Australia may portray itself as a sunny, laid-back country, but recent news stories show race is still a major problem down under.
The Atlanta Blackstar recently ran a story about a video game that allowed users to play white settlers who kill Aboriginals, the native people of Australia. Aboriginals are dark-skinned people who are believed to have migrated from Africa 75,000 years ago. Although they were the first people to settle Australia, Aboriginals were massacred by British settlers and now make up only 2.7 percent of the nation’s population.
However, a recent news story by Australian newspaper The Busselton-Dunsborough Mail said two white Ballarat residents decided to attend a party honoring Aussie icons in blackface.
Ted Lovett, an Aboriginal elder, was highly offended by the costumes, which he said were making light of a very sensitive issue.
“I’d like to see these young men put themselves in a black man’s skin for the day and then they can tell me racism doesn’t exist,” said Lovett. “Do you ever see an Aboriginal painting their skin white to make fun of a white Australian?”
He also said the costumes showed Australia had a long way to go when it came to racism.
The two men were also widely condemned on social media. Twitter user Teddy Farm said the costumes showed a lack of progress in Ballarat. He tweeted:
@ballaratcourier I haven’t been to Ballarat in ages, it doesn’t look like it’s changed. Police don’t do enough about blatant racism there.
— Teddy Farm (@TeddyFarm) December 18, 2015
A Facebook user called Sis Austin said some people defended the picture when it was posted on the site.
“After stating that this was pure racism the individual and a group of this persons friends all stood up and argued that this is not racism and that ‘aboriginal people have it easier than everyone else in this country,’” she said.
But Sis Austin said she was sticking to her criticism of the photo.
“I do not care how many friends I lose if it means fighting for what is right and fighting for the respect and understanding of Aboriginal culture in this country,” she wrote.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only racial incident involving the town of Ballarat, which is located in the Australian state of Victoria. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website reported that an Indian immigrant was attacked in a Ballarat liquor store. Sumeet Anand, who owns an Indian restaurant, said he was verbally and physically assaulted.
The man attacked Anand in front of his wife and son and told him, “You go back to your country.” Anand has lived in Australia for 35 years.