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?

Helpyourself Sat 09-Feb-13 23:31:38

There are definitely loads of lovely Australians, the trouble is there's no will at policy level to counter prejudice.

Helpyourself Sat 09-Feb-13 23:45:59

hopeful can you honestly say that otherwise thoughtful people don't crack jokes about your job? I was at some left wing meeting once, the sort that would be all earnest beardy types in the UK where the uncontested topic of conversation was how dreadful equal pay and benefits were for the Aboriginsls.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 23:51:26

That's not entirely true, help. What is true is that the previous conservative government played the race card to win an election they were forecast to lose and set about putting the country back decades in a number of respects. A lot of people have fought very hard to counter this, including at a policy level, which is set at a state rather than federal level more often than not.

It started with the kind of rumblings about scrounges and immigrants that's happening in the UK under the current government and was fed by the Australia equivalents of the DM.

The simplistic, oh Australia is racist and so backwards approach is inaccurate and frustrating and doesn't begin to take into account British responsibility for its colonial legacy, which most definitely includes responsibility for declaring Australia Terra Nullis and it's indigenous people 'non-people' in the first place.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 23:53:45

Really, helpful? A room full of professionals agreeing that equal rights and pay for the indigenous population is a bad thing? I can just begin to picture that if you were in mining, but that's not an industry renowned for earnest beardy types.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 00:01:50

Can I ask a question of Australians....why are there some schools with signs saying "Aboriginal School" on them?

I might be being a bit daft..or missing something....but why are there some separate schools for Aboriginals?

I understand if there are a larger population of Aboriginal people in an area that the local school will have a large Aboriginal student body....but why not just call it a school?

hopefulgum Sun 10-Feb-13 00:08:10

helpyourself, I had never even considered that someone might be laughing at my job? Why would they? I take it very seriously, it is considered an important role in the school, along with the "Follow the Dream" programme which pours millions of dollars into tertiary bound students with tutoring, university tours,camps etc. Oh, and the Indigenous Education worker whose full-time position in the school is to look after the specific needs of indigenous kids. And she herself is an Indigenous woman, who does not encounter racism in her workplace.

If anyone is laughing at my job,I am not aware of it.

Can you show me where equal pay doesn't occur for the indigenous? It is illegal to pay someone less based on their race. It just doesn't happen.

Dromedary Sun 10-Feb-13 00:12:16

An Australian friend told me that her (not aboriginal) children spent a year in a school with mainly aboriginal children. She said that expectations were very low - they were pretty much just expected to play all day.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 00:14:49

The only one I know of, Mrs, is a community school set up by indigenous community members and they're proud to have done so. I don't think they call it an Aboriginal school, though.

Education is a state matter so it would help to know which state you're referring to. It might be a language thing, btw, a way of advertising that the local indigenous language is taught. It might be similar to church based schools labelling themselves 'A Uniting Church School'. It's hard to say without more detail.

I'm a Brit who became a dual-citizen, though, who hasn't spent her whole life here, but I'll claim to be australian enough to answer your q grin

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 00:16:07

How old we're they, dromedary? Some states have a specifically play-based curriculum right through the early years.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 00:16:40

So does anyone know why these schools are called "Aboriginal Schools"? As I said above...if it's in an area with a large Aboriginal population...it's still just a school no? What if I wanted to live there...send my Caucasian child there....could I not because it's Aboriginal people only?

I also understand that Aboriginal people need their culture to be protected...and that schools in these areas may specialise in that...but still....why title them with one race?

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 00:17:53

Hester there are a number of Aboriginal schools in Australia....not all set up by local communities at all and a race of people is not comparable to a religion.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 00:20:45

How about this for a cold hard fact.

Aboriginal Life Expectancy

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 00:24:26

Oh it's so the locals know where to go when they want to be racist, mrs. Obviously.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 00:30:19

That flippant response only shows that you can't come up with a better explanation than deep rooted racism hester

Dromedary Sun 10-Feb-13 00:34:44

Hester - they mentioned the DD's class specifically, and she is 9 or 10.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 00:43:02

hester and hopeful the conversation was honestly exactly that. That equal pay for Aboriginals was a dreadful thing as it had broken down traditional working and life patterns. And housing was an unfair burden as they didn't know how to live indoors and look after it. At a launch party for a book on free market reforms.
Hopeful I would certainly challenge anyone who thought your job wasn't extremely worthwhile, but my experience of living in a very affluent Sydney suburb was that abo jokes and general grumbling about the cost of 'looking after' them were rife. All based on media reports and prejudice, btw. The only indigenous Australians I ever saw were at Circular Quay busking. Certainly 0 presence on tv or adverts.
Also I don't wish to counsel despair. I love Australia and want to return, but next time to work with marginalised communities rather than in a beautiful, but very sequestered bubble.

MoleyMick Sun 10-Feb-13 00:45:31

Aboriginal schools, as far as I know, are where Aboriginal traditions are adhered to and - in the outback particularly - where tribal languages are spoken. Traditions may not be the best word actually - I mean things like, cultural norms around the use of eye contact, style of learning etc, very different than in other schools. I only have a vague knowledge of this having worked with some indigenous educators at a university, but that's what it means.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 00:48:02

No, mrs, it reflects my tiredness with posts that imply something without stating. If you have an opinion, offer it rather than dismissing ones that don't fit what you're trying to get at.

A bit of googling shows that Victoria has something called the Koori pathway that tries to use aboriginal schools as a stepping stone to greater mainstream inclusion. SA has Aboriginal Schools that are based largely in Indigenous settlements and there's a network of non-government indigenous schools in WA and the NT. They all come from different places, the SA ones seem to be rooted in historical exclusion policies, the Victorian ones in a push towards inclusion and closing the gap.

There is no single answer, there is no single system. The life expectancy and education outcomes are a disgrace, no ifs or buts. Racism exists in Australia, no ifs or buts. Your questions regarding schools are impossible to answer in a simple, nationwide manner because, although a national curriculum is being introduced, education is a state matter and differs widely from state to state.

MoleyMick Sun 10-Feb-13 00:49:31

And what Hester said smile

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 00:53:03

Helpyourself, that's very depressing.

If you ever feel like doing something from a distance, these guys do great work and always appreciate support http://aimementoring.com/

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 00:55:56

Thanks Hester
Gah, it's such a minefield isn't it. So hard to challenge prejudice without trampling over the sensibilities of those who are striving against it and are, quite rightly, affronted by us Englishers, the origin of the whole situation sneering.

lisianthus Sun 10-Feb-13 00:58:38

MrsMushroom, as Hester said, education is run at a state level, so you need to tell us where it is if you want more information. Hester has already told you about the reason for the one she knows about, and it isn't a racist reason.

My family is a mixed race background and we've been fine. In fact one of my friends from the UK with a husband from the Caribbean commented on how much easier he and she found it over here than in the UK. When I first moved to the UK, I found it weird that it wasn't as multicultural as WA. Of course, I learned that it was simply a matter of having people from different ethnic groups than those I was used to seeing. I noticed the lack of the people I was used to, IYSWIM. There were hardly any Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian people, for example.

Any racism against British people you experience will probably be the equivalent of that racism Australians experience in the UK, being from the sort of knobbers who are snooty about "colonials", talk about there being more culture in a tub of yoghurt than in Australia and similar sneery things. But you get jerks everywhere.

Narked Sun 10-Feb-13 01:01:45

New Zealand seems much nicer.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 01:09:02

On the off chance that's not a flippant comment the Maoris certainly have better life chances and expectancy than Australian Aboriginals. I've never been but perhaps someone could advise the OP about living there in a mixed race family.

Narked Sun 10-Feb-13 01:15:04

It was actually a reference to the way that they treat their indigenous people compared to Australia.

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