Skip to content

Australia Has Not Escaped Its Racist Past


Event Status

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?




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.

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. ... Read more

Hanifa Deen

Hanifa Deen is an award winning author. Her book Ali Abdul v. the King will be published in 2011. Hanifa Deen has been a teacher, researcher, senior public servant and, for the last fifteen years, a social commentator and writer of narrative non-fiction. She believes in women reinventing themselves ... Read more

Tanveer Ahmed

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatrist and opinion columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald He writes widely, sits on various Boards and has appeared in various media in both an entertainment and serious commentator capacity. He identifies as an agnostic, cultural Muslim and believes how to die will be a... Read more

Gurdip Aurora
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... Read more

Bob Birrell

Professor Bob Birrell is the director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University in Melbourne. He has acted as an advisor on immigration issues to both Labor and Coalition governments. He was a member of the Commonwealth Government’s National Population Council from 1987... Read more


Melbourne Town Hall

90-120 Swanston Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

More details

Stay up to date with our upcoming events and special announcements by subscribing to The Wheeler Centre's mailing list.

Privacy Policy

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.