In their words: Racism in Australia

The government has called for input from community groups on new ways to tackle racism, as indigenous and non-Anglo Australians say it is still rife.


The Australia Human Rights Commission hopes that a series of public consultations will help it to evaluate where and how racism is being expressed across the nation.

A discussion paper released today outlines possible responses to a 2011 report that showed growing numbers of Australians who said they had experienced discrimination based on their ethnic background or appearance.

The report showed 9 per cent felt that way in 2007, 10 per cent in 2009 and 14 per cent in both 2010 and 2011.

“A zero tolerance approach to racism goes hand in hand with the broad acceptance of multiculturalism in Australia. It is integral to achieving a fair go for all,” Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke said in a statement on the web.


People who responded to an SBS request for personal accounts of their experiences with racism described a wide variety of incidents.

Indigenous Adelaide rapper Colin Darcy – also known as Caper – posted a video on Facebook of a song he wrote decrying racist insults that had been hurled at him.

He says Facebook removed the video after one user complained it contained offensive terms even though Darcy had used these to describe how others had abused him.

The video was put back up after a backlash from supporters.

Media coverage of the row attracted more viewers, and many left vicious racist comments.

‘Since the video got banned, people have checked it out and left racist comments,” Darcy told SBS.

“In a way the comments on the video prove its point.”

(NOTE: There is language some may find offensive in the video and in the comments section below it on YouTube).

Several non-government organisations are currently using ‘How Would You Like To Be Me’ to raise awareness, says Darcy.


Dr Hassan says he came to Australia on a skilled migration visa, having worked for a pharmaceutical company with a presence in 22 countries.

However, Dr Hassan said he ended up driving a taxi after several recruitment agencies refused to represent him because he had no Australian experience.

Further to that, Dr Hassan said that as a new arrival in the country, he attended a seminar organised by the immigration department.

The attendees – all recent immigrants – were told that Internet job sites only advertised 20 per cent of the positions available, and the rest could be found only through ‘networking’.

“How can people who have just landed in this country network?” asks Dr Hassan. “Is it non-mandatory to advertise?”

“Where should I sit, in the bar and start drinking? I know it doesn’t happen this way. Noone is going to come over to you and say ‘It’s your lucky day, I’ll give you a job,” he says.


Perth resident Sara A – who asked that her surname not be published – told SBS that she was ordered to put her headscarf back on or she wouldn’t be allowed to leave Australia.

Ms A says she her passport photograph – taken in her country of origin – showed her wearing the scarf because that was the law there.

However, since becoming a permanent resident of Australia she no longer wore it very often.

“Why do I have to wear Islamic attire at the airport in Australia to be able to travel?” she asked.

“(The border guard) just wanted to insult me for sure. If a man wore a tie in his passport photo does (not) necessarily means he must wear tie again,” Ms A added.

“I was truly hurt by her behavior. this happen to me just once but if I was a true Muslim and always wear scarf this things might happen more often,” Ms A said.


Melbourne art professor Wayne Quilliam told SBS he was the victim of racism from both the Aboriginal and Anglo communities after he was named Aboriginal Artist of the Year.

“The most recent experience was of an Aboriginal man from Victoria questioning how a lighter skinned man can name as the Aboriginal Artist of the Year when darker-skinned should be given preference,” he said in an email.

“Within our communities we are calling this lateral violence and taking people to task to confront their prejudices,” Mr Quilliam added.