Some media commentators have suggested the importance of respectfully listening to Pauline Hanson and her supporters.
In my view, this wouldn’t mark much of a change for many of them. I thought another approach might be listening to people from communities she has targeted. I asked some friends and acquaintances – Vietnamese, Aboriginal, Muslim – to briefly describe their reaction to her return to parliament.
‘Here Was A Political Leader Who Didn’t Want Me To Be Here’
When I was growing up, my Vietnamese refugee parents made a conscious decision not to settle in a part of Sydney that was highly populated with Vietnamese Australians. Their reasoning was that they didn’t want us to only associate with other Vietnamese migrant families, they wanted us to become “Real Australians” and embrace everything that this beautiful country has to offer. Growing up with English as a second language and being one of the only children in my school with Vietnamese features, I felt small and very different.
I remember being really conscious of Pauline Hanson, even as a child. Here was a political leader who didn’t want me to be here either – and other people clearly agreed with her. Even today, despite being born here I never feel like an “Australian” and I never identify myself as one unless I am traveling. Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party made things confusing for me as a child and – even now – I don’t really feel welcome and I don’t quite know where to place my feet. Feeling excluded at school is one thing and I feel like her policies and her beliefs added another dimension that I just can’t quite shake – even at 27.
Kim Nguyen is an Australian born Vietnamese woman who studied law/communications at UTS. She hopes to work in policy development.
‘She Triggers The Fear And Hate’
I saw the update on the New Matilda Election blog predicting One Nation would get a Senate seat on election night, and was probably more devastated by that than worrying about who’d won.
When Hanson was in last time, it really polarised and divided communities, but there were opportunities for discussion. Her supporters felt more freedom to say what they really thought, but there were also opportunities to counter that. There were anti-Hanson/anti-racism rallies, and protests outside One Nation functions.
The scary part is the rise of Hanson came just before 9/11, which triggered the Iraq War. She really set the tone for the current refugee/”boat people” policy stance both major parties have now.
Hanson declares her political concerns in the lead up to elections, and has made a considerable income off running in election campaigns. She targets minorities, demanding emotive responses to complex social and political issues, without any policy to equitably address those issues. Worst of all, she triggers the fear and hate that led to flag-waving, brown-people-bashing seen at the Cronulla riots in 2005.
Hanson personifies the suburban patriots who see it as their duty to give Anglo-Christian, middle class Australia its dream back. In a sense, One Nation is a distraction from the serious business that needs to be done in these not-so-rosy times. The targeting of Muslims and scepticism of climate change by One Nation proves the nightmare is back, and we need to be awake to it this time.
Steve Hodder Watt is a Lardil man with English heritage. Steve worked in Aboriginal media in Alice Springs and recently returned to his Lardil homelands on Mornington Island.
‘It’s Hard Not To Take It To Heart’
I recall watching the news some years ago about Pauline Hanson. It might have been while I was still at primary school. I recall watching her spill racial attacks and xenophobic comments about Australians of Asian background. I recall my parents being upset about her commentary because we had generally been exposed to a multicultural and progressive Australia. At the time we lived in Campsie (in Sydney’s south-west), which was a melting pot of different cultures, religions and backgrounds. I recall my parents being particularly upset because before migrating to Australia, we had spent some time in Germany. While there, they had been on the receiving end of racist vitriol. One of the residents in the building we lived in while would always yell “Aüslander” (foreigner, outsider, alien) whenever he spotted us leaving.
Fast forward some 10-15 odd years and here we are faced with Pauline Hanson on our TV screens, and One Nation party members in our Senate. In some ways I’m not really all that surprised – particularly with the proliferation of right wing groups and the anti-halal brigade. But it’s nevertheless concerning. It’s hard to log on to social media and not see anti-halal and anti-Muslim sentiment echoed on news reports. It’s hard not to take it heart.
However, I have faith in the Australian populace. I think we’re generally tolerant and well informed, and most people tend to pay very little attention to what Hanson or One Nation has to say. Nevertheless, I will be keeping track on how much momentum One Nation has on policy in the coming years, and how that will impact myself and my family.
The author is a 25-year-old tertiary educated Muslim woman, currently working in the legal field. She arrived in Australia as a refugee from the Balkans in 1994. Her parents are Muslim. Her father is a religious minister and is on the board of a Halal meat certification authority.
‘She Makes Me Feel Uneasy And Scared’
Most mornings when I wake up and go about my day, I don’t think about my ethnicity or my racial background. I see myself as an Australian, just like everybody else. However, when someone like Pauline Hanson is in the media – or is elected to the Senate – it is a reminder that I am different.
For me, Pauline Hanson represents the part of Australia that I would rather forget growing up. Australia has come a long way with multiculturalism and social inclusiveness. However, Pauline Hanson’s return indicates that there is a considerable portion of the population who believe that they are more entitled than others simply because of the colour of their skin or the place of their birth.
A lady at work shared a photo of Pauline Hanson on Facebook with the meme “I’m back bitches!” This was from an “Aussie Pride” fan page. I used to think that I didn’t know anyone who was so ignorant or so prejudiced that they would vote for Pauline Hanson. And then I came across that.
Pauline Hanson is divisive. She creates an “us” and “them” mentality. She makes me feel uneasy and scared. She was a joke. We use to laugh at her stupidity and the absurd things she would say. Her return just makes it all more real and the racism becomes overt.
The author is a 28-year-old Vietnamese Australian woman. Born in Vietnam, she came to Australia as an infant refugee. She currently works in the public sector, and lives in southwest Sydney.
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