Advance Australia Fair?


A week ago we heard of the two volunteer lifeguards who were beaten up by a group of ‘Middle-Eastern looking’ men.

Over the weekend, I watched in horror, along with the rest of Australia, as racism reared its ugly head, and the stomach-turning events in Cronulla unfolded. Last week’s events have disgusted me to such a point that I have lost any definition of what it means to be Australian.

Thanks to Bill  Leak

‘The Australian way’ is something we’ve heard a lot about this week. What exactly is it? Is it mobs smashing police vehicles and throwing bottles at ambulance officers when they are trying to help and protect us? Is it young Lebanese men lashing out or Cronulla locals who are beating up on ‘Middle-Eastern looking’ men and women? Is it talkback radio broadcasters inciting more hatred with their manipulating comments?

Whatever it is, I have never felt so un-Australian before. I have no doubt that if I had headed down to Cronulla beach or the Sutherland Shire these past few days the way I normally do to enjoy a beautiful relaxing day with some salty fish and chips, I would probably have been attacked too. I am truly crushed that Cronulla beach specifically Shelly Beach which is a regular family barbeque area for many cultures will no longer be a safe environment.

The NSW Premier Morris Iemma described the events in Cronulla at the weekend as ‘an ugly face of racism’ and pure ‘thuggish hooliganism,’ while Muslim and Christian community leaders called for an end to the racial backlash.

Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association, said:

Racism has been brewing for some time. The actions delivered by the thousands of ‘Aussie locals’ is outrageous, unacceptable and certainly un-Australian.

The only person who seems in denial about all this is our very own Prime Minister, John Howard, who according to reports ‘does not accept that there is underlying racism in this country.’

Has our Prime Minister not been watching the news? Has he not heard the slants and slurs spoken by the thousands of people who want to reintroduce a White Australia Policy? Perhaps he needs to be told: ‘Wog free zone,’ ‘free snags no tabouli,’ ‘Multiculturalism doesn’t work’ and ‘Osama don’t surf.’ These were just some of the racial slurs printed on people’s shirts and cars at the weekend.

Whether it is young, angry, violent Lebanese men or alcohol-fuelled, Anglo Cronulla locals, it makes no difference to me they are all heading down the path of racial intolerance and destruction.

I don’t blame locals in the Sutherland Shire for being upset or angry at the attacks on the Cronulla lifeguards this is behaviour that disgusts many of us.

This is not the first time a problem like this has arisen Middle-Eastern gangs versus the ‘this is our Shire,’ young, true-blue Aussie blokes but why hasn’t the problem been addressed from the beginning? Clearly, over the past few days, the police have done a fantastic job of protecting people and bringing others to justice but where were the regular police beach patrols to prevent this sort of violence from occurring in the first place?

I am Lebanese and I know what these young Lebanese boys are capable of and how they behave in public. For years I have travelled on public transport and gone to venues where groups such as these have been loud, rude and obnoxious, and it disgusts me to think they are part of my cultural heritage. And I am not the only one who feels this way.

You may be surprised to hear that most Middle-Eastern people agree that any person of any culture, including their own, should be arrested, punished in accordance with the law and taught right from wrong. But despite their juvenile actions, they still have a right to live in Australia and be accorded a place in society, as any other citizen does.

The Lebanese community is severely disappointed and shocked at the level of racism shown in this angry, drunken display of intolerance. But why should we be disadvantaged because some irresponsible individuals behave like they own the world? Why target an entire community who love this country and has done nothing wrong?

No doubt there are some people in the Sutherland Shire who simply cannot cope with sharing their beaches with people who appear to be un-Australian based on the colour of their skin or how they dress but let’s not forget that we too are Australian. Just because we appear different does not mean we are here to take over.

Often when I go down to the Sutherland Shire, I get odd looks because of my head scarf, long skirt and Mediterranean complexion. But if you spoke to me for two minutes you would discover through my very Aussie accent that I love my county and the Australian way of life. I love the footie, I’m a lifetime Holden supporter and I’m very proud to be Australian. But why should I even have to explain or justify my presence to people?

How can I get this message across when no one gives me the time of day? How can I get this message across when talkback radio influences opinions and incites racial hatred? It’s truly absurd. It feels like I have lost the fight before it has even began.

I watched in horror at the weekend as Australians sang my national anthem and ‘Waltzing Matilda’, as if to try and justify their racist behaviour. They used the songs that I sang proudly at school and at football games and slanted them to imply that there is no room for multiculturalism in this country. Well perhaps these people should readdress their misinformed meaning of ‘Advance Australian Fair’.

At the end of the day Cronulla beach may be home to the locals, and the Sutherland Shire may be predominately Anglo-Australian, but the beach belongs to us all.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.