Welcome to Australia, mate!

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Charlotte Grieve, ‘Behind every number is a student’: survey finds widespread racism in schools’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.08.19

One in five African students has been threatened by another student and almost half of East Asian students have been called names, according to a survey of 4600 state school pupils across Victoria and NSW.

Racism and religious intolerance remain widespread in Australia’s primary and secondary schools, researchers from Australian National University have found, with discrimination coming from both students and teachers.

Tanzanian Year 11 student Emmanuel Asante was threatened on the grounds of his south Sydney school by another student, who called him a “black monkey” and ordered him to get off the soccer pitch.

“I felt sad and I felt that I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t play soccer again. Never again,” he says now, one year after finishing high school.

Mr Asante became depressed during school, and said that while family and relationship issues were the main causes, “being racist to me added oil to the flames”.

This form of bullying can have serious lifelong consequences, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Naomi Priest, contributing to mental and physical health problems and even undermining future employment opportunities as students become discouraged and disengaged.

“We talk about the numbers of students who experience racism and we look at the percentages. But it’s important to remember that behind every number is a student, a family, a community.”

The researchers found that one third of students had been subjected to racism from other students – from teasing to physical violence – and six in 10 witnessed it. Professor Priest said she was not surprised by the results.

“Schools are a microcosm of wider society,” she said. “We know racism is a major issue in our community, we’re seeing the rise of the far right and white nationalism around the globe.”

Religious intolerance was also found to be rife, with one in four students surveyed reporting they’d been bullied because of their faith.

While only 2.35 per cent of the students surveyed said they were Muslim, more than half of them said they’d been bullied for their faith.

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Throughout her schooling in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Sundus Ibrahim was bullied for wearing the hijab – other children yanked at her head scarf, asked why she wore it or screamed “I hate you” while pointing at her head.

Ms Ibrahim, who graduated two years ago, describes herself as having a “big personality” but “at school I felt small”.

She tried to brush it off but grew so anxious she now feels afraid when alone in public.

Teachers can also be racist, the students told researchers: one in 10 said their teachers was racist towards them and nearly half said they had seen teachers racially discriminating against other students.

Braybrook VCE student Praise Morris said her friend was barred from her economics class because there were “too many black students” and they would “turn the class into a party”.

The students wrote a letter to the principal complaining about the incident but Ms Morris said the teachers tried to downplay the event, rather than deal with it.

“Instead of just taking ownership of what happened, they said you might have perceived it wrong…It really discourages you from even trying in school. What’s the point of trying to prove something if they already have the perception that I’m going to fail?”

The researchers hope to repeat the survey so they can track changing attitudes in schools.


10 thoughts on “Welcome to Australia, mate!

  1. Speaking from my own experience while in school it wasn’t uncommon for children to be mean to one another on occasion. Don’t recall there being students from other countries. If there were, it’s likely they would of suffered the same kind of abuses as everyone else. How about yourself Phil, was racism an issue in your classroom when you were a schoolboy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jason,

      Definitely. But in Australia the issue is much broader and deeper than ‘just’ racism. Australians are a fearful and deeply insecure people – as ex-PM Keating said, ‘at the [Asian, Pacific] arse-end of the world’ and this shows in different ways, including racism, which is a sub-category of ‘the fear of difference’.

      Their subscription to authority in all areas (tracing back to a convict heritage) gives this a truly vicious edge which they would never admit to and do their best to conceal (‘just jokin’ matey’) – but this fear and insecurity keeps being expressed in numerous ways – e.g. not only in their servility to the US (previously to England – from the skirts of Mother Britannia to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam) but in their utterly despicable eagerness to display it (e.g. ex-PM Turnbull went to the UK recently and gave a speech urging the British not to do business with Huawei (whose chief financial officer – the daughter of its founder – your own country arrested at the request of agents of the US capitalist class), no doubt pleasing his US capitalist masters. He also boasted that Australians have fought ‘side-by-side’ (and, I add, died) with the Americans in all of their wars in the 20th century. I could give many other examples.)

      Racism is a key vehicle through which Australians display their fear and insecurity. The Australian media is increasingly awash with anti-China rhetoric – and of the most blatant sort. A few days ago the Chancellor of the University of Sydney (I never thought I would be citing him) spoke of the revival of the White Australia Policy towards the Chinese. It is not a revival, it never went away, and the ‘Mongolian Octopus’ (I have discussed it in several of my posts) lives on in the fears and hostilities of Australians, given all the more emphasis by the growing tension between capitalist nations and socialist China.

      Liked by 1 person

      • While reading your reply it became apparent to me that the writer is very much in tune with this issue. A part of me feels bad for not being as invested as yourself, and yet another part of me is thankful for being brought up to speed in this matter or at least in part.

        Curious though, would you consider sharing your stories with Democracy Now? Mind you, you may not see eye to eye with Amy Goodman, their main reporter, but I have a feeling that she would like to share some of your views & personal experiences with her listeners/readers. In case you are not aware, Democracy Now is an independent news program who shares various perspectives of people from around the world who are affected by United States policy. Not so much these days but in the beginning of her work it was a wonder she was not made away with.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jason,

        Thank you for your positive response to my own reply – a mix, I believe, of the objective and subjective. I know of Amy Goodman and her show and have watched a few of them – I think she is very good, within the broadly accepted bounds of principled journalism (how rare is that?!). I have never heard her advocate revolution. Perhaps mainly for this reason, I don’t think she would be interested in what I think, but thank you for your thought that I might offer my own to her. Best regards.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jason,

        It’s most kind of you to offer to do so and I would reply to her if she were to contact me but, again, I don’t think she would be interested in my views – many of them are ‘too critical’ (not that I believe there is such a thing) and thereby diverge too far from ‘the norm’. Best regards as always.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jason,

        Your first comment came in response/is appended to my post ‘Welcome to Australia, mate!’. Our exchange has continued there – i.e. is public. If you wish that exchange to be private let me know and I will, at the first opportunity, remove that exchange from the public comments section at the foot of that post. Best wishes, Phil

        Liked by 1 person

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