Yesterday I listened to part of Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech in which he praised the White Australia Policy and called for a plebiscite as “the final solution to the immigration problem”.
Last week I listened to Barnaby Joyce being interviewed by Charles Pickering stating how we have to look after people in regional areas because “they’re poor, in many instances white.”
The week before I was reading Andrew Bolt’s racist and divisive article in which he attacks immigrants, alongside the Jews of Caulfield, and talks about Australia being colonised and taken over.
I have had enough. Just four weeks ago, I was standing in Terezin in the Czech Republic, a former concentration camp during WWII. A camp in which 7,500 children were murdered because of their religion; my father was one of only 264 children to survive it. This is not the distant past — this is my immediate family’s direct experience. When I hear and read these racist opinions, my values feel attacked. I feel threatened and this is as a white, privileged Australian. Talk of a final solution and a Jewish ghetto existing in North Caulfield not only stings but causes stress and disquiet. I still function — most will not see or hear the unrest within me but it is there. One person recently called this constant background stress of casual racism dealing with ‘white noise’.
But I wonder how much more attacked and threatened I would feel if I was a woman of colour, a First Nations person, an immigrant or a Muslim. A person who could not hide their skin colour, accent or religion from the community. How much more intense would the disquiet be? How much more energy would I have to expend to protect myself from the attacks on who I am? There are WIRE staff, volunteers, board members and service users who are not left wondering because it is their daily experience. To you, I want to acknowledge your strength and the additional baggage white Australia forces you to carry each day.
Let us all ensure that we are taking care of one another. That we make WIRE a safe place and that our work is an active tool to dampen the destructive racist forces that too often feel emboldened to speak out. If you are reading this and you have the privilege of not being the target of these racist and ignorant attacks then your job right now is to listen, find out what people tell you they need, support and react appropriately.
Dr Nilmini Fernando, a WIRE staff member, has just reminded me of this fantastic quote from Audre Lorde who self-described herself as a black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet: ‘I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.’ Too true.
Julie Kun, WIRE CEO