless you would have improved to our level".

    Back in Australia, most of my Australian colleagues consider US is a most racist country. One of my colleague who is a legal profession said that here has no racism. He thought everyone liked to go to Asian restaurants. Therefore, in his opinion there was no racism against Asian race. Such measurement maybe inadequate. The measure should be the equal opportunity. This is a measure that sets Australia apart from America.

    I don't blindfolded that Australia has made no progress. It may be slower than expectation in many eyes. Especially, America and Canada are there to be compared. People travel more. Intellectuals or business persons move globally. People do compare. Even Europeans were thrilled that America could elect first black president. In my scale, Australia is somewhere between America/Canada and Europe.

    Here, to be a true diversified country, we should keep the diversity, i.e., we accept who you truly are. We don't in any way to require you to change to our ways (which often considered the only right way to do things). We should have more representations in the parliament to reflect the fact Australia is a diversified society so every voice can be heard in the parliament. We have more choices before a decision made. I would think that would be the way to achieve the tolerance.

    Newcomer always wish to be accepted by the mainstream in general. Tolerance is the key.

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  • 114. At 1:03pm on 19 Mar 2010, Tanmoy Sarkar wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 115. At 06:54am on 03 May 2010, jonnie wrote:

    Great Article!

    I made a documentary about the subject by interviewing Sydneysiders about their personal experiences with Racism. Check it out:

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  • 116. At 3:23pm on 19 Aug 2010, diverse wrote:

    Aren't people who vote for the major political parties in Australia, watch tabloid current affairs programs, or read Murdoch press, racist , because all hear and see is that boat people are illeagal or queue jumpers. They right to come to Australia seek asylum, in particular though coming from Islamic nations.

    Media and politicians should turn a blind eye to the issue and let them stay.

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