For all the problems you see around the world, Melbourne has, I think, been generally peaceful when it comes to race relations. Indeed, there are plans afoot to permanently implant some cultures’ businesses into particular city streets — an extension of the concept already used in Chinatown that would spread to the Greek precinct, the Lygon Street Italian district, and possibly others.
But it seems the Sudanese community is under a lot of scrutiny just at the moment, not helped by immigration minister Kevin Andrews, who has cited lack of integration as a reason for culling the African migration quota. Why he did this is unclear, with the opposition pointing out that the decision was actually made on the basis of which refugees are in the most need, and that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has determined that the focus has moved to the Middle East for now.
The cynics might say Andrews is playing the race card coming into the election, that it’s this year’s Tampa.
Following the tragic death of Liep Gony at Noble Park, 17-year-old Ajang Gor was assaulted by four white men in Melton, who then used his phone to SMS abusive messages to his family. Gor summed up the situation with Kevin Andrews’ comments and the subsequent tabloid frenzy beautifully (and a hundred times more eloquently than his attackers):
“It’s been said that we Sudanese are misbehaving and that there is a higher rate of crime, but I’m not sure if all these accusations are right.
“I cannot deny that some Sudanese are misbehaving, but not all Sudanese are doing it. In every community there are bad people.”
Indeed, the UNHCR noted comments from Victorian police that “that Sudanese people are under-represented in crime statistics”.
Then yesterday morning it was reported a policeman in Noble Park had been bashed by at least one of a group of drunken youths (but notably helped by some of the others in the group).
Kevin Andrews weighed into this one, saying that the incident did not reflect “the Australian way of life”. But as police Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans pointed out to Jon Faine, “last night for example in Melbourne, at Maribyrnong and Mornington Pensinsula, similar sort of things happened”, and remarked that the common theme was not race, but young males and alcohol. Evans noted that the other two incidents wouldn’t get reported.
Faine went on to talk about it with Pat Dodson, making the points that breaking down the walls and celebrating different cultures, particularly with newer groups of immigrants such as Africans, is the way to encouraging harmony.
Bravo. Which reminds me, there’s an awesome Ethiopian restaurant in Footscray I can’t wait to get back to.