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June 21, 2011 4:47 AM   Subscribe

Six westerners make the same journey that thousands of desperate people make every year to Australia, but in reverse.

Asylum seekers and refugees in general have been a hot topic in Australia, with the current opposition leader pledging to "stop the boats" bringing a tiny number of refugees to Australian shores. In an effort to quell the issue, the Prime Minister is trying to send refugee arrivals by boat to Indonesia, despite opposition from the other political parties, and the United Nations.

Meanwhile, guided by an academic who specialises in refugee movements, these "regular" Australians - some of whom have said they wished they could shoot refugees, or they don't like the colour of African's skins - are confronting all sorts of realities meeting the objects of their resentment and more (first episode).

Not sure where you stand? Take the quiz and see how much you really know about the issues, or play the game and see how you would do.
posted by smoke (105 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doh, "by boat to Indonesia Malayasia. The boats come from Indonesia, and they are sending the arrivals to the Malaysian refugee camp.
posted by smoke at 4:49 AM on June 21, 2011


She lives near Blacktown, describing it as a really "black town". She believes Australia should not accept any refugees: “You don’t know what diseases they’re carrying,” she says. “We need Pauline Hanson. She’s really strong about asylum seekers not coming to Australia.”

She has no sympathy for the asylum seekers who died in December 2010 as a result of their boat hitting Christmas Island. “It served the bastards right,” she says.

Holy fucking shit.

I keep hearing about how people from Oz are rather racist. Its only when two normal women barf such nonsense FOR PUBLISHING that I go "Wow...they really are unrepentant racists".

I REALLY thought this project would be a bunch of left-wingers doing things that jive with what they believe. So seeing these two women involved makes me *kinda* happy. Although, WTF ladies?!?
posted by hal_c_on at 5:01 AM on June 21, 2011


Plenty of Westerners journey to distant lands whose natives are trying desperately to escape. It's called 'tourism.'
posted by jonmc at 5:01 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


some of whom have said they wished they could shoot refugees, or they don't like the colour of African's skins

Damn those white Africans' watering down the beautiful black of the native Australians!
posted by DU at 5:11 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not like this, jonmc. Try clicking on the links.

hal_c_on, at the risk of giving Lovecraft in Brooklyn more ammo which he really doesn't need, I would say in my experience (grew up in Rural QLD, and in addition have lived in Brisbane, Melboune, Canberra and Sydney, so a lot of Australia), I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Australia is a a racist country. Even, a little more racist than average perhaps. Certainly, I would feel more uncomfortable characterising Australians as racist, but there is no doubt about it, anybody with a visibly different culture/ethnic background is going to be treated pretty badly by some people in vast swathes of the country. In my experience, anyhow.
posted by smoke at 5:12 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


She lives near Blacktown, describing it as a really "black town".

Eponyracist?
posted by ShutterBun at 5:16 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love how it riffs on "Race Around the World" - Refugee Edition. I enjoyed seeing my fellow Australians losing it on the leaky boat 150km out from Darwin but I wish they had left them on it longer.
posted by vicx at 5:21 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


meeting the objects of their resentment and more (first episode).

Anyone have a viewable-in-the-UK source for this?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:25 AM on June 21, 2011


> We need Pauline Hanson,
like the US needs Palin. Not at all.

> at the risk of giving Lovecraft in Brooklyn more ammo which he really doesn't need ...
Please don't do that. It's a squatter's niche, that somehow has legs.
Go home yank. We are not racist!
posted by de at 5:32 AM on June 21, 2011


The smartest thing John Howard ever did was define these folks as "middle class queue jumpers." That really suckered a lot of Australians, who had no problem stretching their definition of middle class from themselves (two cars, but not terribly expensive ones) to people who would liquidate their entire life savings and assets into paying for a trip like this.
posted by vanar sena at 5:35 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Australia is a a racist country.

I wouldn't. But there's no denying that there are some fairly large demographics with racist opinions. Our elections, especially the Federal ones, bank on it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:46 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even, a little more racist than average perhaps.

By First World standards I'm assuming?
posted by Seiten Taisei at 5:48 AM on June 21, 2011


Yeah, I decided not to watch this, on the grounds that I'm not the sort of person who needs to watch this, and it would essentially be rage-at-bogans-porn. I mean, I can't watch The Amazing Race without want to hurl obscenities at the sort of people who feel they need to adopt fake "Chinese accents" in order for people in Hong Kong to understand them (Focus, Believe, Fuck Off!).

Probably a very worthwhile project, but can someone confirm whether it would be mostly cringe, or mostly fascinating, to someone who hopes they sit below the median Australian racism quotient?
posted by Jimbob at 6:04 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So...Privileged White Xtreme-Slumming for your viewing pleasure? With a requisite on-camera "personal epiphany" at the end of each episode?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on June 21, 2011


My understanding of racism in Australia comes from my grandmother, who had very forthright (well, blunt) views on such matters.

She was very vocal in her distaste for aboriginals, asians, refugees (Vietnamese boat people at the time, although I think specific origin was somewhat lost on her) and other people that were "other".

When I was a little older she met my very clearly asian girlfriend. Lovely girl apparently. All other asians could still go back to where they came from though.

There ain't much logic and there ain't much empathy and I'm damned if I know what to say to people like my grandmother.

I don't find that we are a racist nation on the whole but there are some large pockets of xenophobic wtf like the above which get me seriously uncomfortable sometimes.
posted by deadwax at 6:19 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jimbob. You should watch it just to see something curious happening. Some of the "contestants" are visibly moved when interacting with the refugees but then afterwards they seem angry for being emotionally manipulated away from something they "believe" in, which is that refugees are not people to feel sympathy for.
posted by vicx at 6:24 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The very racist young woman (the Blacktown comment) has apparently come from a messed up family life -"Raquel left home at 13, moving around between relatives, before moving in with her partner at 16." You don't leave home at that age unless things are very bad -- and that makes me feel more sorry for her than angry at her.

But she still shouldn't take out her issues on innocent people who happen to have different skin.
posted by jb at 6:28 AM on June 21, 2011


When I was a little older she met my very clearly asian girlfriend. Lovely girl apparently. All other asians could still go back to where they came from though.

Yeah, very common. My mum was like that. My dad still is. He can sit there one minute raging about Aborigines or Africans, and the next minute telling a charming story about an old Aboriginal tracker he knew when he was young, or the African engineer who came and visited his company for training once.

Thankfully, I've seen some actual permanent racism reversals in people in my own generation. A mate of mine who between the ages of 18 and 28 went from first randomly slandering "Abos", to telling me excitedly about the Aboriginal guys he met on a fishing trip who showed him how to cook an emu, to posting links about Aboriginal land rights on Facebook. Does give me some hope.
posted by Jimbob at 6:31 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even, a little more racist than average perhaps.

Not more racist, people are just more open about it maybe?

I lived for a spell in a house in Atlanta, Georgia in between and old white couple and middle-aged black couple. All were Atlanta natives. When we spoke together, which we did frequently, everyone was nice and polite and genuinely friendly. I really enjoyed those talks over iced-tea.

When we spoke separately, the old white couple thought nothing of speaking to me (white, blond haired, blue-eyed) as though we were in a novel by Mark Twain.

Thing is that they were as racist as George Wallace, but they had enough common sense in the 1980s to know that it was no longer fashionable to wear it on their sleeves, and they had enough genteel Southern manners to fool you. But in private, with another white, well, I wouldn't have been surprised if they had pulled out the klan hoods.

I remember making a joking remark to my black neighbors "You should hear what she says when you're not around." And they responded "We know exactly what she says when we're not around, but we appreciate it that she makes the effort to not say it when we are around."

Nice, strange place, Atlanta.
posted by three blind mice at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Wait, I'm confused - they don't like the color of Africans but they're complaining about boat people from Indonesia... what am I missing? That's an odd conflation, as Indonesians generally do not resemble Africans. (Yes, I clicked on all the links.)
posted by desjardins at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2011


"Wow...they really are unrepentant racists".

As an unrepentant humanist, I feel your comment misrepresents me. And the rest of the Australians I know who think along the same lines.

Stuff you.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


hal_c_on, condemning all citizens of a country because of two idiots on TV (who were picked specifically because they were racist) is a silly thing to do.

Would I be justified in proclaiming all Kiwis to be racist because of the attitudes of some NZ citizens towards Maoris? Are you therefore a racist?

Stuff you.

Please don't do this. It's not helpful.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:15 AM on June 21, 2011


Wait, I'm confused - they don't like the color of Africans but they're complaining about boat people from Indonesia... what am I missing? That's an odd conflation, as Indonesians generally do not resemble Africans.

Surely, it can't be that confusing. Racists gonna be racist. They hate the "other".
posted by Jimbob at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2011


Oh and yeah, just into order to inevitably turn this into a thread where we discuss beetroot and hamburgers...to any NZers feeling the need to write off the whole of Australia as racist based on some hand-picked bogans on this show, I've got two words for you. "Winston Peters". Followed by "Foreign Minister".
posted by Jimbob at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny how my view of Australians is clearly filtered by only meeting the ones who are inclined to go on Walkabout around the world, because I was actually pretty shocked to discover (quite recently!) the serious racism that seems to be going on Down Under. I just saw a report on French television about the jaw-dropping series of laws that infantilize the entirety of the dwindling native population (I can't find a link that talks about the special credit card they're forced to have so they can't buy alcohol or pornography, can anyone elaborate?), so I dunno, unless you're out there in the street protesting, I can't exactly keep myself from generalizing that Australia is a "racist country".
posted by Mooseli at 7:30 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also relevant: an opinion piece by one of the show's more racist participants
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2011


(I can't find a link that talks about the special credit card they're forced to have so they can't buy alcohol or pornography, can anyone elaborate?),

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Pearson_%28Australian_lawyer%29#Views_on_reforming_Australia.E2.80.99s_Constitution

On 20 June, Pearson argued for the necessity of intervention in relation to Aboriginal child sexual abuse.[26] On 21 June, in response to a report entitled "Little Children are Sacred", Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared that problems of child abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities had reached a crisis point, and he initiated the "national emergency response". The response involved a series of interventions including, among other things, the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, compulsory management of Aboriginal people’s income, the deployment of police and health workers, abolition of the permit system, compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land and a ban on alcohol.[27] Pearson indicated qualified support for these measures,[28][29][30][31] but has received some criticism for doing so.[32][33] On 18 July, the Indigenous Affairs Minister announced that the federal government would fund the welfare reform trials in Cape York recommended in From Hand Out to Hand Up.[34]

It's a blatantly discriminatory and paternalistic policy that has been pushed for by Aboriginal leaders who don't give a flying fuck what it looks like.
posted by ocschwar at 7:35 AM on June 21, 2011


red thoughts, your link is borked.
posted by Jimbob at 7:40 AM on June 21, 2011


unless you're out there in the street protesting, I can't exactly keep myself from generalizing that Australia is a "racist country"

Yes, I know exactly what you mean!
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2011


Also relevant: an opinion piece by one of the show's more racist participants

This links to the top of this thread. Can you re-post?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2011


The ban on alchohol in certain areas is actually a measure that shows the government is not ignoring important public health issues. This documentary Return to Arukun was quite brilliant in showing that. I think this talk of aboriginal issues is off topic though.
posted by vicx at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2011


Is there some way I can watch the 1st episode in the US? I'm being 'geoblocked.'
posted by jon1270 at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2011


Also relevant: an opinion piece by one of the show's more racist participants

A mile in the shoes of refugees, Raye Colbey.
posted by zamboni at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


She lives near Blacktown, describing it as a really "black town".

Eponyracist?
Pretty much.

Blacktown was originally named for an Aboriginal settlement in the area. Today, Blacktown continues to be home to a large Aboriginal population, the largest of any suburb or township in New South Wales.
posted by zamboni at 9:18 AM on June 21, 2011


Previously
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:36 AM on June 21, 2011


Zamboni - that article was kind of depressing in the end. I see she hasn't actually changed her mind about refugees when they are in Australia, just revise her reason.
posted by Joh at 10:07 AM on June 21, 2011


I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Australia is a a racist country.

I'd feel pretty comfortable saying that every country is a racist country.

Canada is quite possibly the least racist country on earth. It probably helps that we've been English-French bicultural since confederation; it's a short leap from there to multiculturalism. It's satisfying to see the leaders of all of our major political parties stumbling over each other to attract the 1st generation immigrant vote. By policy and temperament, we're an unusually well integrated country.

I boasted about this to my wife once, and she told me how one of her neighbors used to throw stones at her while her tween self walked to the bus stop. Stones.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2011


I used to fight immigration misconceptions of my peers on Australian based message boards.

I don't bother any more. They don't care about the facts. The majority who don't care about refugees coming in are silent because they don't have the patience to fight with fucktards about the issue and the racist bigots make themselves as loud as possible spreading as many lies and misconceptions as they can to drum up popular support.

I die a little inside as people join the Facebook group "Fuck off, we're full". Maybe we don't sing the second verse of our national anthem enough because maybe then people would realize, "For those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share".

But to them I say, "Fuck on, we're empty!"
posted by Talez at 10:17 AM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


the racist bigots make themselves as loud as possible spreading as many lies and misconceptions as they can to drum up popular support.

They gave that toerag a TV show?
posted by zamboni at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2011


desjardins: Wait, I'm confused - they don't like the color of Africans but they're complaining about boat people from Indonesia... what am I missing? That's an odd conflation, as Indonesians generally do not resemble Africans.

The boat people come through Indonesia, but almost all of them are from the Middle East - mostly Afghanistan at the moment. Indonesia's just the most convenient staging point (of course, this doesn't change the fact that her comment is stupid).

Mooseli: I just saw a report on French television about the jaw-dropping series of laws that infantilize the entirety of the dwindling native population (I can't find a link that talks about the special credit card they're forced to have so they can't buy alcohol or pornography, can anyone elaborate?)

Not that I want to defend the "Intervention" (a blatant political stunt that John Howard pulled out of his arse shortly before the 2007 election to try to counter a general perception that his government had done nothing about Aboriginal issues for the previous 10 years) but these laws apply only in certain parts of the Northern Territory where people live in basically Third World conditions. Here's a transcript of a 7.30 story with some more information.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2011


re: whether Canada is racist. I think we have plenty of racism - the main targetted groups shift across the country, depending on what the largest minority is and/or the lowest status minority.

But what we don't have is an acceptable public discourse of racism which is legitimized. Once racists are elected to office (like the BNP in the UK, or - what was the name of the racist Australian political party?), you start having a process of legitimising their views - reporters have to take them (semi-)seriously. It's one of the reasons that a friend of mine is very strongly against proportionable representation - he says that even if the Greens get a couple of seats, so will the hard-right racists, and that will give backing to their hate.

We do occasionally have "boat people" - and similar discussions about jumping the queue, etc, ensue. But I feel like a lot of effort has been made to explain why refugees leave their home countries, and to promote the idea of immigration/multiculturalism as part of our Canadian identity.

That said, if I were an Australian whose family had emmigrated in the 19th century, I would totally get a shirt with a picture of a schooner/liner and the caption "my ancestors were boat people." (Actually, my Canadian ancestors were boat people - maybe I should make the shirt anyways).

Also, if I were Aboriginal, I would have a shirt with a picture of a 19th century boat with the caption "Go back to Britain, boat people."
posted by jb at 11:15 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I were an Aussie I'd be more worried about some of the white immigrants. Wandering around Melbourne a couple of weeks ago only to end up in the vicinity of a group of Serbs chanting "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi" and ripping off Nazi salutes wasn't very comfortable.
posted by rodgerd at 1:25 PM on June 21, 2011


jb - Here's a pro-Native American shirt along those lines
posted by desjardins at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2011


Re: "the intervention"

I'm an American reading about this for the first time. I can understand the rationale behind the alcohol ban, but what's with the pornography ban? It looks like possession of hard-core porn carries 5-10x the penalty of alcohol possession. What's that all about?
posted by ryanrs at 1:41 PM on June 21, 2011


Mooseli: I just saw a report on French television about the jaw-dropping series of laws that infantilize the entirety of the dwindling native population (I can't find a link that talks about the special credit card they're forced to have so they can't buy alcohol or pornography, can anyone elaborate?)

Income Management, and the BasicsCard.

What is income management?
Income management works by directing a proportion of certain income support and family assistance payments to ensure that they are spent on priority items such as food, housing, clothing and utilities. Income managed funds cannot be spent on alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material, and gambling products.

An individual's income support and family assistance payments are income managed at 50 per cent for all measures except for the Child Protection Measure which is 70 per cent. An individual's lump sum and advance payments are income managed at 100 per cent.

The remainder of an individual's regular fortnightly payments are paid in the usual way.

Income management does not reduce the total amount of payment an individual receives from Centrelink. It only changes the way in which they receive their payments.

Individuals can spend their income managed money by using the BasicsCard, or by arranging direct payments to organisations such as stores, landlords, or utility providers.
Who gets income managed?
Income management will apply to individuals:
  • Participation/ Parenting Measure: aged 15 to 24 and have been receiving one of the following payments for three of the last six months: Youth Allowance Newstart Allowance Special Benefit Parenting Payment Partnered or Parenting Payment Single aged 25 years and above and have been receiving one of the following payments for more than one of the last two years: Youth Allowance Newstart Allowance Special Benefit Parenting Payment Partnered or Parenting Payment Single
  • Vulnerable Welfare Payment Recipient: referred for income management by a Centrelink Social Worker
  • Child Protection Measure: referred for income management by a child protection worker, or
  • Voluntary Income Management: who choose to participate in Voluntary Income Management.

Not that I want to defend the "Intervention" (a blatant political stunt that John Howard pulled out of his arse shortly before the 2007 election to try to counter a general perception that his government had done nothing about Aboriginal issues for the previous 10 years) but these laws apply only in certain parts of the Northern Territory where people live in basically Third World conditions.

The NTER measures were limited to certain areas - Income management now applies to all of the NT, metropolitan Perth and the Kimberley region in Western Australia, and in parts of Queensland under Cape York Welfare Reform.

Starting July 2012, they're looking at adding Bankstown, New South Wales;
Logan, Queensland;
Rockhampton, Queensland;
Playford, South Australia; and
Greater Shepparton, Victoria.

posted by zamboni at 1:45 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm an American reading about this for the first time. I can understand the rationale behind the alcohol ban, but what's with the pornography ban? It looks like possession of hard-core porn carries 5-10x the penalty of alcohol possession. What's that all about?

If you look closely at the cited laws, the alcohol penalty is under the NT Emergency Response laws, but the pornography fine is based on our regular censorship laws, which are reasonably draconian already.

The porn ban comes out of the Little Children are Sacred report.
The panel appointed by the Territory Government says there's sexual abuse of children in almost every Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory, possibly in all of them. It says alcohol and pornography are fuelling the problem. There's abuse against Indigenous children as young as three. Efforts to stop it could take decades and would cost billions of dollars. The report lists 97 recommendations for action by the Northern Territory and Federal governments.
posted by zamboni at 2:03 PM on June 21, 2011


But banning possession (vs. sale) of X18+ films is unusual, isn't it? I'm not familiar with the Australian classification scheme, but X18+ is basically just people fucking, not child pornography or rape, right?
posted by ryanrs at 2:18 PM on June 21, 2011


Ryanrs wrote: But banning possession (vs. sale) of X18+ films is unusual, isn't it? I'm not familiar with the Australian classification scheme, but X18+ is basically just people fucking, not child pornography or rape, right?

That's correct. Child pornography is always illegal everywhere; films depicting rape would be either denied classification or, I suppose, be rated M, MA or X18+ if the rape was part of the plot and not depicted in a prurient manner.

I have no idea whether these laws are a good idea or not, but I do note that although they're basically applied by Ministerial fiat, s/he has to take all sorts of things into account - which include the views of the people in each area that the laws get applied to. The Aboriginal communities in Australia's Northern territory really do have social problems that were exacerbated by Australia's welfare system, and local leaders really were pleading with the Federal Government to stop things like, e.g., people driving up to each camp on payday and selling liquor at hugely inflated prices.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:56 PM on June 21, 2011


Also relevant: an opinion piece by one of the show's more racist participants

Sorry about the borked link. It's not easy to do those from an phone.

Thanks for stepping in, Zamboni.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:10 PM on June 21, 2011


One of the things that makes me puzzled and angry about this is that Australia has one of the lowest population densities in the world. We could easily absorb immigrants and use them to make the country more diverse. Instead of building up our infrastructure, relaxing height restrictions on buildings or building more cities we come up with this baroque punishments for anyone trying to make a better life. It's sickening. Every day I read about the mental health effects of prolonged detention or stories about kids in detention centers for several years.

I had this argument with someone in Newtown, who seemed pretty un-bogan. He argued that 'detention centres are not prisons' and 'relaxing height restrictions' would cut down on harbour views'.

the Sydney Morning Herald has a great editorial about how Livestock furore exposes our moral hypocrisy over asylum seekers

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:40 PM on June 21, 2011


New York Times covers the series.

FYI, for those interested in watching - sorry I didn't realise it was region-blocked, I'm working on it. :)
posted by smoke at 5:10 PM on June 21, 2011


One of the things that makes me puzzled and angry about this is that Australia has one of the lowest population densities in the world. We could easily absorb immigrants and use them to make the country more diverse.

Perhaps you are puzzled and angry because you haven't considered the context.

From one of my previous comments, in a thread in which you were an active participant.

"That statistic [that Australia's has one of the lowest population densities in the world] is highly misleading.

70% of the country is classified as arid or semi-arid, i.e., less than 500 mm of rain a year. Almost no one lives there. There is a reason for that. It's not very fertile, and it's not very habitable.

About 85% of the population live on the coast, mostly in urban centres."


Antarctica has a really low population density too. That doesn't mean anything without context, i.e., that it is largely uninhabitable.

Yes, Australia has a lot of land. No, not a lot of it is habitable. That doesn't mean we can't accept more refugees or immigrants, but I doubt we could accept a massive number. For example, what about water supplies? And more often than not, residential development occupies arable land - what about food supply?

Instead of building up our infrastructure, relaxing height restrictions on buildings or building more cities we come up with this baroque punishments for anyone trying to make a better life.

That's a false dichotomy. We don't have to do either/or.

But regarding your specific claim about height restrictions...etc.

Yes, relaxing height restrictions on urban areas would allow move dwellings to be built in them. But urban planning is complex, and every decision has a knock on effect. Build a massive apartment block? Great, now you can fit in an extra 10,000 people. How are they going to move around? Public transport is operating near capacity. Can we improve it? Not quickly. OK, they can drive. Well, now you have to deal with parking - where's that going to go? And the inner city traffic is really bad. Can you build more roads, or expand existing ones? No, all the land in the inner city is accounted for. So making new residents drive is problematic. Are there enough parks and other public facilities? No? Where are they going to go? And on, and on.

The answer is rarely simple. And it is definitely not as simple as "build more apartments NOW".

All that said, at least in NSW, we have had a complete failure in urban and infrastructure planning for over a decade. It's going to take a lot of work to pull Sydney out of that hole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:19 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


77% of Australians are racist.


Australia has one of the lowest population densities in the world.

yeah, pretty much only beaten by Antarctica. We oughta start colonising Antarctica.

The flash interface for that quiz was excellent. Well done SBS designers.
posted by wilful at 5:23 PM on June 21, 2011


I had this argument with someone in Newtown, who seemed pretty un-bogan. He argued that 'detention centres are not prisons' and 'relaxing height restrictions' would cut down on harbour views'.

Aaaah, Sydney. A constant struggle, red in tooth and claw, to achieve "harbour views". Hobart feels for you.
posted by Jimbob at 5:23 PM on June 21, 2011


With the cameras rolling, Raquel Moore wipes back tears and strokes Ms. Masudi on the shoulder. “You’re a lovely lady, and you didn’t deserve what you went through,” she says.

Moments later, however, away from her hosts, Ms. Moore stops to reflect into the camera.

“Yeah, well, I guess they’re nice,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean that every African or refugee is going to be as nice as this family.”


Yeah. I'm not going to be able to watch this without throwing something at my TV. Which I still haven't paid off.
posted by Jimbob at 5:26 PM on June 21, 2011


I had this argument with someone in Newtown, who seemed pretty un-bogan. He argued that 'detention centres are not prisons' and 'relaxing height restrictions' would cut down on harbour views'.

Interesting, since no one in Newtown has harbour views in any case, or any hope of gaining them through high rise buildings. Newtown, as a suburb, is about 7 km inland from the harbour. Who is he concerned for?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2011


Who is he concerned for?

He's thinking on the basis that one day he is going to climb to the top of the heap and be rich as fuck (like he deserves to be) and get a nice little house on Kirribilli Ave.

(not Sydneyist)
posted by Jimbob at 5:36 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Xenophobia isn't limited to Australia, I think. We might have just a bit of that here in the US. Not just in the boonies, but in every major city wherever there are people who are different from other people. Where, once again, looking the least bit different from the approved model will make you invisible.

So I guess it's not so hard to explain. It's the way people are, especially in times when they're being fed a steady diet of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
posted by Twang at 6:56 PM on June 21, 2011


Breaking news regarding the intervention: Gillard reboots it. Still not holding high hopes...
posted by Jimbob at 6:56 PM on June 21, 2011


I just think the US has developed (somewhat bizarrely) more PC language in regards to race. As previous people in this thread have said, people in the US are quite willing to be nasty and racist, just not in public. Some Australians are still under the impression that racism is the norm, and have no problem going on a national TV show saying awful things.

To our credit, we don't yet have government-endorsed armed private militias patrolling our borders, I guess.
posted by Jimbob at 6:59 PM on June 21, 2011


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: Canada is quite possibly the least racist country on earth.

Unless you're First Nations. Then all bets are off.

jb: re: whether Canada is racist. I think we have plenty of racism - the main targetted groups shift across the country, depending on what the largest minority is and/or the lowest status minority.

As jb points out. (I'm from the prairies)
posted by Decimask at 8:41 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unrestrained urban development is a strange answer if the question is 'how can we help refugees?'.
Recent story about refugees settling in regional areas (where there is cheap housing, plenty of space, but little high paying work): http://www.smh.com.au/national/refugees-make-their-mark-after-hard-slog-20110617-1g7xr.html

Older ABC piece about economic benefits of refugees settling in regional areas: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/stories/s795214.htm

But, of course, it isn't that easy. If you are an immigrant, you want to settle with people who understand your culture, which disproportionately means Sydney and Melbourne.
posted by bystander at 8:47 PM on June 21, 2011


Someone writing into the Herald today pointed out that they weren't allowed into detention centers because nobody is, not even even reporters. That's a bit messed up.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:08 PM on June 21, 2011


Decimask - I've heard things can be very bad out in the prairies, but being from Toronto I haven't witnessed widespred anti-Native sentiment here (it's a small and sadly largely invisible community), but discrimination against Jamaicans and other black people is pretty bad - and against ESL people. And when I visited Vancouver, all I heard about were how the Chinese were taking over. Reading about the prairies, Vancouver, etc, is part of what made me realise that targeted groups shift depending on the local population make-up.

Canada: even our racism is multicultural.
posted by jb at 9:19 PM on June 21, 2011


Australia's treatment of refugees is fucked up, and there are a lot of racist people in Australia, and we have racist laws.

That said, I don't think all Australians are racists because I'm an Australian and I'm not a racist, or at least I try not to be, and most of the people I associate with also do their best not to be racists. I live in a big city, the people I know are often the children of immigrants, and I know people who've come here from every other part of the world.

But yes, we've got a problem. An ugly, ugly problem. Despite the multiculturalism of our cities and towns, despite our well-travelled, well-educated population, despite our wealth and good fortune, Australia's national discourse is currently one of fear and greed - compare recent government moves to limit "middle class welfare" with our refugee policies. The link may not be immediately obvious but it seems to me that both are, at their hearts, about fear.

In the case of refugees, people are afraid "those people" will come in and change the nature of our society, that they will bring disorder and difference.

In the case of middle class welfare, people are afraid that they won't get what they feel they deserve, that someone else will get more than them.

Australia seems to be a country that feels afraid of everything as if it's very existence is tenuous and provisional and could be snatched away at any minute - sometimes it is as if the whole country is one of those awful gated communities, where the rich cower behind high fences and security cameras, terrified that at any moment the masses will tear down the barriers.

And I don't know how to fix it, either the fear that drives our country or the awful, awful results.

More prosaically, I'd love it if 'Go Back...' went some way towards helping people see refugees are humans, but I don't think it will.
posted by jasperella at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the case of middle class welfare, people are afraid that they won't get what they feel they deserve, that someone else will get more than them.

Australia: A land were people on $150k a year whinge about doing it tough while assuming people on $212 a week are living the high life.
posted by Jimbob at 9:54 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another bizarre thing about all this is that, despite all my whinging, it seems like Australia usually is very compassionate with things like healthcare, welfare, and government aid. That that compassion doesn't extend to people wanting a better life is very unfortunate. I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great if it embraces visitors to its shores.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:09 PM on June 21, 2011


I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great if it embraces visitors to its shores.

You mean like that substantial proportion of our population that was born overseas, or the even larger proportion whose parents were?

The crazy thing about Australia's fucked up discourse about boat people is that they make up a small percentage of people claiming asylum. Even worse, while Howard was whipping up the fear about boat people to cynically strengthen his electoral position we had historically high levels of immigration.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:17 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great if it embraces visitors to its shores.

You mean like that substantial proportion of our population that was born overseas, or the even larger proportion whose parents were?


LiB, as was brought up the last time you said that, over 20% of the Australian population were born overseas..

From the link:

"The scale of immigration to Australia in the last forty years has been enormous, accounting for about half of our population growth. Table 1.3 shows that a remarkably high proportion of Australians are overseas born.

Today well over 20% of Australians were born in another country, of whom more than half came to Australia from non-English speaking countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America. Combined with their Australian-born children, they constitute 40% of the population."

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:49 PM on June 21, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great if it embraces visitors to its shores.

I'm starting to think LiB just needs a cuddle.
posted by coriolisdave at 11:55 PM on June 21, 2011


> I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great

oh good, i'll sleep tonight.
posted by de at 12:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The crazy thing about Australia's fucked up discourse about boat people is that they make up a small percentage of people claiming asylum

Yes, the mandatory detention policy is very often misunderstood, as appying to all asylum seekers. In fact, only asylum seekers who arrive illegally (ie without a valid visa, eg by boat) are detained. These comprise between 1-4% of asylum seekers:

In Australia, the vast majority of asylum seekers applying for protection arrive originally by air with a valid visa and then apply for asylum at a later date while living in the community. Estimates vary, but it is likely that between 96 and 99 percent of asylum applicants arrived by air originally.

On average, 692 "illegals" arrive by boat & are detained per annum, compared with at least 17,000 asylum seekers in total who are free to move as they please in the general community, and this figure doesn't even include the ~14,000 registered refugees accepted from UNHCR camps around the world each year.

(pasted from the previous time I had to counter the detention myth, about a week or so ago. see also comments about ethnic diversity in the same thread)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:17 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know that someone up-thread has said that Australians are a well-traveled population but I don't think, as much as we feel it is true when we are overseas, many people in Australia really do travel. I can't find a cite for it, but I heard on a Radio National interview that only 25% of Australians even have passports. There is very little understanding of, say, the current damage the GFC has caused so many people in other countries, or have a greater sense of other sufferings or politics.

In terms of racism, it's more complicated than what appears to be an apartheid differential between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people here. I think it is an extension of a serious parochialism that denies others a real narrative - just as racism is conceived elsewhere.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:10 AM on June 22, 2011


Estimates vary, but it is likely that between 96 and 99 percent of asylum applicants arrived by air originally.

The 96 to 99 per cent is a guess-timate of the mode of arrival for all asylum seekers since 1976.

For the past couple of years, the figures break down as:
Asylum Seekers by Irregular Maritime Arrival (IMA) vs Non-IMA -
2008-09: 16% vs 84%
2009-10: 47% vs 53%
2010-11 first quarter: 44% vs 56%
posted by kithrater at 1:11 AM on June 22, 2011


I can't find a cite for it, but I heard on a Radio National interview that only 25% of Australians even have passports.

As a result, the number of valid Australian passports
currently on issue rose to 10 412 587 (as at 30 June 2010), as compared with
9 950 061 (as at 30 June 2009)
(13 meg pdf - DFAT annual report 2009-10).

With a population of around 22 million, that means roughly 46% of Australians have a passport, although that figure might be reduced a little because the population of Australians who live overseas aren't counted in the 22 million but will obviously own passports at a higher proportion.

Facts are fun.
posted by kithrater at 1:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Properly linking to your sources is even more fun:

http://dfat.gov.au/dept/annual_reports/09_10/downloads/DFAT-AR0910.pdf
posted by kithrater at 1:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Interesting fact-finding there, kithrater.

I'm wondering what might be behind the increase in boat arrivals, but that Parliamentary Library paper only says somewhat circularly "More recently the proportions of Irregular Maritime Arrival (IMA) and non‐IMA (that is air arrival) asylum seekers have shifted due to the increase in boat arrivals."

I'd speculate that what has driven increased numbers of boat people recently is simply that for some kinds of people, it's simply the only way they can get to the country, because they have no way of getting passports from their governments. Iraqis, Afghans & Iranians would be prime examples. It's not as if people choose the boat route above flying in because it's easier or more enjoyable or something.

In other words, the situation since the hostilities in Afghanistan & Iraq started has changed the dynamic. Previously, we may have seen more of the passport-carrying "oppressed minority" or "political" kinds of asylum applicants, whereas in recent times we've been seeing more of the "entire country majorly fucked over" kind.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:48 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't stop the sig-- facts, Ubu.

Page 112 of the DIAC 2009-10 Annual Report has the source of origin for people granted onshore protection visas i.e. asylum seekers - Afghani at 1,514. Interestingly, back in 2007-08, there were only 24 granted for those of Afghani origin.

That huge spike from 2007-08 to 2009-10 might just explain why the Government froze processing of Afghani applications for temporary protection visas early in April 2010.
posted by kithrater at 2:18 AM on June 22, 2011


that means roughly 46% of Australians have a passport,

I think a more revealing stat would be % who have never held a passport. Everybody in my family over the age of 60 has held a passport, but most have let them expire. They will apply again if they need one.
posted by bystander at 2:37 AM on June 22, 2011


Yeah, I had a passport. It expired. Now I'm being sent overseas for work and have to apply for one again.

There was an article a few months back (Crikey? New Matilda? Monthly?) about "the line", in which someone went to Afghanistan to try to find the supposed "line" that refugees are supposed to join. It doesn't exist. The Australian embassies in these countries are under lockdown, and if you try walking up to them to claim asylum, you'll be shot. This is borne out in the SBS "quiz" linked to in the post - if every asylum seeker were to join the line and wait, it would take 188 years for them to be processed at current rates.
posted by Jimbob at 2:49 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of course there wouldn't be a "line" in Afghanistan.

Under the UNHCR Convention & Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is (emphasis mine) somebody who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:00 AM on June 22, 2011


smoke: "Even, a little more racist than average perhaps."

More racist than the average of what? Of all countries? Is it up there with Rwanda, Sudan or the Emirates?

Jesus fuck, there's nothing more tiresome in the world than white guilt. Get over it.
posted by falameufilho at 3:30 AM on June 22, 2011


The Australian Interior Authority showed up on posters here. No idea what it is but I'm guessing some sci-fi satire about this issue.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:42 AM on June 22, 2011


I see Australia as a young country, one that CAN become great if it embraces visitors to its shores.

I think the best way for Australia to be great is to stop whiny, arrogant Americans who hate the people who already live there from moving in, trading them at a ratio of one whinging Yank for a hundred refugees.
posted by rodgerd at 3:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a bit scared to watch this, for the same reasons as Jimbob. I really can't afford to replace my TV if I throw a boot at it while angered by ignorant racists. I might wait until it's over and someone can tell me if the travellers have a change of heart or not.
posted by harriet vane at 4:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Prediction: Raquel the hyperbogan to appear in an aussie flag bikini in a trashy lads' mag within 2 months.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:46 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


(very surprised it's not "Raequelle")
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Australian Interior Authority showed up on posters here. No idea what it is but I'm guessing some sci-fi satire about this issue.

The domain is owned by Draft FCB Melbourne, a tony ad company. I'm guessing they're trying to sell something.
posted by zamboni at 6:07 AM on June 22, 2011


If anyone outside of Australia is interested in watching this, send me a memail.
posted by smoke at 5:18 PM on June 22, 2011


Follow-up on the doco from Crikey today.
posted by wilful at 10:25 PM on June 22, 2011


Paywalled unfortunately, Wilful.
posted by smoke at 10:29 PM on June 22, 2011


Talent scouting for SBS hit: on the F*ck Off We’re Full Facebook page

by Amber Jamieson

It’s the TV show that’s got every documentary maker kicking themselves for not thinking of it first: the three-party SBS series Go Back to Where You Came From, which turns the contentious issue of asylum seekers into a must-watch reality TV show.

Six participants meet two refugee families in Australia — one from Iraq, one from the Congo — and then retrace the steps of these families’ refugee journeys. This means visiting detention centres in Australia, sailing on a leaky boat and then living in an illegal community in Malaysia, a refugee camp in Kenya and temporary housing in Jordan until they finally return to the respective home nations.

But where did the production company find a 21-year-old woman from the western suburbs of Sydney who will happily call herself a racist on national television or a country and western singer who wants to billet an asylum seeker in her own home?

When making a reality TV show — although series producer Rick McPhee prefers the term “constructed documentary” — it’s common practise for production companies to advertise for applicants via TV, print ads, websites and social media and then have the interested contestants come to them.

But McPhee told Crikey that the show was a “a giant social experiment” and they wanted a variety of views on refugees represented. Therefore, they used no advertising and instead went out on the ground to interview 400-500 people in order to best gather their opinions on immigration and refugees. They then approached those of interest to see if they’d want to be on the show.

Producers attended the community meeting for residents living near the Inverbrackie Detention Centre in the Adelaide Hills and found Raye Colbey, the “loudest most virulently anti-detention centre person at the meeting”, said McPhee. The production team trawled through the Facebook pages of groups like Fuck off We’re Full and The Australian Protectionist Party.

They also contacted army groups — which is how they made contact with ex-army guy Darren Hassan. Producers spent two days standing in Blacktown mall in Western Sydney, a suburb where a large number of refugees have settled, and talked to passers-by about their views on immigration. That’s how they found Raquel Moore, a young woman who resents her suburb being “invaded” by Africans.

One association contacted had a member who was part of the Cronulla lifeguard association, who led them to Adam Hartup, who was involved in the infamous Cronulla riots. Producers contacted all the major political parties, which lead them to Young Liberals vice president Roderick Schneider. When googling former Tamworth mayor James Treloar — who raised international attention five years ago for saying his town didn’t want any more Sudanese refugees — producers found a news story that referenced a country and western singer Gleny Rae who had a song called Redneck Lovesong.

Other participants who nearly made the final cut included a Christmas Island resident who filmed the boat being ripped apart on the rocks of Christmas Island last December (the man was unavailable to participate due to a new job) and a woman from the English Defence League.

But why did these people agree to be part of a TV show like this? It promises neither fame nor possible fortune. For Raquel and Roderick, it was the chance for their first overseas trip. Gleny and Adam viewed it as an exciting adventure. For Raye, “…her motivation was ‘I have hatred in my heart and it’s like a cancer eating me away and I don’t want to be like that’”, said McPhee. Darren, a man proud of his Muslim heritage but resents Muslims dictating lifestyle choices, equivocated over participating but wanted to investigate why boat people would risk their lives when they’d made it safely to a secondary destination.

This concept of ‘finding out the truth’ was a common theme for participants, the show’s psychologist, Victoria Kasunic, told Crikey. “That was a thread that came up with everyone I interviewed, even those who were not selected, that ‘we don’t know what’s really happening. We’re getting a version of events on the news but is that the reality?’”

All potential participants were interviewed by Kasunic, with several failing the stringent mental tests for stress, anxiety and depression.

Partipants knew very little about what they were in for, unaware they would not be able to contact friends and family, clueless as to where their next destination was. This was “part of the experience because refugees live in a limbo state”, explained McPhee. All they knew was that “they would be challenged, confronted and uncomfortable, but that I promised to keep them safe”.

Contestants received only a flat payment for loss of earnings. The refugee families involved had their expenses compensated, but no additional fees paid.

McPhee refutes Paul Sheehan’s claim in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that the refugee families were “carefully chosen” to force empathetic responses from the participants, explaining the difficulty of convincing any refugee family to be involved in the program. “From the 400+ people we contacted, the same two complaints we got were a) boat people and b) muslims. So we had to address both those issues,” said McPhee. But many refugee families refused involvement because “many were fleeing situations that were dangerous and they were too terrified because they know they are putting their relatives lives in danger.”

Participants may be experiencing more stress now as the show airs and the outrage on social media sites begin, says Kasunic. When asked if someone like Raquel, who admits she is a racist, is prepared for a backlash, Kasunic told Crikey “Raquel is pretty resilient woman, she’s a young girl but she’s honest and is voicing what a lot of people think but they don’t necessarily admit it publicly.”

Although Kasunic has not made formal contact with participants since their return home, producers have kept close contact and counselling is available if required.

“I was delighted with the fact that we had a variety of reactions to the journey that they were confronted with,” said McPhee. “They all had different opinions and some people’s changed and some people’s didn’t.”

posted by wilful at 10:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fascinating, thanks so much Wilful.
posted by smoke at 3:37 AM on June 23, 2011


You call this even-handed? Refugee series is strictly for the gullible - opinion piece by conservative talking head Paul Sheehan. At the time of writing, this article has 552 comments (possibly a record for the Sydney Morning Herald) which would give the interested reader a good overview of the tensions & general public opinions in Australia on the refugee topic.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 AM on June 23, 2011


"A comment that sums up the falsity at the centre of this debate and the three-part series Go Back to where You Came From came from one of the six manipulated participants in the show, Darren Hassan, who complained that the group was being subjected to enforced empathy".

Sheehan is an idiot. Oh noes, poor Darran was made to FEEL something. Guess there's a first time for everything.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:33 AM on June 23, 2011


WTF does "enforced empathy" even mean?
posted by wilful at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2011


WTF does "enforced empathy" even mean?

I parsed it as "being made to feel bad because you are an ignorant, irrational bigot".
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:57 PM on June 23, 2011


Enforced empathy is another example of the nanny state overreaching its legitimate boundaries & intruding on our personal lives.

In a free society, people should be able to choose where to allocate their emotional resources, with minimal government interference, and according to their own desires and goals. The invisble hand of the market has proven to be the most efficient way of managing & distributing the empathy demand amongst competing empathy suppliers, such as the homeless, the terminally ill, and kittens stuck in trees.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uburoivas, if you'd blockquoted that I would almost have believed it was a direct quote from Sheehan. The man is a genuine arseclown. He has a framed certificate from the Australian Institute of Arseclowns on his office wall. I've seen it.

The worst part is that SBS is using taxpayers' money to enforce all this empathy. Someone get Gerard Henderson on the case!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:30 PM on June 23, 2011


The irony is that the Australian Institute of Arseclowns is dependent on Government funding.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:35 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The giveaway that I wasn't quoting Sheehan was the bit about kittens stuck in trees. He'd deny that they deserve any kind of special empathy, because they're responsible for their own predicament.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The worst part is that SBS is using taxpayers' money to enforce all this empathy. Someone get Gerard Henderson on the case!

Man, if this show were hosted by Phillip Adams, shown to kids in public schools, and featured a gay couple, we could kill off the right wing loonies in one massive brain explosion. The left can never get their shit together...
posted by Jimbob at 1:38 AM on June 25, 2011


Good idea, but a right wing brain explosion would be about as powerful as a hamster fart.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:56 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Matters of the Heart - article about the impact of this doco: smaller audience than Masterchef, and hasn't rippled the waters of political debate. But it's still being discussed a week later on blogs and Twitter and Facebook.

Which I find really interesting... There's no quick and easy solution to the issue of refugees, anywhere in the world. But if stuff like this documentary can shift the debate in Australia, move the Overton window in the direction of justice rather than fear, then perhaps the next time there's a media splash about refugees then maybe we'll get a better public response.

That's a lot of perhaps and maybe there. But it's not like anything else has worked particularly well, so I'm willing to give something different a chance to prove itself.
posted by harriet vane at 6:34 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dammit, I borked the link: Matters of the Heart
posted by harriet vane at 6:35 PM on June 29, 2011


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