Recent comments by Sol Trujillo, former boss of Telstra, that Australia is a racist country have caused a storm.
Most media commentators and politicians expressed outrage at the suggestion. But three recent events tell their own story. In Melbourne Indian students have demonstrated against a string of racist attacks, Anthony Mundine’s came out to denounce the culture of racism in NRL and, in the Northern Territory, the government is attempting to drive Aboriginal people off homelands settlements as part of the Intervention.
This racism has been beaten up for years by governments for their own advantage, and to reinforce Australian nationalism. After years where Howard scapegoated Aboriginal people, pandered to Pauline Hanson’s anti-Asian diatribes and bashed refugees, we now have the spectre of Rudd promoting myths about Aboriginal people being unable to run their own lives.
Racism rife in NRL
During an NRL match on 22 May, Cronulla Shark’s captain Paul Gallen abused St George Player Mickey Paea, a Pacific Islander, calling him a “black c***”.
Indigenous boxing star Anthony Mundine, who previously played league for St George, spoke out against the endemic culture of racism in the sport.
“It’s a disgrace if that did happen and nothing is done about it”
“(Racism) is like a cancer in the game and the NRL has to come down hard on it. That’s one of the reasons I left the game.People feel like the system is against them. The league isn’t run by islanders.”
“If they are serious about wanting to get racism out of the game, and a player said that, he should get fined big money and suspended for 10 matches. They’ve got to deal with it the way they have with other things like the judiciary and referees.”
Indian students rally against inaction over horrific bashings
Indian students have been the victim of a series of horrific racially motivated attacks in Melbourne and Sydney. Around 1500 people joined a snap protest in Melbourne in late May, chanting against racism, “we want justice” and “Victoria police, shame, shame”.
One student, Sravan Kumar Theerthala, is still fighting for his life after being stabbed with a screwdriver.
As Raman, an international student, explained “In the past two weeks we’ve seen four or five students being a victim of such crimes and one is in a very serious condition in Royal Melbourne Hospital.
There’s been in increase in street crime against Indian students, mainly in Melbourne and there is no concrete action being taken by Victoria police.”
In one typical incident, a group of six young men attacked Indian student Sourabh Sharma after hurling racist abuse at him as he sat on a train coming home from work. He was taken to hospital with a fractured cheekbone and a broken tooth.
In response to the attacks Police Inspector Scott Mahoney denied there was a racial motivation saying, “sometimes, it’s just a combination of timing and chance”.
Police have told Indian students to change their behaviour, not to display ipods, and not to speak loudly in Indian languages while in public, if they want to avoid being attacked.
This is a disgusting and racist response from the Victoria police, which blames the victim rather than tackle the racism of the attackers.
Many of the students at the Melbourne rally complained that police refused to do anything when they rang them to report being attacked. As Raman said, “A lot of students coming to us say ‘Police took an hour to come and then arrived and didn’t actually help us out and just started questioning us why we were here.’”
An Indian doctor in Sydney claimed over 20 students there had been attacked in the last month.
Aboriginal people to be forced from homelands
In May, the NT government released its Working Future policy, which will severely restrict the resources available to remote Aboriginal communities in the NT and force migration into major townships (see page 9).
Yananymul Mununggurr, on behalf of the Laynhapuy Homelands Association, made the following statement on May 21, condemning the government’s racism:
“Just days after the release of a ground breaking report outlining the major health benefits to Yolngu living on country, the NT government announces a policy that relegates our homelands to third world conditions, if not extinction.
“We see this as a major betrayal of the trust of our people. We’ve been engaged in ‘consultation’ that has yet again proved meaningless.
“The decision not to fund new housing for our homelands condemns Yolngu to further overcrowding, declining living conditions and ultimately the extinguishment of our traditional culture.
“How does that fit with the recent Rudd Labor Government’s signing of the UN Rights of Indigenous Peoples?”