Let's not deny the evidence that Australia has a problem with racism

Wei Ling Chua | www.indymedia.org.au | Thursday 21st January 2010

Nicky Winmar
Nicky Winmar
Peter Nicholson Cartoon

Australia will not win the respect of the world by being defensive on the issue of racism as and when it arise. The issue of racism is not going to go away simply because our politicians (Cream, Gillard, Rudd), police chief (Simon Overland) denied its existence.

Indian government and media have every right to feel angry with what had happened to their fee paying students in Australia. The frequency of attacks and verbal abuses against Indian citizens in Australia is at an intolerable high level. We can only find out the actual figure through the police department. In fact, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research director Don Weatherburn: "Somewhere around 70 per cent [of assaults] don't get reported to the police". So, we can assume that the actual number of assault incident against Indians is much higher then we were told so far.

Racism Against Indians
A quick search through the Internet on the issue of assault against Indians return with the following result:

1) On the 21 July 2009, SBS Current Affair program -Insight - invited a number of Indian victims on its program "At Risk". Please watch the Video online or read the transcript for the personal account of some of the victims and you will realise that racism is a factor in the series of assaults.

2) Racist cabbie attack 'was yobbo madness' (News Limited, 13 Nov 2009)

3) Sydney Indian attacks: 'police burying heads in sand': "A Parramatta councillor says police are naive if they believe a spate of attacks on Indians in Sydney's west have nothing to do with racism." (The Age, 15 June 2009)

4) Indian woman's body found in Brisbane canal (Time of India, 11 Jan 2010)

5) Indian set on fire in Melbourne (Time of India, 9 Jan 2010)

6) Partially burnt body of Indian migrant found in Australia (Time of India, 5 Jan 2010)

7) Indian youth stabbed in Australia, succumbs to injuries (Time of India, 3 Jan 2010)

In fact, as far as my knowledge is concerned, the number of assault against Indians over a period of 12 months reported several months ago was more then 150 cases and there are still no sign that the frequency of attack over the last few months has reduced. Why? This prompt the Time of India to ask: "Why can't Australian govt nab those behind attacks?"

Racism in Australia
Australian Racism

Racism against Indigenous Peoples
Without prejudice, if we examine the last 200 years of Australia history, racism is persistently an issue we simply unable to deny it existence. Beside the massacre of the indigenous population such as the total wiped out of the Indigenous population in Tasmania; the White Australia Policy; The Stolen Generation; ... etc. The racism against our indigenous peoples did not end here. It continue to flow on to the 21st Century. Just to select a few examples as follows:

1) Child death report to shame nation (Courier Mail, 5 Oct 2009): "AUSTRALIA'S indigenous children aged under five are dying at a rate comparable to some of the world's poorest countries.""THIS should not be happening in Australia. We are a wealthy country. We can afford to fix this."

2) Stark figures ram home plight of Aborigines and Islanders (The Age 31 Jan 2008): "THE majority of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory fail almost every benchmark test of literacy and numeracy, with failure rates up to 10 times higher than the national average, the Productivity Commission reports."

3) The shocking reality in the heart of Australia (Amnesty International, 18 Nov 2009): After witnessing the living condition of our indigenous peoples in the Utopia Homelands, an impoverished grouping of communities 350 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. Irene Khan of Amnesty International have the following comments:

"For a country which, by human development standards, is the third most developed in the world and one which has emerged from the global financial crisis comparatively unscathed, such a level of poverty is inexcusable, unexpected and unacceptable," "In the heart of this first world I found scenes more reminiscent of the third world."

4) According to Civil Liberties Australia (19 Sept 2009): "Aborigines are 2% of population, 26% of people in Australian jails". "The way Aborigines are treated by the Australian justice system is atrocious, and getting worse. It is officially-sanctioned racism." "Politicians, police, jailers, magistrates, judges and the Australian community as a whole must take responsibility for moving urgently to correct this example of discrimination against Indigenous Australians."

5) Aborigines lack proof of identity (The Age, 23 Jan 2009): "MANY Victorian Aborigines are barred from obtaining a driver's licence, voting, opening a bank account and receiving social security benefits because their births were never registered and they officially don't exist."

6) Aborigines more likely to go blind (The Age, 29 Sept 2009): "INDIGENOUS Australians are six times more likely to go blind than non-indigenous people because they are not receiving preventive care and treatment for common problems, a damning study has revealed."

7) Kirby's last blast: my fellow judges racially biased (WAToday, 2 Feb 2009): "Justice Michael Kirby has retired from the High Court in a blaze of controversy, accusing fellow judges of exercising racial bias against Aborigines in the Northern Territory intervention case."

The list of hardship our indigenous populations suffering in Australia is simply too lengthy to be listed in a short article like this.

A recent UN report (14 Jan 2010) "paints grim picture of conditions of world's indigenous peoples" with Australia listed as the worst on Indigenous life expectancy. An abstract from the UN report: "In Australia, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years earlier than his non-native compatriot". "Every day, indigenous communities all over the world face issues of violence and brutality, continuing assimilation policies, dispossession of land, marginalization, forced removal or relocation, denial of land rights, impacts of large-scale development, abuses by military forces and a host of other abuses,"

Racism Against Muslims, Jews, Africans and Others
In fact, racism in Australia by no mean limited to Indian and Aborigine. It is a wide spread issue. For examples:

1) The Cronulla riot-Racist attacks grip Australia (Workers World, 25 Dec 2005): "A racist lynch mob numbering about 5,000, punched, beat, and stomped people who looked Middle Eastern or Muslim on a beach in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 11. A woman had her head scarf torn off and had to flee down the beach to escape the frenzy. Some of the mob screamed to one young man, "Watch out, he's got a bomb, he might blow himself up."

2) Fears of rising anti-Semitism (The Australian, 23 Aug 2003): "A RECENT baseball bat attack on a young Jewish man in Melbourne has prompted fears that anti-Semitism has reached frightening new levels."

3) National probe into discrimination against Africans (The Australian, 17 March 2009): "A NATIONAL inquiry will examine the racism and exclusion faced by Africans, amid fears that media stereotypes, such as the portrayal of African youths as violent gang members, are fuelling discrimination."

4) The Yellow Peril mentality lives on (SMN, 12 Feb 2009): "There's more than a touch of Sino phobia underpinning some of the commentary on Chinalco's suspected bailout of the hapless Rio Tinto chaps - one-and-a-half centuries of Yellow Peril mentality doesn't disappear overnight ."

Racism fuels by Politicians

The problem with Australia is that, we lack the necessary leaderships to tackle the issue of racism head on over the last 13 years begin with the Howard's era.

Australia International image has been lifted in 1973 by the Whitlam's Government taken step to abolish the White Australia Policy. Followed by the open minded approach of the subsequent governments including Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawk and Paul Keating.

Unfortunately, since the Howard's government begin in 1996, Australia has gradually moving towards racism. For examples:

1) The introduction of the Mandatory Detention Law was enacted in Western Australia and the Northern Territory in 1996 and 1997 respectively. According to the Australian Human Right Commission, as a result of those laws:

"While there are few reliable estimates of how many people have been goaled under mandatory sentencing laws since they took effect in mid-1997, those Territorians familiar with the effects of the regime say it runs into the hundreds. The majority of those sentenced have been young, Aboriginal men."

"The impact of mandatory detention laws is seen not just in the numbers affected but also in the disproportionate impact on particular groups of people, especially Indigenous people. Recent research indicated that Indigenous children constituted 80% of cases under the mandatory detention laws before the Children's Court of WA between February 1997 and May 1998"

2) In 2002, the Howard's government scrapped an AUD240 million 10-year funding program for teaching Asian languages in schools, four years before it was originally intended to end. (CNN, 3 May 2005). This prompt the Federal Opposition to accused the Government of wasting almost a quarter of a billion dollars in funding for the national Asian language program, by shutting it down halfway through its ten-year life. The move has also angered schools and the Asian business lobby but the Government is defending the action as part of a re-examination of spending in the sector. (ABC,- Lateline, 3 May 2005). Even though the Rudd government has reintroduced Asian language program in June 2009, but the funding is so small that, the Australian newspaper run a heading on 27 June: "Language fund risks being lip service."

3) The on going used of race card during elections is another feature of Australia politics. For examples, the Children Overboard lie, the Neo-colonialism of the Pacific Solution, the Pauline Hanson's phenomenon, and the handling of the Mohammed Haneef's case on the eve of an election were just part of the numerous examples of racism within the Australian political establishment.

Racism fuels by Australia media
Former Prime Minister John Howard may have complaint recently that, "media is unfair to Pauline Hanson" (The Age, 5 Aug 2009), however, what Howard had forgotten is that, it is the very media industry in Australia that make Pauline Hanson a celebrity and as a result profited from her Anti-Asian maiden speech since then. David Oldfield has also profited by being Pauline Hanson chief adviser and transform himself from a nobody to winning a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council at the March 1999 state elections as a result of that close association with Pauline Hanson and the populist anti-Asian strand.

The issue here is, who is Pauline Hanson? What qualification she possessed beside her racist maiden speech? The reality is, without prejudice, Pauline Hanson is a person who cannot even understand simple English. She has to resort to her famous phrase: "Please Explain" time and again during interviews to understand simple questions posted by the presenters. There are even going to be a movie about Pauline Hanson life using her famous phrase "Please Explain" as the movie title. (News Limited, 29 Sept 2009)

I believe that it is fair to ask, how can a person without the necessary basic education (highest education: Year 10); without any special contribution to the society; without the ability to understand simple English, and was unknown to the Australian public could become a household name simply because of her anti-Asian maiden speech?

The relenting and repeated reporting of her maiden speech by the Australian media across the country, the endless interviews and attention given to Pauline Hanson and her later "One Nation Party" are undoubtedly the reason that make her a phenomenon in the society. Without the active support of the Australia media industry (especially channel 7, our so-called Pauline Seven at that time) in the form of Interviews, Magazine Posting, Book publishing ..., one could reasonably believe that: "Will there still be a Pauline Hanson Phenomenon?". I have no doubt that, it is the Australia media who have promoted Pauline Hanson, and make her a celebrity.

I wish I could report the way most mainstream media did from time to time when they demonise other culture or country without having to produce concrete evidence. For example, I wish I can make a statement like this:

According to racism expert or according to psychologist in racism (without the need of giving a name): "Pauline Hanson has said what some in the media industry wanted to say for a long time but dare not say, so they borrow her mouth to van their own inner racism on the respective issue."

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March of the
White Glory Policy - 2010

"Australia!, Australia!
Sunny South of Britainnia's sons
Australia, the white man's land
Australia!, Australia!
For Anglo-Saxon race and Southern Cross
God bless and help us protect
Our glorious land Australia"

National Library of Australia

Sorry, I have to confess, this is just a quote without any backing from any expert. As a responsible accredited "Outcast Journalist" in Australia, I will only make statement that I can find a source to back up my statement.

For more information and examples of Australia media bias, and racism against Muslim and the Middle East, please read Professor Peter Manning investigative research-book title: "US and THEM" (2006). Also, my recent article: Evidence of Australia Media Fuelling Racism against Minorities.

Australian Peoples are honest about the issue of Racism in Australia
Unlike most of our political leaders and police chief, the Australian peoples are honest about the problem of Racism in Australia. According to a 2003 survey by the University of NSW: "Four-fifths of respondents (83.1%) recognised that there was a problem with racism in Australia."

Political Leadership is required to combated Racism
Former Defence Force Chief General Cosgrove is right to point out that: "the number of incidents against Indians seemed too many to be coincidences,'' ''If you didn't suspect a racial strand you'd be mad,'' General Cosgrove also call upon the society to "deal more openly and directly with race issues than many political figures have been willing to do." (Brisbane Times, 20 Jan 2010).

Let's acknowledge unambiguously the contribution of migrants to Australia
If you are observance and actively talking to people in a variety of industries, you will find that, Australia reliance on migrants to fuel it economy and maintain its social welfare and educational program etc - without the billion of dollars of revenue from the fee paying students from Asian countries, there is no way Australia kids could have continue to enjoy its education in universities base on subsidy.

The reality is, without migrants, many of our hospitals won't have enough doctors, surgeons, other specialists and medical staffs to look after the patients; Many of our specialists and experts in science and technology are filled by migrants as well including some of the government departments (not to name them for confidentiality) filled exclusively by migrants because Australia simply cannot find locally people with the skills and talents to fill those positions.

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"Fuck Off, We're Full", from the Blog Aussie News & Views: "Religion of Peace". The image, while meant as a representation of dark humour on this page, seems to be a serious component of an Australian right-wing Blog

Andrew Bartlett, a Queensland Senator (1997-2008) rightly pointed out in his personal blog article "Migration, Citizenship and integration" (2007) that: "Twenty-five percent of Australians are overseas born. Modern Australia would not exist without the skills and efforts migrants, and our economy and services would collapse overnight if the hundreds of thousands of people who come here each year as skilled workers, students, holiday workers, refugees and spouses all stopped coming."

Unfortunately, till this day of the 21st century, we continue to receive news like this within Australia:

Example 1: Aborigine Boy, 12, to fight stolen Freddo charges (WAToday, 15 Nov 2009): "A 12-year-old boy who faced court today over a stolen Freddo frog chocolate, which saw him locked up by police, will fight the charges. Police claim he was found with the 70-cent chocolate frog, allegedly shoplifted by the child's friend from a Coles supermarket in the Wheatbelt town. The boy, who has no prior convictions, also faces a second charge involving the receipt of a novelty sign from another store. The sign, which was also allegedly given to the boy by his friend, read: ''Do not enter, genius at work.''

Example 2: Patriotic Aussies shun foreign-made goods (Apparently the content of this link: http://money.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=817497 posted on 25 May 2009 is no longer available on ninemsn website.)

Our Judiciary System seems quite soft on certain crime as well. For example,

Case 1: The Age (3 Aug 2009) reported a case: $10 dare led to Chinese student's death - "A 19-year-old man involved in a $10 dare on a Chinese student that led to his death has avoided jail. Aaron Toal was out with friends in Forest Hill on the night of July 7 last year when they targeted Yuxiong Han, 21, who was coming home from work. The Victorian Supreme Court heard Toal dared one of his friends to hit Han. His teenage co-accused threw a punch, causing Han to run into the path of an oncoming car. He suffered massive head injuries and died in hospital. Toal pleaded guilty to manslaughter." The Judge verdict is: "He ordered him to undertake a two-year community-based order with 500 hours of unpaid work."

Case 2: News Limited (13 Nov 2009) reported a case: Racist cabbie attack 'was yobbo madness' - "Two men who racially abused, spat on and punched an Indian student taxi driver have been spared jail time by a judge who said they were yobbos on a "night of madness". The verdict is: "Both of you were carrying on like yobbos in the back of the taxi and things started to escalate," "You displayed hallmarks of conduct that is antithetical to the Australian way of life." "Calling this an act of animals is a disservice to animals." Then, Kleyn was given a prison term of nine months and Cooper a sentence of six months. Both were granted parole, effective immediately.

The recent update by ABS (9 Dec 2009) with regards to Australia population projections for 2010 to 2056 indicated that

"Australia population keeps getting older". This prompt Prime Minister Rudd talking about the need for Australia to increase its population from 22 million to 36 million by 2050. (Adelaide Now, 20 Jan 2010).

The reality is, regardless of whether we like it or not, it is inevitable that Australia has to increase it migrant in take to maintain its current living standard and social welfare. Therefore, it is not in Australian interest to continue accepting migrants on the one hand and being racist on the other hand. We should educate the public at all level through our politicians, our media and our school systems to accept, respect and enjoy each other existence like the way the Catholics come to term with the Protestants after half a century of conflict in Australia.

Strictly speaking, besides the indigenous Australians, we are all migrants since 1788. Don't we?

Racism and cover-up pervade response to deaths in custody

Suvendrini Perera Sydney Morning Herald March 19, 2010

Suvendrini Perera is a cultural theorist at Curtin University. She was a member of the working party that reported to the West Australian Attorney-General on the coronial findings into the death of Mr Ward.

Aborigines, Sudanese and asylum seekers are subject to brutality.

'THEY see the colour first, mate,'' Koyock Gumwel, a young African-Australian, told a reporter in Melbourne. Meanwhile, police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, though conceding there were some racists in Victoria Police, was busily detailing the steps taken to combat police racism, from neighbourhood soccer games to visits to Sudan in pursuit of cultural understanding.

What are the factors that converge in the stark experiences of 21-year-old Gumwel on a Melbourne street? Global, national and local forces are all in play, and racism old and new entwines.

On the other side of the country, hundreds of protesters gathered at the West Australian Parliament this week to hear about the death in custody of a 33-year-old Aboriginal man in Perth. Some of his six children huddled quietly on the steps, oblivious to the cameras and slogans. Their shock is palpable. He should have been in hospital, not prison, his brother said. He should not be dead.

The rally was called because of the WA government's inaction in another shocking case, that of the Wongai elder who was "cooked to death" in the back of a prison van on Australia Day in 2008. Despite the coroner's finding that a ''litany of errors'' placed Mr Ward (who cannot be fully identified for cultural reasons) in the scorching and airless container in which he died, his family have received no compensation and the WA government refuses to sever its contract for prisoner transport with the private operator 4GS.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, protesters ran the elusive Attorney-General to ground inside Parliament and a package for the family was hastily announced. It is a small win in a grim landscape. From the goldfields of WA to Queensland's Gold Coast, the catalogue goes on.

Yet another hearing opened into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island six years ago, just as an 18-year-old man died in his Brisbane cell after being refused medical treatment. Reports of interference by Queensland's police union in the Palm Island case coincide with evidence that police at the Gold Coast watchhouse falsified logbooks only hours before another a prisoner died.

Early this month, the ABC reported on the case of a 59-year-old in New South Wales who died in a pool of his own bodily fluids in a prison van, despite seven other inmates shouting and banging on the walls to call attention to his plight. The NSW Department of Corrective Services will not release its policies on how its employees are supposed to respond in such instances.

Almost 20 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, a culture of racism, cronyism and cover-up is evident in Australia. Its targets are overwhelmingly Aboriginal, but also caught up are young Sudanese-Australians in suburban Melbourne and asylum seekers held in the detention system.

A culture of impunity attends the loss and damage done to this society's apparently disposable lives, an impunity that extends even to the horrific manner of their deaths. There is minimal accountability for these casualties, or for the tragedy, suffering and trauma that are set in train for their families.

Neither globalisation, with its promises of cosmopolitanism and openness, nor neoliberalism, with its claims to privatised professionalism, has dissipated the culture of racism, impunity and cover-up that characterised our criminal justice system at the time of the royal commission. Instead, they have diffused and rearranged it in new constellations.

Especially since 2001, the war on terror and the focus on security have led to a hunt for enemies both at the borders and within the nation. Racial profiling, extended surveillance, saturation policing of public space: all are aspects of the obsession with identifying perceived "risk groups" and the targeting of racially marked suspects.

The privatisation of security through contractors such as 4GS and the militarisation of policing through the introduction of technologies developed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars produce new objects of threat, fear and risk: new targets.

They rationalise the spectacle of black bodies, whether Aboriginal or African, being harassed and moved on simply for standing on a city street, the abject figure of the shackled and handcuffed deportee at the airport, the building of more high-security prisons and detention centres protected from scrutiny by "commercial-in-confidence" agreements.

There is a paradox here. In a recent issue of the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, Paul Amar asks why police practices nearly everywhere reproduce racism even as states adopt explicitly anti-racist, culturally aware and inclusive policies. One answer is that such policies function in a vacuum, floating free of the historical and institutional cultures from which they emerge.

Rather than trips to Sudan in search of cultural understanding, public funds would be better spent in educating police to understand our own culture of institutional racism; in teaching them to view Sudanese, Indian and, above all, Aboriginal-Australians not as potential criminals, or interlopers on the national landscape, but as participants and citizens.

This does not mean more "diversity" or "social inclusion" training, but a critical consciousness of the workings of old and new racism and of the structural factors that inhibit equal outcomes in our justice-detention system.

Suvendrini Perera is a cultural theorist at Curtin University. She was a member of the working party that reported to the West Australian Attorney-General on the coronial findings into the death of Mr Ward.