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How racist are we?

Date

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Mechanical Engineer and Ferrari fan Yassmin Abdel-Magied in the EuroMarque Ferrari dealership in Brisbane for a twelve days of Christmas special.

Mechanical Engineer and Ferrari fan Yassmin Abdel-Magied in the EuroMarque Ferrari dealership in Brisbane for a twelve days of Christmas special. Photo: Paul Harris

In 2005, when news of the Cronulla riots spread, my family was inundated by calls from friends and family overseas asking if we were okay.

"We're fine!" we would say. "Queensland's different".

That's how I'd always seen it. Growing up in Brisbane in the 90s and 00s, I remember associating racially motivated violence with Sydney and Melbourne.

Although there were incidents in Queensland, it was never as common or visible. Even after 9/11, although our mosque was burnt down and there were incidents of racism, the community didn't experience the widespread and intense incidents of racial hatred as exhibited at the Cronulla riots or more recently, the attacks against Indian international students.

So why is Queensland different? Do the numbers support my anecdotal evidence? Are we more cohesive, or is it a case of luck and "it just hasn't happened yet"?

According to census data, New South Wales and Victoria have an over-representation of LOTE (Language Other Than English Spoken at Home) population, with Sydney and Melbourne's LOTE population at 37.8% and 33.7%, compared to Brisbane's 17.9% (ABS, 2011). 

It is quite clear then, that the ethnic population density in Queensland is significantly less than those in the southern states, perhaps a reason for less racial violence.

Furthermore, the southern capital cities have more densely populated areas with particular groups of migrants that have been settled for longer, whereas Brisbane and Queensland's migrant populations are younger and less dense.  In 1996, Queensland had 29.7 % fewer LOTE speakers compared to NSW (ABS, 1996). 

On the other hand, the Scanlon Foundation's "Mapping Social Cohesion" (2012) report states that Queenslanders are particularly likely to hold negative views on cultural diversity.

Numbers may not always tell the whole story.  As a lifetime Brisbanite, I don't think we have a widespread issue with racial violence as we are a little different to our southern neighbours.

Firstly, the settlement of racially diverse populations hasn't been in the dense concentrations of lengthy settlement as seen down south.  This has allowed ethnically diverse populations to better embed themselves into the fabric of the mainstream community.

With that familiarity comes understanding and the reduction of the likelihood of racial violence.

Secondly, as a society, we are now much more aware the needs of migrants and LOTE populations having learned from Sydney and Melbourne. As populations now settle in Queensland, the many support mechanisms available from government and organisations help alleviate many of the issues based around settlement that may provoke violence. 

When my family moved to Australia almost 20 years ago, the level of support was essentially non-existent.  Now, there are extensive networks to help, and the positive impact this has cannot be understated.

However, it cannot be denied that there are negative - dare I say racist - views around the state. We've been lucky so far. I feel safe, accepted and don't find my race a major inhibitor in my ability to participate. 

We shouldn't be complacent however, and as we become more racially diverse we must work together to ensure that our community isn't marred by the manifestation of negative views and the racially motivated violence that can truly damage the fabric of our society.

  • Yassmin Abdul-Magied, 21, this year won the women of influence "Young Leader" award for forming Youth Without Borders.

101 comments

  • Where were you when the lovely Imam from Lakemba mosque said not to wish Christians a Happy Christmas. It would be a sin for a moslem to do so, worse then drinking alcohol, fornication, adultery etc etc. This is happening in this, our and your country yesterdaty, today and tomorrow. Who is being divisive? Ah, but there will be denials and excuses for these outbursts made behind closed doors. It's a worry down south.

    Commenter
    Mary
    Date and time
    December 26, 2012, 2:39PM
    • Don't forget Mary that it was pressure from the Muslim community which forced him to withdraw his remarks. George Pell has made inflammatory religious comments in the past as well. There are extremists in all religions, and they are never representative of the wider population.

      Commenter
      Mimi
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 2:48PM
    • Mary, that's just one person getting ahead of themselves in conversation. If you followed up that Imam had to withdraw their words afterwards. So moving on from that now....

      Commenter
      Branco
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 2:50PM
    • To be fair Mary, that Imam was howled down by the muslim community itself and forced to withdraw his statements: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/nsw/outrage-over-fatwa-forces-mosque-to-pull-down-website-post-20121223-2btkx.html This demonstrated to me that the muslim community as a whole is working to integrate with the rest of society.

      Commenter
      Jude
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 2:55PM
    • you forget to mention that this was a mistake and apologized for by the Imam

      The mosque even went so far as to write "Merry Christmas" in the sky above the mosque.

      you show the kind of biased hate that we really desperately need to avoid in Australia.

      It is toxic regardless of who it comes from

      Commenter
      doug
      Location
      reality
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 3:43PM
    • Where were you when priests were abusing children? If you point the finger for someone else to stand up you better be prepared you say whether you have.

      Commenter
      Jay
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 4:24PM
    • Thanks all for confirming the denials and excuses After the fact/act, and upon the wider community becoming aware and sets it bristling. Too late to undo the damage done.
      Jay - if only I knew then what I know now. .

      Commenter
      Mary
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 9:55PM
  • Racisim? been turned into a filthy word. It's real meaning and modern meaning should be defined as "A majority race that feels threatened by the ever growing numbers of other races entering their country". It isn't racisim as a filthy word and besides every culture is racist, black, white, yellow or red skin every colour/race is racist, don't try and tell me otherwise. I have seen "reverse Racisim" in Australia against white or anglo saxons by Indians and chinese and that doesn't make the news. So I refuse to feel guilty about being concerned about my culture/country, it is a concern and should be addressed and I don't mean by not allowing people to live here from other races, I mean by letting a generation settle in before bringing more and more to flood the country. Let some assimilation take place so we all feel comfortable with it.

    Commenter
    Dogtags
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    December 26, 2012, 2:42PM
    • People from other cultures and countries have been assimilating for decades. Just look around you with your eyes wide open and you'll see it everywhere. It's just so normal that people take it for granted.

      Commenter
      Mimi
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 2:51PM
    • Dogtags - you have some very valid points, and Mimi obviously has not travelled very much or associated with other races very much to make such ignorant comments. What races have assimilated so well ?? In some countries they actually prevent migrants of certain backgrounds into countries, and I am sure that Israel / Palestine is such a perfect example of this assimilation (extreme sarcasm). All around the world there are more examples of this. and I am tired of the assumption that only white people display racism. It is narrow minded and it is promoted by the media. There is also a big difference between cultural understanding and racism. Racism is when someone is discriminated because of the colour of their skin or other racial features not their cultural practises. Also Mimi I dont think you understand what you mean by assimilation. Australia used to have a policy of assimilation - this would mean that the ethnic group would merge into Australian society often loosing their cultural heritage as part of this. Like Dogtags I am tired of articles that throw around the word racist and never look at the whole problem. Articles that dont look at the attitudes that are brought to Australia. When I travel I always respect the culture and area that I travel to, and I have travellend many countries. Yet when people come here they judge our society and often do not respect the country that has given them a new life. Then if someone says anything, we are the ones that are racist. Again this is not all migrants, just it would nice for people to acknowledge that while there is racism within Australia this is not restricted to white people only.

      Commenter
      overit
      Date and time
      December 26, 2012, 3:39PM

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