19.4 C
Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Racism never takes holidays

Latest News

Spring into Scavenge in Lismore this Saturday

Different, fun and rewarding are some of the words used to describe what's going to unfold in Lismore this weekend.

Other News

Byron carjacker and stolen vehicle still not found

Police say that a man carjacked a 17-year-old in Byron Bay just before midnight on Friday.

Rapey Liberal culture is their undoing

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ steel-eyed testimony around rape allegations saw spiders crawl from under rocks and spread in all directions last week. 

Police exchange gun fire at Dunoon – man arrested

At a media conference outside the Lismore police station this morning, Acting Superintendent Susan Johnston, Commander, Richmond Police Area Command, said that a man has been charged over an incident at Dunoon last night.

TAFE job cuts not so bad, says Nationals MLC 

Ms Saffin said last week that 29 local jobs were going under restructures and that almost 700 frontline TAFE NSW jobs will be slashed.

Children approached by stranger in Murwillumbah

Police say a Queensland man has been charged following two alleged child approaches in Murwillumbah today.

Not quite ‘too late’

Desmond Bellamy, PETA Australia Sir David Attenborough, the world’s most famous naturalist, has just addressed the United Nations Security Council to...

Image S Sorrensen

Noumea. Tuesday, 10.15am

It’s a funny place. There are retro tables with laminex (that squiggly-line laminex so fashionable in the sixties). And there’s a pink Cadillac convertible, cut in half, providing seating for four. It’s a sixties cafe with all sorts of memorabilia hanging from the walls. Tourist trap for sure. But hey, I’m a tourist here, so…

My friends are seated at one of those tables, on chromed chairs, drinking coffee, speaking French. My yellow Vespa is parked on the grass near them, looking good. Behind the Vespa, the sea is a swirl of sparkling blue hues. I’ve never seen a sea of so many blues. On the horizon, white sails glide from right to left.

When I was in Italy, I fell in love with the Vespa. To me it has an elegance of design unsurpassd in small two-wheelers. But I couldn’t afford to rent one. It cost a bomb. But here, in New Caledonia, I was able to rent a Vespa from a jolly and racist white fella running a dodgy hire joint near Anse Vata beach.

It seems most of the white folk I’ve met here don’t like the Kanaks, the indigenous people who make up 40 per cent of the population, who have been living here for at least 3,500 years. The white residents here are either Caldoche (born here but with French heritage), or Metros (born in France but now living in New Caledonia.)

Yesterday, at a supermarket check-out, a Metro holding three baguettes told me that New Caledonia could be paradise except the Kanaks are lazy. He whispered this to me because he didn’t want the Kanaka woman at the check-out to hear. They don’t want to work, he said. Which is strange, because in New Caledonia all the workers you see are Kanaks.

Kanaks have been exploited labour since the English and the French invented blackbirding, a form of slave labour, to help white people get rich. In fact, many Kanaks were forcibly taken from here to work on Queensland sugarcane farms.

A young Kanak woman stands at the till of this sixties cafe, a vintage Coca-Cola sign hanging over her. She is not happy. Her eyes flash menace. (In 1849 the crew of an American ship was killed and eaten by Kanaks. They are not victims by nature.)

Next to her is an older Australian bloke. He speaks in that Aussie drawl, making no concession to the fact that here, in New Caledonia, they speak French. (Which is why I like coming here.)

‘I haven’t got any francs,’ he says. ‘I don’t like your money. Seems dumb paying thousands for coffee. I’ll pay in Australian dollars.’

‘You haven’t any francs?’ she asks in quite good English.

‘No,’ he says, smiling stupidly.

‘Francs is our money,’ she says, jaw clenching.

I can feel the tension building. I look to another waitress, who is also Kanak (of course), who is waiting to use the till, and I say, in French, ‘She’s not happy, eh?’

She laughs, covering her mouth with her hand, and says to me, in French, ‘No, she isn’t happy at all.’

The unhappy waitress punches some numbers into a calculator and shoves the screen at the Aussie bloke. It reads something like $64.9584437612104.

‘How much is that?’ asks the man.

She mutters something I don’t catch and shoves the screen in his face.

‘Oh. 64 bucks,’ he says. ‘Expensive.’

She bares her teeth. She’s had enough. The Kanaks have had enough.

‘Non,’ she says. ‘Sixty-five dollars.’

‘I’ll give you sixty,’ he says.

She gives him a look so withering, his silly grin disappears, replaced by a nervous laugh.

He hands over $65 Australian dollars.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Van life

David Pettifer, Uki In reply to today’s article by the ABC Van Lifers I believe there is an opportunity for both sides to benefit. There is a...

Buy and sell food app launches

Finding it too hard to purchase local produce via social media, partners Vanessa and Leisa thought there must be a better way.

Inflatable lifejacket self-service clinic for Ballina

An inflatable lifejacket self-service clinic will be held on Friday 19 March 2021 at Fishery Creek Boat Ramp, West Ballina.

Seapeace: the late Tony Maxwell’s wetland legacy

Many curious minds have pondered the purpose of the rice paddy-like waterbodies that scallop the contour lines out into the Ewingsdale coastal plain that can be viewed from St Helena Road.