Interesting. Based on my experience as an Australian in Europe, Tampa changed how Australia was viewed – I’m not sure how that perception can be repaired, and while it’s heartening to read that ‘Australia generally is one of the least racist countries in the world’, even one ‘pocket of racism’ is too many.
The Age: We’re not racist, but …
There seems to be agreement among the experts that Australia generally is one of the least racist countries in the world. Instead, they point to “pockets of racism” across the country.
But Kevin Rudd’s apology might be the stimulus for changing attitudes towards indigenous Australians. Waleed Aly says it tapped into a sense of unease that perhaps Australians weren’t doing all they could on race. That, he says, suggests that we are aware of the criticism that Australia has problems with racism and that we want to shed that image.
“I would argue that Australia is among the least racist societies on earth,” he says. But he has no doubt that Australia is perceived poorly by other countries on matters of race. He believes past policies on refugees, Tampa, the stolen generations, the White Australia policy, Hansonism and Cronulla have damaged Australia’s reputation — somewhat unfairly.
“The reality of Australian society is complex, but the international vision of Australian society is usually simple.” And superficial.
One leading multiculturalism researcher, the Australian National University’s James Jupp, argues it is the outdated images — of Anzac, of battlers and of the outback — that should be a starting point for change. “Lots of countries have myths that are out of date, in fact most countries do, but it makes people who weren’t born here feel that the country doesn’t belong to them,” he says.