Sarah Price, smh
September 28, 2008
NSW is the most racist state in Australia, a 10-year study has found.
Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project also found that while Australians were largely welcoming of diversity, the view of national identity was still narrow.
The first results of the study will be unveiled at the 4Rs international conference - Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility - at the University of Technology, Sydney, which starts on Tuesday. The full results will be released early next year, with the data to be used by human rights and anti-discrimination agencies across Australia to implement strategies specific to the needs of each region.
The study, led by human geography and urban studies professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, found high rates of migration meant NSW, on average, was the least tolerant of all the states and territories.
It scored highest when people were asked if Australia was weakened by ethnic groups sticking to their old ways and if there were any cultural or ethnic groups that did not fit into Australian society.
"If you were to do a very crude comparison to other states, NSW doesn't do quite so well, but there are lots of reasons why," Professor Dunn said.
A high rate of migration concentrated in Sydney meant a higher rate of encounters with different cultures and a greater cause for friction.
"It means that much of the work of accommodating diversity is done within Sydney," he said.
"It's done well. This [finding] isn't something necessarily that we should be overly anxious about.
It just means that there is more opportunity for poor cross-cultural contacts to have occurred."
With regard to Camden, the scene of a public fight against a planned Islamic school, Professor Dunn said: "A flare-up about an Islamic school in Camden is somewhat exacerbated in that area as it is a place that hasn't really dealt with cultural difference historically. But if you look at the data on Camden, [its residents] are no different than the norm in terms of their attitudes towards Muslims."
Ashfield, however, came out positively in nearly every aspect of the study, thanks to long-term encounters with diverse cultures.
"It could be one of the most tolerant areas in Sydney," he said.
Women were found to be more tolerant than men, with one exception - attitudes towards Muslims.
Dr Anne Pedersen, a social psychologist from Murdoch University, said the study findings were vital.
"You hear that Australia is an accepting country but we're just so diverse," she said. "Some are [tolerant], some are not, but sweeping this under the carpet does no good whatsoever."
Asma Yusra, a 21-year-old Muslim from Lakemba who will speak at the conference, said "I love the Australian culture, the music and food," but she has suffered racial prejudices.
In one incident, she recalls being at Town Hall station and having a man throw a newspaper at her face, opened at a story about a terrorist attack.
"I was deeply hurt by that experience. I feel just as Australian as everyone else. I was born and raised here," she said.
She is optimistic about the future, saying the children of migrant parents were working in their communities for tolerance.