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.


Not ‘white fragility’ but white Western supremacism



‘Robin DiAngelo says white people are sensitive and easily hurt when they are reminded of their own white privilege.’

‘White Fragility’, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, 15.08.18

‘Robin DiAngelo is a social justice and anti-racism educator, and she says she specialises in making white people feel uncomfortable.

She argues that the overt racism of people like Queensland Senator Fraser Anning is a smaller part of the problem than we realise. A more pernicious form of racism, she argues, is the lack of consciousness that progressives have about their own white privilege.

Her book is called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.’


A 1908 postcard welcoming the ‘Great White Fleet’ to Australia


Bottom image

Convict culture on display

‘India v Australia: Local fans relish home team’s aggression against Steve Smith, touring Aussies’, James Bennett, ABC News, 12.03.17

India’s Test players reacted angrily to Australian captain Steve Smith’s illegal glance to the dressing room last week, and while the BCCI has now dropped its official complaint, club and junior cricketers see Australia getting a dose of its own medicine.

“If Australia will do like this, then India will not give respect to them,” says 14-year-old junior cricketer Anish Kumar Rao.

He is talking about Smith’s controversial ‘brain fade’ explanation for illegally seeking the dressing room’s advice on challenging his second innings dismissal in Bangalore.

Across town, at another of Delhi’s cricket grounds, an amateur team calling themselves the ‘weekend cricket enthusiasts’ are padding-up for their regular Saturday fixture.

Captain Sanjeev Ananthakrishnan is chatting with his players, about the same incident.

“What about that consultation?! Checking with the dressing room and all?”

“That is not acceptable,” is a team-mate’s immediate reply.

The BCCI has withdrawn India’s official complaint, but the incident visibly riled Indian captain Virat Kohli, and clearly still rankles among ordinary cricketers.

Akhil Sethi, another of the weekend enthusiasts team, describes the moment as ‘full of controversy’, but he is smiling as he does so.

Ananthakrishnan agrees. “We love a bit of spice,” he jokes, in reference to the heated atmosphere the incident created. “That’s part and parcel, and we love it,” he grins.

Indians can thank their captain, Ananthakrishnan says, for his willingness to take the verbal fight to Australia.

“Virat Kohli happens to be the main pillar, behind not only the confidence levels that the team has come up with, but yeah, maybe that aggression,” he says.

The willingness of India’s new skipper to take on Australia on the field and off has won him plenty of plaudits, young and old.

“Australia have always been a very aggressive team, and India being that, the fans don’t mind it at all,” says Drun, an 11 year old batsman.

Madan Lal, a former Indian fast bowler who is coaching this group of juniors, thinks he might know where the ‘mongrel’ in Kohli might come from.

“He is very aggressive you know, he is like Australians,” jokes Mr Lal.

Most Indian cricket fans see Kohli as giving back to the Australians what Indian teams had endured, particularly from Australian teams past.

“On the field and off the field, he likes to empower his players to give back,” says Akhil Sethi.

Madan Lal says he teaches his juniors respect for their opponents “as a matter of principle, and good education”.

As the weekend enthusiasts team wrap up their Twenty 20 match, captain Ananthakrishnan says its important for amateur players not to get carried away.

“As long as nobody gets into fist fights, everything is OK,” he laughs.

“We love the spirit of the game, that is very important to us.”

The behaviour of the Australian cricket team and management in the current Test series in India and how it is reported in the Australian media (The Sydney Morning Herald [the paper of the Oh-so-‘decent’ Aussie]: ‘Steve Smith cheated – it doesn’t matter’) is utterly consistent, in so many ways, with my experience in this convict culture.

It is not only what Smith did but of more interest, what he said afterwards, how he instinctively played on the Aussie myth (‘me ‘n the boys’, green n’ gold etc. – I could see the jacaranda flowering over the old bungalow and the kookaburra laughing in the ghost gum next to it as I listened to him) and how others on his team and the Australian media commented. The Australians make the game mean and nasty. India to win!

‘Steve unleashes the mongrel!’

Reply to Jason 3


Hi Jason,

I do believe the result of the poll (that ‘49% of Australians support banning Muslims immigrating to Australia’) is accurate – it was taken twice to confirm the result. One of the pollsters said the number was too big to say that it is unrepresentative.

I have heard the poll discussed in the middle-class media and no-one (as much as they would like to) has claimed that the result is in any way ‘false’.

If you step back and look at the ‘big picture’: there is a rising anti-refugee sentiment across the US, Europe and Australia. Fascism and fascist parties play an increasing part in this – discussions in the Australian middle-class media about the possibility of a Trump presidency have included mention of fascism in the US.

What is fascism? Capitalism in extremis. When the GFC hit the fan, a lot of tax-payers’ money was thrown at it. That money has now gone but the GFC hasn’t. The capitalists ponder – ‘What to do?’

Blame someone, ramp up protectionism, wage war and make force and the threat of force internally more prominent.

All of this, with regard to Australia, feeds into a pre-existing cultural ‘mind’ set.

Not only has racism always been deeply ingrained in Australia (the ‘White Australia policy’ was only finally dropped in 1973) – recent instances of anti-Chinese xenophobia yet again exemplify this – this racism is representative of a broader problem in Australia – the fear of difference.

Aussies on their island continent at the arse-end of the earth (to quote a former Prime Minister) cannot comprehend difference and its necessity, wrapped otherwise than in conformist ‘decency’ (hence the comparative welcoming of the Vietnamese refugees after the defeat of the US and Australia in their war on Vietnam).

Again, what is particularly repulsive about the behaviour of the white-dominated nations (including Australia – one of the richest nations in the world) towards the present great tide of refugees is that those people are fleeing from destruction initiated either directly by capitalist nations or as a consequence of their previous behaviour – led by the number 1 capitalist power, the US.

The West fears ‘Islamic terrorism’? Think of the treachery and terrorism that the West has dished out over and again to the Islamic people, particularly in the last 100 years.

As capitalism goes deeper into crisis, within capitalist nations, the rich get richer, the poor poorer and the middle class diminishes while beyond those nations, their militaries continue to wreak the destruction and suffering that puts further pressure on capitalism.

This is dialectics in action.



‘49% of Australians support banning Muslims immigrating to nation they insist isn’t racist’


The Backburner, SBS, ‘49% of Australians support banning Muslims immigrating to nation they insist isn’t racist’ 21.09.16

A new poll from Essential media has shown a troublingly high number of people support banning all Muslims from immigrating to a nation that they insist is free, welcome and accepting of all people.

Early analysis of the results show community concerns that Muslim immigrants will not abide by Australian values such as a baseless, hysterical fear of all Muslim immigrants. The poll has somehow come as a shock to the nation that recently elected multiple senators on the same fearful platform, but others have insisted that the result was obvious and predictable.

“It’s about the Australian way of life,” one respondent told The Backburner. “I mean, we have a nation here built on freedom – the freedom to deeply fear anyone who you find different and scary – the freedom to restrict their freedoms.

“Australians have always been deeply exclusionary to anyone in need. Neglecting others while insisting we’re great people is one of our proudest national traditions. I mean, what’s the point of being a city shining on a hill if you’re not using that shining light to spot and repel people trying to clamour up the hill to take refuge in your nice city?

“I’m just saying that if we want to keep this country great we have to be willing to sacrifice every last tenet of what we believe makes this country great.”

The poll reported 49% of people supported a ban on Muslim immigration with many respondents claiming that Muslims did not integrate well into the kind of free society that would never place a religious test on immigration and absolutely wouldn’t be caught dead making sweeping statements admonishing a community that makes up a significant percentage of the population.

“We’re just trying to preserve good old fashioned Australian fear-mongering. We want to make sure we keep ourselves true blue, easy-going, deeply aggressive and unbelievably bigoted and exclusionary.

“I’m sure there will be backlash against this but I’ve come up with a clever strategy: what I am going to say is that I’m not actually racist because Islam is not a race. See, I’m not a racist, I’m a completely different kind of bigot. I’m attacking a minority group on an entirely different basis. You know what? I think I’ll find this article when you put it up and make this very comment on it.”


What it means to be Australian


Peter Martin, ’China’s gifts, research, “special bonds” and Sam Dastyari’s ghost from his past,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 08.09.16

Sam Dastyari had been in the Senate mere months when a ghost from his past came back to haunt him. He was sued by a marketing company over work it said he had commissioned and then abandoned while general secretary of the NSW Labor Party.

He settled the case for around $5000, but rather than pay it himself or get the Labor Party to help, he sent the bill to the Yuhu Group, reporting its support in the register of senators’ interests.

The Shenzhen Yuhu investment development group was founded by Huang Xiangmo, a Chinese-Australian billionaire to whom $5000 was literally small change.

A few months earlier he had given $1.8 million to the University of Technology in Sydney to help establish an Australia-China Relations Institute, which supplanted an existing China Research Centre whose publications had at times been critical of China.

It emails journalists offering all expenses paid trips to China (“flights, accommodation, meals and internal transport”) and, in an unusual approach for a university body, describes itself as taking a “positive and optimistic view” of the Australia-China relationship.

Click the “research” button on its website and you won’t see research, but “fact sheets” urging Australia to approve the Australia-China free trade agreement, not to run freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea and not to block the takeover bid for an electricity network.

Huang chairs the Institute himself, or so he says, in another departure from normal practice. He says he personally chose Australia’s former foreign minister Bob Carr to run it.

John Fitzgerald, a China specialist who directs philanthropy studies at Swinburne University, says it is the clearest departure from accepted university practice he has seen. Other research centres, such as those part-funded by the United States, critically examine what’s happening in the US. Another academic familiar with the Institute who teaches in China says there is more questioning of the Chinese regime among his own Chinese students than there is at the University of Technology, which seems to be the way Huang wants it. A prodigious donor to both sides of Australian politics, he wrote in a Chinese newspaper last week that donors needed to learn how to have, “a more efficient combination between political requests and political donations, and how to use the media to push our political requests”.


Huang sees donations as transactional. But the transactions aren’t always in Australia. In China, where some of his associates have been under a cloud, giving money to Australian universities and politicians is seen as a way to do the right thing by Chinese officials. China has set up “Confucius Institutes” at 10 Australian universities including the University of Melbourne with the aim of promoting “Chinese language and culture in a friendly, accessible and educational way”. They are also in high schools, 35 of them according to the former education minister Christopher Pyne.

To the Chinese Communist Party they are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. To Australian schools desperate for funds, they are a way to get teaching resources cheaply.


The Communist Party itself has ultimate control over their curriculum, budget and hiring and training of staff, according to a Parliamentary Library research note, creating “extra-territoriality” within Australian universities and schools.

In Canada the Association of University Teachers has urged universities to sever their ties with Confucius Institutes. In the US, the Association of University Professors has issued a report suggesting their governance arrangements are “inconsistent with principles of academic freedom”, and at Chicago University the university senate has voted against renewing the institute’s contract after receiving a petition from 100 staff complaining that an outside entity was “in effect seriously influencing who’s teaching and what’s taught under our name”.

But here we don’t seem to care as much, perhaps because, like Sam Dastyari, we believe we can take money without being expected to give anything back in return. That isn’t how it’s seen in China, that’s not how it’s seen by donors such as Huang, and it’s not what the research shows. Yes: there is economic research into our response to gifts.

Oddly, and disturbingly for recipients such as Dastyari, it finds that small gifts can pack a biggerscreen-shot-2016-09-08-at-1-25-45-pm punch than big ones. For their study entitled You Owe Me, Ulrike Malmendier and Klaus Schmidt allowed bidders to give gifts to students deciding which firms to award contracts to in a laboratory experiment. The games weren’t repeated, so there was no chance of ever encountering the gift-givers again. Yet the small gifts won them over, even when what the bidders were offering was a worse service. As the size of the gift grew the effect faded.

They explain their findings by saying gifts “create a special bond between the gift giver and the receiver”. The more obvious the attempt, the more our guard goes up. It’s why doctors surgeries are filled with branded pens and free samples rather than wads of cash.

But there’s a caveat. Experienced China watchers say the gift needs to be just big enough to create a slight feeling of unease. Once the recipient feels they might have transgressed, they’re hooked for next time.

* Fairfax Media (the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and of this article) has joined visits to China organised and paid for by the Australia-China Relations Institute


The sort of speaking that resulted in so much political heat for Dastyari:

Gareth Hutchens, ’Labor senator Sam Dastyari claims 10 companies have taken control of Australian politicsBendigo Advertiser, 08.09.16

What a US peppercorn buys in Australia:

At a ceremony in 1967 the US ambassador to Australia Ed Clark laughingly paid the Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt a peppercorn for a year’s rent on their spy base at North West Cape in Western Australia. The lease did not allow Australia any degree of control over the station.

This is the Australia I know – a racist, authoritarian culture gagging on its ‘decency’

Video of the tear-gassing of a child in prison


Camps: Germany in the 1930s and Australia now

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‘Immigration spends more than Defence on medals for its staff’, Adam Gartrell, The Sydney Morning Herald 16.01.16

‘Internal departmental awards are awarded across eight categories: Bravery, Conspicuous Conduct, Leadership, Excellence, Innovation, Work Health and Safety, Diversity, and Operations.’

Detention centre cartoon

The Sun-Herald 24.01.16

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Just as the first camps in Germany in the 1930s symbolised the broader reality in that country and reflected the direction in which Germany was going, so the camps do now in happy, egalitarian, laid-back Australia – or out of it, where Australia, having trawled its region as a racist bully (while taking pride in pandering to the interests of U.S. capital) and in contempt of its humanitarian and UN obligations has managed to impose camps and its responsibilities on economically dependent and impoverished neighbours in Asia and the Pacific.red-star

Photos: top/bottom

Australian ‘heroes’. Does it make you wonder?

Australian cricket team

The Sydney Morning Herald 06.11.15

Australian cricket team playing New Zealand

With the exception of Usman Khawaja, the team are all white.

Don Bradman's cap

Don Bradman’s cap. Priceless

Sources: middle/bottom


Whites rule. Got it?

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Ruby Hamad, ‘White nostalgia: when “timeless” fantasies turn out to be incredibly racist’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 07.09.15

Two years ago, a lengthy Financial Times essay predicted that the discovery of some disturbing colonial-era photographs would signal the imminent end of “colonial nostalgia.”

Unearthed in what was once the Dutch East Indies and is now Indonesia, they included many “timeless” images associated with the bygone days of empire; young girls in flowing white dresses, men riding elephants, women tending out-of-place flower gardens.

But alongside these representations of “lost white paradise,” were gruesome pictures of colonialism’s less pleasant side. In one, Dutch soldiers smile for the camera shortly after gunning down an entire village. Dead bodies are clearly visible in the frame.

Europeans (and Australians) have long regarded colonialism with romanticism. But images such as these meant the “western emotional memory of colonialism is [finally] changing”, wrote Simon Kuper in the Financial Times essay.

As it turns out, Kuper’s optimism was premature. Colonial nostalgia is back and Taylor Swift is the latest artist to immortalise it in her new video ‘Wildest Dreams’, where she plays a glamorous Old Hollywood movie star falling for her (married) leading man on location in Africa.

‘Wildest Dreams’ is a homage to old films like ‘African Queen’, which were themselves a love letter to colonialism. As such, while there are lions and giraffes aplenty, there is little room for black people. Unsurprisingly, many Africans are unimpressed. Writing for NPR, James Kassaga Arinaitwe and Viviane Rutabingwa explain why:

“(Swift) should absolutely be able to use any location as a backdrop. But she packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanised and traumatised millions of Africans.”

The video’s director, Joseph Kahn, who pointed out the multi-racial makeup of the video’s crew, said he limited the number of black extras for purposes of historical accuracy. “This is not a video about colonialism,” he protested.

Translation: this is not a video intentionally about colonialism. Nonetheless, Kahn has “accidentally” perpetuated the colonial interpretation of Africa as nothing more than a dry landscape of magnificent animals and dramatic sunsets. It’s not so much that there aren’t enough black people in it, it’s that they’re regarded as utterly inconsequential.

Local populations don’t have to be omitted entirely for colonial nostalgia to be in effect. The 2013 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, consisting of mostly white models in exotic locales, did include people of colour but they were used interchangeably with animals and landscapes. One model poses with a spear-wielding African man, another reclines on a raft while being chauffeured by a Chinese peasant.

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It’s as if people of colour serve no role other than to highlight the individuality of westerners. Whiteness is centralised and the colonial myth lives on: that colonialism was really not so bad after all, and that it had the blessings of locals who did little more than stand around in colourful costumes smiling beatifically.

This is the power of colonial nostalgia – it has allowed the west to completely reimagine its own history. When the truth is too inconvenient, it is simply ignored.

‘Banished’, a BBC mini-series about the First Fleet that screened earlier this year famously included not a single Aboriginal person. Producer Jimmy McGovern claimed it would have been too difficult to get the portrayal of Aboriginal people right given the two-week timeframe of the series.

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Translation: Aboriginal people had to be left out because including them would mean telling a completely different story – not one of unlucky convicts and plucky explorers braving the treacherous ocean to find “nothing but bush” on the other end, but one of Aboriginal resistance and the beginnings of genocide.

Of course, it’s not surprising that artists neglect to portray the full truth of colonialism. They take their cues from a society that has, in general, proven to be nothing if not adept at absolving itself of any need for truthful recollection of its own brutal history.

Winston Churchill, who once said that Arabs have no more claim to land in Palestine than dogs, and who presided over some shocking atrocities in the colonies, has somehow been recast as a loveable old bear who went to war “for the arts.” Lachlan Macquarie, NSW’s fifth governor who has a city street named after him, is remembered as a great “colony builder.” He was reasonably nice to Aboriginal people – as long as they didn’t show any inclination to independence. This is what happened when they did:

“In 1816 Macquarie’s paternalism was tested when hostile Aboriginal people attacked settlers along the Hawkesbury–Nepean River. His reluctant response was to send a punitive military expedition with orders to take as many prisoners as possible, shoot any who resisted or attempted to flee and hang their bodies in the trees as a warning to survivors.”

Hostile Aboriginals. Attacked. Reluctant. Exactly whose land was being invaded here?

This is the reality that white colonial nostalgia obscures. Whether or not Swift, or Sports Illustrated, or the BBC intended to glorify colonialism, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Massacres, exploitation, and enslavement were not unfortunate by-products of colonialism – they were its modus operandi and what made the western world as we know it possible.

This uncomfortable truth must be reckoned with if we are to have any hope of putting the past behind us. You cannot isolate the “good parts” of colonialism from the brutality, and then expect people of colour to accept this romanticisation of a period in history whose impacts we are still reeling from. Not in your wildest dreams.