How racist is it in Australia? A perspective from people who have moved there would be useful...

(229 Posts)
netsuke Fri 08-Feb-13 10:08:34

We are a mixed-ethnicity family and we have been considering a move abroad for some time now (feels like we have been talking about it for years!). Because of DH's job prospects Australia is probably the best choice and it is also the one DH has his heart set on. I have always had misgivings about OZ mainly due to the treatment of the aboriginal people; I think things like that resonate in a country's psyche but DH is quite blase about it. He is the dark skinned one (and our sons) and I am worried he is not taking the threat of racism seriously. He thinks that because he has handled himself ok in UK all these years he can face anything but I have been reading different forums and getting a conflicting picture about the racism in Oz ...can anyone give me a idea of what it's like there please?

Snusmumriken Fri 08-Feb-13 12:39:33

I don't have any first hand experience but a friend of mine worked in OZ for about a year and found it very, very hard to handle. She is black and was overwhelmed by the racism she encountered.

I would be most concerned about your LO and how he would manage. Hopefully, someone else will be able to share some personal experiences.
Good luck!

SavoyCabbage Fri 08-Feb-13 12:49:17

I am white, dh is black. We have 2 dds and we live in the suburbs of Melbourne.

I find Australia to be very racist. I find it quite wearing.

Tonight, I have been out for dinner with my friends. One of their dc has made a new friend at school. She 'doesn't mind' that he's Indian. So that's good.

AngryFeet Fri 08-Feb-13 13:10:28

I lived there for a year. I found the majority of aussies racist and sexist tbh.

echt Fri 08-Feb-13 21:50:39

I am white, and have not encountered racist attitudes expressed in my workplace, but then it's teaching, so at the worst, those who hold those attitudes would shut up.

My DD's experience at school was quite different; racist attitudes towards Asian and black people was quite widespread among her white, middle-class friends. She was shock, being brought up in a racially mixed area before moving to Oz, and having friends from a range of ethnicities and religions. Largely the Aussie kids were entirely ignorant, knowing/ encountering very few of either, and with no pervading ethic of acceptance, nothing to counter it their prejudices.

I see from being at my local big shopping mall that there has been a marked increase in black and Indian people shopping there, and hope that things will change.

It'll be bloody slow, though.

Getting rid of fucking golliwogs in shops would be a small, but significant start.

iremembertypewriters Fri 08-Feb-13 22:01:25

I haven't lived there but I did spend a fair amount of time travelling around the country and also came across racist views on a regular basis. It's quite shocking when you come from a multi-cultural country like the UK.

ripsishere Fri 08-Feb-13 23:04:55

I agree. I have never lived there, but have spent quite a lot of time there. My DD was seven when she was last there. Even she noticed how racist it was. She'd come from a multicultural school in Thailand so was very comfortable with people from all nationalities.
She is pretty self absorbed, so for her to actually notice is a good indicator of how shocking some of the statements she heard was.

Dromedary Fri 08-Feb-13 23:09:52

I have a relative who spent several years there. She is white, but found the Australians racist towards her for being English (Pommy). She learned the accent very quickly, and that made life better for her.

Mimishimi Sat 09-Feb-13 00:05:33

There are racists everywhere though. I am Aussie and I don't think it's necessarily worse than other places. My DH is a citizen now but originally from India. When we lived in Hong Kong recently, some people would get up and move if I sat down next to them on the MTR (I am not smelly, am well dressed and look 'clean'). Or they would leave the seat next to me empty even if the train was packed. It would happen about twice a week. When we went to Taiwan on holiday over the Christmas break people kept pointing at us and saying 'waiguoren' (foreigner) and giggling in front of us. It got so annoying one day I laughed, pointed back and said in a loud voice "Foreigner!". grin So, sure, some Aussies are racist but so are loads of East Asians, Indians etc. And loads are not. It's just human nature really.

Our resentment of Pommies has nothing to do with racism wink.

Iheartpasties Sat 09-Feb-13 00:34:54

I haven't encountered it but I am white and so is dh, Sydney always seems multicultural to me, but I am originally from Cornwall where ethinic diversity doesn't really exist.

echt Sat 09-Feb-13 00:38:04

You might not think the Pommies tag is racist, but speaking as a Pom, I do. I've been on the receiving end of this quite a number of times since I've been here. It's shit.

Speaking in a derogatory way about someone for what they cannot help, e.g.race, nationality is racist behaviour.

chickieno1 Sat 09-Feb-13 02:57:31

I wolud think long and hard about bringing up children in a place where they will be abused or targeted because of the colour of their skin! Your husband might be able to handle it and rationalise it as ignorance but your kids are not adults! They will feel hurt and it might affect their confidence in the long term. I speak from experience

chickieno1 Sat 09-Feb-13 03:00:03

And I have been to sydney and melbourne, both quite racist although melbourne better. I have many good aussie friends and they are openly racist but make jokes about it to try and cover it up. I don't take it personally but wouldn't expose my child to those attitudes

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 03:06:05

It's hard to be definitive when it's not something I've experienced. Of course it's here, but I also found the UK to be a fairly racist environment. Perhaps it's more obvious when you see it in a new environment.

My kids schools are diverse, as are their friendship groups, as is my friendship group. Anyone who voiced racist comments in any of the circles I mix in would find out very quickly just how unacceptable it is.

That said, others have clearly had a very different experience.

MoleyMick Sat 09-Feb-13 03:11:13

I'm from the UK and have found that its not racist at all! I'm in southeast Queensland in a very multicultural area, and it just isn't an issue. Anyone expressing a racist opinion is swiftly shouted down.
I'm always surprised at these threads where so many people describe Australians as racists.

Dottiespots Sat 09-Feb-13 03:17:48

Australians do not like the British on the whole and they call them Whinging Poms cause the British people go over to Australia and then the majority of them seem to complain about everything in Australia to the point why you wonder what made them move there in the first place and if they dont like it so much why dont they go back. Those that get on there adapt adjust and try to fit in without complaining.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 03:30:25

I'm afraid I find it hard to take 'on the whole' statements seriously, tbh. There are loads of Brits living in my neighbourhood and they're liked and disliked on an individual basis. The pom thing just doesn't come up very often, and when it does it's only in a sporting context.

OP on the one hand, yes there is casual racism around mostly surrounding asylum seekers issues and shamefully played up by certain politicians, that's not unique to Australia. On the other hand, there's no EDL/BNP equivalent.

It's too big a question to answer on a nationwide basis, your best get would be to visit and spend time in the area you plan to live in.

WhoWhatWhereWhen Sat 09-Feb-13 03:41:59

I lived in Australia for 6yrs. Never have I been exposed to such high levels of open racism, sexism and homophobia

saffronwblue Sat 09-Feb-13 03:50:58

I live in Melbourne and always find these threads surprising. I have encountered racist attitudes in the UK and in Australia but in both contexts I have been able to make a wide circle of friends that do not include people with racist views. DS attends a high school with kids from 55 different nationalities. My DC are if possible over sensitised to racism, the other day rebuking me for referring me to French toast as being racist to the toast.

In my opinion Melbourne is a good example of a functioning multicultural city.

I agree and detest that our politicians have decided to mine a seam of racism and fear mongering towards asylum seekers. But have a look at groups such as the asylum seekers resources centre to see how many ordinary Australians volunteer and donate to help people who arrive here with nothing.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 03:57:13

I don't get it either, Saffron. I don't deny it exists, but can't relate to those who found it overwhelming.

I found sections of the US absolutely polarised along racial lines and other areas incredibly diverse. I guess if I'd only seen one side I'd imagine the whole country to be that way.

FellatioNels0n Sat 09-Feb-13 04:45:01

I was with a new Australian friend last week (we both live in a small country in the Middle East where there hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani expat workers) and we were talking about them and she said 'the Indians and the Pakis....'

I was [shocked] and temporarily lost for words, but I immediately realised from her tone and from what she was saying that she didn't mean it in a particularly derogatory sense - it was just a word to describe people from Pakistan, like Brits, Poms, Aussies, Kiwis etc.

But coming from the UK where it has been a taboo word for at least thirty years it was a bit tough to hear, and it felt odd hearing it dropped into conversation in such a blase way. I have never been to Australia so I can't comment, but I jokingly said to another Aussie friend that it was a very racist place and she seemed quite hurt and indignant!

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 05:14:46

Paki is a weird one because to an Australian who isn't travelled it's the equivalent of Aussie, just a shortening that ends in an ee sound. Your friend would most likely be horrified to know it's a racist term in the UK. Even cricket commentators would talk about the "Aussies, Windies and Pakis" until recently.

That said, education is required as it's important to understand more than the culture you are born into.

differentnameforthis Sat 09-Feb-13 05:28:00

I have lived here almost 7yrs, haven't encountered any racism.

ClaudiaSchiffer Sat 09-Feb-13 05:49:54

The difference I've found since living here (as a white Brit), is that there's a LOT more casual racism amongst otherwise "People Like Us". A lot of words and phrases that are absolutely verboten in the UK, Paki, Wog etc are in everyday usage here and don't have the same racist connotations (Wog = Italian or Greek for instance). Also I have been shock and appalled by somethings that "friends" have said and considered to be ok, which would be just NOT ACCEPTABLE in the UK. (Friends no more - racist shitbags).

Also their just hasn't the same scale of non-white immigration until recent years, (thanks to the highly racist white Australia Immigration policy of the 50's, 60's and 70's I suppose), so black faces are much rarer. That is changing.

However, there are discussions in the media about racism, it is seen as A BAD THING, but as said up thread immigration (refugee/non-white) is a big political hot potato at the moment.

On the other hand, I think if you're a "good bloke" then Aussies are very friendly and welcoming regardless of colour. If you conform to the Aussie way of life, sport, bbq's etc then colour won't be an issue <hopeful>.

Also the whole 'treatment of Aboriginal people' what do you mean exactly - historical treatment or present day?

SavoyCabbage Sat 09-Feb-13 05:57:12

We were evicted from our house when the landlord 'found out' dh was black. It never crossed our minds to disclose it...and yes, they did tell us that was the reason.

A woman stormed off my drive shouting all sorts of delightful comments after buying our car seat from eBay and then clocking my dd. like I should have said 'previous occupant is not white'.

When my dh travels to some areas for work (he works for a mining company) he wouldn't go out at night. He eats before the sun sets.

One of my friends was in tears once after looking after my dd for the day and someone had a go at her for having different coloured kids!

But it's not the incidents like these that bother me as much as the constant background racism.

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