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?

netsuke Mon 01-Apr-13 22:52:37

I am sorry I have not been back to this post. Had to deal with some things in RL. Thank you to everyone who gave me so many different and varied perspectives on this. It has been very useful to me.

lisianthus Thu 14-Feb-13 08:24:58

Hell, maybe he saw you coming along after he thought he'd sorted the last of the queue, thought "bugger this, I'm already going to miss the first half of the footy, I'm off home" and waved you through because of that. I have no idea what was going through his or her head. But neither does anyone else.

lisianthus Thu 14-Feb-13 08:20:54

"It is a bit absurd to think racism only exists if people openly admit to racist motives behind their actions."

Well, yes, that would be absurd, Flatbread. That's why that isn't the point that I was making. What I was trying to say, not clearly enough it appears, was that it wasn't at all clear to me that there was any racial motivation behind exoticfruits being waved through the line at the airport. The reasoning seemed to be that "the customs people were nice to me. I am white. Therefore they must be racists, because Australia is a racist country and the customs people are Australian."

This was a bit of an eye-opener for me, because as I said, I am part of a mixed-race family. We have traveled back and forth between the UK and OZ many times in the last decade, and never have the customs people been less than courteous and professional. The assumption of racism seemed a bit rough on what was quite possibly a decent person trying to do his or her job and go home.

And no, exoticfruits, I am sorry but I have no idea why you were waved through when other passengers weren't. You said you are young and able-bodied (without young accompanying children?) so it wasn't age or infirmity that drove the gesture of kindness. I wasn't there and I have never worked in that area so don't know how they make decisions. I'm not saying there definitely wasn't any racism there, just that on the facts given it's a bit of a leap unless you are assuming that they were racist purely because they were Australian.

EspressoMonkey Tue 12-Feb-13 22:53:54

I spent 6 weeks in Australia ten years ago, with my then DP who is mixed race. We experienced quite a few racism incidents.

A couple of guys in a bar in Sydney cornered me when DP went to the loo and asked me why i was dating a "coffee boy".

Then our diving instructor joked that i was with DP "because black men have big di*ks".

Then when filling in a form for a hotel, DP was asked his profession was and put Dr (he was a junior Dr at the time) and was then told not to lie! When DP protested his innocence the guy replied, "not many black guys make Drs".

I lived in Australia for 2 years, came back recently.

As a white Pom I found little direct racism, although not none. I found a lot of homophobia which made me feel very uncomfortable.

There was some racism towards the aboriginal peoples in normal day to day conversation both in people I met in Qld and WA, but the most striking racism came from a Chinese immigrant, 1st generation, who owned a restaurant and hotel. We were talking about London and he told me that he hadn't liked London or Paris as there were so many black people around and they smelled.

I cannot comment on a whole nation, that would be transparently absurd. Whilst a beautiful country it was not for me, and so yes, I did come home.

chibi Mon 11-Feb-13 19:55:44

i am sure that is true in australia. in my own country, colonialism is percieved to be something the british, and to a lesser extent the french did. there is no real sense that it is something that 'we' are doing, right now.

good for australia in recognising this,i hope people in my country do too and soon

HesterBurnitall Mon 11-Feb-13 19:02:22

I think that there's enough explicit acknowledgement of much more recent events and issues for that not to be the case. The colonisation aspect was brought into this conversation in response to the view that it should have been fixed by now and only isn't due to a lack of will in order to put things into a wider context.

chibi Mon 11-Feb-13 18:49:38

yes, it needs to be acknowledged, but this too often seems to turn into a wholesale shifting of the bad effects of colonialism to the distant past

this is simultaneous with a (deliberate?) inability to see that colonialism is still happening now, and people are still benefitting from it, and that the privileges that thus accord to nonaboriginal peoples as a result are experienced as oppression by aboriginal people

HesterBurnitall Mon 11-Feb-13 18:24:54

That is true, Chibi, but it's also impossible to ignore the reverberating impact of the initial dispossession of land, designation as non-people and wholesale slaughter. The colonisation of Australia was abrupt and absolute and cannot be discounted. It was and is compounded by the ongoing process, but shouldn't be diminished by taking that into account.

chibi Mon 11-Feb-13 18:01:54

it is a real mistake to construct colonialism as a one time even that occurred when group x met group y; it is ongoing, and it us happening now.

it is not a historical fact, it is a current reality, and if we try to construct it as an event that someone, whether our ancestors or as someone else's did, nothing to do with us, we perpetuate it.

WhataSook Mon 11-Feb-13 14:34:39

and Narmada perhaps you don't need to feel personally responsibile for what your ancestors did, but at least understanding their actions, knowing that they did a lot of damage to the Aborigines which started the whole sorry situation. Your ancestors completely uprooted them, left them with no identity...and the absolutely worst, tried to cull them!

WhataSook Mon 11-Feb-13 14:19:01

I don't believe that Binfull

MrsMushroom Mon 11-Feb-13 14:03:00

shock

I had a telephone interview arranged with an Austalian recruitment consultant for a senior role in Australia. 10 minutes into the call she told me that her neighbour was English and that she didn't blame him for moving from London as there were far too many blacks. This turned into a 5 minute racist rant while I hung on the phone, gobsmacked.

She didn't know my ethnicity or the ethnicity of my husband or children, or my feelings on the subject. It was perfectly natural for her, as the CEO of a major headhunting firm to make such statements.

I'm afraid it completely put me off, I eventually found my voice to tell her that I didn't appreciate the direction of the conversation, and then basically because I had challenged her I didn't have a hope in hell of continuing the interview.

I felt glad I had though.

MrsMushroom Mon 11-Feb-13 13:25:39

Good post Narmada Very important points.

narmada Mon 11-Feb-13 11:59:44

Fivetwothree please don't make the mental slip of thinking that all those who have made observations about Australia, some critical, are necessarily blind to the problems of the UK, or other countries. All countries I have lived in have had undercurrents of racism: Greece being the absolute worst, but Australia and the UK are a close second.

It is far too simplistic to say that because a country has a higher proportion of 'overseas born' people that that this necessarily makes it less racist. One does not follow from the other, and as I said above, immigrants themselves can be incredibly racist, both toward other migrant groups who arrived at different times to themselves, and to those groups with whom they have had a traditional or recent difficult relationship - witness the problems which occasionally rear their ugly heads at Serb and Bosnian soccer matches in Melbourne, Greek- Aussie antipathy toward Macedonians..... I could go on.

You have also completely missed the class dimension from your analysis of both Australia and the UK. Britain's racism and sexism in particular complicated by class issues, and class and economic issues had a great deal to do with rioting IMHO.

I don't personally feel responsible for the terrible treatment meted out by my ancestors in the colonies. I am not them, and I would defend my right to have an opinion and contribute to the debate.

twilight3 Mon 11-Feb-13 09:57:03

I am not surprised by this thread, all my british friends are shocked when I tell them that the UK is racist. Of course they wouldn't know, given they're british and never had to face any. I wish i could change my accent, it would make my life easier....

I'm following this with interest. I lived in Queensland for a year when I was much much younger and I don't remember encountering any racism, not to the degree I have in the UK, but then I have lived here much longer. We're trying to get a visa now to move back to Oz in the next couple of years and one of our main reasons is to escape the class system.
All the posts are very interesting and eye-opening, both hard facts and anecdotes.

saffronwblue Mon 11-Feb-13 09:39:05

Oh that is depressing.

HesterBurnitall Mon 11-Feb-13 09:27:45

Depressing link added riseupaustraliaparty.com/

So, anyway, yes this country just became a bit more racist today.

HesterBurnitall Mon 11-Feb-13 09:25:52

Bloody spoke too soon on the no EDL/BNP front as some utter cock has just started the Rise Up Australia party, launched by none other than Lord Fucking Monckton. It will be an interesting litmus test to see how they poll at the upcoming election.

The only, slender, positive IMO is that any votes they do take will likely be from the LNP.

Abra1d Mon 11-Feb-13 08:55:01

Paul Boateng
Diane Abbott
Michael Howard
Michael Portillo
Ed and David Miliband
One of our most important C19th PMs, Disraeli.

I could go on and on.

MoleyMick Mon 11-Feb-13 08:43:37

Excellent post FiveTwoThree grin

saffronwblue Mon 11-Feb-13 08:37:09

MrsMushroom sorry.

saffronwblue Mon 11-Feb-13 08:36:30

Mrs Mucshroom remote areas can be literally hundreds of miles from any services. Hundreds of miles with tiny to non-existent populations in between, so, no, there are rarely health clinics in areas such as these.

saffronwblue Mon 11-Feb-13 08:35:02

Great post FiveTwoThree. Especially the point about why our black/African numbers are so low. We were not part of the slave trade and we did not colonise the Caribbean.
I also think the cultural differences in directness come into play. Racism in the UK can be expressed in tiny subtle, cat's bum mouth ways. An Australian is more likely just to come out and say it.

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