A/N: An essay written for; PLT210 – Contemporary Issues in Australian Politics – Race, Nation, Class and Gender.  Received a Credit.

Australia; the country of ‘a fair go’.  As the most multicultural country in the world Australians should have the ability to come together as one; but is this true?  Are we all one big happy multicultural family or are there divisions in our society as deep as the volcanic tubes that lead to the centre of our planet?  This essay aims to analyse this question through studies of race, religion and gender, subsequently proving that these things divide Australian society and the situation is become dire.

In these tolerant, ‘politically correct’ times one would like to believe that racism is a thing of past ignorant generations.  However this is sadly not the case; in Australia, a country where we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, racial tension is never very far from the surface.  Historically Australia was built and founded on racism, the White Australia policy was exactly what it says on the label, a policy to keep Australia white (Thompson, 2011).  However when it was abolished in the early 1970s Australia began to pride itself on our multiculturalism (Thompson, 2011).  What is racism though?  According to the United Nations racism is ‘any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life’ (Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, Section 9 [1]).

So, do Australians have a racist attitude towards other ethnic groups?  Research conducted by several scholars and other organisations suggest that racism is still strong in Australia; however, it has changed since the time of federation.  Racial tension experienced in Australia is no longer about other ethnic groups being inferior as the White Australia policy suggests, in these modern times it has become about cultural differences, suggesting that ethnic minorities are a threat to ‘social cohesion’ and ‘national unity’ (Dunn et al., 2004).  It is shocking to see that racism is still very much alive, in fact according to studies one in five children experience racial attacks at school, not only this thirty-three percent of adults experience racism at work (All Together Now, 2015).  To further this point a survey conducted in 2011 found that forty percent of people believed ‘Australia is weakened by people of different ethnic origins sticking to their old ways’ (Marceau, 2011).

Today our indigenous population seems to suffer the most, racial rifts are not just limited to attacks on others, it is also extends to our quality of life and abilities to treat every Australian as equal to another.  Aborigines have the hardest time out of everyone in Australia, three percent of the population are indigenous, however, twenty-eight percent of that three percent make up our current incarcerated population (Ayala, 2015).  The life expectancy of an Aboriginal is ten years lower than a white Australian and the suicide rate in youths is ten times higher (Ayala, 2015).  One only needs to look up racism in Australia on YouTube and see it for themselves that despite our ‘multicultural’ label we still have one of the worst racial rifts in the world.

As Australians we have a right to many things, a right to freedom of speech, a right to choose our career path, a right to raise our children in a safe society.  What about our religious rights?  Religious discrimination is another hot topic in Australian society today and it does not fall far from the racial debate.  As Australians do we not have the right, the freedom of religion and beliefs?  Sadly that is not necessarily the case.  Religious discrimination occurs frequently, particularly in the smaller minorities, and particularly with the Muslim religion.  With the war with Islamic state occurring overseas it has recently and viciously started a somewhat religious war in Australia.  A survey done in 2014 shows that one in four Australians feel negatively towards Muslims (Perkins, 2014), with no other reason than their religion as the cause.  Ignorance seems to be the biggest player in religious discrimination, most Australians fear extremists and as this most recently extends to the Muslim religion, people are tarring all Muslims with the same brush.

There is an existing anti-discrimination law that exists in Australia to prevent all types of discrimination; unfortunately it is difficult to use this law to the advantage of people who have been discriminated against due to their religion.  A particular case that happened in June of this year is a perfect example of Australians, discriminating against minority religions.  A mosque received approval to be built on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, unfortunately the local ‘Australians’ did not take too kindly to this and staged an anti-Islamic protest claiming outrageous blatantly discriminatory remarks such as “Anybody who practices Islam should be arrested and thrown in jail and then deported” and “I don’t care if they were born here or not, once they are Muslims they are not loyal to Australia their first loyalty is to Islam” (ABC News, 2015).  This type of hideous discrimination is what is driving a stake in Australian society and until we educate the ignorant we will never be the true multicultural society that we preach we are.

In the age where we can have a female CEO and even a female Prime Minister, gender discrimination, better known as sexism should not exist, unfortunately it is still alive and thriving in Australian society.  Women still experience terrible episodes of sexual harassment in the workplace as well as inequality with jobs and even wages.  Women still experience something called the ‘glass ceiling’ effect, which prevents them from obtaining higher paying, managerial positions in the workplace (Johnston & Lee, 2012).  The wage gap is not improving either; men still earn an average of $250 – $300 per week more than a woman in the same position (Su, 2013).  Though there is a Sexual Discrimination Act in Australia which ‘protects people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding’ (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2015), it still does not prevent the inequality women experience with wages.

According to a study done, most young women between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five deliberately avoid certain career options for fears of sexism and less than one percent would like to be in politics (Davey, 2014).  Unfortunately even in this day and age we still experience these sexist attitudes towards women, politics is seen by these young ladies as ‘a man’s career’ therefore they would be subject to the seemingly rising sexist attitudes towards the ‘lesser sex’.  It seems even our first female Prime Minister was not safe from these attacks, Julia Gillard spoke out after she lost her place in parliament in 2013, saying that she had to endure sexist attacks in the office on a daily basis, this being said she also mentioned that ‘she found it “depressing” and a “surprise” that “really violent, ugly sexism” still existed in Australia’ (Griffiths, 2013).  This type of blatant sexual discrimination is driving a wedge in Australian society and until we can close the gap on gender discrimination we cannot move forwards as a nation.

Australia; the land of the racist, the sexist, the discriminate.  Through scrutinizing race, religion and gender this essay has proven that Australian society is divided, possibly irreparably, without the assistance of our government and education to help eliminate discrimination we may never recover.


ABC News. (2015). Anti-Islamic Protest in Queensland after Mosque Approval. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-27/sunshine-coast-protest-against-the-mosque/6577464

All Together Now. (2015). Racism Facts. Retrieved from http://alltogethernow.org.au/racism/

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2015). About Sex Discrimination.  Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/about-sex-discrimination

Ayala, V. (2015). The Firsthand Racism I Experienced in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/violeta-ayala/the-firsthand-racism-i-experienced-in-australia_b_7978896.html?ir=Australia

Davey, M. (2014).  Sexist Attitudes in Australia are on the Rise, Young Women tell Gender Study. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/01/sexist-attitudes-australia-rise-women-tell-study

Dunn, K. M., Forrest, J., Burnley, I., & McDonald, A. (2004). Constructing Racism in Australia. Australian Journal Of Social Issues (Australian Council Of Social Service), 39(4), 409-4 30.

Griffiths, E. (2013).  Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Sexist Attacks filled her with ‘Murderous Rage’.  Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-30/julia-gillard-opera-house-anne-summers-sexist-attacks/4989210

Johnston, D. W. & Lee, W. (2012). Climbing the Job Ladder: New Evidence of Gender Inequity. Industrial Relations, 51(1), 129-151.

Marceau, A. (2014). Australia a land of racists: Survey finds many anti-Muslim and anti Semitic. Retrieved from http://www.news.com.au/national/were-a-land-of-racists-survey-shows/story-e6frfkvr-1226010436251

Perkins, M. (2014). One in Four Australians Feels Negative About Muslims, Poll Shows. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/one-in-four-australians-feels-negative-about-muslim s-poll-shows-20141028-11d4j8.html

Race Discrimination Act. (1975). Retrieved from http://www.comlaw.gov.au/

Su, R. (2013).  Sexism and Gender Discrimination? Australian Women Still Earn Less Than Men.  Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com.au/sexism-gender-discrimination-australian-women-still-earn-less-men-1315412

Thompson, S. (2011). 1901 Immigration Restriction Act. Retrieved from http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime/immigration-restriction-act/

Creative Commons License
Social Rifts: Australia – The Land of Discrimination by Sheridan Brownlie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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