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A Diverse Australia

Masterchef Australia 2012 Top 24 Contestants

So, yesterday, ‘Dumb, Drunk and Racist’ was trending on Twitter at about the same time that I was chatting to one of my best friends, who happens to be Australian. He mentioned the show, and I thought it sounded intriguing, if a little incendiary. I went and looked at the top tweets at the time and read quite a few of them with interest; most of them appeared to be laments from open-minded Australians who sounded genuinely regretful of the way their country was portrayed in the world. Then I forgot about it for a few hours until I signed into Twitter again. It was still trending. This time I went and read the other tweets under ‘all’ and not just the top ones. I was curious as to what everyone was saying.

As you know, curiosity isn’t always a good thing.

To put it simply, I was quite saddened at the anti-India sentiments that were being expressed; there were a lot of ultimatums being made and a lot of anger was zipping about on the interwebs. ‘If you don’t like it here, then fuck off, because you’re all as brown as muck’, screamed one tweeter, while another attempted to be the calming voice (apparently) with, ‘Hey, you guys, you know we need Indians here – who else is going to clean the bog and drive our taxis?’ ‘I wonder how Pakistanis are treated in diverse India’, said another tweet. I wanted to respond with ‘Well enough that there are several thousand here illegally’, but I kept my thoughts to myself. It’s true too; of course there has been a crackdown on illegal Pakistanis living here post the Mumbai blasts, but this is India. We’re the country that invented the chalta-hai attitude.

The same user tweeted again with ‘Wonder why Sri Lankans sail thousands of miles to Australia instead of twenty miles to India?’ and I had to chuckle. Clearly they are not very aware of the facts; they have no idea that India is currently host to not only Tibetan refugees, but also hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees as well. I shrugged and stopped reading at that stage. It was depressing.

I know what it’s like to feel foreign in a strange country, and I know what it’s like to be attacked because you’re foreign. The two times I did get racially attacked was in Sydney, in Australia, but this was back in the late nineties. I haven’t been back to Australia since, but I’m perfectly willing to give Australia another go. I have several Australian friends I’d like to visit someday soon. Heck, two of my best friends are Australian.

I wanted to tell people that it’s okay to share your country; it’s good to learn about other cultures, and it’s good to be tolerant. People who are tolerant aren’t anti-white, as most of your tweets claimed; they’re just pro-diversity. I wanted to say a lot of things, but I didn’t say them. Instead I shut the computer down because it distressed me.

But later, as I sat in my kitchen with a glass of wine, watching my cats chase down a ball of twine, I remembered something. I remembered watching Masterchef Australia’s (my favourite version of Masterchef) contestant line-up for this year’s season, and I remembered how I felt when I saw the top 24 for the first time. The diverse group of contestants thrilled me, and I remember thinking: They are the best advertisement for Australia.

That’s the Australia I want to love again. And I rather have a feeling that I will.


  • stace8383 22nd June 2012 at 7:44 am

    I think – or rather, I hope – that the negative things you read are a very small minority of the views of Australians… it’s just a very vocal minority. Also, the internet is a very easy place to say anything with no fear of retribution; if you met those same people in real life they would probably just smile at you – no matter what they actually thought – because to do anything else would have consequences!

    • Awanthi Vardaraj 22nd June 2012 at 11:17 am

      I suppose I dream of a day when people will be nice and accepting even when they are faceless entities on the internet! To be honest, the ‘top tweets’ were all on those very accepting lines; people who were horrified at the international perception of their country, people who were hoping that the ‘dumb drunk racist’ people were only a minority. I was very glad to read those sentiments and very glad too at the diverse representation of Australia in the Masterchef Australia 2012 Top 24 contestants. I really do think Australia _is_ heading in the right direction.

  • Linda Maloly 25th June 2012 at 10:09 am

    So sad…I never knew Australia had that kind of reputation until I read an article several weeks ago. Multicultural diversity is advantageous, but the truth is evidently an ugly one. This is the link to the article I read…I wonder what my own country’s reputation is.

    • Awanthi Vardaraj 25th June 2012 at 11:59 am

      It came as a shock to me too – and my shock was _after_ I went there. It was then that I did some reading about Australia’s history and I was surprised that it was rather an ugly one as far as multiculturalism goes. The ‘white Australia’ policy ended – I think it was in 1979 (but I’m not sure; I’ll have to look it up in a second) – and that means that people of _my generation_ were raised by people with that sort of a racist mentality, and many of the people went on to have children, and their mentality never really readjusted. 🙁 But many many people shrugged it all off and embraced being a melting pot for all the good that it does, and I say kudos to them, because for a while there they must have been in the minority. But hopefully that has changed and they’re now in the majority.

      I didn’t have any bad experiences in the US, despite travelling to the deep south (which I was warned about, but I experienced such hospitality there, especially in Georgia). But I think the world’s view of the US is quite skewered by the fact that people still remember the LA riots, and of course the shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo and Trayvon Martin don’t really help the US case, do they?

      • Linda Maloly 25th June 2012 at 11:51 pm

        Australia’s history just boggles my mind. I find is sad, shocking, and disgusting. With the history of Aboriginal discrimination I shouldn’t be shocked. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, but without friends to draw me there it will be all to easy to concentrate on other destinations. I think you’re right about the 1979 date and it appears that people move very slowly in their acceptance of change. It’s a painful road for many countries.

        Many in the U.S. felt that our own racial ugliness had disappeared, but it still exists and we’ve only seen it because of Barack Obama’s election. Although it’s sad, I think many of the issues are caused by his color although I think some of the Washington refusal to work with him may be outright jealousy. The thing in the south is that we are always friendly and gracious, but some definitely have issues with African-Americans (and even women) running for office. Some people (old-timers and those they’ve raised) cannot let go of their prejudice. In 2008 (our last presidential election) there were people who refused to vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because of gender and race. The prejudice runs deep with some, but it’s well-hidden and I think as far as color it’s mainly a prejudice against African Americans. You may be considered a person of color in other countries, but you wouldn’t draw much notice here (except for your beauty). I think a lot of people correctly realize that the U.S. is very definitely a melting pot and it’s something that most of us are very proud of. After all, with the exception of the American Indians, we all have an immigrant background.

        You rarely hear anything about the L.A. riots anymore. They were briefly back in the news when Rodney King died, but they’re not something we think of. We don’t hear much about Amadou Diallo either, I’m sure because it happened 12 or 13 years ago. It was back in the news when Trayvon Martin was killed, but it’s already dropped out of story line again. Heaven knows what will happen when the Trayvon Martin case goes to trial. Regardless of what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon, we will never hear both sides of the story. What I do know is that the police dispatcher specifically told George Zimmerman to go back inside because police were very close by. If he had done that I believe police would have have been able to sort things out without any violence. It just sickens me.

        None of these cases help the world view of us, but I think more people are upset by the terrible things that are going on right now at the hands of right-wing conservatives who want to take us back to the dark ages. That’s both disgusting and frightening. As a country we’re not even 300 years old and I still find that amazing…so much in such a short period of time.

    • Awanthi Vardaraj 25th June 2012 at 12:13 pm

      That is a VERY well-written article; thanks for linking me to it, Linda.

  • thehungrymum 28th June 2012 at 4:05 am

    As an Australia who lives very close to the site of the 2005 race riots I am mortified by all of this racist bile. I can only imagine what our reputation is like in India. *Hangs head in shame on behalf of ignorant racists*.

    • Awanthi Vardaraj 28th June 2012 at 3:10 pm

      I’m so glad that every single Australian I follow on Twitter or who is in my life feels this way! It really does give me hope that Australia may put its rather chequered history behind it and that it truly becomes a melting pot. 🙂


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