The years 2008 and 2009 brought to light ‘racial’ vilification of Indian students in Australia. Dozens of students were attacked and the Australian Police and the Government turned a blind eye to all the attacks which irked the Indian population spread across the oceanic backwaters and millions back home.
Australia, has a history of racial vilification, where, in the early years, the British settlers marginalized the native aborigines. Throughout the 19th and the 20th century, all other races were kept at bay and for the most part, marginalized by the ‘authentic’ white Aussies.
By the late 19th century, of anyone who was not white was brutally looked down upon by the now predominant white population which led to the ‘White Australia Policy’, set up in 1901. This policy was primarily set up to restrict the movement of ‘colored people’ into the country.
The White Australia Policy took shape and was aggressively pusued through the 20th century and it was not until 1975 that ‘White Australia Policy was scrapped by the government, opening new avenues for people around the world, what till then, many saw was pretty much an alien land with plenty of scope for resource and development.
In this age of globalization when you have a Black president sitting in the White house and Whites, Blacks ,Yellows and Browns living harmoniously in suburban London, the Aussies seemed to have overlooked this aspect of cultural diversity. Ironically, around 95% of Australians have ancestries that can be trace back from the British Isles and other countries across Europe. Over the past 3 decades, there has been a huge Arab-Lebanese influx as well.
Politicians in Australia have often been the object of ridicule to many a politician around the world. They have often been guilty of living in a bygone era, cashing in on the now defunct White Australia Policy. In 1995, Pauline Hanson, the founder of One Nation’s Party said “I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.”
John Howard’s government, was initially coy about speaking openly about multiculturalism, eventually succumbed to the ‘Whites’ bandwagon. Kevin Rudd, who witnessed these attacks during his governance, was a mere spectator and dozens of these attacks were brushed off as “one-off” and “Crimianlly Motivated” though it would be stupid to brand all these attacks as Racist.
An Indian student who studied in Australia said “A major chunk of the Australian public is not racist and the attacks signal the growing trend of subjugation of one particular race which has been ever present over the last 10 years or so. In the early 2000’s, the Lebanese were targeted by these groups and it looks like the Indians are being victimized after the earlier one lost steam.”
Another Engineering student in the University of Sydney looks at it as an effect of cultural stereotypes that are portrayed in popular culture. She said“I have never witnessed or been subjected to any form of Racial violence, verbally or physically, throughout my stay in Australia. However, I do believe there is an element of racism that lurks within the country. The Chinese, for example, would never be targeted because of the way they are portrayed in movies coupled with the existence of the formidable Chinese mafia. Indians, on the other hand, are perceived as naive and meek”
Under Julia Gillard’s governance, Australia has been relatively quiet in terms of racial tension, even though a couple of regrettable attacks have been reported on Indians. In February 2010, a video of an Indian being electrocuted while traveling on the rooftop of a local train was circulated around the country and subjected to ridicule.
Australia has seen immigrant’s flood into the country in search of greener pastures only since 1975 whereas other developed countries have had a head start in the adoption of multiculturalism as early as 18th century. With a new government in place, the authorities must make sure that tourists, who contribute a huge deal to the economy, despite the recent slump, are protected at the same time; bring these anti-social elements to task, unlike the Howard and Rudd government.