Australia: Look Different And Risk Being Assaulted
By Ghali Hassan
01 April, 2010
The ongoing, racially-motivated attacks on international students and people from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds, and concerted efforts by the Australian Government and the media to downplay racism, prove that Australians are unable and unwilling to live as a civilised society without racism. In white Anglo-Saxon Australia, it remains as deeply-entrenched as ever.
On February 6, 2010, at an international students' safety forum organised by the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition in Melbourne, the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Mr Simon Overland said: ”Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch, and don’t display your valuable jewellery. Try to look as poor as you can or risk being assaulted.” (The Age, February 7, 2010). Mr Overland was referring to a spate of racially-motivated attacks against Indians in Melbourne. In reality, Mr Overland was saying: ‘If you look different (i.e., not white Anglo-Saxon), you risk being assaulted and it is your fault.’ Mr Overland was denying the existence of deeply-entrenched racism in Australia and blaming the victims of racially-motivated crimes.
The Australian government and media are refusing to acknowledge racially-motivated violence and continue to play down its horrendous effects on people from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds. The Government is concerned that racially-motivated violence on international students will damage Australia’s manufactured image and undermine Australia’s multimillion-dollar “education industry”, which is destroying Australia’s education system (For more, see my: “Australia’s Predatory Education”).
To be clear about Australia’s chronic racism, Indian students are not the only victims of racially-motivated violence in Australia. Violence against Indian students is reflected in racially-motivated crimes against anyone who looks different, whether Indigenous Australians, Muslim Australians, or people from ethnic minorities, including refugees. However, the majority of racially-motivated crimes are covered-up and excluded because they are considered politically unpalatable. Racially-motivated crimes against Indian students took centre stage, because of wide coverage by the vocal Indian media and the Indian community in Australia.
The primary victims of racially-motivated violence and discrimination in Australia are Australians of non-English speaking backgrounds, Muslims Australians, Indigenous Australians and refugees, including Africans.
On September 26, 2007, Liep Gony, a 19-year old Sudanese-Australian was murdered in Melbourne in an unprovoked and cowardly attack by two white Australians who were motivated by hatred of “blacks”. Kevin Andrews, the bigoted former Immigration minister in the Howard’s government, linked the murder of a young man who spent half of his life in Australia, to lack of “integration” on the part of the Sudanese refugees in Australia who continue to suffer discrimination.
In February 2010, an Australian student from non-English speaking background at a regional university in Southern Queensland was seriously assaulted by a white Anglo-Australian landlord. After the police arrived on the scene, the police immediately took sides to protect the white landlord. The student was removed from the property which he was renting and made homeless by the police despite the fact that the landlord was holding the student’s bond and rent money. The student was taken to the hospital and spent the night there. The landlord remains free and continues his illegal business preying on unprotected people.
When the student called the Residential Tenancy Authority, he was informed that the police acted unlawfully and that he should insist on laying charges against the landlord and demand compensation for damage. “Queensland is like the rest of Australia, extremely racist and extremely violent state”, wrote the student in an email. There is no doubt, if the crime had been committed by a non-Anglo Australian, the offender would have been arrested and charged.
The perception that the police were doing everything they could to stop assaults on non-Anglo-Saxon Australians and foreign students doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Police inaction and Policing are part of the problem of racism in Australia.
On February 14, 2007, Ahmed Dini, an 18-year old youth of Somali origin was assaulted by a police officer at Flemington police station in Melbourne. The assault was so violent, the young man required dental surgery. Recently, an out-of-court settlement awarded the Somali man more than $70,000 in compensation for his ordeal. In another civil case, eight police officers based at Moonee Ponds police station are facing assault and false imprisonment charges after it was alleged that a 19-year-old African youth was assaulted by police and lost part of his sight in one eye. (The Age, March 17, 2010).
A new report by the Springvale Monash Legal Service (SMLS) revealed that police in Melbourne were assaulting and racially abusing young Africans, particularly . Although the report covered only three regions in Melbourne (Braybrook, Flemington and Greater Dandenong), it is a good representative sample of Australia as a whole. In addition, the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) revealed recently that a large number of Victoria Police, including senior officers, are involved in serious racial discrimination after a racist email was circulated state widely on the police email system. While not all police are racist and there are many honest and professional police, the vast majority of police in Australia are white Anglo-Saxon and like the rest of Anglo-Saxon Australia, racism is deeply entrenched in the police force.
A study by the Institute for Community, Ethnicity and Policy Alternatives (ICEPA) of Victoria University in Melbourne found that; “More than half (57%) of international students (not just Indian students) surveyed said they found Australia less safe than they have expected.” A majority (more than three-quarters) of international students reported “threats to their safety”, ranging from verbal abuse to violence that they believed was motivated by “a racial, religious or cultural element”, and even felt that “police at time displayed ethnic and racial bias” towards them, according to the ICEPA study.
Despite the disproportionately low rate of “ethnic” crimes, police across Australia are known to target certain groups. Australians from non-Anglo-Saxon background were more than three times likely to experience discrimination in policing than those white Australians born in Australia.
According to data gathered by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission – a government funded department – Indigenous Australians are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned and 26 times more likely to be held in police custody than Anglo-Saxon Australians. Indigenous children are 18.6 times more likely to be held in detention.
In Western Australia – the nation’s redneck state – the rate is 32.4 times higher than for Indigenous children. In Queensland – the nation’s most corrupt state – more than half (55.7%) of young Australians in detention were Indigenous. In 2007, 432 of Australia's 742 juvenile prisoners were Indigenous.
Twenty years after the Royal Commission in Aboriginal Death in Custody, Indigenous Australians continue disproportionately to risk arrest, detention, assault and death in custody. In Queensland alone, there have been four deaths in custody in just over a month this year, one on February 20 and three in March 2010.
Discrimination against Muslims Australians (1.8 of Australia’s population) is on the rise. Muslim women have been an obvious target of racially-motivated attacks by racist Anglo Australians because their traditional dress makes them visible. On November 5, 2005, “[a Muslim woman] was punched, kicked, spat on and abused, told to ‘go home to her own country and left with an injury to her right eye’. Her sister, she said, had a knife thrust towards’ her face.” The family was picnicking at a Williamstown’s park near Melbourne. (The Age, November 13, 2005). ”I think families are staying home and avoiding going out, particularly women who wear the hijab, because we have seen that they are particularly targeted”, said Australian Arabic Council deputy chairman, Mr Taimor Hazou.
In February 2009, a Muslim student at the University of Western Sydney – the cesspool of Australian universities – was racially abused and assaulted by one of the University’s unskilled general staff. Despite overwhelming evidence of racially-motivated attack and the fact that the staff has admitted using racist language and violence, the University concocted and used baseless allegations to justify the student’s exclusion from the University just a few months before he was scheduled to complete his graduate study. The student was accused of calling another staff a “racist”, a form of bullying employed by Anglo-Australians not only to intimidate their victims of racism, but also to legitimise and normalise racism. While the student was denied the right to view the “evidence” against him, the accused staff continues to enjoy the University’s protection and support. Anglo Australians do not like to be called racist, but they love to preach “tolerance” with bigotry. When the student made a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman against the unfair and racist conduct of the University, the Ombudsman declined to investigate the case, because it would be against the Ombudsman’s role to act in public interest. The case highlights a policy that forms part of Australia’s systemic racism in higher education and employment.
For a decade, John Howard’s right-wing Liberal (Party) government reinvented and nurtured widespread racism and bigotry against Muslims. The September 11 events in America – which had nothing to do with Muslim nations – were a convenient tool used by the Howard’s government to enact anti-Muslim repressive and draconian “Anti-Terrorism” laws.
The current right-wing Labor Government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has adopted the same laws and discriminatory policy of its predecessor. On February 23, 2010, the Rudd Government unveiled its “Counter-Terrorism White Paper”, specifically targeted Muslims in Australia and people from a list of Muslim nations. Mr Rudd alleges that Australia is “under permanent terror threat” and “faces an increased terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia”. Mr Rudd also announced tougher visa checks of people from ten nations. The Rudd government is refusing to name these nations, and no one knows if Israel, the world’s leading terrorist sate, is on the list.
To date, not a single Australian has been killed by “terrorists” in Australia. It is the Australian army that is participating (as a mercenary force to enforce U.S.-Zionist ideology) in the slaughter of innocent Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. In poor Afghanistan, the massacres of school children and women have become a daily ritual. In Iraq, an estimated 1.5 million innocent Iraqis (mostly women and children) have been slaughtered since 2003 – the third phase of a long holocaust that began in 1991 – in one of the most premeditated mass murders of civilians in modern history with the full support of the Australian government. Furthermore, during the Israeli attacks on the population of Gaza (under Israeli military siege since 2006) in December 2008-January 2009, when more than 1,420 defenceless Palestinians (mostly women and children) were massacred in cold blood, Australia was one of a handful of Western governments that supported Israel’s terror and war crimes, and continues to do so unconditionally.
Australia’s “Anti-Terrorism” laws are aimed at manipulating the public, fomenting fear and stoking up resentment against Muslims. Indeed, Muslim men in Australia were rounded-up, imprisoned, put on show trials and convicted of “terrorism”. Recently, some Muslim men were found guilty on preposterous charges – with no victims and no known targets. The aim is to intimidate and bully the entire Muslims community, and to send a message that Muslims are dangerous and that Muslim Australians do “not belong” to this country.
To make the situation worse for Muslims, the Australian media – a collection of anti-Muslim Zionist and proto-fascist outlets competing with each other to promote Israel-U.S. ideology – play an important role in the construction of racialised communities as “ethnic” and in inciting hatred and promoting Islamophobia among Anglo-Saxon Australians. Muslim Australians are demonised and presented as a ‘threat to the Australian values’. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi propagandists would have been pleased to have such racist propaganda organs on their side, inflaming xenophobia and promoting fascist ideology.
On the surface, Australia is a friendly and “multicultural” (best defined as anti-cultural) country until you scratch the surface. Most, if not all, Anglo-Saxon Australians see themselves as being uniquely pure and superior to all ‘other’ people by virtue of their Anglo-Saxon origin. It is a very backward thinking. Racially-motivated violence and discrimination formed the foundation of Anglo-Australia and were forged into the Australian national character, and remain so today alive and thriving throughout Australian culture.
Australia’s manufactured image of a “fair-go for all” is an illusion designed to project Australia as an equal society and cover-up deeply-entrenched racism. Just take a look at who is doing what. Privileged employments are reserved for the white Anglo-Saxon majority, with few places for those exotic faces that are chosen to tick the so-called “equal opportunity” box. White Anglo-Saxon middle-class and rich males “shape legislation, administration and judicial texts in their own image and to their own advantage”, wrote Margaret Thornton, a legal scholar and professor of law at the Australian National University (ANU). One of the many places to watch white Anglo-Saxon Australians indulging in keeping their privilege and defending their white ideology is the exclusively white clubs of the Australian federal and state parliaments, they are white only territories.
A survey on racial and ethnic discrimination in Australia by the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University released in June 2009 found clear evidence of racism in employment. The study revealed that Australians with “foreign” sounding names had greater difficulty of finding employment than those Australians with Anglo-Saxon names. According to the study, people with a Middle Eastern background (i.e., Muslims) had to send 127 per cent more applications for a waiter’s position than their Anglo-Saxon contenders . As a result, unemployment among Australians from non-Anglo-Saxon background is significantly high. As a nation, Australia has no ‘Bill of Rights’, but it has ‘anti-discrimination’ legislation to legitimise racial discrimination.
A civilised Australia rests on the pillars of non-discriminatory equality and justice for all of its citizens, regardless of skin colour, race, religion, wealth and political affiliation. The best solution is for Australia to adopt non-discriminatory policies and makes people’s safety and wellbeing its top priority.
Ghali Hassan is an independent writer living in Australia.
 Smith B. & Reside, S. (2010, March). ‘Boys, You Wanna Give Me Some Action?’ Intervention into Policing of Racialised Communities in Melbourne. Melbourne: Legal Services Board of Victoria. (PDF).
 Booth, A., Leigh, A., & Varganova, E. (2009, June). Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment, (Working paper). Canberra: Australian National University, Research School of Economics. (PDF).