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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Much ado about racism

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Laura Tingle. Photo Facebook.

A journalist told the truth in public. Shock! Horror! Of course Australia is a racist country, and always has been.

This country was founded on racist assumptions (we can take what we want, ignore our own laws, and yours, because we have the required firepower, diseases and hypocrisy). We will pretend no one was here when it suits us (terra nullius) and then divide families when the original inhabitants don’t conveniently lie down and die.

When the ALP was formed in 1891, its very first federal objective was the ‘cultivation of an Australian sentiment based upon the maintenance of racial purity.’ Aboriginal workers in pastoral industries across the country were given no wages for generations. The cane industry was established by kidnapped South Sea Islanders, and non-Anglo racism was formally built into government for generations in the form of the White Australia policy.

Chinese people in the gold rush were forced to walk from South Australia to Victoria, where they faced gangs of violent thugs at Buckland, Lambing Flat and elsewhere. In 1934, the Czech-Jewish journalist Egon Kisch (who spoke multiple languages) was forced to take a test in Scotch Gaelic to keep him out of Australia. Immigrants from Europe who didn’t speak English as their first language were given hell when they arrived after World War II. Likewise Vietnamese people a bit later, and African and Middle Eastern people after them.

This is a country which has more racist insults than there are Inuit words for snow (and that’s probably a racist analogy too).

Try catching a taxi if you have dark skin, or applying for a job if you have an unusual name, or wearing a veil to the dog park, or taking an unusual lunchbox to school if you live in an Anglo-dominated area.

Remember children overboard? Adam Goodes and Nicky Winmar? The assaults on Indian students? Sovereign Borders? The racist lies about the referendum on the Voice?

Things are better in many parts of Australia than they used to be, yes, but this is still a fundamentally racist country. There is no other reading of Australian history that makes any sense.

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce, upstanding on this occasion. Photo Tree Faerie.

Racism, schmacism

To the always erudite Barnaby Joyce though (last seen the wrong side up on a Canberra footpath), this very suggestion is ‘mad left wing’ and cause for one of Australia’s most respected political journalists Laura Tingle to be raked over the coals, first by the Murdoch press, then Peter Costello’s Nine media, and finally by her own boss at the ABC, never mind that Ms Tingle was not working for the ABC when she made the comments.

Any excuse for fake outrage will do, for the endlessly starboard-drifting Titanic of fossil media and its pathetic social media offspring. As Michael West has pointed out, there has been no corresponding outrage in response to former treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s recent suggestion that Australia is becoming more racist and anti-Semitic.

Across the Pacific, it’s possible to go a long way politically without trying too hard to hide the racist underpinnings of your own family, or country, or policies, as the rise of Donald Trump has shown, but here we like to pretend we are better than that.

The problem is that Peter Dutton’s rewards in the polls each time he plays the race card (which is what sparked the whole Laura Tingle comment in the first place) shows that the politics of racism, and division, are never far from the surface for those whose desire for power outweighs the potential harm done to others (especially the ‘othered’).

Australia is one of the most successful multicultural nations on this planet, by most metrics, but this is not guaranteed into the future. Those who deny that racism exists are also denying the conversation, and delaying potential solutions.

You can’t fix a broken leg if you keep walking on it, and you can’t fix a broken country if you pretend everything’s fine. The first step to doing something about racism is admitting it exists, and has been a part of the culture here since at least 1788.

Laura Tingle deserves our admiration, and support.


David Lowe
David Lowe. Photo Tree Faerie.

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.


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27 COMMENTS

  1. Let us not also forget the horrendous rising Deaths in Custody. Since the 1991 Deaths in Custody Investigation, activated by Pat Dodson, Australia is now approaching 560 Deaths! (or more!). New technologies, such as Para-military Police, have resulted in ‘accidental murders” such as David Dungay ( who died muttering “I can’t breathe”) the bizarre practice of the deceased First Nation persons organs being removed, and the brilliant documentary “Incarcerated Nation”, which depicts torture on First Nation children.

    The appalling attempts at “Close the Gap” strategies reveal governmental ignorance of real First Nation needs. Colonisation is ongoing and brutal on every level. Even in Byron Bay homeless First Nation people sleep in Dunes beach front (heavily policed) whilst a 20 minute walk from Main Beach to the Belongil reveals a HIGH END tourist resort resort. Indigenous people have never ceded Australia to the Monarchy. How can any functioning person state “Australia is not Racist”!. Another Fairytale.

    • How can any functioning person state “Australia is not Racist” ?

      Easy Jo, racists are racists. A nation is not racist nor are its people collectively.

      Theft exists in Australia. While we have people we will have thieves unfortunately. But we are not a country of kleptomaniacs.

      Words are powerful. To suggest that Australia or Australians are racist in such a lazy, collective way as Lara did, is a simple f’up on her behalf.

      Unwise to tar everyone with the same brush as it can do more harm than good. i.e. one sure way to lose an audience is to label the lot of them as something they aren’t.

      I have no time for racists or thieves or those in positions of power and influence who can do better by ensuring they appeal to all decent Australian’s so they get on board to help mitigate racism. Not throw them under a bus.

  2. “To act in good faith at all times
    and in the best interests of the ABC ”
    Ms Tingle signed a “contract “to comply
    As part of her employment conditions
    At the ABC she is in breach of that contract ! her ill-informed comments
    Only serves to divide the nation not unite it ..!
    As a board member especially her language
    Unacceptable ! .. as a nation we are the most successful multicultural society in the world
    Hundreds of nationalities represent this proud
    Nation..quite extraordinary how at the senate hearings that Mr Anderson was not happy
    With the Murdoch Pile-on regarding the ABC
    and the Obvious Bias …it is one of the Charters of the ABC that they stay impartial .. yet the ABC
    HR employment department knows nothing about
    Diversity when it comes to hiring.. one would assume 50% of the employees would be
    Conservative ? Not one in the ranks at the ABC
    Is that bias ? Is that impartial ? The coalition
    Had ten years to reform the ABC and did FA ..
    Either weed out the rusted on far left activists
    At the ABC or privatise ..Taxpayer’s have had enough..in summary “Tingle made herself the news
    Not reporting it “.. and it certainly is not only the Murdoch media..mainstream 9 / 7 too have had enough.. one unhappy taxpayer !

      • Lizardbreath are you a Racist ?
        What Tingle was implying is Australia
        Is Racist..therefore Racist Country/ Nation
        How do you define that ? as comments above suggested not everyone is tarnished with the same Brush.. if Tingle had suggested that
        Some / very few in this country are Racist
        Well that would be separation for some not all !

        • If I’m being perfectly honest with myself Barrow, I’d say I do hold unintentional or subconscious racism. I reckon most of us do – regardless of race or colour.

          A reasonable point to ask what makes a COUNTRY racist. But over 60% voting against a more than reasonable request from the people whose land we took; whose culture we tried to obliterate;
          and who we treated for so long as pariahs in their own homeland, has to come close.

          It seems like she was telling the truth as she saw it. But we need is some clarity here from you Barrow. What do you object to: her opinion, or her expressing of it?

          • Lizardbreath..when one implies
            That the Nation is Racist as a whole
            Is implying that we are all Racist !
            If Tingle had expressed that some or very few had those views..well i could accept that
            Because let’s face it ..racism does exist
            However Ms Tingle did not say some sections
            Are Racist only did She ? As Mr Anderson
            Expressed he was not happy with his
            Employee ..and for good reason .. !

          • It clearly doesn’t imply everyone in the country is racist. You’d have to ask her what she meant EXACTLY. As I said, perhaps look at how thin is the veneer of civility and how ready many are to jump to a dog whistle. And I wouldn’t say it’s “very few”.

            She is not Mr Anderson’s “employee” and you need to look at exactly what he said.

        • And perhaps ask yourself why the Coalition, with its embarrassing own goal of nuclear, and little else of substance to offer as alternative budgetary policy, know they’re on a sure winner with migration.

    • Laura Tingle is perfectly entitled to her opinion that Australia is a racist country, though I don’t agree while acknowledging that there are many racist individuals in Australia , white, black and other skin colours or from various ethnic or religious backgrounds. However, if she wishes to share her opinions so freely she should give up her current role and become an opinion writer or blogger. By being so outspoken she is inviting a future conservative government to appoint someone like Peta Credlin to her position and who wants that? I think many of those supporting her are ignoring the ABC charter and basically virtue signaling.

  3. We still see it happening these days with events such as; on the sports field, a racist insult at an opponent team player; at sports arena, a spectator racist insult at a player; The NT Police Force, revelations from the inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker.

    Laura Tingle was bang on topic.
    We need more Laura!

  4. It can be all traced back through all Australian Colonial and modern history..
    People who believe otherwise have their head in the sand…
    In the 1800’s where the Colonial Squatters themselves and with the help of the Native police undertook massacres..
    The taxing and limiting the numbers of the Chinese allowed into Australia during the 1800’s gold rush.
    Afghans camel drivers being discriminated against when carting wool from sheep stations by the bullock drivers.
    Then there was the “White Australia” policy..
    The Voice referendum..
    Tampa..

    • You are the Problem ..the Voice Referendum ?
      So what you are infact implying Peter is that
      60% of the no voters are Racist ?
      Tampa ? Seriously you lefties have selective
      Memories…1200 men women and children
      Passed because Labor had open borders
      On the high seas ..nothing to see here..
      And finally you are referring to events that occurred
      In the 1800’sc ..what kids have been brainwashed
      To think is guilt . Wake up every morning with a guilty conscience…

  5. Is Australia a racist country?
    Tune into Parliament Question time again today and watch the LNP Coalition politicise racism and ask ridiculous contrived, absolutely loaded racist question after question, all week long on immigration.
    Its gobsmacking hypocrisy when you consider, its Dutton and the LNP, that left this mess for Labor and the huge number of serious criminals Dutton allowed over a thousand visas to these criminals, while he was the responsible minister. The high court ordered these latest detainees the LNP had unlawfully locked up released, not the Labor party.
    Well may we ask, where’s the real media in this country? Instead of doing their predictable contrived media pile on of Tingle and Labor, it should be on Dutton and his racist LNP/Media conspirators answering the questions.
    We have just had the LNP/Media attacking Tingle for calling out racism, the LNP/Media saying there’s no racism, while in their hypocrisy, they promoted a Sky After Dark Doco on supposed, “Out of control”, anti-semitism racism in Australia from ex Liberal Friedenberg?
    Again, where is the Australian media holding LNP/Media disinformation, misinformation and blatant lying to account, nowhere it seems?

  6. If Australia is “one of the most successful multinational countries on the planet” as you have claimed – then, it is obvious that Australia is not a racist country.

    • Marky boy, if ya gunna quote then quote accurately, even if it is a partially selected piece, yeah.
      FYI, the part that you supposedly quoted, actually reads – “one of the most successful multicultural nations on this planet”

  7. Constantly insinuating that every non-caucasion person/group is the victim of racism, but never acknowledging that caucasian people (the majority) are also regularly the victims of racism, is an act of racism.

    Refusing to allow a person of any other race to raise a complaint about being racially discriminated against by Indigenous Australians – in employment opportunity, access to social housing, access to legal assistance or health care, etc – and worse, calling them racist for raising such a complaint, is an act of racism.

    The left is guilty of both every day, over and over.

    This does not foster peace and harmony. It escalates conflict

    • Sounds a lot like sky after dark type argument. So you are a victimised white boy- where have you suffered racism? As a white boy myself I can’t think of any time I’ve suffered racism. Maybe time to stop being precious and expand your sources of news.

  8. No sane person can honestly ignore the bloodshed in the Colonial Frontier Wars as Australia was Colonised by the British. Indeed, First Nation people were considered sub-humans, labelled as such, the land was thus declared terra nullius ( a land without humans) . The British psychology and sciences were the ultimate example of White-skinned Anglo-Saxon social projections. Phrenology, as a science aided this legacy. Scholars have noted that at the time of Colonisation, International Law outlawed the capturing of land inhabited by occupied humans. But if one labels Black People as sub-human one is ‘entitled’ to elevate institutional Power and thus claim land and implement war-fare. Captain Cook was an ambitious man. Readers may also be shocked to know that First Nation people were chained and subjected to slavery.

    I do not believe any sane person can ignore the inter-generational legacy of institutionalised racism in this Nation. Nor do I believe that every person is necessarily a racist. However, I do see, everywhere I view and study, the legacies of institutionalised racism. Always oppressive, always tragic and always viewed by unconscious settlers as a ‘race problem’. I do not agree with locking 10year old children in Prisons, Colonising out back communities with grog, lack of medical facilities and homes, the taking of children when it is obvious the lack of compassion, self-determination for First Nation people enables Colonising institutions to REMAIN by choice, cruel and inhumane and many politicians love the power that this oppression ensures.!!!! I now take a bolder step. Wise for reactive males to sit. Q. Is anyone noticing the technologies of ‘NORMALISATION’ being inscribed on their psyches? Let us consider the media and Stan Grant’s journalistic views. A brilliant First Nation journalist and scholar. Let us look at the rise of THINK TANKS EG. ADVANCE AUSTRALIA and social manipulation of racist narratives. Maybe good people are vexed by a lack of understanding of how ‘NORMALISATION’ and consequent attitudinal compliance views take shape. Yes, its another Colonial technology aiding greater Australian oppression of all settlers and First Nation people. Sounds like Conspiracy eh? Well its worse!!
    Human Rights apply to EVERYONE and if folks are interested read, Henry Reynolds, David Marr, Stan Grant to aid insights. Good on Laura for exercising her Human Right and give a voice to the vile realities surrounding racism.

    • Jo Faith, well said.
      But then we have the unhelpful Jacinta Price claiming there no negative ongoing impacts of colonisation.

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