Australia’s racist history still exists

According to the Intelligence Squared debate last night, Australia has not escaped its racist past, which was held in partnership with the Wheeler Centre.

An Age article highlighted, Hanifa Dean’s speech which presented the case for the affirmative, drawing links to the treatment of asylum seekers and recent violence against Indian students. She referred to asylum seekers particularly asking “I wonder if they had been white how we would have treated them.”

Controversial commentator and secretary of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, Gautum Gupta said Australia had a reputation for racism across Asia. He saw Indian students as a convenient scapegoat for xenophobic Australians. “The only thing the Asians have not been blamed for is the bushfires,” Gupta says. In an interview with the Age’s The Zone yesterday, Gupta also reflected that Australia could become more tolerant: “This country has got great potential, a great future and transformation can take place.”

The debate was held last night at Melbourne Town Hall with several interested tweets, including Age editor, Paul Ramadge. Ramadge live tweeted throughout the event, including a quote from Prof Bob Birell “A small number of Australians are racist. But not the majority.”

The debate’s audience were less positive. Surveyed before the debate, 70.5% of the audience believed Australia was haunted by its racist history. After the debate concluded 71% supported this idea. The greatest shift of opinion came from those who were against with 13% initially against the premise but after listening to the debate 20% believed Australia might have moved away from its xenophobic legacy.

Melbourne’s next Intelligence Squared debate - Feminism has failed - will be held in September.