29 September 2008

Racism in Australia

I am an Australian and I am a proud Australian. The results of the recent study, Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project, does not change the level of pride that I have for Australia and all things Australian.

The results of the study highlight that there is much work to be done if Australia is to become a truly tolerant nation of the diversity that we already have. Quite simply we cannot turn back the clock and start deporting people left right and center that is never going to be a practical response. The report will need to be analyzed in its entirety as i have only seen snippets to date in the form of news bites. However, the study is set for general release at the Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility conference to be held at the University of Technology in Sydney this coming Friday.

The study was conducted over ten years and has surveyed some 12,500 people over the last eight years. So, this should in theory provide a relatively good cross-section of the much broader Australian community.

My home state of New South Wales tops the list as the most racist state. I have seen a lot of racism first hand, this is in the sense of having witnessed it and not because I have been subject to it. It is a seeing or watching it happen as opposed to a having it happen to me experience. Racism is also something I have thought about as I am married to an Indonesian and my children will be Australian citizens of mixed race.

The results are alarming in that they suggest as many as 2 out of every 5 people surveyed felt that some ethnic groups and religions did not belong in Australia. The study also found that at least 1 in 10 people surveyed held openly racist views.

This is a concern because if these results are considered to be representative of the broader Australian population then it would seem that we as a community are destined for some pretty rough times in terms of cultural, ethnic, and religious clashes.

It would be my feeling that any kind of cultural, ethnic, or religious based clashes in Australia are destined to further polarize what seems to be a polarizing society.

The people most identified as not belonging (perhaps not fitting into the concept of Australianism that is dominant presently) are Muslims and those from the Middle East. Islam is a religion so I do not know how you can be a racist if you say bad things about it. Perhaps the term is a religious bigot?

The study also asked questions that required people to answer on whether marriages between cultures were a good thing and whether all races are equal. The results for these two questions show that about 10% of those surveyed believe that inter-cultural marriages are a bad thing and that a similar number believe that not all races are equal. These results do not surprise me and in some ways I am surprised that they are not higher.

I wonder if a similar study was conducted in Indonesia what the results might be. There are plenty of inter-cultural marriages but there is always talk and gossip of the unhappiness of the extended family that such marriages have taken place. The idea of marrying within your own group is strong here among most of Indonesia's diverse range of ethnic groups. A read of the singles columns highlight this as race or ethnicity is often identified as a desirable characteristic.

I have been following some blogs and sites where race, ethnic, and religious issues get a regular airing. One such site is Indonesia Matters. The beauty of Indonesia Matters is that one can get to read a very broad cross section of opinions on these topics.

The lead researcher on this study was Professor Kevin Dunn of the University of Western Sydney (this happens to be one of my alma maters). According to Professor Dunn the results are high but it is worth pointing out that overall Australia ranks as being a country with a low level of racism. This means that there are plenty of countries out there in the big bad world with a lot more serious racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance problems than us.

11 comments:

oigal said...

Hi Rob,

I admit I was surprised when it first happened to us in Australia on holidays..I was pretty slow to pick it up actually as it was pretty subtle at first and I was not looking for it.

Having said that I am not so sure it is Racism as much as backlash against Multi-culturalism. I am the first to admit, I am not comfortable walking around some places in the major cities were the culture I grew up with has been totally replaced by an imported culture...Did we vote for that when we agreed to accept virtually all comers or did we mean everyone is welcome but...

When you have Imams declaring Australian Women are pieces of meat for not covering up..what do you really expect the reaction to be?

Rob Baiton said...

Stump...

Yep, the downside of multiculturalism is a lack of appreciation for the values that already exist within the community.

This is the battle that we will have to fight. Multiculturalism and whether it succeeds or fails will turn on whether there is tolerance.

Tolerance is a two-way street. And comments from one part of the community such as the one you note will do nothing but further polarize a rapidly polarizing society.

Multiculturalism seems like fertile ground for a bit of loopy left, red and pinko bashing to take place.

Katadia said...

Hi Rob, if you were a politician, and i could vote, I would vote for you :)

Here's my two cents to this post and the previuos on multiculturalism, from a non-anglo celtic NESB's perspective:

- A couple of years ago some guys in some cars shouted "fuckin Asian" at me. Point taken. But that doesn't mean that I look up at every white young Australian male of similar characteristics and think that they are bigots, anti-Asian dole bludgers who only care about gulping VB and women showing off their tits in a drag race carnival (note my stereotyping). When PB mentioned middle eastern "looking" guys kniving some poor guy in your prveiuos thread, it's like me saying that, "Bugger, the past three sexual assaults/rapes in my campus and immediate suburbs were done by a white male, 25-30 year old. Shite, that means most white guys 25-30 have a high likelihood or raping me in campus!"

- (Non-Anglo Celtic) Migrants tend to concentrate in certain parts of urban Australia. Hmm, err, this also happens to NY and LA, and probably most other OECD metropolis. Little Italy, Korean streets, Algerian alleys, etc. Is it a problem? Maybe, but it's more liek a dilemma (so says Bob Birrell). On one hand, migrants networks are important (esp for new migrants) and probably explain their concentration into existing ethnic communities. New migrants need access directed to their communities and they probably can olny afford relatively low-cost housing in that area. On the other hand, concentration feeds to problem such as ethnic-related crimes and creates a vicious cycle as it contirbutes to mainstream negative stereotypes.

I personally feel comfortable wlaking down Cabramatta. Transplant an elderly Vietnamese grandma and put her in the corner of Double Bay, she'll feel uncomfortable too. It goes both ways.

- On why multicultural Australia is disproportionately Asian (to PB). A rather dated 1999 data on ethnic composition: 69.9 Anglo-celts, 6.9 North and West European, 4.4 East European, 7 South European, 3.3 Middle East and North Africans, 1.3 South Asian, 2.5 SE Asians, 2.7 NE Asians, 0.5 PAcific Islanders, 1% Aboriginal and TSI. Percentages might have changed slightly.
In Sydney CBD, many of the "Asians" are actually non permanent migrants, but overseas students and tourists. You don't get much, say, Algerians here, because they probably would rather go to France. Similarly, geopraphical proximity and existing migrant groups, also imply that Latinos would probably rather go to Florida than to Canberra.

- Tolerance, fair go, mateship, etc, are all universal values. I am pretty positive that these exist accross races/ethnicities. Similarly, ethic stereotypes and racism also exist everywhere. So...

Rob Baiton said...

KD...

Thanks for the vote should I ever need it and you can give it :D

Interesting points one and all.

I like the idea that a fair go is a universal ideal and that mateship is too. This means that as people there must be some common ground for us to share and build on.

Brett said...

40% of Australians think that one or more religious or racial groups DOES NOT BELONG in Australia. Wow! That is REALLY fucked up.

I have to say that, after 7 years of living there, I am not surprised. When I arrived in 1998, I thought the world of Australia. By the time I had found another home (Indonesia), my opinion had dropped lower than Bush's approval rating.

One of the reasons I couldn't wait to leave was because I was fed up with people commenting on my accent, making sheep jokes (which baffled me), dole/Bondi jokes...

Okay, its not quite the same as the awful racism that goes on, but I sure as hell didn't feel welcome. I learned to hide my accent and laugh at jokes that just aren't funny. I learned to TELL Kiwi jokes. How fucked up is that?!

Who else but an Australian picks on a Kiwi accent? I know, you'll say it's just this Australian-Kiwi rivalry thing. It's all good fun. Bullshit! It's rude, its racist and its just not nice.

I don't think it helps to try to draw comparisons to other countries, which have COMPLETELY different issues. Australia has had 60 years to deal with its multiculturalism. Deal with it, guys!!!

(Sorry for the rant, but this REALLY gets my goat.)

Rob Baiton said...

Brett...

I am surprised that the numbers are not higher. Surveys / studies such as these are always prone to be under rather than on the money for truth.

Not everybody surveyed would have told the truth it they were asked a question like, do you consider yourself to be a racist?

Why doesn't it help to draw comparisons? Indonesia might have different reasons for its racism and bigotry than say Australia does.

In any event I was not looking to compare on the basis of multiculturalism.

Although, that said, I probably could if you consider Indonesia is a socio-political construct where the underlying philosophy is generally referred to as "unity in diversity" and this is the case because the Republic inherited a diverse range of ethnic cultures and mandated that they be part of the Republic of Indonesia. This is in a sense multiculturalism don't you think?

To be honest the Indonesian comparison was really from the point of racism. Looking at inter-cultural marriages.

It is a comparison that would be interesting to make and might illuminate as many similarities as it would differences.

You could, for example, argue that Indonesia has also had 60 years to deal with the racial and ethnic issues that afflict the broader community here and Indonesia has failed to deal with it.

As an aside, my brother-in-law is a Kiwi.

Anonymous said...

Hey, i just stopped by here and read some very interesting comments...
I was born and raised up here in Melbourne with an asian background...

I'm an asian aussie teenage girl who has experienced her first racism just as experiencing her first love or her first crush

Life's tough for me but it still goes on; these are kind of the challenges you face in life...I can't imagine what the aborignal australians were being treated after learning about Australian history...I know depression and the alcohol rate around the rural and upper areas in Australia with australian aboriginals i think have a high rate; i watched an ABC documentary about them...It's a shame Australia is a rich and diverse country yet they still exist impoverised, ill-treated...

I can relate to myself with the Harry Potter series if you know J.k Rowling....I feel like Hermione at times, that i'm a mudblood....
But again i realised that like Hermione with her friends in the en d fought the battle, the good will always show no matter how hidden it is, it will slowly reveal itself...

Australia is a democratic society and i feel everyone regardless of race has
* the right to life
* freedom from torture
* other cruel and inhuman treatment
* rights to a fair trial
* free speech
* freedom of religion
* rights to health, education and an adequate standard of living.

But when i'm older, i don't know what it will be like; i fill safe when i'm around suburbs with people you are fimilar with, oh well...

I would rather think myself as a forgiving person when it comes to this...I feel sorry that they have to say such things...How they narrow-minded and ignorant of the world around them, Barack Obama prooved that anything is possible

It's funny and ironic because we're simply a land such as Australia and anywhere else could cause such desruction from a man's campacity i.e. stolen generation, White Australia Policy, superior or inferior

Well i hope it changes for the better...

Australia is still a young country. White, british and european settlers back in history were migrants when they came here and today other culturally opressed migrants of no white colour are being critised by some whites....

All cultures has made what Australia is today, otherwise what else would....

pizza, coffee, kebabs, french pastry, asian food...............................

Some people are sterotypical and judge others for what they are not...i go to a secondary full of european backgrounds, it's like there are only 3 asians including me in the school! lol, my friends are aussie white and are friends just as friends should be

Hear this podcast from the SPOONMAN, AUS FAV RADIO SHOW about our national flag being offensive?

http://austereo.castmetrix.net/podcast/378302368699161208/1/SpoonmanCanournationalflagbeoffensive.mp3

i have so much more to say but right now i really can't be stuffed

x.o.x liz

p.s. try reading a book called 'unpolished Gem' by Alice pung...
it tells about her life as an asian living in Aus!

Rob Baiton said...

Liz...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Thanks for sharing your story. I will look for the book.

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My wife is from Australia, so I love this place, however I wouldn't like that racism increase in this paradise place.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Viagra Online...

I think you will find racism is everywhere. Whether it is increasing or no is debatable, probably it is just reported more often because 'sensationalism' sells papers and advertising space on TV.

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