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.

SavoyCabbage Sat 09-Feb-13 05:59:50

That's what I meant Claudia, casual racism. That's more of a problem for me than the other kind.

This very morning I had a man baffled at a queue when I told him I was with dh therefore didn't need to be served. He literally didn't understand what I meant.

ClaudiaSchiffer Sat 09-Feb-13 06:03:20

Oh Savoy that's all so depressing. I'm so sorry. sad

StupidFlanders Sat 09-Feb-13 06:09:11

Southeast Queensland here. My husband and children haven't ever experienced racism.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 06:11:48

I'm so sorry you experienced that, savoy. Please, please report the landlord to your state tenancy board.

The outback is the one place where I've witnessed direct racism, in most cases against indigenous people. It must be deeply dispiriting for your DH.

echt Sat 09-Feb-13 06:19:11

Horrible for you and your DH, savoy. [sad} and angry

SanityClause Sat 09-Feb-13 07:06:27

I don't want to defend Australians, as I agree that racism is rife there. I had a friend at school whose mother was Papuan. He was just one of the lads, but obviously, was black. I asked another friend, well, surely all black people are just like Eggsy (his nickname, not sure why!). But he just couldn't see it.

But, I will say, an an Australian in the UK, you are hated just as much here, as a "Pom" in Australia, particularly as a young adult.

specialsubject Sat 09-Feb-13 10:39:49

small sample, but I spent a couple of months there on holiday in Vic and SA, mostly camping as it didn't take long to get fed up with the hostels. The Aussies camp a lot and were very friendly, helpful and chatty (we are white) but there were regular jaw-dropping moments in the conversation regarding Aborigines, Indians and Asians. This happened repeatedly - we were there at the time of the 'Stolen Generation' apology so it was a topic of conversation.

Nothing at the level of what SavoyCabbage said, but I agree with the 'background racism' comment.

WhichIsBest Sat 09-Feb-13 10:54:05

SavoyCabbage, do you ever think about leaving Australia? Are you British? It sounds awful!

saffronwblue Sat 09-Feb-13 11:00:21

I think any conversation like this needs to acknowledge the diversity within Australia and the diversity of opinion between Australians. 25% of Australians were born in another country- that is a solid multicultural basis by anyone's standards.
When you go move to another country it is often the racism that jumps out because it is angled differently. I have been shocked in the UK by comments made about the Irish, travellers, Poles, and black people and irritated by the condescension towards "colonials".
Australia's migration has been in waves, basically driven by wherever there was war. The post WW2 waves were northen and southern Europeans escaping war torn Europe. Then in the 70s, the numbers of South East Asians grew, particularly Vietnamese, Cambodians and Hmong from Laos. In the 80s we started getting Iranians, Iraquis and Lebanese and in the 90s Bosnians, and Croations. In the last 10 years there have been increased arrivals from the Horn of Africa. The fastest growing group of immigrants now are from India and China. Of course the biggest source of migration is the UK.

What I am trying to say is that there are layers of cultural diversity across Australia and many, many ways in which it works as a multicultural society.

lightrain Sat 09-Feb-13 11:04:45

Here's an example that had my jaw on the floor when we lived in Australia apparently use of this term is perfectly acceptable in Australia

MrRected Sat 09-Feb-13 11:08:25

Another SE Queenslander who hasn't experienced racism.

Kids in a reasonably multicultural schools. I work with a very wide range of nationalities - Aussie, Indian, English, Chinese, Japanese, New Zealand, Anerican. Ds1s girlfriend is Chinese and they've never even considered their ethnicity (or at least, if they have its never been mentioned).

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Sat 09-Feb-13 11:10:22

There's no need for EDL/BNP parties in Oz because their manifestos are well represented by the mainstream parties!

MrRected Sat 09-Feb-13 11:10:56

I think Australians are less concerned about being politically correct than people are in the UK.

I have seen true life examples of "mate ship" during a natural disaster in Australia which, without exception transcended gender/race.

hopefulgum Sat 09-Feb-13 11:26:44

lightrain, that term is often used, by that particular group of immigrants, to describe themselves. I've lived in Oz most of my life and my father is an immigrant - he uses that term to describe himself, as a humorous term. It may not appear that way to someone who hasn't lived in Australia for long.

I have to admit, that until reading this thread, I did not know that "Paki" was a derogatory term. It simply described where someone may have come from.Just as I am described as an "Aussie".

I admit that Australia has a shameful past. The colonisation of Australia was pretty much genocide of the Indigenous people. There is still much that needs to be done to atone for the treatment of Australia's first people. And, the treatment by our government of Asylum seekers is awful. But I think you'll find, as you would in many western countries, that there are both racist and non-racist folk inhabiting Australia. Certainly many of the baby boomers in this country have a racist streak. The White Australia policy, which brought thousands of British people into Australia perpetuated racism well into the 1970's.

I don't encounter racism on a daily basis, but I am white,so it is unlikely that I would. Descrimination of any kind is frowned upon, and is in fact illegal.

I have never lived in the UK,though, so I can't comment on whether it is worse in Oz or the UK.

narmada Sat 09-Feb-13 11:29:06

I lived in Vic for two years, in what I would describe as lower middle class suburbs - not trendy fringes of city suburbs, proper suburbia. I found casual racism endemic and, strangely, very pronounced among first-generation migrants and their second-gen children. Being 'multi-cultural' in the sense of having lots of different ethnicities present guarantees nothing in terms of attitudes, even among BME group members.

galaxydad Sat 09-Feb-13 13:45:58

light train, so this is perfectly acceptable is it?

Double standards much?

Mosman Sat 09-Feb-13 13:58:20

WOG is regularly used as a term of endearment hmm
That's the worst I ever heard in Melbourne, I think it's down to the individuals and the company you keep, I've heard racist bollocks from one person and haven't socialized with them again, same as you would anywhere else.

lightrain Sat 09-Feb-13 14:12:22

Galaxy dad, I can't see what you're referring to as its not a clickable link.
Anyhow, not sure why you are being quite so snippy with me!?

My point is that, even if it is used as a term of endearment amongst people of a particular race/ origin (which people often comment is the same for the n word) there most certainly would not be a film on general release at the cinema, advertised on tv and radio, etc called 'the n** boy' in the UK.

I do think that there is an underlying cultural norm of mild racism in Australia. There is also a great patriotism and constant talk of buying Aussie goods, not importing, etc. which I think is probably linked somehow.

chickieno1 Sat 09-Feb-13 14:12:59

Again the main question is what you re willing to expose your kids to if you don't absolutely have to.

galaxydad Sat 09-Feb-13 14:21:20

Copy paste, don't be so lazy lightrain.

"there most certainly would not be a film on general release at the cinema, advertised on tv and radio, etc called 'the n** boy' in the UK."

Like I said, follow the link.
Your point is moot.

newbiefrugalgal Sat 09-Feb-13 15:24:43

So alllllll aussies are racist - yep that's a fact (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha)

Don't go. If you really think this is the case then honestly don't go.
Australia does not need you.

Racism exists in all countries and to put such a label on Australia is insulting.
People use the word 'wog' as said above not in a derogatory way, same with Paki.

Label away and stay away if you really couldn't bare to expose your precious dc to it all!

(yes threads like this annoy me no end!)

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 15:31:30

I lived in Adelaide for two years and was there this Christmas OP. There is no doubt in my mind that Oz is very racist but not 100% so,....what I mean is that there is a definite lag in terms of people's perceptions of people of different ethnicity...I could not live there due to their treatment of Aboriginals.

Did you know that schools there are under no obligation to teach children the history of the country's treatment of the Aboriginal population?

That alone was enough to decide that my children will never be educated in such a place.

I witnessed first hand moments of sickening racism there and also sexism.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 15:33:39

The use of the word Wog is usually in reference to Greeks is it not? Not that that makes it ok at all.

I did find that some people are becoming more aware but they're back in somewhere around where the UK was in 1970 terms of understanding and casual racism.

Nancy66 Sat 09-Feb-13 15:37:29

The fact that the overwhelming majority of posters say that they did find Australia to be a racist place must, surely, count for something.

I have spent a LOT of time in Australia for work/family reasons and, I agree, it's the casual every day racism that is particularly shocking.

Of course not all Australians are racist but it's the face-value acceptance of it that I found disturbing.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 15:41:01

It's seething underneath usually Nancy at Christmas we were at the beach and a relative of DHs watched a group of young black men running across the sane, they were laughing...the relative said They've landed on their feet haven't they? Coming to a country like this from a country like theirs She (it was a female relative) could not fathom that they could be from ANY country and be middle class...because they looked African she assumed they were refugees or something. She had a sneer on her face as she watched them.

MoleyMick Sat 09-Feb-13 19:41:24

Sounds like southeast Queensland is the place to go!
I live in a lower middle class area too, near Brisbane, and there really is none, racism is completely frowned upon by people I live, work and socialise with here. My work, my kids kindy, my area, is very multicultural. In my experience it exists mainly in very rural areas.
I agree that Aussies are less PC, but having just come through a harrowing cyclone season where many people of all races were left in need of desperate help and this help was given voluntarily by thousands of people of all ages (dubbed the Mud Army) in a similar way to the Brisbane floods two years ago - many flew from interstate to help - it makes me feel very "meh" about the lack of PC talk really.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 20:32:18

I experienced lots of racism in Adelaide. Hardly rural.

WhataSook Sat 09-Feb-13 20:33:01

I am an Aussie living in London married to an Irishman. The level of 'hidden' racism here to me is astonishing. Also the level of xenophobia is worrying.

I am not racist, but I'm sure there are Australians that are. There is rasicm in EVERY country.

The poster that mentioned schools not teaching about the British teach about what they did to Ireland and the Irish? Not to mention the other countries the 'empire' claimed.

These threads piss me off, such sweeping statements.

Savoy, if its so bad in Australia, why dont you come back to the ever so intolerant UK?

WhataSook Sat 09-Feb-13 20:39:15

Intolerant? Meant tolerant.

And that is a genuine question (sarcasm aside!), would you look to come back?

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 20:43:32

Lightrain, I think the point posters are trying to make about The Wog Boy is that it was Nick Giannopoulos' prerogative to use the term as he applied it to himself if he wished to. It was a term of abuse used towards the Southern European migrants, in particular the Greek diaspora of the 1960s. It was confrontational when he used it to force audiences to see and accept the racism he experienced growing up and it was also a, largely successful, attempt to reclaim and subvert the word, a word that now has no real currency and very little power here.

bamboostalks Sat 09-Feb-13 20:50:25

I found the level and depth of hatred for the indigenous people truly shocking. It is really endemic in society there and openly expressed by people you just would never imagine saying things like that.

echt Sat 09-Feb-13 21:00:34

newbiefrugal, no-one has suggested that all Aussies are racist.

Flatbread Sat 09-Feb-13 21:04:06

I found Australia quite racist. But then, I think UK is too, just not openly so. But in terms of degrees of racism, think Australia is far more racist.

echt Sat 09-Feb-13 21:14:01

Your contribution isn't helping. Australia is racist: no it isn't. Some people in Australia are racist; as are some practices. If you're specific, it will help the discussion, and the OP.

echt Sat 09-Feb-13 21:14:54

Sorry, I see you said "quite" racist, but it's still an unhelpful generalisation.

pipsy76 Sat 09-Feb-13 21:21:49

I spent a year in Australia a lot of that in North Queensland sharing accommodation with Aussies , there was a lot of very open racism specifically directed at the local aboriginals also at the Japanese.

MoleyMick Sat 09-Feb-13 21:34:12

Adelaide isn't rural, no, MrsMushroom. I did say "in my experience." I've not been to Adelaide. I've only ever lived in SE Qld and been to Sydney, Melbourne, and a few rural spots in New South Wales. It was there I noticed racism.

SavoyCabbage Sat 09-Feb-13 21:41:03

Whata sook Savoy, if its so bad in Australia, why dont you come back to the ever so intolerant UK?

Why don't you come back here! You are complaining about London.

I'm just answering the OP who has a mixed race family and is asking for opinions. The events I am telling the OP are not the focus of my whole life. They are minor things that have happened to me but are relevant to the question asked.

HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 21:42:39

OP there are lots of Australians who are not racist, sexist or homophobic. There are lots of Australians who work and campaign very hard to fight the racism that does exist. There are lots of australian's who despair and the political hardball around asylum seeker issues and the deleterious influence of the Murdoch press on the debate.

Yes, there are issues, but unless the UK is markedly more enlightened than when we left it, the gulf is not as vast or absolute as some posters are painting it.

The only real way you can know is to spend some time in the place you think you'd most likely live.

Essexgirlupnorth Sat 09-Feb-13 21:43:05

Surprising racist considering they are a nation of immigrants. I worked in a very multi-cultural department but found the media pretty racist. They want to put their asylum seekers on a island of the mainland!
I'm white so didn't experience any first hand but felt it was racist than the uk.

JassyRadlett Sat 09-Feb-13 21:49:45

MrsMushroom, while Adelaide isn't rural it (like most of SA) is pretty isolated and I've always found it to be an odd and uncomfortable place.

I'm from SE Qld originally and like others I've found it to be a multicultural and integrated area, particularly in Brisbane.

I've lived Melbourne and TBH I found it quite different, maybe because major waves of immigration happened earlier, of because cities are larger, different racial groups tend to live more separately and I observed much more racism and racist attitudes.

I've experienced much more racist attitudes in some parts of Britain than in some parts if Australia, which perhaps underlines that it's a mistake to talk about either as if they're a homogeneous entity.

It would be really nice, though, if British people tried to avoid cultural relativism. There are things British people say that I find utterly appalling but I understand that it's a different culture with different experiences and I've adapted. If you're moving there, don't make the mistake of thinking its just Britain but warm. It's a different culture and there is likely to be a degree of culture shock.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 22:26:57

Whatasook if you mean the genocide that is generally called The Potato Famine...yes of course. Children here are taught all about the political history of high school. In Primary the subjects are taught in less detail...but the children are certainly taught about the Great Hunger.

My DH is Australian. He has told me since living in the UK, he has learned more about history than ever did in Australia. He went to school in a "good" middle class area in a "good" school but was not told about the Stolen Generation at all. Nothing and nada.

The first he knew about it was when a friend of his who was adopted by his Mother's friend and was from the Stolen Generation, told him all about his childhood. (living hell in a prison that passed for a school) this was in the 60s. It's all still VERY close for comfort to some wasn't long ago and as I said before, they are still in the 70's in terms of tolerance.

Jassy In what way did you find it odd and uncomfortable? [interested]

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 22:32:25
HesterBurnitall Sat 09-Feb-13 22:34:49

Adelaide is a famously odd city, Mrs. Whenever I travelled there for work I felt like I'd gone back in time (which sentiment would not go down well with friends who live there blush ).

A bit of context to The Stolen Generation and education, it wasn't publicly acknowledged until Paul Keating's Redfern Address. It wasn't formally acknowledged til much later than that. Your DH essentially learnt about it as it unfolded. My children now learn about it at school. Times change.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 22:39:25
Helpyourself Sat 09-Feb-13 22:43:46

People's experiences are always going to be different and it's difficult to find a 'reliable narrator' re race.
What is certain is that there is very little conscious countering of casual racism at Government level or from the media. So a review of Harry Potter mentioned JK Rowling's 'tiresome multicultural tub thumping'. Now I haven't read the books, maybe there is a clumsy race relations subplot hmm but it was a review of one of the films, and I'm pretty sure the reviewer was talking about the fact that there are non white characters. Can you imagine that being printed here? When I tried to talk to friends out there they looked completely blank. It meant nothing to them, but to think that in a country which does have a sizeable population of non whites, the inclusion of non white characters in a story is seen as a political statement! hmm
Similarly adverts never had non white people in them.

TotallyBS Sat 09-Feb-13 22:45:40

I know a few Hong Kong Chinese friends who emigrated to Australia in the run up to the 1997 handover to China. They returned to HK as soon as they got their Australian passports because of the racism. So it's not just blacks or Asians that bear the brunt.

Having said that, I have worked with Aussies in London as part of a multi cultural team and I see no signs of racism. I have no idea why racism is so open back home.

domesticslattern Sat 09-Feb-13 22:49:55

My British Asian friend and his white British DW moved to a big city in Australia a couple of years ago. While the DW quickly found a job, he was surprised to get no interviews at all, even though his profession is listed as a shortage industry ie in need of new workers. After a year, he received the advice to use a more English-sounding name. He did this and got a couple of interviews, but no offers. By this time they were both miserable, had made hardly any friends and were sick of casual racism in shops etc. sad So they moved back to England.
Only one anecdote but not a happy one, I'm afraid.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 23:24:21

To those who are defending Oz...of course not everyone in Oz is racist...but I think you cannot deny that the country is well behind in terms stamping out racism.

As Help says above, casual racism in government is a pretty good indicator that the country at large, accepts lower standards of equality than other countries do.

hopefulgum Sat 09-Feb-13 23:30:24

My husband teaches Aboriginal studies in his Society and Environment classes in high school. It includes the colonisation of Australia, the treatment of the indigenous people and the stolen generation. To say it isn't taught in schools here is just wrong. It has been in the curriculum for at least 10 years.He teaches in a government school. I also teach in a government school. My job is as a tutor to indigenous students.The government funds extra tutoring for all indigenous students in all government schools. A lot of money is put into improving the literacy and living standards of indigenous people.

I can only speak from my own experience, as a teacher and living in a small city in Western Australia, racism is NOT a problem where I work or where I live.

It is difficult to read this thread without being annoyed. As I said earlier I've not lived in the UK, so can't compare, but I do not feel Australia is overtly racist.

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'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

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.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 01:18:54

When I say there's little political will to change things I'm not talking about the schemes and projects in schools like the one that hopeful works on, but in mushroom's link about life expectancy, a third of women don't reach 45 btw, it mentions that 50% of death certificates don't mention whether the deceased is of Aboriginal descent. That sort of indifference at policy and practical levels is shocking.

MoleyMick Sun 10-Feb-13 01:19:21

Aren't a lot of nz-ers coming to Australia at the moment for work as the economy is in a bad way over there? Not race related but obv something to consider.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 01:19:52

Thanks narked.

Mosman Sun 10-Feb-13 01:23:03

Certainly 0 presence on tv or adverts.

That's not true they have advertisements specifically featuring those communities now - about not drinking yourself into a stupor when pregnant.
Brown's dairy do seem to feature all sorts in their ad's including a very typical aussie bloke wearing a dress.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 01:28:15

Actually, if there's any reason to not move to Australia, it's the television and advertising. Utter shit <shudder>.

Tasmania Sun 10-Feb-13 01:36:09

It has been a long time since I was there - went to school there for a bit, and I'm definitely not 100% white (and you can see it). Yes, it's not as multi-cultural as, say, London / B'ham, etc. but I lived in another country before that which was like 95% white - so it never felt any different there.

Sometimes, I think what really makes the difference is attitude. Of course, if a foreign family moved there who are really stuck into their "old" culture, it may raise eyebrows, and they may encounter a lot of racism. Foreigners who move there and embrace the place as their new home (leaving their old culture behind), will find it much easier to fit in.

Mosman Sun 10-Feb-13 01:39:20

Just get foxtel.
Lots of the UK programmes from 8 months ago are now being shown.
It's not a bad place to move to and the UK isn't perfect.

TidyDancer Sun 10-Feb-13 01:48:40

A coupe of gay friends of mine who have lived in Australia have experienced awful homophobia. It may have been a regional issue (I certainly won't generalise for the whole country!), but it happened in a number of places and it contributed heavily to their decision to move home to the UK. They were denied apartments and jobs because they are gay.

OP, I know you were asking specifically about racism, but prejudice and bigotry for other reasons would be equally off putting for me.

Beautiful country, but due to aforementioned friends experiences, I don't know that I'd want to move there with children especially.

But as I said, this may well be regional. It certainly will not be true of all residents of the country.

TidyDancer Sun 10-Feb-13 01:48:55

coupe couple

MoleyMick Sun 10-Feb-13 01:53:02

TidyDancer, I agree homophobia is a problem in a lot of places here, that's horrible for your friends sad

SpecialAgentKat Sun 10-Feb-13 02:35:19

When posters say 'casual racism,' do you mean terms like paki, wog etc? I always just assumed that was due to the Aussie tradition of shortening every single word/name.

I only ask because when I was in Aus, I visited a lovely little Italian fruit shop in a very rural area and the owner gave me twice the amount of what I asked for for the same price. I was shocked and he just laughed and said "Oh, I can't help being generous, I'm a wog.' I was really shocked but he was referring to himself so I was quite confused.

I'd argue that homophobia is much worse in Aus than racism. Some areas are like the American bible belt.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 04:50:04

MrsM, Adelaide feels like it's the 1970s in the regional Queensland town I grew up in. grin Honestly, it feels like a time warp.

I used to work in the state department for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy so I'm well aware of the massive problems there. It's the legacy of a shameful history dating back to British colonisation and there will be generations of work to do because the problems caused by the missions and other exclusionary policies are so entrenched.

I absolutely don't deny that there are racists in Australia. I couldn't. I also don't deny that it can be quite a socially conservative country (I weep for what the new LNP government are currently doing in Queensland at the behest of far-right Christian groups).

But for every Murdoch newspaper columnist spouting idiocies about multicultural bilge in Harry Potter, there's one here writing for the Mail or the Express. The racism towards Eastern Europeans in this country is pretty shocking, but seems to be acceptable on the same basis as racism against travellers. And there is much greater social mobility in Australia.

I'd never call a friend of Italian or Greek descent a wog, but they happily use the term about themselves as some posters here have mentioned, thanks in large part to comedy groups like Nick H
Giannoppoulos's in the 80s (he's the bloke on the film poster linked to earlier) who reclaimed the term.

All I'd say is to remember that Australia is in many ways still more about the states than the country. I'm just as much a Queenslander as an Australian. Regional accents and localisms are rife - school kids from Queensland and South Australia wouldn't have a clue what each other we're on about if they were each using their local words for putting their swimsuit in their school bag.

And maybe be a lite less chippy and condescending to the Australians you come across in Britain? I'm lucky on that my accent is now fairly English so people are surprised to hear I'm Australian, but it does mean that I'm perhaps a little more exposed to the bizarre British obsession with trying to belittle Australia and Australians than I'd otherwise be.

Honestly don't mean to sound defensive -Australia's far from perfect. Just trying to provide some context.

StupidFlanders Sun 10-Feb-13 04:55:04

Agree with Jassy.

Lighthousekeeping Sun 10-Feb-13 05:00:36

My friend moved her family over there. They were back within two years. Everyday she was crying after work because of all the pommie bashing from doctors, nurses and even patients. Her husband a policeman saw horrific examples of rascism in the police force. They couldn't bring their children up in that environment.

saffronwblue Sun 10-Feb-13 05:49:23

You say there is no policy discussion to change attitudes but at the moment there is a new draft anti-discrimination act on the table.
It does surprise me that "Australians are racist" is one of the deeply held tenets of mumsnet. I always want to ask people if they say the same of the US and Canada when they look at the history of the indigenous peoples there.
Great post, Jassy, but I don't agree with you about Adelaide. Oddly enough am sitting in Adelaide airport as I write!

ThenWeTakeBerlin Sun 10-Feb-13 06:21:08

I've never even been to Oz, so I can't comment on the OP blush

Reading this thread has made me think about The Slap. Has anyone read/watched it?

echt Sun 10-Feb-13 06:42:14

saffronwblue, your point about no-one ever mentioning the racism of US/Canada/anywhere else is a valid one. It doesn't negate the decided shortcomings of Australia, but it's also true that Oz is trotted out as the whipping boy on such occasions, as I've noticed on MN.

The anti-discrimination Bill is one to beware of, as it has the potential to criminalise those who merely disagree with someone else's views/beliefs and "offend" them. FFS.

Jassy makes some excellent points.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 07:15:11

Great post, Jassy.

exoticfruits Sun 10-Feb-13 07:38:12

I can't say, but it struck me on entering the country. We were on a plane with lots of people from India, our cases were late off the plane and as we got to immigration there was a massive queue, I thought we would be there for ages but we were beckoned by an official who just sent us straight through another door. I then realised that everyone in the queue had dark skin and it was because we were white- he couldn't see the passports when he beckoned us. I was relieved not to be queuing but I was embarrassed. The couple that we sat near on the plane , visiting their son who had emigrated from India,were stuck in the queue.

AngryFeet Sun 10-Feb-13 07:53:26

From what i remember WOG stands for 'without greece' for the greek immigrants and is not used as a derogatory term.

lightrain Sun 10-Feb-13 08:03:20

I am 3 pages too late but galaxy dad, your response to me really annoys me. I have no idea why you are being so snippy, and why it is lazy for me not to copy paste a link but not lazy for you to put a couple of brackets around it in the first place so it would be clickable. In fact, you annoyed me so much that I'm not going to copy and paste and look at whatever you feel is double standards.

By the way, when did I say that the UK was perfect? By no means is it, racism exists here too, I never said anything to the contrary.

lightrain Sun 10-Feb-13 08:08:09

Hester, it may have been the writer's choice to give the film that title, but the title is offensive and racist, and for those reasons, would be changed prior to release in other countries (UK and US for example) had it been released in other countries. That's my point - nothing else. It's a racist term, being openly used in adverts, tv, etc. and nobody sees a problem with that in Australia. I find that extremely surprising for such a lovely, friendly, progressive, welcoming country.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 08:08:46

echt countries like the US,Canada and here have a constant open debate about prejudice!! That's the point. There is research, funding, activivism and a strong awareness of the injustice which just doesn't exist in Oz.
Mosman mentioned Public Health advertising directed at Aboriginals as an example of their presence in the media. Can you imagine if the only Indian faces you saw in the media in England were on posters warning against first cousins marrying? No eastenders or beebies characters or newsreaders, no aboriginals in adverts. To say its not fair, what about racism elsewhere is to miss the point. Of course there's racism everywhere, but Australia is in quite a unique position in that race is the biggest indicator it life chances and it's easy to be live a lovely life there and never notice.

WhataSook Sun 10-Feb-13 08:29:13

Savoy I'm not complaining about London, just pointing out that there are issues everywhere. I'm fed up with these threads about how racist Australians are, every other week there's one.

And I plan to move home, have no interest in raising DD in London.

saffronwblue Sun 10-Feb-13 09:01:38

Wog as a term for migrants of (usually) Mediterranean descent has been co-opted by them. People say things like "I'm a wog, so I have to have 200 people at my wedding".
It does not have the same layers of offence that it has in the UK.

MoleyMick Sun 10-Feb-13 09:02:38

I'm a bit fed up of them too, WhatASook.
I have to say, on my FB feed, the only people ever to post racist shit are some of my childhood friends and family in the UK. Anti Muslim, anti black, anti immigration, welfare "scroungers"... I've not had to hide one Aussie friend for this reason.
I know this is a narrow comparison, but so is judging a whole country's attitude by one film review.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 09:06:04

Fair enough, Saffron! I'll admit I've not spent vast amounts of time in Adelaide and my last visit was about a decade ago.

Lightrain, it's an extraordinarily racist term in Britain. It does not carry the same connotations Australia, particularly among Italian and Greek communities who have reclaimed the term as a badge of self-identity.

How very pleasant and not at all culturally imperialist of you to assume that the British experience must be universal, though, and particularly to presume to tell ethnic communities in another country how they may or may not label themselves.

Flatbread Sun 10-Feb-13 09:16:13

Exotic, that is pretty racist!

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 09:40:09

hi, i noticed a few posters saying no one ever talks about whether Canada is racist - yes, it definitely is, and certainly toward First Nations,
Métis and Inuit people. revoltingly so. i am canadian.


exoticfruits Sun 10-Feb-13 09:40:58

I would say so too-I just meant that I wasn't aware of it once I was in-but then I was very much a tourist. The other person we met on the plane was a businessman from England-but with Indian parents-he would have been in the queue I expect. They had no idea who we were, where we were from-we were waved through because we were white-it is the first time that it has happened to me and I was shocked.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 10:19:05

I'd like to add that of course I think Australia is shockingly beautiful and there are some wonderful people there....I visited the Yorke Peninsula when I was over at Christmas and I have never had my breath taken away by a place in the way I did there...I walked onto a beach and literally was lost for words.

It's a stunning, complex and disturbing place...quite magnetic and I totally understand the need to defend it.

I just think that there has been enough time to fix things such as life expectancy amongst Aboriginals, literacy levels's far too twisted a thing to be happening in this day and age. It is indicative of a sort of meh attitude at government level and it's wrong. It taints the country as a whole.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 10:26:35

Lightrain, would you tell NWA that they had to change their name to conform with British mores? I wouldn't, and I wouldn't tell a Greek Australian comedian that my judgement on the use of the insult he chose to reclaim was better than his.

Helpyourself Sun 10-Feb-13 10:34:00

The use of wog is a complete distraction.
30% of aboriginal women die before 45
Look around you people! What's the figure for the people you know? Teachers, aunts, the lady in the shop, work colleagues and friends.
One third dead

lisianthus Sun 10-Feb-13 11:05:52

Do you KNOW you were waved through because you were white? That's a pretty big statement to make unless the Federal employee in question said something to indicate that was the case. If not, for all you know, you were waved through because you had young children, were accompanying an old or disabled person, or for some other reason.

In our experience, customs and immigration officials in Oz have been nothing but helpful and kind, even at stupid times of night when we came through. In fact, in sharp distinction to the situation at Heathrow which is plastered with signs telling passengers to treat officials well "or else", there is a big sign up at Perth airport stating the rights that passengers have. "You are entitled to be treated with respect..." and so on and so forth. It pretty much flags up the difference in the way you are treated in both places. It would be pretty ironic if you were just so unused to being treated kindly and courteously by airport staff that you attributed considerate treatment for some other reason to racism!

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 11:22:58

Helpyourself, yes, you're right.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 11:45:47

help thank you for underlining this most important of all facts regarding racism in Australia. It would indicate that Aboriginals are at best being ignored and at worst, victims of a kind of insidious genocide.

Flatbread Sun 10-Feb-13 11:47:11

Do you KNOW you were waved through because you were white? That's a pretty big statement to make unless the Federal employee in question said something to indicate that was the case. If not, for all you know, you were waved through because you had young children, were accompanying an old or disabled person, or for some other reason

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

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 11:52:42

MrsMushroom, the indigenous people are a part of Great Britain's post-colonial legacy. They are a people whose land was stolen and way of life shattered. The are the victims of an incomplete and not particularly hidden genocide. It didn't spring up as a problem out of the blue a couple of decades ago.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 11:57:44

Helpyourself, Hester, I so wish it was possible to have a magic equation that reads No racism in Australia = Equal life choices and expectancy for indigenous people. Even with all the resource and focus that could be brought to bear, there would still be decades of work to do. And yes it's a hidden problem, in large part due to geographic isolation. So funding isn't always as forthcoming as it should be, which is totally wrong.

There are some massive problems as the legacy of nearly two centuries of institutional, state-sponsored repression and dispossession. Foetal alcohol syndrome is a massive issue. So is poor diet, overcrowding in housing, higher levels of smoking and alcoholism all of which have their root causes in Government actions and policies in the early to middle years of the last century.

As an anecdote, one of the most effective intervention programmes I ever saw was run by the Australian Football League, which sent top-flight AFL players on extended coaching camps to remote indigenous communities on the Cape York Peninsula. It was a really good programme that linked good nutrition and hydration to strong messaging around avoiding alcohol and drugs, aimed at pre-teen kids. Absolutely amazing effect but the scale of the challenge shouldn't be underestimated.

There seem to be two questions on this thread: first, are Australians generally racist (up for debate) and have Aboriginal (and Torres Strait Islander) Australians had a uniquely shitty time for decades and are they still experiencing much lower life expectancy, health outcomes and general levels of well-being than the rest country as a whole regardless of race (fuck yes).

BalloonSlayer Sun 10-Feb-13 11:57:49

My sister has lived in Australia more-or-less since her early 20s, so nearly 30 years. I'd say she has more non-white friends than I do. She lives in a suburb of Sydney that has a reputation for being middle class and rednecked, but she has only recently moved there and chose it for other reasons than its population.

For her formative years she had the same upbringing as me . . . when we see her DH and I always end up like this shock at some of the things she comes out with re race. I can only put it down to the fact that she has lived in Australia for the past 30 years and I have lived in England.

I remember her moaning that she and her DH had to stand in line for immigration to get into the UK because of his Australian passport when "all these Pakistani people were walking straight through with British passports!!!" Er yes well that will mean that they are BRITISH not PAKISTANI then won't it, you bloody racist.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 11:58:13

Well said, Hester.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 12:23:04

hester I never said it did. However...the post colonial legacy has been around for quite long enough. Australians are more than happy to separate themselves from the UK why can't they fix the problems caused by their ancestors?

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 12:26:05

Actually I will tell you why. It's because of an ingrained unwillingness to help those who can't hep themselves and of course, a thought that Aboriginals are not quite as good as white people.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 12:30:25

Why do you think that's the answer, Mrs? Do you think the many people who work in the field feel the same way?

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 12:38:16

MrsM, what's the solution then? How do you propose to deal with a complex legacy of health and social problems - just force of will? Lots and lots of caring attitudes?

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 12:46:14

how are solutions imposed from outside these communities, no matter how well intentioned, ever going to help, or change things?

personally i think former colonies need to decolonise themselves, themselves, it will take a radical shift in ways of thinking

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 12:46:29

Hester I think that because I have seen the thoughts in action. I've seen people sneer at groups of young Aboriginal boys in the street and I have seen people staring at an Aboriginal family who were having a picnic on a beach in a white middle class suburb. I've seen and heard people say "Oh well they're not the same as us are they?" and worst of all I've seen a shopkeeper blank a teenage girl wating to be served...he looked through her and served others first.

Money Jessy money pumped into the poorest order that they may benefit from good healthcare, good intervention when it's needed and good education.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 12:49:25

chibi What do you mean by "these communities"? do you mean communities in Alice Springs and similar? How are solutions from outside the communities NOT going to help them? It was outside influences that fucked them up in the first place.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 12:54:09

Yes, those instances are appalling and far too common. Sadly, I've seen worse as well. However, it's only part of the picture and not the root source of the problem, IMO, more a festering companion. Of course money is part of the solution, how best to pour it in is quite difficult to ascertain.

Chibi, do you mean that the solutions shouldn't be imposed by outside countries? Or that the state and federal governments shouldn't be imposing solutions on the communities in question?

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 13:19:05

my opinions are largely coloured by my experiences growing up in a different colonised country. in mine, whenever the government tries to 'fix' the problems of aboriginal peoples it perpetuates the harms of colonialism. maybe because it maintains the colonial relationship of do-er and done-to, instead of a relationship between equal nations. it is this same mindset that caused the sixties scoop, where children were taken from their families, or the horrors of residential schools.

probably it is v different in australia.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 13:22:12

I think the main point is this...OP asked how racist is Australia? The answer lies in the fact that an entire race of indigenous people are dying earlier, have poor outcomes with regards to literacy and are suffering from the effects of poor housing and low expectations.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 13:25:27

chibi if Aboriginals can;t access edcucation to a good level, or sporting opportunities etc, then they will never be in a position to help their own people. Which is why a lot of money needs to be stuffed into education...the areas with a high concentration of aboriginal people needs to have the BEST teachers, the BEST facilities and the BEST healthcare available.

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 13:29:38

but how will having the 'best' teachers help, if the teachers are racist? or if the educational system perpetuates colonialism? or when the history taught to children erases them from the history of their own country?

again, i am referring to the situation in my own country- australia is no doubt different, the curriculum is not colonialist etc.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 13:34:00

chibi It's doubtful that a racist teacher would apply for such a position....and if schools are well governed then the parents concerns are listened to and any problems are stamped out.

Your point about history is moot really because the changes I am talking about would ensure the history would be taught properly...which currently of course it is not.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 13:37:12

MrsM, yes, money helps but only if what that money is paying for helps too. You've got generations of children born with foetal alcohol syndrome. Entrenched health and domestic violence and other social problems. And it's really complex to start to unpick them.

It's absolutely crucial that there is ownership of the solutions by the communities themselves. These are people who've had things done to them and 'solutions' imposed on them for generations by paternalistic administrations. Systems and solutions that focus on trying to impose mainstream 'white' (or urban) ways of life and values on indigenous Australians is, frankly, racist in and of itself. It doesn't pay any attention to what many communities want in terms of recognition and protection for their cultural heritage and traditions.

That may well include continuing to have Ananga, Koori, Murri or other indigenous-language schools for their kids if that's what they want. I firmly believe that all Australians have a responsibility to traditional owners to support the protection and advancement of their culture as part of the long term future of the country.

Many indigenous people live in cities, too, but on the whole they tend to have better health and educational outcomes though there is also the need for stronger, targeted support there.

Native title is helping, I think particularly in Qld and WA where there is vast mineral wealth and companies like Rio Tinto are negotiating effectively and in good faith with local communities which is putting those communities on a sustainable financial footing. There have been some very welcome recent moves by the government to help ensure that the benefits of the mining boom are felt by traditional owners.

Have I hijacked this thread enough? Sorry! Australia: very complex and diverse country.

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 13:42:12

racism isn't just 'i hate x people',it's also thinking that you know better than other people about their own lived experiences and their lives, and that you have the solutions, and have the right and the power to impose solutions of your choosing.

'nice' people would totally be attracted to this kind of job, and think they were helping, too.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 13:43:16

Last question, Mrs what changes would you make to the way history is taught and what would you add to the curriculum?

Hijack away, Jassy. Another really interesting post.

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 13:43:42

x post with jassy, basically what she said (i am a slow typer)

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 13:46:49

Yes, that's true, Chibi. There are some communities that are so badly broken that external imposition of solutions seems to be an obvious solution, and yet this really never works. It's complicated and difficult and part of why the 'problem' hasn't been 'fixed'. Not that it's an excuse to stop trying.

BalloonSlayer Sun 10-Feb-13 13:49:24

"Having said that, I have worked with Aussies in London as part of a multi cultural team and I see no signs of racism. I have no idea why racism is so open back home."

Possibly because Aussies that come to work in London are the ones with open minds that recognise that there is a big wide world outside Australia with other nationalities in it.

When I first went to Australia I was surprised at how many people I met who had never been outside Australia. This struck me as odd as I had imagined Aussies as a bold, confident, shove-me-thongs-in-me-backpack-and-travelling-here-I-come sort of people. Of course this was completely because the only Aussies I had ever met were the ones who came backpacking to England, who were exactly that type of person.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 13:50:16

Aw, thanks Hester. I'm now feeling really nostalgic for my old job - really challenging and confronted a lot of my assumptions about the world, but ultimately the most rewarding job I've ever done.

Now wanting to moving back; not sure how well very fair, heat-averse DH and DS would cope with Queensland for more than a visit though...

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 13:52:00

in my own country, in my opinion, the solution is going to come from the reestablishing of a genuine relationship between treaty partners

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 13:53:19

Balloon, it's bloody expensive to travel outside Australia! Getting cheaper to SE Asia but still not very affordable. And the distances are huge - flying Sydney to NZ takes longer than London to Athens.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 13:53:28

It's a long way from anywhere, BalloonSlayer. Makes travel more of a big deal and harder to do on the cheap.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 13:54:16

Hester I'm not qualified to answer that! An expert in Australian history might be but I'm certainly not that!

the problem seems to be insurmountable but of course it's not, I take on board what is said about outside influences...however...that aside, there is still an extreme lack of input...people can't say "Who are we to influence these communities....?" when there are enough resources to save lives.

The Aboriginal people will never regain their traditional way of life...the country is too changed....they must however be offered the support that is available in this day and age.

As such it is only decent to provide excellent facilities for the communities most at need.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 13:57:30

Oh snap, Balloon. Yes, the heat is a bugger, but the insect life is the worst.

Chibi, I believe the same, or similar, is true here and there are small positive steps in the face of enormous injustice and inequality, but they're small and it's an achingly slow process.

OP if you're still reading, yes there's racism but there are plenty of circles in which anyone showing their racism will be called out for the wanker they are.

BalloonSlayer Sun 10-Feb-13 13:59:33

Oh yes I know it's more expensive! But there were people who had never been out of their own state.

But that's not really the point I was trying to make - it's that you can't judge Australians by the behaviour/attitudes/personality of the Australians that come here, because they are a certain type of person. Similarly if an Australian thought that all English people were like the English backpackers they had met...

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:03:32

Mrs the colonisation and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the 1938 Day of Mourning, the Stolen Generation and the Bringing Them Home Report, the Mabo decision, the '62 right to vote and '67 referendum, the apology and the 2007 Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are all on the new curriculum, in the face of opposition from conservative quarters.

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 14:03:36

there is no need to decide on their behalf, and the alternative isn't to do nothing

the state could ask the communities what their needs are, what they want

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:06:35

Yes, I was pretty much agreeing with you. I guess I must have phrased it badly, Chibi.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:11:30

Hester are those examples of what is currently taught or what you think should be included?

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 14:13:12

sorry my post was to mrs mushroom, not you hester, she seemed to imply that the alternative to imposing solutions was to wring hands and do nothing at all

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 14:14:05

Chibi, exactly that. All the amazing facilities in the world (and I've been to some brilliant hospitals, health centres and schools in tiny and remote indigenous communities, though there are many where the facilities are rubbish or absent) are just a sticking plaster solution if there isn't ownership and structures for sustainable improvement along lines that people actually want.

MrsM, your comments about traditional ways of life, cultural heritage and what the elders of many rural and remote Aboriginal communities aspire to as realistic protection of their cultures seem fairly uninformed.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:16:49

Which comments in particular jassy?

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:17:44

chibi I was not implying hand wringing....what do YOU think the solution is?

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:18:01

Mrs those are all in the new national history curriculum. Until this year the states all had their own curriculums. Aboriginal and Indigenous People, Colonisation and Contact History was a mandatory part of the NSW curriculum, but I can't speak to the other states. The new national curriculum includes units on Aboriginal history, pre and post colonisation, in almost every stage culminating in a detailed unit covering everything I've listed above in the final year of compulsory history.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:19:17

Hester but a friend who works with homeless Aboriginal women informed me at Christmas that the inclusion of these subjects is not mandatory. So teachers have the choice still...

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:19:52

Hopefully the Redfern Address is in their too as it was another defining moment.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:19:55

Or do you mean it is compulsory only in NSW?

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 14:21:08

MrsM, sorry on phone so can't cut and paste but those about traditional ways of life bring irretrievably lost (it's not an all or nothing thing) and those suggesting that excellent facilities would solve all or most of the problems.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 14:23:56

Well the Aboriginal way of life can never be brought back as it was....that's true. There's been too much damage done. I don't suggest that the excellent facilities would fix EVERYTHING but in my opinion they'd hep stop the early deaths. Which are unforgivable.

chibi Sun 10-Feb-13 14:25:36

i have already said what i think the solution in my own country is, i don.t know enough about australia to suggest anything other than decolonisation, and part of this means that aboriginal people get to decide what their needs are,and how to meet them

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:26:06

That's not my understanding, Mrs. . The curriculum is here

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 14:27:52

MrsM, the new national curriculum is being implemented from this year (school year starting January 2013), though I know some stated started implementing last year. Prior to that the states had their own curriculums.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 14:28:01

Oh bloody links

Mrs, I mean it was a mandatory element of the NSW curriculum and is, to my knowledge, a mandatory element of the national curriculum but I don't know if it was mandatory in other states prior to the NC.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 14:43:17

Many aspects of traditional culture, particularly links with the land and protection of sacred sites, are eminently able to be protected and maintained. That's the entire point of Native Title and cultural heritage protection legislation. Traditional languages can be protected if that's supported.

As I've said, facilities are great. Facilities with amazing staff are even better (and that's harder to achieve). But given excellent health infrastructure in this country has failed to stop the advance of Type II diabetes in the UK, I'm not sure excellent infrastructure alone is the answer.

Not sure if you're aware of the Closing the Gap policy and targets, which includes commitments to closing the life expectancy gap by 2031. The first target, to have all indigenous four year olds with access to pre-school education by this year, has been achieved. The overall policy is incredibly challenging and ambitious but there seems to be real progress so far. It also gives lie to the claim here and elsewhere that Australians and Australian governments have effectively abandoned indigenous Australians, and that there are no policies for improvement. There's been quite widespread publicity on it in the last week or so.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 15:25:10

Well I am very, very happy to hear that about preschool but also shocked that it's not been sorted out before.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 15:27:40

Preschool has not been universal here, guaranteed preschool hours is a recent thing in many states full stop.

JassyRadlett Sun 10-Feb-13 15:42:13

Compulsory education in Australia doesn't start until the year a child turns six, so a year later than in the UK (one of the things I hate about the UK system is how early kids as pushed into form education. So yes, education before the year a child turns 6 isn't compulsory and provision is historically patchy particularly for children in rural and remote locations, regardless of race.

exoticfruits Sun 10-Feb-13 19:25:31

Do you KNOW you were waved through because you were white? That's a pretty big statement to make unless the Federal employee in question said something to indicate that was the case. If not, for all you know, you were waved through because you had young children, were accompanying an old or disabled person, or for some other reason.

You tell me what other reason there could have been. One of our suitcases was practically last off the plane and nearly everyone had gone-we set off in the direction we were supposed to go and there was a barrier system to control a queue. We walked along seeing that the queue doubled back and was long. The Indian couple that I sat next to on the plane were in it. Before we had time to double back to the end were beckoned straight on. It was my DH and I -we had no one else with us, we are fit and able bodied, we had luggage that we could easily manage, we didn't look lost or confused-we bypassed the queue. There was nothing to show our nationality -we hadn't spoken -our passports were not out. I am quite happy if you can give me an alternative explanation-I just can't think of one. It happened very quickly and it was when I thought about it that I was shocked.

exoticfruits Sun 10-Feb-13 19:28:19

I would love it if someone could tell me a reason and that I had completely misread the situation.

Zavi Sun 10-Feb-13 20:55:46

we were thinking about emigrating to Oz. I did a lot of research beforehand.

I realised from my research that we were always going to be considered, by the natives, to be "pommes" and that if we voiced an opinion that was considered to be in any way "not status quo" then we would be considered to be "whinging pommes".

It seemed to me that, if you were ok about being called a "whinging pomme" as a kind of a joke, then you would do ok.

To me though, I felt as if I would always be an outsider unless I was able to take a joke about myself. I didn't want to do that.

For that exact reason, we decided not to emigrate there. I'm sure we could have made really good friends there but I would have tired of their "whinging pomme" attitude pretty quickly.

Ive been really, really shocked to hear about how, on this post, other people consider Australians to be racist. They are not known to be racist as far as i'm aware.

ClaudiaSchiffer Sun 10-Feb-13 21:56:24

Zavi what an enormously odd post. You decided not to emigrate to Australia because you might be considered a whinging pom? Really?

No other reason, distance, family ties, work opportunities, cultural difference?

I'm a Pom in Australia btw. No one has ever (to my face anyway) called me a whinging Pom.

Maybe you should reconsider?

aroomofherown Sun 10-Feb-13 22:18:18

I'm Australian who lives in London.

Quite simply I'd say yes, Australians (in my experience) are highly ignorant of other cultures and have some pretty blase racism.

My friends are great, they aren't at all but they are highly educated, have travelled and have a variety of cultural backgrounds.

My siblings, cousins, aunts however - another world altogether. They are nice enough not to intend to hurt but they've not realised that language shapes thoughts. So they say some utterly cringeworthy things and say "But I don't mean to be racist". I still find a very prevalent "us and them" mentality.

Not to mention the PM's husband recently mentioned that men should get their prostrate checked, but try and get it checked by "a small, asian, female doctor".

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 22:23:46

What a wanker he sounds aroom can you IMAGINE if that was said in the UK?

aroomofherown Sun 10-Feb-13 22:26:11

I know shock What was worse is that some people (men mostly) were defending it on twitter....the mind boggles. Actually it's unbelievable.

MrsMushroom Sun 10-Feb-13 22:43:47

Aroom when you first came to the UK, did you notice that it was different with regards to race relations?

I'm not suggesting the UK is a perfect paragon by the way everyone...we have of course our fair share of problems.

Dromedary Sun 10-Feb-13 22:47:35

This whingeing Pom stuff IS racism - treating people detrimentally just because of their race / colour / nationality - usually based on stereoptypes like the whingeing Pom one. I don't expect anyone to cry over it, but you may as well recognise it for what it is.

HesterBurnitall Sun 10-Feb-13 22:48:30

Mrs, I've been thinking a thread on racism in the UK would be fascinating. I've found this thread really interesting and quite different to the usual 'yes it is/no it isn't/well fuck youse all anyway' outcome.

aroomofherown Sun 10-Feb-13 22:58:23

To be honest, I notice (now) that I carried some uninvestigated and ignorant racist assumptions myself blush

I do notice a few assumtions being made about me because I'm an Australian, and one person who should know better made a silly comment once, which she then withdrew, but it's nothing on the level I see in Australia. I notice it terribly now when I talk to my family or go back to visit. I have to clamp my jaw shut regularly.

aroomofherown Sun 10-Feb-13 23:02:00

Dromedary totally agree. My sister loves to joke about the 'whingeing poms'.

It's not just racism though. My brother looked aghast at me once, saying, "Are you a feminist? None of the 4 women in my family work fulltime, even though their kids are grown up (ie in twenties).

saffronwblue Mon 11-Feb-13 07:41:48

Back to the indigenous situation. John Howard when PM a few years ago staged an "intervention" . Basically sent in lots of army doctors etc to remote communities because he couldn't bear the rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse endemic in some communities. It was a very heavy handed and controversial thing to do and against any principles of community development. Many people criticised it. But some of the elders, especially the females actually came out and said it was a good thing.

Just to make the point again that the indigenous communities are very diverse. Some are pro-mining and development. Some are aligned with the Greens and the conservation movement. Some have decided to make their own communities alcohol free.

DH's cousin works with remote communities in the Northern Territory. She was telling us that many of them are passionate monarchists and voted no to becoming a republic. Because they see the Queen as the ultimate elder, deserving respect and providing stability. I found that really interesting.

MrsMushroom Mon 11-Feb-13 08:10:12

Do the remote places not have their own clinics? Health centres which are close by?

FiveTwoThree Mon 11-Feb-13 08:24:09

The UK is fundamentally far more sexist and racist than Australia, and the constant stereotypes drive me batty! I've lived in the UK for a total of 8 years, and in Australia for 32, and have never experienced in Oz the kind of rubbish I've had to put up with here. And apart from the various anecdotes, I think it's worth looking at some facts:

- Australia has never ever had a race riot like the ones that regularly recur in Britain. Cronulla was unpleasant but came down to a few broken bottles - to the point that a British journalist described returning to his editor sheepishly saying that there was virtually nothing to report. Meanwhile in London, which is one of only two or three places in Britain which is truly multicultural, you get £100m worth of damage. And the history of race riots in the UK goes back decades.

- Australia has no history of far-right parties, like the National Front or the EDL. They lurk in a few corners but simply cannot get traction, unlike in the UK where they are a minority but a consistent force and have been for decades. The best we could do was One Nation - admittedly vile, but never in the same league as these guys. And even that has long since died a death.

- Australia is far more multicultural than Britain: 26% of Australians were born overseas, compared to a mere 11% in the UK and 13% in the US. The only country with a higher proportion is Luxembourg(!).

- Australia is far more successfully multicultural than Britain. Even with just 11% of British born overseas, the vast majority are in London, and much of Britain is thoroughly monocultural. Rural Australia is similar, but all of the major cities are thoroughly multicultural.

- Australia is far more successfully multicultural than Britain, because immigrants and their children become fully integrated and achieve positions of power. Have a look at the surnames of ministers in the UK and Australia - in Australia it is littered with the children of immigrants from the post-war wave of immigration: the Pliberseks and Wongs and Berijiklians and Picollis and Obeids. In the UK, you barely find anyone in a serious position of power who comes even from the most longstanding immigrant roots.

- The reason Australia doesn't have many black people is because our sources of immigration have not been the Caribbean or Africa (until recently, esp with Sudan). I'm so tired of hearing Brits comment upon this as if it shows that Australia is monocultural, whilst not noticing that we have, for instance, very high numbers of Asian faces (in what British call the 'oriental' sense) in our communities. There is an American-type chauvinism here from the Brits, who seem to assume that immigration patterns are the same everywhere, but having lived in the UK for some time, I have never met any Brit of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian extraction, and I don't use that to conclude anything!

- I think a British person wanting to criticise another country about their treatment of indigenous peoples should exercise the same caution as a German criticising another country for their hawkish foreign policy. First thing to note is that there is no country anywhere that has ever 'solved' the problems caused by invasion and colonialisation. Nowhere - not in Sweden, or the US, or NZ, or Africa, or Canada... There simply isn't a country that has found how you rebuild a community destroyed by colonisation. That is no excuse for Australia not to keep trying. No excuse for the stolen generation and everything else. But the fact is, Australia is trying and has spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, only to find (as always) that money and willingness is not sufficient to undo what the British invasion did. And since the British created all these problems all over the world, and then just withdrew, I don't think it lies in the mouth of the British to criticise, really.

OK, over to sexism. Let's do some facts.

- Australia gave the vote to women in 1902. UK gave the vote to women in 1928.

- Women hold 21% of Ministry positions in the UK, whilst in Australia it is 27%.

- Women are 22% of MPs in the Commons, compared to 25% in the House of Representatives, and closer to 40% in the Senate.

- Women hold 12.5% of board positions in FTSE100 companies (UK). Women hold 15.4% of board positions in ASX200 companies (Aust).

- Penny Wong is a high-profile, Federal minister who is Chinese, gay and now has a child... it caused a little interest but not much debate in Australia. Can't think of anything similar in Britain.

- Page three girls: a British phenomenon that continues to thrive, whilst in Australia it died out decades ago.

Personally, I find that using anecdotes like the ones cited in this thread is quite dubious, because there are cultural issues at play too. I could pull out a string of anecdotes but it really wouldn't tell you much. I do find it interesting, though, that most of the hard facts favour Australia on these issues.

As for all the Brits complaining about being called Poms and that this is racist... I have been subjected to regular convict jokes for years now, which was totally bizarre as in my mind, modern Australia and its convict origins are not a particularly 'live' connection. But it seems the class-consciousness of the British keeps this strongly in play! I find it intensely irritating, but don't regard it as racism.

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.

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 08:37:09

MrsMushroom sorry.

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

Excellent post FiveTwoThree grin

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.

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.

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

Depressing link added

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

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

Oh that is depressing.

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.

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.

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

Good post Narmada Very important points.

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 14:03:00


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

I don't believe that Binfull

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!

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.

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 18:49:38

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 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 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

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.

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".

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.

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.

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.

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