News from Australia: « Australia Day in Sydney : When a National holiday turns into a racist journey »

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While hundreds of acres were burning down in Victoria and New South Wales (Australia), a nationalist, racist fever triggered by the traditional celebration of the Australian nation raised the yet-crazy high temperature on Sydney’s northern beaches on January 26th, echoing the ugly 2005 Cronulla riots.

It was supposed to be all about Australian tradition and a celebration of Captain Arthur Philip’s foundation of the first convicts’ colony in Port Jackson, where stands today the modern city of Sydney. But it turned into an afternoon of deep violence and racism, and a mental revival of the islamophobic riots that shaked Sydney and its Western suburbs, four summers ago.

Wild brawls led by hundreds of angry, drunk teenagers were reported on Sydney’s popular family beaches, with youths draped in « Aussie pride » and chantering racist slogans declaring « F—k off we’re full », « Let’s go f__k with the Lebs » (Lebanese) , « If you’re white and you know it clap your hands » and chanting the nationalist motto « Aussie Aussi Aussie » smashing car windows and damaging shop awnings along the main road and beachfront street of one of Sydney’s most popular surfing beach. Several non-white Australians were assaulted, among whose Sikh Indian taxi driver and a 18-year-old female who was showered with shattering glass, giving her several cuts to her arms.

Yet, Commander Darcy from Manly Beach local police failed to acknowledge the racist undertones of the mob : « To suggest that there were racial overtones there is, I think, way over the top, » he said. Dr Burridge, a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney commented on the opposite : « It was a mix of hoodlums who had obviously been drinking as well but, to me, there was also an underlying element of racism dressed up as nationalism. »

Although Australia virtually remains the most multicultural nation in the world as well as an example in its capacity to instaure a relatively good social cohesion in spite of a multiplicity of diverse ethnic backgrounds, its symbols of nationalism sadly keep being stained by racism, anger and violence to its minorities. As Stephan Kerkyasharian, chairman person of the Community Relations Comission declared last summer in an interview, commenting on the Cronulla riots, when symbols of Australian nationalism come together with a diversity of backgrounds and religions, the situation still is, four years after the Cronulla riots, very volatile.

By Veronique Pret

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