Intelligence Squared Debates

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at Melbourne Town Hall

Australia Has Not Escaped Its Racist Past

Since being established in 2002, IQ² has spread from London to New York to Sydney – and now to Melbourne. Taking the traditional ‘grammar’ of Oxford-style debate seriously, with one side proposing and the other side opposing a sharply-framed motion.

The next debate is: Australia has not escaped its racist past

Speakers For
Robert Manne, Gautam Gupta and Hanifa Deen (video)

Tanveer Ahmed (video), Gurdip Aurora and Bob Birrell

Australia’s history is littered with incidents of prejudice and discrimination based on gender, religion and race.

Yet, this same history also includes stunning advances in social equity – not least in the creation of a vibrant, multicultural society. So, it stings Australian sensibilities when local and overseas commentators claim, from time to time, that we are fundamentally a racist nation. Recent events, especially violent crimes against Indian students, have escalated the level of criticism.

However, is such criticism justified? While the taint of racism may stain the lives of some individuals, is it fair to apply this label to a whole society?

And even if justified by past deeds, can a society escape the gravitational pull of its history and make amends for its past?


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Portrait of Gautam Gupta

Gautam Gupta

Gautam Gupta is secretary of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia and is a commentator on issues affecting the Indian community in Australia.

Portrait of Robert Manne

Robert Manne

Robert Manne’s many books include Making Trouble and The Words That Made Australia (as co-editor). He is the author of three Quarterly Essays, In Denial, Sending Them Home and Bad News. He is a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at La Trobe University.

Portrait of Hanifa Deen

Hanifa Deen

Hanifa Deen is an award winning author. Her book Ali Abdul v. the King will be published in 2011.

Portrait of Tanveer Ahmed

Tanveer Ahmed

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatrist and opinion columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald

Gurdip Aurora

Dr Gurdip Aurora is president of the Australia India Society of Victoria. He was instrumental in the negotiations with the state government on behalf of Sikhs to allow them to carry the traditional Kirpan (sword) and to exempt them from wearing helmets while cycling. He works at the Angliss hospital and teaches medical students at Melbourne and Monash University.

Portrait of Bob Birrell

Bob Birrell

Professor Bob Birrell is the director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University in Melbourne.

Intelligence Squared Debates

The Intelligence Squared debates rage on in 2014 with a whole new range of topics as compelling as they are polarising. In these highly participatory debates, once both sides have had their say, the decision as to who emerges victor lies entirely in your hands.


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