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We're not racist, we're Aussies

"Race" riots, attacks targeting foreign students and a questionable comedy routine have exposed an ugly side of the Australian character.

According to Gautam Gupta, of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia: "Bullying has always been an issue in this culture. If you look at every level, it is entrenched. Every community who is new in this society is targeted, until they are integrated into the mainstream and then people find someone else to bully."

In the latest sorry saga — the attacks on Indian students — Gupta noted that his organization fielded between five and eight new complaints each week. “The mood is pretty distressed,” he told GlobalPost. “There’s a lot of frustration stemming from the fact that the attacks don’t seem to be stopping. What should the students do — should they leave Australia, drop their studies? Defend themselves? Go to the police? There’s confusion.”

Empirical measures of racism in Australia are becoming more sophisticated. In 2006, researchers for the Challenging Racism Project surveyed 1,700 residents in Australia’s three major migrant cities — Sydney (which accommodates about 40 percent of recent arrivals), Melbourne (27 percent) and Perth (9 percent). About one in five residents in these cities said they had experienced race hate talk — most commonly, a derogatory slang name leveled at their ethnic group.

Australia’s evolution into a multicultural society has generally been very successful, according to Professor Kevin Dunn of the University of Western Sydney, and a lead researcher on the Challenging Racism Project. He told GlobalPost: “One in 10 Australians are what we refer to as ‘old racists.’ They believe some races are inferior, some are superior and that they should be kept separate. That figure is pretty good by world standards, but that’s still a lot of people and they can cause Australian community relations harm.

“But then there’s a good deal of people who are not sensitive about cultural differences … the way the things they say and the assumptions they have are hurtful. That’s because we aren’t managing cultural diversity well. It would be better if we were all a bit more sensitive and knew about other cultures.”

A memo, perhaps, to the producers of "Hey, Hey" to find some new material.