Online abuse: ‘It’s so common it’s almost banal’


June 26, 2016 – 12:15AM

Rachel Olding


Mariam Veiszadeh is regularly sent abusive messages on social media. Photo: Supplied

Each time Mariam Veiszadeh gets a death threat, she does a cost-benefit analysis.

The online abuse is so frequent that the lawyer and anti-Islamophobia advocate wouldn’t get any work done if she reported it all to police.

“I think about the consequences of reporting, the time and effort that goes into it, the psychological impact it has on me to pursue these matters, the potential outcome and whether it’s all worth it,” she said.

Trina Pania Hohaia was fined $1000 for using a carriage service to offend. Photo: Facebook

But just before midnight one night last July, a message landed in her Facebook inbox that she didn’t ignore

“Watch as we come for you in your sleep cut your throat as you do the animals you torment,” it said. “Kill your family for you to see. Kill your uncle which is now your husband slash grand f—er.. I will find you and hunt you down.”

In one of very few cases of online abuse that are prosecuted, Trina Pania Hohaia, a 38-year-old mother from Guildford, was convicted in her absence in Hornsby Local Court in September. The Reclaim Australia supporter, whose name and image were visible on her profile, was fined $1000.

An abusive post sent to Mariam Veiszadeh by Trina Pania Hohaia. Photo: Supplied

Online abuse has become pervasive yet the number of criminal convictions cover a mere fraction of the hateful material flung around the world wide web.

Figures provided to Fairfax Media show charges for using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend – the antiquated piece of legislation that online abuse falls under – have doubled in five years.

Last year, there were 1111 convictions from 1585 charges in NSW although the figures are not broken down by web or telephone threats. The most common punishment was a fine of about $700, far from the maximum prison term of three years.

Zane Alchin pleaded guilty to sending rape and death threats to Paloma Brierley Newton and others. Photo: Nick Moir

This week, two high-profile cases ended in guilty pleas. Central Coast chiropractor and former Liberal Party member Chris Nelson, 64, admitted to posting racist abuse on the Facebook page of Indigenous politician Nova Peris, and 25-year-old labourer Zane Alchin admitted to a torrent of rape and death threats sent to a group of Sydney women.

However, three in five Australian adults say they have been the target of online abuse and harassment, a 2015 RMIT study found.

“When I started research in this area, you had to go out of your way to find online abuse. Now it’s so bad, you have to go out of your way to avoid it,” Emma A. Jane, a UNSW academic conducting a three-year study into online misogyny, said.

Lucy Le Masurier, Paloma Brierley Newton, and Ollie Henderson set up Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced after Zane Alchin sent them abusive messages. Photo: Janie Barrett

“It’s become a lingua franca online. If you don’t agree with a woman, you send a rape threat or tell her she’s too ugly to rape. It’s so common it’s become almost banal.”

The internet, particularly social media, has brought empowerment and opportunity but it has quickly become a double-edged sword.

Eight-five per cent of women told the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year that the internet provides them with more freedom, yet 73 per cent said they had been abused online.

Zane Alchin leaving the Downing Centre Local Court this week. Photo: Nick Moir

Anti-semitic and anti-Muslim abuse take up the lions share of reports made to the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s Fight Against Hate. Misogynistic and homophobic abuse follow closely behind.

OHPI chief executive Andre Oboler said social media had amplified and emboldened pre-existing bigotry.

“People who feel isolated, who may have racist views but keep it to themselves because the people around them don’t support it, will easily find people who agree with them online so suddenly their inhibition drops,” he said.

While the internet’s veil of anonymity allowed a culture of abuse to develop, both Alchin and Nelson posted abuse under their own profiles. It has “become normalised to the extent … people seem quite happy to do it under their own names now,” Dr Jane said.

This is fuelled by the perception there will be no real-world consequences, she said.

Only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of offensive content reported to Facebook and Twitter is removed, OHPI found, and the impacts can be detrimental.

A father who used Facebook to post messages of support for refugees told Fairfax Media that hateful responses from far right groups over the past 18 months escalated to phone calls to his wife. Fake profiles and offensive memes with his image have been spread online. He fears it will affect his future job prospects and his family’s safety.

The 47-year-old, who asked for his name to be withheld, said he was laughed out the door when he reported it to Hobart police. “But in the same breath they said they get a lot of Facebook-related suicides,” he said.

Of the 50 women Dr Jane has interviewed, none had a satisfactory response when they reported online abuse to local police. Some were told to take a break from Facebook or to change their profile picture to “something less attractive”.

Paloma Brierley Newton, the subject of Alchin’s abuse, was initially turned away by Newtown police. She had stepped in to defend a friend whose profile from the dating app Tinder was being shamed on Facebook for being too provocative.

It was only when she set up an advocacy group with her friends, Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced, and went to the media that police became interested.

She hopes to introduce training to all local police stations, where cases of online abuse are investigated.

Assistant Commissioner Gary Worboys, corporate spokesman for victims of crime, said victims of online threats “can and should expect the complaint to be taken seriously”.

“While there is no … legislation in Australia that is specifically for cyber bullying, there are existing laws police use,” he said.

While prosecutions are important, Dr Jane said we needed to address the reasons why people posted abuse.

“We’re still a long way from cultivating a culture of accountability online,” she said. “There have been massive institutional failures at the level of corporations, social media platforms, police and policy makers.”













‘We speak English in this country’: woman films racial tirade on Sydney train

December 18, 2015 – 11:36PM

    Kate Aubusson  Journalist

A Sydney train has once again become a battleground for racial tolerance after a young woman was subject to a vicious tirade from a fellow passenger.

Natalie Soto, 20, was speaking Spanish to her mother over the phone as she rode a train into the Sydney CBD on Thursday morning.

“My mum just wanted to make sure I had caught the right train. Her English isn’t very good so I was speaking to her in Spanish,” Ms Soto said.

Natalie Soto filmed the woman on the train

She could hear the angry grumblings of a woman sitting two rows in front of her but was shocked when she realised the woman’s gripe was with her.

The incident is the latest in a string of racial tirades filmed by commuters on Sydney trains and buses.

In September a woman filmed hurling abuse at a Chinese-Australian passenger on a bus was charged with assault after a string of similar incidents involving the same woman was reported to police



Nikki Strong, the 19-year-old who defended Natalie Soto against racial slurs from a fellow passenger. Photo: Supplied

In April a Muslim couple from Brisbane were the targets of an anti-Islamic rant by a woman on a train on their way to Sydney airport with their four-month-old son. A female passenger filmed the exchange, and was praised for standing up for the couple.

A 55-year-old woman was arrested at Wyong Train station after she was filmed unleashing a racist tirade, targeting children and an Asian woman on a packed peak-hour train.

Ms Soto said she initially paid no attention to the woman.

Natalie Soto said the incident on the train was by far the worst she had encountered. Photo: Facebook

“I didn’t really take any notice until she turned around and looked at me and said ‘get that dirty wog off the train, she’s giving me a headache’,” Ms Soto said.

“I thought ‘okay, this is about me’,” she said.

But Ms Soto’s fellow passengers soon came to her defence.

That’s when Ms Soto started recording the scene on her camera phone.

“It’s not English. Why should we have to listen to f—ing rambling,” the woman can be heard saying on the recording Ms Soto posted to Facebook.

“Because we are a multicultural country,” a young woman fires back as she swivels around in her seat in view of Ms Soto’s camera phone.

“Are we?” the blonde woman says.

“Unless you’re Aboriginal, you have come from another country to live here. We’re all from different cultures,” the young woman responds.

“Yes, just look at the carriage,” Ms Soto replies, referring to her fellow passengers.

“We speak English in this country. If you can’t speak it in public don’t speak it [sic] at all,” the blonde woman said.

The woman seemed to be taken aback that Ms Soto responded in English, the 20-year-old said.

“Lucky for you I can speak multiple languages and I can understand exactly what’s going on,” Ms Soto said.

“Speak it in your own home, don’t speak it in public,” the blonde woman responded.

“Does it make you uncomfortable?” Ms Soto asks.

“Yeah it does,” the woman responded.

“I think you really need to question yourself,” Ms Soto said.

“Do you want me to speak my f—ing language and see how you f—ing like it?” the blonde woman says.

“So her speaking another language is not okay but you saying the c-word in front of children is okay,” said the same young female passenger who spoke up earlier.

She was referring to a comment made by the blonde woman before the recording had started, according to Ms Soto.

The Australian born retail assistant, born to a Chilean mother and German father, said it was not the first time she had been called a “wog” or copped unpleasant comments from strangers who overheard her speaking Spanish.

But her encounter on the train was by far the most aggressive, she said.

“It has never been such a public outburst. There was so much anger there,” she said.

“It was definitely a slap in the face.”

Ms Soto said she didn’t film the woman to shame her, but to highlight the everyday racism she believed was an enduring problem that needed to be addressed.

“The point was to show people that this is a very real issue in Australia. It’s not just me. It’s more than that,” Ms Soto said.

“But I know people like her [the blonde woman on the train] are just a minority of really small minded, bigoted and [prejudiced] people. It’s really comforting to know that,” she said.

She was also heartened by the response from her fellow passengers’ response.

“I didn’t get to speak to or thank the beautiful girl who stood up for me. She was lovely.

“I’d really like to find her and say thanks,” she said.

The young man sitting next to her had also cheered her up, telling her he thought Spanish was a beautiful language, Ms Soto said.

“He said: ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you the way you are is a bad thing’,” she said.

A Sydney Trains staff member has been in contact with the 20-year-old regarding the incident.

Ms Soto is also planning to make a formal complaint to police.

Update: Natalie Soto finds her defender

The “lovely” girl who stuck up for Ms Soto during the tense confrontation is 19-year-old university study Nikki Strong.

Ms Strong reached out to Ms Soto after seeing news reports of the incident on Friday evening and the two women, both psychology undergraduates, have bonded over the experience.

“We definitely want to meet up. We’ve found we have a lot in common,” Ms Strong said.

The 19-year-old said she had on occasion heard offensive comments during train trips, but nothing as vehement as Thursday’s incident.

“When I started sticking up for Natalie she called me a c— and said she was going to spit on me and my boyfriend,” Ms Strong said.

“There were children … under five years old … sitting literally five metres from us,” she said.

Ms Strong said she was driven to defend Natalie because she couldn’t stand the idea of a carriage full of people sitting in silence as one of their number was the target of racial slurs.

“Someone had to say something,” she said.

“I honestly just felt really bad that it happened to Natalie, and I hope people can learn from this and acknowledge that we live in a multicultural nation and have to respect people’s languages,” she said.


Racist rant on train – and its aftermath


Woman issued transport infringement after racist rant

Kate Aubusson and Rachel Olding

May 7, 2015 – 8:46PM

A woman who was filmed allegedly verbally abusing a Muslim couple on a Sydney train last month has been issued with a rail infringement notice by police.

The 70-year-old Lisarow woman was issued the infringement notice for behaving “in an offensive manner” on a public train, Police Transport Command said in a statement released Thursday night.

Offensive behaviour carries a maximum fine of $1100.


The woman who allegedly abused Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti and his wife. Photo: Supplied


Read more

The original story

Racist rant on Sydney train caught on video, passenger defends Muslim woman from tirade

By Mohamed Taha


Video shows racist rant on Sydney train (ABC News)

A video that captures the moments a Muslim woman was the subject of a racist verbal attack on a Sydney train has been viewed nearly 80,000 times.

The video was recorded on a phone by Stacey Eden, 23, who can be heard telling the older woman to stop disrespecting the Muslim woman who was with her husband and wearing a headscarf at the time.

Ms Eden, a pathology worker, told the ABC she was catching a train home to Mascot on the Airport Line at around 1:40pm on Wednesday afternoon.

She said she noticed a group of people enter the train, particularly a man and woman wearing a scarf with a baby.

At that point she said an old lady walked over and started speaking to them.

“I was just listening to my music,” Ms Eden said.

“The old lady actually bent over and touched the lady’s scarf while she was talking.

“I didn’t think anything of it.”

Verbal abuse made reference to Islamic State

Ms Eden said she noticed the old woman was verbally abusing the couple, who said nothing.

“The lady next to me was saying things like ‘all the people that were dying were because of the Muslims in the world and look what’s happening overseas’,” she said.

Stacey Eden stood up for a Muslim woman who was verbally abused on a Sydney train

Photo: Stacey Eden intervened on a Sydney train when a Muslim woman was verbally abused. (Supplied: Facebook)

Ms Eden said the woman continued by saying: “Read the newspapers, why are you following this religion for, why do you wear things like that so you can marry a man who’s going to go marry a 6-year-old?”

“I was like ‘this isn’t right, why are you saying these kinds of things?'”

In the video, Ms Eden can be heard telling the old woman to leave the other woman’s dress alone.

“She wears it for herself, OK,” she said in the video.

“She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her.”

The older woman can be heard mentioning beheadings, the Sydney siege and suggesting the woman was an “ISIS supporter”.

Ms Eden said she got angry and started recording the incident.

“She was picking on her for the way she was dressed and that’s what really got to me,” she said.

“This lady that was sitting across from me wearing a scarf, she was minding her own business, she never said anything out of line, she never even spoke.

“That’s why I decided to say something because it just made me really angry and upset.”
Police encourage victims of racial abuse to come forward

Ms Eden said she missed her Mascot stop to make sure the couple felt safe and once she saw them get off at the International Airport stop, she got off at Wolli Creek.

“I was actually worried about what was going to happen,” she said.

“I stayed on the train for a few more stops just to make sure everything was going to be OK.

“As they got off they thanked me.”

The victim’s husband, Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, posted a thank you message on Facebook which said: “This video was not made by me. That is what happened to us on a Sydney train, God bless Stacey Eden she supported us”.

Facebook screenshot of racist rant victim Photo: The husband of the woman who was verbally abused posted a thank you message on Facebook. (Supplied: Facebook)

Ms Eden said she felt compelled to stand up because no one else was doing anything.

“I just felt like if no one said anything, it was just going to keep going, so I had to say it,” she said.

“People like that are just very ignorant. They’re never going to listen to what you say.

“I didn’t want to cause an argument or have a confrontation, I just wanted her to stop talking just so she wouldn’t keep making them feel bad about themselves.”

A New South Wales police spokesman told the ABC they would review the video footage.

“NSW Police is aware of an incident which occurred on at train travelling on the Airport, Inner West and South line involving alleged racial vilification yesterday,” a spokesman said.

“The Police Transport Command is reviewing a video posted online in an effort to identify the alleged offender.”

Police said they had not received a report of the alleged assault and were encouraging the victims to come forward.

“We encourage anyone who is the victim of a biased motivated crime to report the matter to local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” they said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane from the Australian Human Rights Commission said the video was “inexcusable”.

“It’s always disappointing to see people being subjected to harassment or abuse in public places,” he said.

“There’s simply no excuse to be abusing people or to be harassing people because of their religious beliefs or their racial background.”

Dr Soutphommasane said it was encouraging to see Ms Eden stand up to the discrimination.

“It’s always encouraging to see people respond to racism or bigotry,” he said.

“If it’s safe to do so, people should feel free to speak out against abuse or harassment.

“By speaking up, we send a powerful message that we don’t accept or condone bigotry and racism


How Racist is Australia? Pretty Damn Racist

Reblogged from Tumblr

Aamer Rahman

Stand-up comedian (Fear of a Brown Planet)
Twitter: @aamer_rahman

This is my response (originally published in Crikey) to Mark Sawyer’s article ‘How Racist Are You’ published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald last week (

Dear Mark,

As a comedian I very much appreciated your satirical piece ‘How Racist Are You?’ published in The Age last week.  I think you captured the attitude and tone of Overly Defensive And Clueless White Man perfectly.  It’s actually  inspired me to write my own piece called “Hey Ladies, Pipe Down About Sexism.”Of course, I’m being silly.  You didn’t write it as a parody piece. The truth is much more embarrassing. This is what you, and plenty of others, actually think: apparently racism is totes not a thing any more.Being told by white people that racism is a figment of our imagination is nothing new.  I know well enough that when looking for some quality racism, the best place to start is with the guy screaming “I’m not racist!” You did not disappoint.

Thank you for the awkward list of times you didn’t challenge people’s casual racist comments.  As the kids say nowadays, cool story bro.  And maybe you’re right – there is nothing that justifies calling Australia uniquely racist. Not the specific genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and languages, an unparalleled migration history that banned non-white immigration here until the early 70s, or our one-of-a-kind anti-asylum regime.  These are things that happened pretty much everywhere, right?  But seriously, why let history and facts get in the way of a white guy’s Feelings About Stuff.

You’re correct, far right parties like One Nation are a thing of the past. But only because their rampant xenophobia was quickly co-opted, re-branded and shared between Labor and Liberal, making Hanson totally redundant.  In an era where our Attorney General openly defends the art of bigotry, Pauline’s services are no longer required.

You ask how many people alive are truly racist.  I don’t know the exact figures, Mark. But ask yourself if the life expectancy statistics that apply to Aboriginal people – well below the national average – would be tolerated if they applied to any other group in this country .  Ask yourself if our system of militarised  border protection and detention – recognised as exceptional the world over – would be acceptable to the Australian public if it was designed to intercept, round up and indefinitely incarcerate white people.

These things cannot exist without a sizeable population of what you refer to as ‘true racists.’ The fact that, as a nation, we accept and allow such things to happen is not an accident or the result of simple misunderstandings. They are the calculated outcomes of generations of programming.  Maybe racism is less about white people making unfortunate comments and more about systemic inequalities that have become the permanent and invisible background noise of Australian culture.  To quote you, it may pay to look at the bigger picture.

It’s 2014, champ. Racism isn’t about segregated lunch counters and people refusing to shake hands any more.  Racism is about this country’s obsession with defining boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and the pervasive and violent ways in which those boundaries are maintained.  Racism is about two major parties collaborating for years to convince a white majority, through various codes, that they are perpetually at risk of losing out to lazy Aborigines, ghettoised migrants, dishonest asylum seekers and suspicious Muslims.  Racism is a government using free speech rhetoric to facilitate racial vilification.  Racism is, in a climate of perpetual fear and hostility, The Age choosing to publish some childish nonsense about how there’s no such thing as racism.

You’re convinced things have changed. I’m pretty confident they haven’t.

Aamer Rahman is a standup comic and writer in Melbourne.  He is currently touring his solo show The Truth Hurts in the UK and does not miss Australia.


How to restore Australia to its former glory

Daily Life
September 20, 2013 – 6:31AM

Clementine Ford

One-woman cabinet: PM Tony Abbott has announced he will take personal responsibility for women’s issues. Photo: Andrew Meares

It’s been almost two weeks since Tony Abbott stood before the nation, the proud winner of So You Think You Can Prime Minister? Now that the votes have been counted, the confetti swept up and the virginal dresses of his support crew sent off to the dry cleaners, it’s time to get down to business.

Part of what endeared Abbott to the viewers was his fondness for three word slogans that appear easy to understand but on closer inspection actually reveal nothing. And so, Tones has pledged to ‘cut the fat’, which in Prime Ministerial speak means, ‘fire a crapload of people’. Don’t worry though, they’re only public servants and everyone knows they don’t deserve jobs.

Where else would a good Prime Ministerial victor start with simplifying things but with the Ministries, with their overblown titles and ‘goal setting’? Australians don’t want all those bloody words filling up their heads. We’re a simple folk. We like beer, football and boobs in that order and we don’t care to analyse it. Tones knows this, which is why we can now proudly face the world and show off the fact we no longer have a Minister for Science, but we’ve still got one for Sport. ‘Straya!

Tony Abbott speaking at the Singleton Rugby Club luncheon. Photo: Phil Hearne

Personally, I don’t reckon Old Mate PM’s gone far enough on this though. Don’t get me wrong – I support cutting namby pamby portfolios about things like ‘climate change’ (more like cLIEmate change, am I right?) and ‘mental health’. In my day, people just got on with things. Sure, they may have been miserably depressed and consumed by the Darkness That Knows No Form, but they didn’t bloody well have to whinge about it all the time like a bloody whoopsie. Gay.

But I reckon there’s room to add a couple of things. You know, restore Australia to its former glory – to a time when white, heterosexual men of privilege didn’t have to be afraid to speak their minds, or apologise for giving the tea lady an affectionate swat on the bottom and telling her you like her muffins. By all means, trim the fat of wasteful rubbish like ‘saving the environment’ (you gotta build out to grow up, people!) but let’s consider honouring some of the following by giving them their own portfolios.

1. Ministry for Ironing and Cleaning

Those people who accuse Tones of not getting women need to do their bloody research, mate. Tony loves women, which is why he so famously expressed concern for how the carbon tax would drive up their electricity bills what with all that ironing we’re always doing. Oh, and you feminazis will shriek and squeal all you like, but we all know that you’re just bitter that you don’t have a man to iron shirts for. Because men and women are different, see? It doesn’t mean they’re not equal – but women are probably better suited to things like physiotherapy and housework, while men are suited to running things. That’s why the Minister for Ironing and Cleaning has to be a man – because they delegate. And they’re good with numbers, so they can help you add up all of the collars you still have left to do.

2. Ministry for Mateship

Nothing spells A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A better than M-A-T-E-S-H-I-P. We love our mates here, but not in that way. The Ministry for Mateship would celebrate all of the beautiful friendship that’s characterised by the good old Aussie larrikin spirit. Like masculinised mythology, and men’s only sporting leagues with their men’s only pay checks. The Ministry for Mateship recognises that part of what makes Australia great is how feverishly it embraces alcoholic male bonding. Let’s bring back foxy boxing and jelly wrestling, gentlemen’s only networking clubs and socially acceptable group sex in which there’s only one woman and no one talks to her! It’s mateship, mate. Because you can’t spell friendships without ‘pissed’.

3. Ministry for Marriage

Real marriage, I mean. Not that other ‘fashionable’ marriage. The gay kind where no one knows who’s the man or who’s the woman. How can you get married if you don’t know which one’s supposed to throw the bouquet? No, the Ministry for Marriage would make it easier [read: harder] to get out of love contracts once you’ve made the mistake of getting into them. God created marriage so that men could come home at the end of the day to a clean house and scotch, and a piping hot dinner on the table when he’s ready for it. He didn’t create marriage so that women could keep their own names and insist on working even though they’ve already achieved their life’s goal of procreating. All this freedom puts funny ideas into women’s heads, and as a delicate species they’re not properly equipped to handle the pressures of the world at large. It’s because they’re physiologically different, see. Anyway, the Ministry for Marriage would put a stop to all that rubbish. Headed up by Barnaby Joyce (who knows that marriage offers the best protection to women, against what I’m not particularly sure but that’s Barns for you), the Ministry for Marriage is the first step to fixing Australia and sending it back to the good old days of 1956.

Which is a handy coincidence, given that the newly appointed Minister for Sport is back there too, busily preparing for the upcoming Melbourne Olympics.

Good thing Abbott’s building all those roads. Cars! It’s the future!

Sex Appeal in Politics

Random Observations of Life

Tony Abbott copped a lot of flak in the media, mainstream and social, for introducing the candidate for Lindsay, Fiona Scott, by saying “I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal”.

Tracey Spicer wrote a great article for The Hoopla:

Too often, a woman’s stocks rise and fall on the value of her sexuality. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wanted to scream, “Stop looking at my tits and listen to what I have to say!”

Then in middle age, we are disappeared by the diminution of this appeal.

Clementine Ford wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald:

Some people have leapt on the comments as evidence of Abbott’s inherent misogyny, but that’s being a little opportunistic. Abbott isn’t a misogynist (he owns four women, remember?) any more than he is a worthy candidate to run the country.

Ed Butler wrote a piece for AusVotes2013

View original post 1,388 more words

What’s it got to do with me?


July 15, 2013

Sam de Brito

All Men are Liars

Sam de Brito takes the pulse of Aussie manhood.

Lovin’ those no shared borders.

After the Adam Goodes/Eddie McGuire fiasco kicked off last month, I heard the return of one of my favourite White Person Excuses: “I didn’t kill any Aborigines or take their land, what’s it got to do with me?”

It’s kinda sweet Aussies have retained this live-and-let-live attitude because it’s one that’d see you in a teensy bit of trouble in thousands of different parts of the world.

As of this moment, Australia and the good ole’ bustling Arctic are the only two places where there’s not some kind of ongoing territorial dispute between a national or sub-national entity.

The majority of these disputes are non-violent but most of them are also old; older than tall ships, muskets and keeping Indigenous Australians in pet collars.

It seems to be a universal human trait – when someone steals your land and kills your relatives, you remember it for a long, long time.

The Middle East and Balkans are handy reminders of the elephantine memories people have for atrocities committed against their forebears.

History is not linear in many cultures: the repression of the Hazara people – who often end up on Australian naval vessels as refugees from Afghanistan – dates back to them sharing too much blood with the Mongols, who killed everybody they could get their hands on in Afghanistan and Persia 800 years ago.

Of course, in places like Syria, Sudan, Mali, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt, things are even more heated and what you did or did not do makes as little difference as what your great-grandparents did or did not do.

There are vicious square-ups happening in those countries right at this moment dating back hundreds of years and in others (thanks to the Shiite/Sunni divide) over a thousand.

So, whenever I hear “what’s it got to do with me?”, I suggest we’re kind of a special case here in Australia because …

1. We’ve no shared borders with expansionist neighbours with whom we have long-standing bad blood and …

2. We reduced the Indigenous population to a numerical minority that struggles to insist we rethink history from their point of view.

Of course, the other side of the “what’s it’s got to do with me”? coin is our shared human heritage.

You might just as well ask “what does electricity have to do with me?” as you open your fridge. Or agriculture? Or aspirin? Or numbers and letters?

Every newborn inherits an immense body of knowledge, delivered via a struggle that’s dragged humanity up the ladder from supernatural to legendary and now scientific explanations of the world and, frankly, that’s also got nothing to do with you.

You didn’t invent democracy, currency, navigation, hygiene, law and order or shower heads – but you benefit from them every day.

It’s simple humility to respect the debt we owe billions of great minds, soldiers and civilians for where we are now in history.

It’s also common decency to recognise that with the good, we also should accept responsibility for the bad.

When that comes to Indigenous Australians, a humble acknowledgement of past injustices is a nice place to start.


Coward troll to Rabbitohs’ star Greg Inglis – “I steered (sic) in your face for more than a hour”


NRL joins hunt for troll behind Inglis racial slur

July 24, 2013

Glenn Jackson
Rugby League Writer

Greg Inglis with partner Sally Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The racial slur against Greg Inglis on social media has attracted the ire of the highest office in the sport, with NRL chief executive Dave Smith condemning the online comments while promising assistance in identifying the perpetrator.

Smith described the Instagram post aimed at Inglis, the South Sydney fullback, and his wife Sally as “abhorrent” on Wednesday night as the Rabbitohs players rallied around their teammate.

“Racism in any form is abhorrent and contrary to every value our game,” Smith said. “This applies on the field, in the grandstand and in any walk of life.

Racial abuse: A troll has targeted Greg Inglis and his wife highly offensive comments to a picture on Instagram. Photo: Getty Images

“Greg is a wonderful athlete and a great role model for our game, and this attack on him and his family is shameful.”

Souths officials have been trying to track down the source of the unsavoury post, which was directed at Inglis and his wife on Tuesday night. The NRL will also investigate “the extent to which the person can be identified and what action can be taken”.

The post was written as a comment on an Instagram photo of the Test representative and wife. In response, Inglis took a screenshot and forwarded the offending remarks to journalists on Twitter.

Read more

And here’s a sample of comments made by NRL identities in support of Inglis. Moreover, the majority of readers’ comments in the SMH were supportive of him and disgusted with the cowardly troll.

Nathan Merritt: “It’s not appropriate. But I think it’s going to get taken care of. There’s no place in the world for it.”

Rabbitohs’ prop Jeff Lima described the act as cowardly.

“These things need to be stamped out,” Lima said. “The sooner they stamp it out, the better it’ll be for everyone. There’s a lot of bad people in the world.”

Roy Asotasi : “Racism is not acceptable in this country or anywhere…the more that we’re open about it, and aware that there is racism out there, we can obviously prevent it from happening,”

The sickening comment read in part: “I steered [sic] in your face for more than a hour trying to classify your race but I failed I didn’t not find any human catagories[sic] to classify you on it.”

It went on to further disparage Inglis’ background and his relationship with his wife. Inglis re-posted the comment on his Twitter account, with the hashtag “#racism#it#stops#with#me”.(SMH)

The troll trawls Instagram and associated sites under the nick “beauty_lovero”. It uses a stock photo of movie star Jennifer Aniston as its profile pic.


The whole tone of the comment has the stench of white supremacist about it.

It makes unwanted comments under photographs of young women. It also makes disparaging comments under pictures which it doesn’t like. For instance there was a shot of American parents and their adopted multiracial family which Coward objected to. The offensive comment was removed, probably by one of the parents.

Here are some more comments from random sites. Obviously English is not one of Coward’s strong points, nor is sanity.



We like to imagine what the NRL would do if it ever got hold of that cowardly creep

And Facebook owns Instagram. Given Mark Zuckerberg’s cavalier and careless attitude towards racism we are probably not surprised.


Noisy bigots drown out silent bias


April 4, 2013 – 4:04PM

Our real problem is the subterranean racism that goes largely unremarked upon and that we seem unable even to detect.

As opening lines in letters go, “I find you deeply offensive”, is pretty direct. Fair enough. I suspect lots of people do. It’s a natural consequence of media work. But then my anonymous correspondent decided to explain why: “You are foreign, you shall always be so. Piss off back to whatever Middle Eastern sinkhole you blew in here from.”

There’s nothing surprising about this. There’s nothing even particularly rare about it. Some version of that letter arrives every few months. This one was particularly unvarnished – complete with references to my wife and “half-caste kids” and cheerful threats of the return of the White Australia Policy – but the message hardly varies: this isn’t my country and my public presence is unwelcome, either because I’m a Muslim, or because in some racially determinable way not a “real” Australian. I’ve been accused of everything from taking elocution lessons to changing the spelling of my name to appear deceptively Australian before I unleash some Trojan conspiracy. Apparently, Aly is roughly equivalent to Smith. They’re onto me.

I have almost no emotional reaction to this kind of goonish racism. It’s simply too ridiculous to engage me. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about this most recent letter until racist ranting hit the headlines this week following yet another racist diatribe on a Sydney bus that was captured and posted to YouTube. It’s at least the third such case in about four months. Hence the fresh round of debate on Australian racism that always seems to follow the same unedifying pattern.

Racist rant … a screengrab of the video posted on YouTube.

First comes the shock, as though such incidents reveal something we never knew existed. Then comes the argument over whether or not Australia is a racist country. Frankly, I don’t know what the argument means. Every country has racism. How much do you need before a country itself is racist? Is it a matter of essence or degree? Do we judge it by surveying legislation, newspapers or behaviour on public transport? And even if we can answer those questions, then what?

That argument is a dead end. It’s more about a condemnatory label than the substance and nature of Australian racism. The real question is not about which adjective describes us. It’s about how best to identify and respond to the racism we inevitably harbour.

Debating the meaning of the occasional racist tirade does not help answer that. It’s just not that helpful to take extreme individual behaviour as the starting point on an issue like this. Sure, it’s troubling. Sure, it’s more common than we like to admit. Sure, it’s a problem. But it’s not the problem. The racism that really matters in Australia isn’t the high-level, weapons-grade derangement that winds its way via YouTube into the news.

Waleed Aly Photo: James Brickwood


The truth is we can’t compete with Europe for hardcore white nationalism or the US for white supremacist movements. We can’t compete with Asia or the Middle East for the maintenance of an explicit, institutionalised and sometimes codified racial hierarchy. Our racial and religious minorities are not having their communities torched (though the occasional building has been firebombed), and our handful of far-right politicians aren’t leading political parties that attract 20 per cent of the vote.

No, our real problem is the subterranean racism that goes largely unremarked upon and that we seem unable even to detect. Like the racism revealed by an Australian National University study, which found you are significantly less likely to get a job interview if you have a non-European name. The researchers sent fake CVs in response to job advertisements, changing only the name of the applicant. It turns out that if your surname is Chinese, you have to apply for 68 per cent more jobs to get the same number of interviews as an Anglo-Australian. If you are Middle Eastern, it’s 64 per cent. If you are Indigenous, 35 per cent.

This is the polite racism of the educated middle class. It’s not as shocking as the viral racist tirades we’ve seen lately. No doubt the human resources managers behind these statistics would be genuinely appalled by such acts of brazen, overt racism. Indeed, they probably enforce racial discrimination rules in their workplace and are proud to do so. Nonetheless, theirs is surely a more devastating, enduring racism. There is no event to film, just the daily, invisible operation of a silent, pervasive prejudice. It does not get called out. It’s just the way things are; a structure of society.

That is what bothers me about all the fuss that surrounds these occasional racist diatribes. It puts the focus overwhelmingly on the most exceptional kinds of racist behaviour. But are we capable of recognising racism when it isn’t gobsmackingly obvious? Recall, for example, the widespread failure to understand why former Telstra boss Sol Trujillo felt racially offended at being caricatured relentlessly as a sleepy, sombrero-wearing Mexican on a donkey, or described as a “Mexican bandit”. Certainly, criticise his management of Telstra but can we really not see the gratuitous racial stereotyping? And Trujillo is not even Mexican.

Or note the strange Australian comfort with adopting blackface. Remember when Qantas gave two Wallabies fans free tickets because they promised to dress as Radike Samo by blacking up and donning Afro wigs? No offence meant. Qantas apologised. But that’s the thing about racism: it goes beyond intentions. The most insidious kind is just so ingrained it’s involuntary. It’s not about what Qantas intended. It’s that no one responsible for the decision even saw the existence of the problem. That sort of thing worries me much more than some crude, anonymous hate mail.

It’s easy to point at the barking racists on the bus precisely because they aren’t us. They allow us to exonerate ourselves; to declare that if we have a problem with racism, at least people like us are not responsible for it. It allows us to escape self-examination of the racism we all probably harbour to some extent or other. That self-examination is crucial. Without it we have nothing to fix, and only other people to blame.

Waleed Aly presents Drive on Radio National.


Asian tourists abused on public transport

A man was captured on film abusing a middle-aged couple of Asian appearance on a Sydney bus, in another instance of racial abuse aboard public transport.

Another instance of racist abuse has reportedly been recorded on a Sydney bus.

A Caucasian man was captured on film abusing a middle-aged couple of Asian appearance, swearing at them and ranting about the Japanese bombing of Australia during World War II.

At one point the Asian man began apologising but it did not placate his abuser, who continued yelling, Fairfax Media reported.

The incident occured on the 470 bus from Circular Quay to Lilyfield in Sydney on Sunday evening.

A 30-year-old office worker of Chinese descent, Heidi, said she and another passenger told the man to get off the bus but were ignored. She then began filming the incident.

Heidi, who asked the Herald that her surname not be recorded, said no other passengers said anything.

“We didn’t receive any support from the other passengers,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Some told us to sit back down and be quiet and everyone just looked really blase.

No one did anything about it. In fact, two girls sitting next to me thought it was funny and burst into laughter.”

This is the latest in a string of videos to be posted, showing racial abuse on public transport.

Last year an attack on a French woman who was singing in French made headlines.

Two people abused the woman and made threats of violence against her.

Earlier this year, ABC Newsreader Jeremy Fernandez was racially abused on a Sydney bus in the presence of his daughter.


And there’s more

‘What if that happened to my mother?’: Man who stood up to bus racism told to accept abuse

April 2, 2013 – 1:52PM
Rachel Olding

Rachel Olding


Racist bus rant backlash

A second witness to a racist attack on a Sydney bus has come forward to say he was also targeted in the anti-Asian rant, and told by fellow passengers not to challenge his abuser.

Meanwhile the woman who used social media to publicise the attack has become the victim of further abuse online.

Yong Wang, a Chinese-Australian man, said he stood up on the 470 bus to Lilyfield on Easter Saturday to defend a middle-aged man and woman of Korean appearance who were being racially abused by a Caucasian man.

Racist rant … a screengrab of the video posted on YouTube.

Yet the man then turned on Mr Wang.

“He started to accuse the Korean lady in the video [for] not being able to speak English,” he said. “The lady’s son started to apologise and explain she is a tourist. Then he got worse.”

Another woman, who came forward yesterday and only wanted to be known as Heidi, backed Mr Wang’s intervention but said they didn’t receive any support from the other passengers, who either looked away, told them to sit down or laughed.

Mr Wang said people had told him not to argue with the man as he appeared drunk.

“I felt that I had to stand up when he called the lady disgusting because I just thought ‘what if that happened to my mother when she was visiting Australia?’,” Mr Wang said.

In the latter part of the rant, which Heidi caught on film, the Caucasian man yells at the Asian tourists about the Japanese bombing of Australia during World War II and calls them “f—ing bastards”.

Before the camera started rolling, the man yelled racist taunts such as, “Do you f—ing speak English?”, “Japanese c—s” and “why did you come to Australia?”, predominantly at the woman, said Heidi, a 30-year-old office worker of Chinese descent.

Since posting the video on YouTube and urging people to share it if it “upsets you”, Heidi has been subject to abuse and the YouTube page has been bombarded with racist, sexist and abusive comments.

Most of the 350 comments on the video attack the victims of the rant or those who stood up for them.

City Central police are contacting witnesses to ask if they would like to make a formal statement which would initiate an investigation into the incident.

A State Transit spokesman said CCTV footage and assistance would be provided to police if required.

Bus drivers can try to intervene to ask a passenger to leave a bus if an incident of anti-social behaviour occurs but they have no power to force a passenger off.

They can contact a supervisor via radio and organise for police to meet the bus, a spokesman said.

A leading racism researcher, Kevin Dunn, said the majority of bystanders will do nothing to intervene in a racist attack, usually because they don’t know what they should do.

He said witnesses could say something to the offender, film the incident or report it to an authority.

“In circumstances where people do speak up, the affirming effect on the victim can almost be so positive that it cancels out the effects of the racism,” he said.

The incident is the latest in a string of racist rants on public transport to be filmed or shared on social media.

In February, ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez tweeted about being called a “black c—” who should “go back to his country” by a female passenger on a Sydney bus. He was told by the bus driver to move seats but refused to.

In November last year, footage of a racist attack on a French woman on a Melbourne bus went viral after she was called a dog by male passengers, threatened with having her breasts cut off and told to “speak English or die”.

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