Sandy and her husband, originally from Africa, had moved to Australia after living across different parts of the globe. One of Sandy’s first encounters with the constant undercurrent of racism in Australia was at a Sydney train station. As people queued at the ticket counter to pay their fares, Sandy observed the man servicing the ticketing desk being conversational and polite with the people who stood ahead of her in the queue. When it came her turn to purchase her ticket, she was taken by surprise when the man was downright rude, and went on to abuse her and her husband, saying, “You lot – we don’t need you here.”
Sandy had taken her five-year-old son, Sam, to the local public swimming pool for a dip. They happened to be the only people of colour at the pool. Another little boy at the pool kept swimming up to Sam, saying, “Don’t play here. You’re the colour of poo.” Sam ignored the harassment. Eventually, the boy dove underwater, and came up with a mouthful of water, and spat it in Sam’s face. Sam took this in his stride and talked about it with Sandy. He didn’t understand why the colour of his skin offended the other little boy so much. He said to his mum, “It’s the person I am on the inside that is important.”
Also read: Ben Anons personal encounter with racism
At a local park, while Sam played on the swings, a little girl kept coming up to him and picking on him. She kept asking him to get off, and play somewhere else. Sam ignored her taunts and continued to play. When she yelled, “You little brown boy, get off the swing!”, Sam ran to his mum in tears. Everybody else at the park looked away, and the girl wasn’t confronted by anyone – not even her parents. When Sandy asked Sam what had happened, he explained to her, “I’m a BIG brown boy, not a little brown boy – that’s what she called me!”
Sandy was once told by a man at a pub that she was “very ugly”. She has encountered such blatant racism very frequently. People have made monkey sounds at them, yelling, “Go back, you’re taking our jobs.” However, Sandy has also encountered a far more insidious version of racism frequently – everyday racism. When at a consultation with her GP, she was once asked why she had chosen to live on the north shore rather than in areas where there is a larger coloured population. The doctor was probably attempting to be sympathetic to the reality of Sandy being among a minority in the area. Sandy replied, saying, “I have found my home here. We chose to come to a place where the people are different from ourselves. How does where I live make a difference? Isn’t that the assimilation that everyone talks about? Where I choose to live simply suits my needs best.”
Sandy has often been told that she goes on about racism too much – that it is a chip on her shoulder. People have remarked that being a minority, she is overprotected as well. However, Sandy’s reality has been quite different. When Sandy started work in Sydney, she found that her boss was very passive aggressive. She would justify many of the patronising things she said to Sandy with, “In Australia, we do this.” Even though there were immigrants from other nations like England and Ireland, the only one who was educated in what her boss called Australian culture, was Sandy. She would publicly undermine Sandy, interrupt her in meetings and “correct” her pronunciation constantly. Sandy developed depression and found herself helpless and unsupported. The bullying continued and Sandy was eventually fired. Sandy’s boss had once dropped a veiled threat that her husband had belonged to a gang. Fearing for herself and her family’s safety, Sandy didn’t pursue any action against her boss.
Sandy is currently working with an ombudsman currently to address other episodes of racism that she has been subject to at work. As for her son, Sam, Sandy believes that the unfortunate reality is that he will continue to encounter racism in Australia. She quips that she has learnt much from Sam in the grace and unusual maturity with which he responds to children who have harassed him. Sandy continues to equip Sam to deal with racism by having open conversations about racism, and countering it with kindness and taking pride in who he is.
Here is how you can help us in fighting Racism in Australia. Donating to any of our causes will help educate a child, individual or family on how they can protect themselves from Racism.
Do you know that school is the main location for racism to occur among children?
As an educator you have the power to change it with the Kids Together Now app.
The most common form of racism in schools is students telling other students they don’t belong, manifesting through being called names / teased, being left out or being pushed or hit. Unfortunately, roughly one in five classroom teachers have never taken any professional learning in the area of multiculturalism, which hampered them to react in an appropriate manner.
Kids Together Now app has been created for you to use in the classroom. Education helps prevent racism by raising awareness of peoples’ actions and encouraging behavior change.
We know your time and resources are limited, that is why Kids Together Now has been created to fit the constraints of your job.
Kids Together Now is designed to teach students from Year 2 through to Year 4 how to identify and challenge non race-based and race-based exclusion over one school term. Students can play though one storyline each week in class over a period of 8 weeks. By providing a framework of scenarios, the app addresses prejudice and stereotypes during a critical period for children’s personal development.
All Together Now volunteers are always coming up with new ideas on how to educate more people about racial equality. One idea we’ve come up with recently is a Monthly Mystery Book Box (or MMBB for short), which is a spin on our monthly book club.
According to the University of Western Sydney’s Challenging racism project national survey, 76% of people expressed a commitment to personally challenge racism. If you’re one of these people, this MMBB is for you. Every month, we’ll send you a mystery book about the experiences of migration, racism, belonging, and related topics. Most books will be written within the past three years by Aboriginal people and people of colour based in Australia.
Please let us know your opinion about this Monthly Mystery Book Box idea. Do you love it or hate it? Would you subscribe? Do you have your own ideas that build on this concept? Please let us know at [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you!
Sara is a mechanical engineer, originally from Egypt, who moved to Australia over a decade ago. She has lived across various parts of Australia, and has encountered soul-crushing racism in cosmopolitan as well as regional parts of the country. Being a hijab-clad Muslim woman has made her an easy and visible target for hateful and violent behaviour.
When she had just migrated to Australia and was looking for a job, she faced several rejections despite being suitably qualified. The penny dropped when one interviewer in Melbourne confessed that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t employ her, because she wore a hijab. He added that while he was being honest, several potential employers might just brush her off with excuses, but that her headscarf was central to the rejections she received. Being unaware of anti-discrimination laws at the time, Sara let the episode pass, and shrugged it off.
She continues to face everyday racism in the form of derisive looks and comments, but a particular incident left her unable to just “move on”, as victims of racial abuse are often urged to do.
With her one-year-old daughter in her pram, Sara was walking along a street near the Westfield mall in Hornsby, Sydney. In anticipation of a council clean-up, the footpath was strewn with discarded household goods. As Sara made her way up the street, she felt her head violently yanked as a woman pulled at her hijab from behind. Caught completely off guard, Sara’s first instinct was to protect her child, and she blocked the woman’s access to her pram, screaming, “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” The woman continued to berate Sara, and picked up the handle of a discarded vacuum cleaner lying on the footpath and threatened to hurt her, saying, “I’m going to kill you.”
Hearing the commotion, a resident in a nearby block of units called the police, and came down to help Sara. As more people trickled out of their homes, the woman ran away, leaving Sara very shaken.
When the police arrived, Sara and others who had witnessed the incident made their official statements. However, despite a clear description of the woman and good leads on where she had headed, no headway was made. Not only did Sara not hear back from the police, but she also struggled with intense panic attacks and was unable to step outside her home for over a year. She has spent a lot of time looking over her shoulder, and cannot shake off the deep-seated fear that the attack instilled in her.
She insists that her hijab is very much an act of agency and choice, and she asserts that she has just as much right as anybody else to be in Australia. “I am well-accomplished, multi-lingual and a good, tax-paying citizen. Why must I leave or change? It’s time for Australians to grow up!” she says, tired of having to defend herself over her choice – to simply be herself.
Every second month, All Together Now awards one of its volunteers with the “Star Volunteer” award. This time around, our Star Volunteer is Deliana Lacoban.
Deliana’s role at All Together Now is to monitor the mainstream media and make note of how specific news outlets report on race. To our knowledge, the work Deliana is doing has never been done in Australia before, and this presents particular challenges as Deliana needs to adjust her approach as she works.
Deliana decided to volunteer at All Together Now because the organisation reflects her values and the issues she is passionate about. Deliana has studied discrimination and race at university for the past few years, and recently decided that she wants to do something about these issues.
On volunteering at All Together Now, Deliana says “I like the feeling that we’re doing something that matters. But I’m also surprised in a negative way to know that what we’re doing here hasn’t been done before.
“I also like the flexibility and the fact that I can bring my experience and expertise to what I’m doing. And working in a team – it’s great that we all listen to each other.”
If you’d like to join Deliana and volunteer at All Together Now, please email your CV to [email protected] and let us know what type of roles you are interested in.
From this time forward, under God,*
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.
* A person may choose whether or not to use the words ‘under God’.
This is the pledge that you have to take as the final step in your journey of becoming an Australian citizen, of course, unless you are born in Australia. To be eligible to take the pledge, you must prove your thorough understanding of what it means. You have to pass a test based on a document provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, titled Our Common Bond. As Australians, it is fun to skim through the document and see if we are actually true to the pledge we took either explicitly, by uttering the words, or implicitly, by being born on this land.
“We are also a young nation; a nation of migrants. European settlement in Australia began in 1788 and we continue to welcome new migrants today. People from more than 200 countries have made Australia their home.”
“Today, Australia has a population of about 22 million people. Over one quarter of these people were born overseas.”
“In Australia’s diverse society, over 200 languages are spoken.”
“People come to settle in Australia from countries all around the world. Many people have a different cultural heritage with different beliefs and traditions. In our democratic society, we are all free to follow and share these beliefs and traditions as long as they do not break Australian laws.”
“There are a number of laws in Australia that make sure a person is not treated differently to others because of their gender, race, disability or age.”
“We value this freedom and expect all Australians to treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, country of origin, gender, sexual preference, marital status, age, disability, heritage, culture, politics, wealth or religion.”
Can we all claim that we share Australian democratic beliefs; respect Australia’s rights and liberties; and uphold and obey its laws?