Is Australia still a racist society?

“It has racism at its foundation. The idea of ‘terra nullius’ justified the theft of our land. The constitutions has race provisions that have at times been used for laws that took children, stopped us voting, told us where we could live or who we could marry. Structural racism underpins the socio-economic malaise many indigenous people face. We’ve never been empowered to determine our destiny as a people.”

So said Stan Grant, an Aboriginal and a vastly experienced news editor, in an article by Victoria Laurie in the 14-15 Nov. 2015 issue of ‘The Weekend Australian Magazine.’

As a former colonial subject, and as an Asian exposed to the racism of White Australia of the late 1940s and succeeding decades, I am naturally sensitive to the racism which has teeth.

In response to a question as to whether Australia is improving, Grant said, ”There are still pockets of overt racism in Australia, and apathy about dealing with the fundamental issues and historical grievance. We still can’t put issues like treaty and sovereignty on the table – appalling really when so many other nations, including our neighbour New Zealand, have dealt with this.”

What is at issue is the proposal to amend Australia’s Constitution to recognise Australia’s indigenes as our First Nation Peoples, and to remove (at minimum) any scope for governments to use racism against Aborigines. My feeling is that the oldest generation of Anglo-Australians has to die before any such amendments. I recall that the racism I experienced in those dark days of the 1950s and 1960s was substantially reduced when the oldest generation of white Aussies died.

The following comment by Grant impressed me greatly. “I am immensely proud of my white grandmother – she embraced Aboriginal society, raised Aboriginal children, and paid a big price in the harsh racist Australia of her time. I got my sense of blackness and identity as much from her as from anyone.”