The Return of the ‘M’ Word

Rarely has one 10 year old child had such an impact on a country. The picture of young Seena Akhlaqi Sheikhdost crying at the funeral of his parents seems to have started something. He and ten other survivors of the Christmas Island shipwreck tragedy will soon be released from detention on Christmas Island.

By one of those strange coincidences that often signal a shift in the zeitgeist, the findings of a University of Western Sydney survey on racism were released this week, uncovering evidence of pervasive hostility in Australia towards various ethnic groups, including Muslims, Jews and Asians. The 12-year Challenging Racism Project found nearly half of Australians are anti-Muslim.

Reactions to the findings indicate the divisions may run deepest in the media. Melbourne’s Age reported that the state with the most racial tension is NSW. In a subsequent online poll, 67% of Age readers agreed that Australia is a racist country. Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald took the opposite tact, highlighting evidence in the report that Australians are mostly tolerant.

Other findings included: 87% of respondents think it’s a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures; 84.4% believe all races are equal; 78% feel secure with people of different ethnic origins; 12.3% of respondents admit to being prejudiced against other cultures; 11% percent believe that it is not a good idea for people of different races to marry one another.

It’s led some observers - like Ben Eltham and Annabel Crabb - to speculate if there has been some kind of shift in the fundamentals of the Australian political dynamic in recent weeks.

The Wheeler Centre’s next Talking Point is ‘The Rise, Fall and Rise of Australian Multiculturalism’, Thursday March 17 at 6:15pm.

So what do you think? Racist or inclusive? Rabidly tolerant or tolerably rabid? Has one 10 year old boy changed refugee detention policy once and for all? Give us your two cents.