Posted by: peterhact | January 27, 2012

Racism: I didn’t know what it was till I came here

When I was a little lad, we moved from Toowoomba to Darwin. whilst I was there, I got to spend time as kids do with other kids. What color were they? I didn’t care, nor did they care what color I was. I had playmates that were indigenous, malay, white and we played as kids do – there was never any discussion by our parents about “stay away from such and such, he isn’t white”. I visited different places over the years, many indigenous communities, and I was welcomed by the elders and the kids alike. I learned how to find freshwater mussels in the banks of creeks, which trees were likely for honey ants, and how to test a swimming place to see if it was safe to swim. (I won’t repeat that here)

THere was always a bunch of kids up for cricket, exploring or riding our bikes around. When I look back, life was just so uncomplicated, we would walk with our arms around each other, there was no call of the behavior being gay.

Then, I moved to canberra.

Canberra is totally different to darwin. The temperature is one change, but the attitudes are pretty nasty too. It was here that I learned unpleasant words describing indigenous australians. It was here that asian people were looked on with scorn, they were getting free housing, health providers, jobs, the dole, and special treatment. So were the indigenous people. There was one aboriginal family at my high school, they weren’t keen on talking to me, as I guess they thought I was going to make fun of them. In hindsight, considering the attitudes and behavior of my peers, I wouldn’t blame them at all for being suspicious.

When I first heard of the Tent Embassy, I went to have a look at it, to see the people who were there and whether they were formed by a council of all the communities across australia. I got spat on. I was told that I am part of the theft of the sovereign lands. I was told that my ancestors killed and raped and pillaged indigenous people. The person that told me all this wasn’t indigenous. From outward appearances, he was european.

My ancestors did not rape, pillage and kill indigenous people. One of my ancestors was heavily involved with the indigenous peoples of south australia – he was a commissioner who took the time to learn the local languages, so that he could assist in settling disputes between communities.

Blaming the Australian people is blaming yourself. Even with a tent embassy, the people who are there are still on the grid, they aren’t unknown, they have identities and are members of the community. The current events throw out questions like: Does the Tent embassy have the same impact that it did when it was established? Can the protestors try to treat all comers equally as trying to understand what they are asking for?

THe biggest instance of racism I have encountered? An Asian guy being told by a tent embassy member to F**** off, we don’t want your kind here (these are not the words that were used). What kind is that? Vietnamese who came over in boats, New zealanders who came over on planes, Or me, who was born here?

I wonder what the communities near Uluru or Nhulunbhuy think of the tent embassy? Are they proud by the representation, or saddened by the stereotype being created?

By the way, what color is the blood that flows in my veins, yours, indigenous people, or every other person in the world? Why are there differences? Bad people are everywhere in the world. So are good people. Skin color isn’t an indicator for a moral compass.



  1. I just want to share my experience of Canberra. I moved from Griffith to Canberra in the early 90s. Racism was alive and well in Griffith – I was bullied throughout primary school for not having having Italian heritage. A lot of the kids there were also racist against Asians and Aboriginals.
    The family moved to Canberra so us kids could get a better education. I didn’t witness any racism at the schools I went to in Canberra – everyone got along fabulously.

    • I think it depends on the suburbs you lived in. I was in charnwood.

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