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Racism in Australia

Assessment: Literature Review

 This assignment requires you to complete a Literature Review on an aspect of the topic “Racism in Australia”The purpose of the assignment is to demonstrate your ability to read, synthesise and critically assess relevant literature; and demonstrate your ability to write a comprehensive discussion of the literature. 

The Literature review must demonstrate:

• Critical analysis of the literature.


Literature review


Racism indicates towards a systematic and pervasive assumption that certain group of people are inherently superior and the inferiority of others. This assumptions are evidently based on the predominant cultural differences in terms of values, behaviors and norms. The inferior in this case are treated less favorably and considered to be “different” from the majority. Racism refers to an oppressive practice that is perpetuated by profoundly established historical, cultural, social and unequal power structure of society. Racism is an emerging issue which has been subjected to debate specially in Australian context because this practice systematically involves power or authority for subjugation and unjust treatment and it leads to the creation of ‘self’ and ‘other’ where the subjugated find them to be in a devalued position. Racism in contemporary tiomes implicates a covert practice than the past. Racism has been an everyday issue for th aboriginals of Australia. In this study several themes are been identified in the light of racial history of Australia. Relevant themes have been discussed in details. Based on the identified themes arguments have been formulated in association with notable works on this issue. Along with that different theoretical approaches have been incorporated for the better understanding of the issue under study.

Construction of racism

Ranking groups by ‘inborn worth’, ‘cultural development’ or ‘difference in genetic capacity’ have been justified in the Western history. In the previous centuries several biological determinists have invoked prominent differences based on behavioral, economic and social diversity between human groups (Jonason, 2015). According to Gould society is an accurate reflection of the biological history and it has eventually gave birth to the inherited and inborn distinctions and termed them as classes, races and sexes.

Emergence of theories of race

In the mid Nineteenth century, different theories of race had emerged and it coincided with the establishment of modern science as the arbiter of truth and it provided the intellectual justification of imperial expansion, colonial subjugation with help of treatises like ‘natural selection’ theories of Darwin and later emphasized with the supposed science of eugenics. With the advent new science of human measurement pioneers of the discourse such as Samuel Morton, Louis Agassiz and Francis Galton invested majorly to the theories which relied on the skull measurement as the parameter to measure the superiority of the European brain (Dandy and Pe-Pua, 2015). But recent developments in the genetic based human diversity studies negates the previous fact completely and concludes that race has no concrete base in the fundamental biology and eventually the previous school of belief was abandoned by the scientists.

The biological concept of race is evidently questionable but what remains a highly salient fact is that the concept of race can be considered as evident social and political construct (Hage, 2014).

Identified themes and discussion

The typical expression of racism has changed remarkably in the recent times in much of the Western World and in Australia as well. Today it is not acceptable in the society to believe in racial superiority and overt expressions of the racist views (Mellor, 2003). In Australian context, evidently the norm of the egalitarianism is much stronger than before in the contemporary times. Although it does not indicate the disappearance of racism from society, rather racism has changed its form. It can be stated that the expression of racism has evolved through ages. Modern racism is more overt and different from the old-fashioned blatant racism and it involves discrimination and rejection of the minority groups in the society (Carey et al, 2017). The discrimination continues to limit the quantity of and the access to different resources which is available for a particular group. 

Studies in Australia have shown different aspects of racist expression and it subtly differs from the British and American values. In order to understand the contrast prevailing in these countries different expressions of racism of different countries can be discussed (Paradies, 2016). The contemporary approach is much more ideology and value based than the straightforward dislike. The symbolic racism in America is representative of the resentment towards the minority groups and it is mostly founded within their moralistic values. Contrastingly, recent studies and criticism related to the Australian history have acknowledged that genocide and oppression can be considered to be a ‘black arm band view of history’ and it similarly exemplifies the dismissal of the history of oppression and also its effects.

  1. Historical context

Evidently since the advent of British Colonization Australia has encountered trouble regarding the issue of race. There are many examples of institutional racism in Australia’s history from the initial declaration that the country will be terra nullius or the uninhabited. The problem developed as the Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families and the stolen generation of the aboriginals (Paradies, 2016). According to the 2016 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there is a worldwide perception that Australians are racist people. Majority of the Australians are proud of their multicultural identity and they take pride in having a multiethnic society. Evidently, like the US, Australia has had a brutal past of racist history.

If the immigration is considered, immigration to Australia was restricted exclusively to the whites from 1901 until the mid of 1970s (Carey et al, 2017). However, it is unofficial but according to The White Australian Policy, this particular act was established in order to provide preferential treatment to the British. The country was not created as a British Commonwealth in 1901 and until 1970s 95 percent of the Australian population was white. One of the most perplexing questions that Australia’s racist immigration policies raised is relevant in 20th Century for both America and Australia. The immigration policy has questioned the very existence of the white people if they are to be implemented that only allows white people to immigrate then it is necessary to define what white means (Paradies, 2016).

Considering the bleak history of Australia the issue emerged after the American Revolution when US was not any more viable as the dumping ground of British convicts and Bretain started sending more prisoners to Australia. Until 1967 even some of the most progressive new settlers of the country used to view the aboriginal population as the accidental remnant of pre-history. Some of the aboriginals were even seen as subhuman creatures (Browne-Yung et al, 2013). One of the famous British Colonial Boosters J.C Byrne writing in the year 1848 described the indigenous Australians to be primitive people and it is evident that for the colonizers it has been a land that can be easily conquered.

Author and economist N.B Nairn explained in 1956 in in between 1850 and 1900 the White Australian Policy was mainly developed due to two major factors and that are the immediate problem of the influx of the Chinese immigrants and emergence of Japan as a world power. Eventually the racist comments were been justified by the authors like Lane as the protection of the white working men from the Asian immigrants. According to the 1965 article “Slavery and Racism in South Pacific Annexations”, the injustices kept on occurring even after implementation of necessary laws (). One of the greatest ironies that came along with The White Australia Policy is that it twice displaced many people and many immigrants were brought to this country against their will. According to reports, roughly it has been estimated that 9000 pacific islanders were deported by the end of the year 1908.

During World War II the black American soldiers who stationed in Australia were considered to be inferior and faced immense discrimination (Paradies, 2016). Ultimately, the Vietnam War deliver a death blow to The White Australia Policy when a new Australian government was elected in 1973. This Whitlam Government liberalized the immigration policies but the racist anxiety about the “Asian incursion” did not disappeared completely though it became socially less acceptable.

  1. Institutional racism in Australia

According to popular doctrines people mostly experience racism by another person. Institutional or systemic racism indicates the racist acts of different companies, organizations and even the government. Several Government activities can be considered to be overtly racist as far as Australia is concerned. The best example of this institutional practice is the refusal of the South Australian Government to fund the Aboriginal Legal aid (Browne-Yung et al, 2013). The head of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movements clearly called this to be institutional racism. Another such example is if the structure of a particular government program can be acceptable for the 80% of the total population, but because of certain unavoidable circumstances of the Aboriginal population or the migrants of other communities do not fit in to the particular program then they are subjected to limited access. Several experts and critics have particularly blamed the media as according to several social critics most of the journalists are incapable of proper research and at the end they endorse the existing racial stereotypes.

As far as the impact is concerned, it is similar to that of the personal racism and because of the practice of institutional racism, people can be equally traumatized. Australian workplaces are not completely free from racism and there are many instances especially in the healthcare organizations where different people falls the prey to institutional racism and it results in discrimination. Recent Australian migration laws have become lenient enough and the country is consisted of people from cultural backgrounds. There are several instances where the ethnicities of the Asians have been questioned in the workplaces. This leads to the worldwide concept of the people that Australia is a comfortably Racist country and Racism is endorsed heavily in this country (Carey et al, 2017). However, throughout the time different government personnel have justified their deeds accordingly and have commented that Australian Egalitarian society is free from Racism.   

  1. Racism as a Capitalist policy

Several sociologists have considered Racism to be the central aspect of capitalism as the systems benefits from it and this is used as a subtle tool for subjugating the people. This divide and rule policy works with the benefits which are sometimes clear, for example the theft of the Aboriginal land during the establishment of the Australian Capitalism. This can be acquired from the actions of the former Prime Minister Tony Abott especially from his denigration of “remote” Aboriginal communities to be their lifestyle choice so that more access can be given to their land for the future mining ventures. The bosses can get away with proving worse working conditions and less wages because of their racism against their foreign workers (Browne-Yung et al, 2013).

But another important aspect that requires attention is that the paradigm of racism against the Capitalist context is broader than this. Evidently, if thousands of asylum seekers indefinitely charged and imprisoned, it makes easier to target the just rights of the workers along with their unions and it also decreases the possibility of protest against their profit hungry bosses.clearly, the persecution of Muslims and refugees has become a trending practice in order to justify the repressive apparatus of the Australian State. It is instrumental in crushing any type of possible social solidarity and it also distracts the subjects from the broader government agenda. It has become a fundamental practice in order to establish the divisions within the working class and evidently it is necessary to construct a superficial enemy to conduct imperialist wars. For example in 1998 according to reports only 3% of the total population considered Muslims to be a problem while 45% people considered the Indo-Chinese people to be problems (Carey et al, 2017). It can not be considered to be a coincident that anti-racist struggle in Australia is associated with the upsurges in class struggle and evidently the racism undermines the struggle. 

Previous works, arguments and debates

Several sociologists and critics have delved deep into the emerging issue of racism in Australia. Some of the seminal works highlights the origin and evolution of racism and the change in the expression of racism are evidently portrayed through their viewpoint. One of the seminal research work of Nesdale have shown that modern racism is a social illness which is not restricted to any particular intellectual, age, socio-economic background or gender groups. It is a matter of debate for the contemporary critics whether modern racism is a subtle form of the earlier blatant racism and it is less odious and invidious. But according to the recent research on racism has demonstrated the modern variant of racism to be more entrenched and insidious. Several contemporary critics have focused on the contemporary anti-Muslim that is emerging in the Australian society. According to Dunn, Klocker and salabay this anti-Muslim sentiment is established because of the predominant racialization and it includes the rehearsed stereotypes of Islam which emerges from the perceptions of inferiority and threat (Carey et al, 2017). This is a sensitive issue racism here is not only limited skin color but it is the manifestation of certain characteristics. According to several critics racism in formulated in order to impose oppression upon the subjects of the state. The systematic use of power is used against the subordinates (Klocker and Head, 2013). Evidently in Australia women of Asian or native American and even the Non-English speaking migrants are doubly marginalized. Marginalization of the people of different ethnic background is predominantly felt in the Australian society. The research work of Auoustinous and Sale have shed light upon relations of the Aboriginals and the non-Aboriginals. These researchers in their seminal work published in 1997 have commented that objections to the positive action have been premised in order to generate the egalitarian principle of equal treatment for all regardless of existing inequities. Sociologists have also stated that the contemporary racist attitude that is found in Australia is ambivalent and flexible and it is instrumental in the legitimization of the existing social inequalities regarding racism. The contemporary political and economic situation emphases more on the economic rationalism and competition that are embedded in the different levels of the hierarchical social structure.

Different approaches and theoretical perspectives

When the psychological paradigm of Racism is concerned, there are different aspects that are associated with the discussion of racism. There are many ways through which racism, prejudice works at the several levels of society, and it can be seen in the use of language and in the media as well.

The discourse of Racist language

Modern subtle racism is apparently resilient and insidious and it can be grasped from the language and rhetoric which are apparently liberal and egalitarian in nature. Different language based research in Australia has shown that this country has common rhetorical and argumentative resources which are majorly used by the white respondents while talking to the Aboriginal and about the Aboriginal and Non-aboriginal relations (Forsyth and Loy-Wilson, 2017). Different qualitative and language based research supports that contemporary racial attitudes are subtle, ambivalent and flexible. Such attitude is deeply embedded in the wider social values. It effectively legitimizes and supports the racial inequalities.

Political correctness

Some members of the community have considered the initiatives and policies that are implemented to combat racism to be attacks on the rights and freedom of the individual’s right to speech. These objections have been framed under the political correctness (Browne-Yung et al, 2013). In countries like Australia such political correctness has considered to be backlash against the minority groups. 

The media

Several examples of racism can be identified in the social or cultural representation of the in-group and out-group differences through media. Media is widely considered as the cultural product which is central to the construction of the social realities and it is instrumental in the communication among different groups across any specific culture (Bodkin-Andrews and Craven, 2013). The power of media particularly the television lies in their ability to reinforce and create attitudes that has been documented extensively. The media is also capable of constructing and reinventing the cultural identities.

Racism in contemporary Australia

If the concurrent Australian context is considered there are several dimensions which are associated with the racism. Apart from the background of Racial history recent decades have experienced something more than the blatant old fashioned racism (Williams-Brooks, 2017). A prominent shift has been noticed from the blatant government policies to the overt acceptance of multiculturalism that is accompanied by the high intake of the migrants from different parts of the world. Different studies have concluded that there are both similarities and differences in the experiences of the minority subordinate groups. A quick look at the history clearly shows that the indigenous people have faced issued like loss of sovereignty and colonization, along with that they have experienced loss of land and such loss has been the reason of profit for the rest of the population. On various indices these aboriginals are oppressed in multiple levels and they are the most disadvantaged group of the Australian society (Holmes et al, 2014).

Even today several organizational and government policies have become primary obstacles for the migrants of the non-English speaking background. The institutes have found subtle ways of obstructing the possible settlements. 


In the light of this particular study the expression, development and nature of racism have been explored. In order to change the view of Australia to be country of Racism several approaches can be adopted in order to counteract the existing racism. A thorough study of the community attitudes, government legislations and media campaigns few structural interventions can be useful for the betterment of the current situation. It is necessary to change the stereotypical view of the society and their view of the aboriginals deserves to be revised along with that cross-cultural awareness in different institutions can be instrumental for the moot change of the Racist perspective. In the Australian context, in the recent past the APS has taken relevant steps in order to recognize the origin of racism in the country and several active measures have been taken that can be instrumental of increasing the equity of the minority groups and the aboriginals as well as the access to different services. Government intervention and individual effort are both of prime importance towards overcoming racism and it indicates the establishment of harmony over the chaos of inequality. 

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