A question I get asked frequently is whether I experienced racism in Australia. In fact people don’t really ask they assume that I have encountered racism and want to find out the gritty details.
Before I traveled to Australia racism was a concern of mine. Why would I want to visit a country where I am not wanted? After confiding in my Kiwi friend who is of Asian descent and had previously resided in Oz and thinking about my own family members who had emigrated to Australia 11 years ago. I shrugged my shoulders put the fear to the back of my mind and took a leap to find out for myself.
My fear of being ostracised for the colour of my skin was not unfounded. After all, ‘White Australian Policy’ had only been abolished in 1975, it was a policy which restricted non white immigration into Australia. This policy also restricted the rights and freedoms of non white people who were already residing in Australia like the Aboriginals. It’s a fairly ugly heavy history with huge repercussions and people are still suffering to this day because of previous policies. A bill in Western Australia recognising Aboriginal People as part of the Constitution was passed only a few weeks ago. Aboriginal people have been campaigning for 126 years to be given a political voice .
It’s also important to add that it was Britain; the country that I was born and raised in, which was the initial instigator of such policies. Many of us seem to forget this crucial fact.
When I arrived in Australia I was shocked at the level of multiculturalism. It is literally a melting pot of different nationalities. I was honestly expecting the majority of people to be blue- eyed blonde haired Australians.
To be fair my stereotypical ignorant view has been fed by shows like Home and Away and Neighbours which are not representative of Australia at all. I think Neighbours had one Aboriginal family in a few years ago and Home and Away have the token orphan Asian now and again. The networks behind those shows really don’t do themselves any justice internationally. They are only feeding outdated views of past policies like ‘White Australia.’
Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mandarin is the second most spoken language in Australia closely followed by Italian. There are more Asian and White Europeans in Australia than Indigenous Australians.
In regards to my experience with racism, I came across indirect racism in the work place where one common young lady thought it was okay to shout at a fellow colleague,”turn that nigger music off!” Needless to say I soon left that workplace.
I encountered direct racism when I was working on a shop floor serving coffee, one lady said to me ‘you have nice teeth they are really white” a man in his late 60s stepped in and said ”you know why they are white? Because years ago before lights black people had to have white teeth to be seen in the jungle”
He thought he was being funny. But the way I saw it he is from the old -skool generation where he lived through times of open acceptable racism. The woman apologised on his behalf. I wasn’t too bothered I can’t change the world.
There is racism and ignorance everywhere but when visiting Australia I felt safe and welcomed.
The Australian/ Mauritian /British/ Irish/Japanese/ Malaysian/Aboriginal/Torres Strait/French/Canadian/Chinese/African/ Indian…….. people who I met were really welcoming and hospitable. If I did encounter any real issues it wasn’t race related. So if you want to travel to Australia or emigrate there don’t be worried about the ”lack” of multiculturalism.