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Gratuitous acts of racism in Australia’s capital, Canberra!

Categories: Accountability, ACT Government, Asia-Pacific, Australian Federal Police, Commonwealth Government, Commonwealth Ombudsman, Corruption, Discrimination/Racism, Government, Indigenous People, Indonesia, Law Enforcement, Neo-Colonialism, Pacific Neighbours

by: Bakchos
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In fact, the worst offender of institutionalised discrimination and marginalisation of Aboriginal people is the government.—Neil Gillespie, head of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc, South Australia

(‘Poor health, racism go hand in hand – research’, Koori Mail 448 p.32)

Over the last few months I have been liaising with an Indonesian journalist, who like me, has an interest in Australian Federal Police racism and corruption. While her particular focus is on Australian Federal Police corruption relating to the Schapelle Corby matter, we share a common concern about how this corruption and racism undermines international efforts at nation building in the Pacific.

While sharing a meal recently at The Atrium she expressed surprise at the level of racism I was alluding to in my posts about the Australian bureaucracy generally and Canberra specifically. In order to dispel once for all any lingering thoughts she might still harbour, about Australia being the land of opportunity for all, we agreed on a test. She was going to pose as a single female and obviously Indonesian tourist, though one with a good command of the English language and spend a few days enjoying all the culture that Canberra claims to have on offer. Her insights are illuminating to say the least.

Over the two days she spent in Canberra, she was racially abused while travelling on an ACTION bus, continually ridiculed by staff at the National Museum of Australia for having the temerity to ask about the museum’s portrayal of Aboriginal history and made the subject of ridicule by Australian Federal Police officers when asking for directions.

After returning from her sojourn in Canberra, she put on her journalist hat and contacted the ACT Department of Treasury to make enquiries about some of the issues I have been raising on Blak and Black regarding that august institution. Specifically she wanted to know what happened to the documents that were mentioned by Mr Chris Roberts of the Commonwealth and ACT Ombudsman’s Office in his letter dated 26th June, 2005. In that letter Mr Robert’s stated that:

The Department advised me that you made an oblique reference to a PID in a letter of 27 June 2003 to the Chief Minister and that the Chief Executive indicated to you in a letter of 4 July 2003 that the matters you raised were subject to a separate investigation and does not intend to separately investigate them under the PID Act but referred you to the Ombudsman if you so preferred.

Regular readers of Blak and Black will no doubt recall that one of the issues I have been ‘banging on about’ is how on the one hand a senior officer within the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office can make reference to documents held by a government agency, the subject of an Ombudsman’s investigation and that same government agency can then refuse to produce those same documents when ordered to do so by a court under subpoena and in doing so, cause a racially motivated miscarriage of justice and not be held accountable.

Well it can happen and it does happen, in Canberra at least. In the process of trying to get to the bottom of this glaring case of institutionalised public sector racism, she herself became the victim of a racist outburst when she started making enquiries about the letter written to the Chief Executive of the ACT Department of Treasury demanding that an Aboriginal Australian employee be sacked because he is an Aborigine!

After discussing these issues with me in preparation for an article she is writing on institutionalised racism in Australia we decided to do some follow up research and came up with these gems of gratuitous racism in Canberra, the capital of Australia, that people had placed on the Internet.

“While catching the bus home last night I witnessed a relatively ordinary looking woman verbally abuse an Asian Australian with all sorts of racist comments and went on to demand that the Asian Australian get out of ‘her’ country.

I intervened telling her to stop it and due to my own anger induced incoherence had a most unedifying exchange.

During this she ‘accused’ me of being gay, Jewish and four eyes- the concentration camp trifecta- all she needed was Communist and gypsy as well to truly inherit the mantle of Nazi.

I can’t believe this happened in Canberra! I thought all these attacks on Indians was a bit of a beat up, now I know it is absolutely true because if it is happening here in this city it must be much worse elsewhere.

What about that poor woman who had to get off the bus in the dark after being attacked by some inebriated Nazi. What could she have been feeling?”

Murray, a resident of Canberra.

“I’ve been verbally abused like that and been the target of more insidious racist behaviour (like a bank refusing to cash my pay check while cashing the same cheques for my white (only some of them were Australian, the others were white Europeans) co-workers.”

Mereana, a resident of Canberra

I visited Canberra 2 days ago. My first visit to ACT. And came back a depressed man thinking about my family’s future in this country. I came to this country 20 years ago as a Teenager from Asia, got educated in Melbourne and chose to make this country my permanent home.

The country I came to 20 years ago was a different place to what it is today. The Australians belonging to the older generation were a more civilized lot. I met so many of them during my student days and learnt a lot about this country, it culture, Footy/Rugby/Cricket, politics and more. I saw this country through their eyes and fell in love with the place. That was then.

After 16 years of becoming a citizen of this land now I am forced to think about whether this place will remain a harmonious one for everyone to co-exist. My wife and I have encountered racism both at our workplace and in our day to day lives. On two occasions these were violent events. One took place in front of the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. The police took a record of the event but the police response was such that the attacker got away. Even though there were ample witnesses they refused to talk to the police or get involved. I suffered defensive wounds and lacerations. In the second event the attack took place in the train but luckily I managed to get out at the next station (much like the way the Asian lady did in your case) before things got worse. Again in this case there were passengers in the train but chose to do nothing. After the first experience and lack of progress I chose not to inform the police in the second occasion.

While my Canberra experience was not violent in nature, the verbal remarks and ill treatment has once again reminded me of my place in this country. Despite calling itself the national capital, the people who we met at the Australian National Museum and the Tourist Centre (below Novotel Canberra) treated us like a piece of shit.

Having tolerated such indignities for long, the Canberra experience has now made me think seriously about my family’s future in this country. I certainly do not wish to bring up my kids in such a society, filled with the fear of the other and hatred which manifests itself into violence. Every election, every boat and every terror attack is transformed into more excuses for unleashing racism and hatred against others. Much like the fanatics who have chosen to unease wanton violence against the innocent, some of our fellow citizens too are happy to heap verbal and physical violence against the innocent. The only difference is we live in a democracy and use freedom of expression to justify the spread of hatred

As I write this another Indian student has gone missing and this time in Sydney. Let’s hope this time we have a positive outcome.

Haran Sathi, an interstate visitor to Canberra

There you have it readers, Canberra the racist capital of Australia, condemned by their own and others for the institutionalised racism that eats away at the very sinews of the Australian bureaucracy and the Australian people.

What should concern all Australians, indeed all people where Australia has an influence, is that 1 in 2 people in Canberra work for the bureaucracy and 1 in 3 Commonwealth bureaucrats are based in Canberra. Assuming that the people who racially attacked Murray, Mereana and Haran Sathi are representative of Canberra society as a whole, this would suggest that at least some of their attackers and abusers were and/or are Commonwealth or ACT government buroeaucrats. These racist bureaucrats are the very same people who make policies and develop laws that impact not only on people of non-European extraction in Australia, but because of Australia’s neo-Colonial activities in the Pacific, on the indigenous peoples of that region as well.

Say no to racism, so no to Australian racist and neo-colonial exploitation of the Pacific!


  1. Jess says:

    You’ve obviously never lived in Sydney or Queensland. I suffered weekly abuse and now live in NZ (which reminds me of the 80’s Australia – a much more dignified time).

    • Watershedd says:

      Dear Jess,

      Thankyou for your comment. I was born and raised in Sydney, I’m a member of the Stolen Generation and am fully aware of the level of racism in Australia’s biggest cities having lived with and still living with it on a daily basis. The point of singling out Canberra is that in excess of 50% of the Canberra workforce and the majority Commonwealth servants live in Canberra. These Commonwealth public servants who are responsible for formulating policy, including that relating to ATSI people and refugees and if they are coming from a racially biased perspective, which is the point of my argument, how sound are the policies that they create and implement going to be? These policies impact on every single Australian and they impact on people wishing to migrate to Australia, whether as refugees or through other migration channels. Australia purports to be a nation ruled by the rule of law. You don’t have to be a prime minister or president to thwart the rule of law. Mid ranking public servants who hold decision making positions that can only be appealed by expensive administrative or legal processes can implement their own version of the law that runs contrary to what the legislation actually says. If the victim lacks the financial resources to challenge an unjust ruling, that ruling becomes binding to the potential disadvantage of the entire Australian community. Whilst I appreciate that this may sound like a convoluted argument to you, if you think through the ramifications of what I am saying you will understand why I have singled out Canberra.



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