Australia and Our Reputation for Racism

September 2, 2015

Considering all of Australia’s population can be traced back to other countries if you go back far enough, it seems strange that we’ve come to be one considered one of the most racist countries in the world. Because of how hugely multicultural Australia’s population is, it would make sense for us to be more accepting of other ethnicities and their cultures; however it seems that isn’t the case.

Listovative lists Australia as the 8th most racist country in the world, citing the common belief that immigrants should “go back where they came from.” A series of targeted attacks on Indian residents around 2009 was also mentioned as a reason for the high ranking. Other sites such as TheTopTens and ListCrux also place Australia in their lists of most racist countries. The fact that this is such a popular representation of Australia is somewhat concerning considering the extent to which Australia relies on its relationships and agreements with other countries.

Focus Migration provides a number of graphs showing the origin of immigrants to Australia over time, spanning from 1945 to 2007; this is shown below. It’s interesting to see in this graph that while, historically, the immigration of UK, Ireland and other European residents to Australia has remained an important factor, the countries from which people are emigrating to Australia are becoming more diverse.

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In this second graph from the same source, it’s easier to visualize where in the world Australia’s immigrants most commonly originate from. This graph shows just how diverse Australia’s population is becoming due to the wide range of countries people are immigrating from.

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Various opinions and viewpoints about Australia can be observed in a variety of global media – both domestic and international, as well as both legacy style platforms and content created on convergent platforms such as YouTube. For example in many Australian stand-up comedy performances, it’s very easy to notice the common (and often not-so-subtle) instances of casual racism scattered throughout. Below you’ll see a short example of this – many of the jokes in this performance, while intended purely for comedic value and not meant to be taken seriously, come at the expense of others based on their race. As you’ll notice by the way the whole audience is laughing, Australia’s culture for casual racism is accurately represented in this clip.

The high level of ‘casual racism’ in Australia is certainly contributing to the feeling of exclusion that many people experience as part of their daily lives after moving here. In addition to more serious occurrences of racism, including the all too common “go back to where you came from” and Australia’s wide vocabulary of derogatory slang words, it’s no wonder people often feel excluded when they move here. The problem is that these attitudes are so deeply engrained in Australian culture that it seems near impossible to make any sort of short-term changes to this issue.

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