31 July 2018

anti-Sudanese racism in Australia. Shame, ministers, shame!!

My entire ancestry comes from Russia, my in-laws all came from Czecho­slovakia and our descendants live in Aus­tr­al­ia and Israel. Thus I no personal connection to Sudan. None­theless the Sudanese have been savaged by racist attacks from Australia’s conservative Federal Government. We need to act!

The BBC News 18th Jan 2018 noted that Melbourne is a place of stunning architecture, celebrated lane ways and tree-lined boulevards, of major cultural and sporting events. For seven straight years, Melb­our­ne’s 4.2 million inhabitants enjoy top-level healthcare, infrastructure and education in the World’s Most Liveable City. So why would Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton say Melburnians were scared to go out to restaur­ants, for fear of violence? And why would his conservative ally, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, concur?

This serene city has reputedly witnessed spor­adic eruptions of youth gang violence. Many of those involved have been African Australians, the Minister said. [Sometimes he specified Sud­anese; otherwise I will use his more general label, African].

Police announced the establishment of a youth crime taskforce involving senior members of the African-Australian community. But this has led others to allege that the issue has been sens­ational­ised by right-wing media, politicians and white nat­ion­alist groups. All of this has played out amid intense debate about what African Gangs are, and police insistence that crime rates in Melbourne are actually falling.

The story started in January 2015, when the Apex Gang - whose members of African origin had been linked to car jackings, assaults and burglaries - drew police attention after fights.

Aliier Aliier, champion footballer, born 1994
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya to South Sudanese parents

Majak Daw, champion footballer, born 1991
His family fled the Sudanese Civil War, first to Egypt then to Australia in 2003

Joseph Deng, record breaking athlete, 
born in a refugee camp in Kenya to Sudanese parents in 1998
Daily Mail

In late 2017 trouble flared again, with a fight in a cafe in­v­olving 60 youths “of African appearance”, a street riot after the trashing of an Airbnb house, and the assault of a police officer by a gang of youths “of Af­rican appearance”. The in­cid­ents have dominated national news coverage, with another Federal Minister Greg Hunt saying: "African gang crime in some areas in particular is out of control." The prime minister, mean­while, blamed Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for "growing gang violence and lawlessness".

The violent episodes, and the racist responses, sparked anti-immigration calls from some. Stop Immigration comments littered Victoria Police's Facebook page. Amid such racist scrutiny, interpretations of crime data have fuelled the deb­ate differently. Last October, a parliamentary inquiry on migrant settlement heard from Victoria's Crime Statistics Agency.  After Australian-born offenders, New Zealanders made up 2.3% of all criminals, the people born in India (1.3%), in Vietnam (1.2%) and Sudan (1%). They noted that the tiny Sudanese com­m­unity comprised only .2% of the state's pop­ulation. So Sudanese-Australians were indeed a bit over­represented in these crime statistics.

In any case VCSA statistics showed a 5% drop in the annual number of crimes in Victoria. Social welfare workers agreed, saying the anti-Sudanese rhetoric has been wildly exaggerated, driven by the politics of fear. Anthony Kelly, of Melbourne's Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, found that Victoria doesn’t have a youth crime wave, ethnic or otherwise, so the attention the Africans are receiving is extra­ordinary. Sadly the over-the-top media reportage had strengthened the arm of white nation­al­ist groups, who write to media outlets, politicians and police about the supposed threat of African communities.

Victoria Police said the new taskforce would establish more efficient channels to engage with African-Australian leaders.

Yet consider a very recent event. The death of a South Sudan­ese lass in Melb­ourne's CBD was a tragic and needless loss of young life, but Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton still said (22th July 2018) it was indicative of a major law and order problem in Victoria. As police searched for her killer, Dutton linked the death to Victoria’s wider problems with crime. We don’t have these prob­­lems with Sudanese gangs in NSW or Queensland, he said.

And Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull renewed the debate over crime among African-Australian youths, expressing real concern about Sudanese gangs in Melbourne.

Victoria's African leaders accused Mr Turnbull of using the state's South Sudanese diaspora as a political football. But Minister Dutton doubled down on the sentiment, accus­ing Victorian State Premier Dan Andrews (Labour) of denial over the issue. "This is a problem that will not be fixed until the Premier actually admits there is a problem. Andrews can’t even admit Sudanese gangs exist so how can he hope to fix the problem. More people will get hurt or worse until the problem is fixed”.

Others weighed into the debate about Melbourne’s criminal Sudanese gangs. Arch-right wing journalist Andrew Bolt said in the Herald Sun  (4th July 2018) that Europe let in millions of Muslim illegal imm­ig­rants over the past 10 years. Now it's freaking, turning back the boats, banning the niqab and even demanding immig­rants in ghettos hand over their toddlers for deprogram­ming. But is it all too late (for Whites?)

In response, anti-racist protesters have shown that the damage racist attacks were doing to their community was inconceivable. All the Sudanese-Australian protesters wanted was a fair go in this society. They asked the politic­ians not to measure the comm­unity in skin colour. After all, any nationality was able to commit crime!

Credit: Face to Face Africa 

Simon wrote: There are problems caused by some young Australians of African heritage. They are constantly brought up by Mr Bolt. There are also some wonderful stories of achievement and hope by some great young African-Australians. Who can forget the breath-taking athleticism and sportsmanship of the two phen­om­enal African Australian footballers (Majak DawAliir Aliir)! Highly skilled young African/Australian engineers are finally being given a chance and contributing to the future of this country. Such stories of success and hope are many, but they are unlikely to be mentioned (by conservative ministers or journalists) because they do not fit the narrative. 

The widely circulated images of Daw and Aliir were powerful in two ways. Firstly as a perfect rejoinder to the recent vilification suffered by Australia's African community, and also as a source of inspiration to African-Australian boys trying to convince their parents to let them play football. Both men are widely respected coaches, mentors and development officers in the Sudanese community.

Note the talented Sudanese-Australian athlete Joseph Deng this month broke the long standing Australian 800m record in Monaco. The previous record had been set in 1962! After the sensationalist headlines about African crime gangs in Melbourne, we will await some mildly congratulatory, non-racist messages from Federal ministers to Joseph Deng.


Another Student said...

This sounds like Germany in the 1930s. But Jews didn't look different from others so they had to wear a star on their coats. Sudanese can be identified just by their height and colour, so no need for an identifying symbol.

Andrew said...

This is a very brave post Minister, sorry Hels. I take issue with a couple of points. Representatives of racial communities who succeed at sports are the exception. Many of Horn of Africa just live quietly and normally. I deal with them at times at work and I see them out and about in the community and mostly they are ok, but when they go wrong, they are terrifying. Yes, I am a victim of some such behaviour, via work. I've also had to deal with an elderly Anglo Australian woman terrified of them and in tears as she pleaded with them to just leave her alone. Yes, drug fuelled, but no threat of violence, just harassment. You really need to experience or see such a thing yourself to know what that is like to have a number of tall very dark drug fuelled African, perhaps actually Australian born, standing over you. At work, I can't afford to be nor have the time too be sympathetic to my customers, it is not the way my job works. Yet I did everything I could for this woman. It was a horrible experience for her.

I have no issues with the numbers of refugees we take in, but as I have mentioned a number of times on my own blog, it is the huge numbers we take in from one area at a time, which is perhaps only acceptable if they are under direct threat. Didn't we temporarily take in Kosovans? Refugees are queued from many countries to come to Australia. Yet our governments suddenly take in so many from one country, which leads to social and adjustment problems. The good folk are troubled, which leads to the right, yes Bolt, getting fuel with cheap and easy shots. Never mind that the right like immigrants as factory fodder, ah, 711 workers.

Politicians who play like Dutton will soon be history. I have great faith in young people to get these things right.

I nearly deleted my own post on the matter a few days ago, but then I saw something in it that was ok, so it will continue to be edited and then perhaps published.

LMK said...

Remember the Irish Gang a couple of years ago. Did we punish all Irish born males in qld?

Hels said...


I wonder if racism works in a similar way, in every nation and in every era. So not just in 1930s Germany.

Here is an example I often return to. Catholic King Louis XIV of France saw Protestant communities as criminal treason. He excluded Protestants from office and closed most of their churches. When that wasn't enough to stop the "criminals", in 1685 King Louis forced all Protestants to convert or to go into exile without their children or their assets.

Hels said...


thanks for the detailed response. Firstly I agree that being great at sport is not all that important. That is why I put sport only in the last two paragraphs. But in a tiny, recently arrived community, having successful role models for young men is essential. After all there are only 19,000 Sudanese in ALL of Australia.

Secondly when any group goes wrong, they can indeed be very scary. But how does it start? I know in Cronulla Beach, angry young lads with Mediterranean skins (Tunisian, Greek, Lebanese, Italian etc etc) faced off against angry white-skinned Australians. Was it because local beach users wanted Cronulla beaches for locals only, and displayed blatant racial prejudice against Middle Eastern males from distant West Sydney?

Hels said...


good comparison. I do remember the drug trafficking operation run by nasty Irish crims in Australia and I do remember that young Irish men were investigated and arrested in Queensland. Yet noone suggested that Irish-Australian males be banned from this country.

Mind you I suppose the African Apex Gang's carjacking, burglaries and assaults were also awful.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I’ve been working for twenty years in Sunshine, with kids from various African nations, though mostly Sudanese. Most of them are just ordinary kids getting on with their studies. I can’t help remembering the incident a few years ago when a young Sudanese man was bashed to death by crazy whites and a Liberal politician blamed the African community! Our Dinka language aide held a meeting of the Sudanese kids to beg them to stay out of the city for a few weeks till the pogroms were over. It infuriated me that this was even considered necessary.

As for the sport thing, why not? It’s this country’s religion! And sport is, largely, something the Sudanese kids I’ve encountered are excellent at. They play soccer. They run like the wind. (Their height helps. Many of my students arrived in Year 7 as small and cute and were towering over me before they reached Year 10). Why not be proud? One of my EAL students(who plays soccer AND runs) improved his reading level by five years in the course of two years of our school’s literacy program. Last year, he wrote a delightful poem about excuses for not writing a poem. Another of our former students starred in last year’s TV miniseries Sunshine. Actor, right? And a good one. But good at sport as well.

I think this is about getting votes back from the Pauline Hanson mob. As the recent by-elections show, it didn’t work for the rest of the population.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, When a group is perceived negatively and then given racial characteristics, the result will always be such discrimination as you describe (i.e., profiling). In a recent speech, Yale president Peter Salovey quoted civil rights activist Pauli Murray from 1945. "When my bothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them." More people should adopt this larger view.

Hels said...


your experience with the Sudanese community in the Western Suburbs seems very comprehensive, honest and important. My husband had medical practices in Sunshine, Werribee and Hoppers Crossing, and speaks very similarly about Sudanese patients. The teenage girls were gorgeous facially, had perfect manners and were very keen to seek and follow top quality medical advice. [Joe doesn't mention the teenage boys, but perhaps not caring about health care is an issue for all males in Australia].

I didn't mention the Pauline Hanson mob because they were always fringe-y and hopefully small in number. I wanted to focus on Federal Government ministers instead because they were supposed to serve the entire population, not to _lead_ vicious racism against minority communities.

Hels said...


it is so difficult, isn't it? Communities that have faced civil war, oppression or extermination in their birth countries have to leave home, sit in refugee camps for years until visas arrive, and finally travel to distant lands they don't know about.

There are very fine civil rights activists who welcome the new immigrants, and make their integration into the new country as comfortable as possible, but they seem to be in a minority. A friend of mine (Linda Briskman) co-authored an excellent book, "Human Rights Overboard: Seeking Asylum in Australia", that deals with a closely related topic.

Hels said...

"Going gang busters" in Australian English means having a powerful and positive impact on a situation eg The Beatles were going gang busters in the middle 1960s.

What a perfect expression for African-Australian sports stars who are winning gasps of admiration at every game.

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Hels said...


oppression of minority groups, on the basis of skin colour, sexual preferences or any other thing is intolerable. I will you well with your blog.

mem said...

This is such a difficult problem . Really I would like to see this discussed as a law and order issue which it is . The Fact that some have turned it into an issue of race is very bad indeed. Having said that the immigration of people into a country so incredibly different to the one they experienced , the violence to which they have been exposed and the loss of fathers by many of these large families before they were selected to come here ,means that they should have received a lot more support than many did. I remember working in the western suburbs of Melbourne about 20 years ago and seeing these large families headed by women who often didn't have the literacy to deal with Australian culture or the law and were also coming here having lived in pretty awful huge refugee camps where violence was a very common occurrence and thinking that there would be problems . We shouldn't be surprised . We should take these people as they have a right to a decent life but we also need to not be naive when we plan services and assistance to help them settle in . The vast majority are happy to be here and behave in an appropriate way but the few who act out on their grievance cause so much damage to the whole community . Everyone notices when a young African person is rude or inappropriate . and Mr Dutton is fanning the flames in a way that profoundly disgusts me . I agree with you Shame on him.

Hels said...


Yes! The immigration of people from the Old World into the New World has always created the transitional issues you have described. Yes the country of origin was always very different from the country of asylum, different in languages, education, military power, job opportunities, religious authorities, even climate.

The violence/oppression/slavery/Holocaust to which the families were exposed at home can never be overcome, _within_ the generation who emigrated. My mother in law wrapped spuds and buried them in Australia, from the day she arrived in 1951 until she died in 1994. She NEVER recovered from the Holocaust. Even worse if there was no father to protect the children.

But the generation of children who were quite young when they arrived in their new country CAN adapt and thrive. We have seen that with good services, the children can learn the new language fluently, go to school and uni, and get jobs they enjoy. And yes, those good services might truly cost the host country big money in service planning and provision.