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When is Australia racist? Questions of difference and fairness
Australian racism is a slippery thing. We’ve seen it (at the football, on a bus with a singing French tourist, in select policies of successive governments, at anti-something protests). We know it exists. But as a nation – a deeply multicultural one, arguably defined by migration – we haven’t progressed to a realistic understanding of who we are, what that means and what we thus expect of ourselves and each other.
How do we distinguish our ideals from the real world? Is mainstream Australian – whatever that means – capable of living up to its own myths? Let’s not let subcultures off the hook, either. What draws our meanest impulses out of hiding? When do we laugh about our differences … and when do they come to define us?
With artist Abdul Abdullah, writer and comedian Nakkiah Lui, Aboriginal health expert Gregory Phillips, journalist and political commentator Voranai Vanijaka and Gaysia author Benjamin Law, we’ll explore Australian equality on a number of fronts: representation, social support, sex and decision-making. Our panellists consider what it might take to achieve a culture that reflects a true picture of Australia back to itself – and what we’d be losing if we didn’t.
Does Australia market and export an image of 'us' as Multicultural and more than just a white image #askinterrobang— Monique Toohey (@MoniqueToohey) November 28, 2015
Greg Phillips crystal clear on Aust not dealing with colonisational genocide & the legacy that hangs in power strictures #askinterrobang— Kristin Alford (@kristinalford) November 28, 2015
@MoniqueToohey Who is the We? Who is the You?That was never defined in the session.— Melissa O'Donovan (@SoulGroundau) November 28, 2015
It's false to say everyone is racist - Greg Phillips. Lots of cultures are accepting of difference, it comes down to values #askinterrobang— Kristin Alford (@kristinalford) November 28, 2015
Racism is structural. Ethnocentrism is what need to be mindful of and overcome. Identify the dynamic & call it out #askinterrobang— Monique Toohey (@MoniqueToohey) November 28, 2015
Strands of industrialisation & capitalism are inseparable from racism in this discussion - they shapes resources & values. #askinterrobang— Kristin Alford (@kristinalford) November 28, 2015
Cultural intelligence is needed to improve intercultural relations social cohesion, health & education outcomes & innovation #askinterrobang— Monique Toohey (@MoniqueToohey) November 28, 2015
Can cultures with strong social and environmental consciences also be racist? #askinterrobang— Ayan Dasvarma (@amravsad) November 28, 2015
Where can we create spaces for intercultural interaction & can we make it mandatory for politicians to be residents there? #askinterrobang— Monique Toohey (@MoniqueToohey) November 28, 2015
How do u unpackage urself from ur racial and/or cultural personal identity? By continuing to use the national/racial label? #askinterrobang— Melissa O'Donovan (@SoulGroundau) November 28, 2015
'Australia is not a multicultural country - it has many ethnic groups.' Greg Phillips #askinterrobang— BitterSweet (@spoonfulofthyme) November 28, 2015
Benjamin Law writes books, TV screenplays, columns, essays and feature journalism. He’s the author of the memoir The Family Law (2010), the travel book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) – both nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards – and the Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools, Moral Panic 101 (2017).
He also created and co-wrote three seasons of the award-winning SBS TV series The Family Law, and his sold-out debut play Torch the Place (Melbourne Theatre Company) ran February–March 2020.
Nakkiah Lui is a writer/actor and Gamillaroi/Torres Strait Islander woman. She is a co-writer and star of ABC's Black Comedy. She has been an artist in residence at Griffin Theatre Company (2013) and was playwright in residence at Belvoir Theatre from 2012–14. In 2012, Nakkiah was the first recipient of The Dreaming Award from The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Arts Board of the Australia Council. The same year, Nakkiah was also the inaugural recipient of the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright Award. In 2014, Nakkiah was the recipient of the Malcolm Robertson Prize and a Green Room Award for Best Independent Production. Most recently Nakkiah won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award 2018, Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting for Black is the New White.
Gregory Phillips is from the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, and comes from Cloncurry and Mount Isa. He is a medical anthropologist, with thirty years’ experience in leading change in cultural safety, healing and decolonisation.
Gregory is Chief Executive Officer of ABSTARR Consulting, is a Professor of First People’s Health, and serves on several boards and committees, including chairing the Ebony Institute, the Cathy Freeman Foundation and AHPRA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategy group.
Abdul Abdullah is an artist from Perth, currently based in Sydney, who works across painting, photography, video, installation and performance. As a self described ‘outsider amongst outsiders’, his practice is primarily concerned with the experience of the ‘other’ in society. Abdullah’s projects have engaged with different marginalised minority groups and he is particularly interested in the experience of young Muslims in the contemporary multicultural Australian context. Through these processes and explorations Abdullah extrapolates this outlook to an examination of universal aspects of human nature.