Bystanders ‘should stand up’ to racist attacks

Those who witness racist attacks in public places could be doing more to stop them happening, an anti-racism expert has told SBS.


The comments follow another incident of racial abuse on public transport in Sydney yesterday, where a man was captured on film swearing at two middle-aged tourists of Asian appearance.

A 30-year-old office worker of Chinese descent who wished only to be named as Heidi told the Sydney Morning Herald only two people, including herself, spoke up against the incident.

“We didn’t receive any support from the other passengers,” she said.

Professor Kevin Dunn from the University of Western Sydney said bystanders should offer vocal support to victims of racism when it occurs in public.

“Those people who are prone to particularly racist views, we know are more likely to feel their view is the majority view if nobody speaks out or says anything against what they do or say,” he said.

“What’s more is, the more that happens, the more that they’re unchallenged, the more they’re likely to be more brazen and bold in the actions and statements that they make.”

Research conducted at the University of Western Sydney found racist insults and disrespectful treatment were among the most common forms of racism.

About 19 per cent of Australians – or one in five – have been a victim of “race hate talk”, says Professor Dunn.

Dr Fiona Kate Barlow, a social psychologist with the University of Queensland, said it was “quite common” for a group of people to remain inactive when confronted with the tragedy of others.

“Despite how it might appear, it’s typically not due to cruelty, or indifference or lack of distress but rather a set of really predictable feelings that we go through when we see someone in trouble.”

The fear of being mocked or attacked is a common reaction, she said. “[Bystanders] also feel a sense of diffusion of responsibility. If there are many people around, they don’t feel that they personally have to do anything.”

It is possible to overcome such fears. “Just being aware of the bystander effect can actually reduce it,” Dr Barlow said.

“It’s perfectly acceptable to speak out against racism when you see it, and as a country and as a people we need to do more of it.

“Having said that, at all times we should be tempered by pragmatism. There are very real safety concerns.”

Professor Dunn acknowledged many people stay silent for fear of retribution or violence.

“That’s a real fear”, he said. “[But] that all points to the importance of people speaking up, and supporting anybody else who has spoken up. Don’t just sit quietly. Make it clear that that person is in the minority.”

Recording the event in order to report it, showing support to the victim after the perpetrator leaves or moving to create a physical barrier to protect the victim were also ways of helping, said Professor Dunn.

ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez became the victim of a racist attack on a Sydney bus earlier this year, while recent incidents have also been reported in Melbourne and Perth.

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Comment: Why North Korea is turning up the heat

By Benjamin Habib, La Trobe University

The North Korean government announced yesterday via its Korean Central News Agency that it is placing its “strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units” on their highest alert status.


The press release further claims that these units are capable of striking American military targets in South Korea “and its vicinity” (read: Japan), as well as US bases in Guam, Hawaii and the continental United States. Earlier this month, the North declared its “right to make a preemptive nuclear strike at the strongholds of aggressors”.

These statements are indicative of an increasingly aggressive stream of rhetoric voiced by the North Korean government, even by its own lofty standards of belligerent hyperbole. So what is the Kim Jong-un regime trying to achieve by raising temperature of its provocations? There are a number of strategic, economic and symbolic observations that could shed light on this question.

North Korea’s ability to strike targets in South Korea artillery and short-medium range missiles is well documented and has been a key plank of its strategic posture for decades. Less plausible is the North’s ability to hit targets further afield with long-range nuclear-armed missiles, the successful December 2012 rocket launch and nuclear test on February 12 this year notwithstanding.

One successful long-range missile test does not prove that Pyongyang is ready to deploy reliable, accurate long-range missiles in the field. Likewise, the February nuclear test has not proven definitively that North Korean scientists have engineered an intercontinental ballistic missile-deployable nuclear warhead, despite clear advances in miniaturisation evidenced by the test.

The North Korean government may be telling the truth about its nuclear and missile capability, however it is also possible that its rhetorical bluster is intended to deter military retaliation for its nuclear test and buy time to complete the development of these weapon systems.

We should note that the Korean People’s Army’s decision to heighten the alert status of its missile and artillery units coincides with the annual joint US-South Korean Foal Eagle military exercises, involving over 11,000 troops across all branches of the armed services. It is not unusual for the North Korean government to raise both its alert status of its military forces and the hostility of its anti-American propaganda during these annual exercises. For a government whose foreign policy orientation pivots on the acquisition and application of hard military power, it is unlikely that the Foal Eagle exercises could be interpreted in any way other than as a threat.

These provocations also indicate that Pyongyang may not be interested in joining the international economy on American terms and is content to accrue further economic sanctions. Pyongyang can adopt this position if it has other links to the global economy that render it less vulnerable to pressure from the international community.

Such links may take the form of growing economic connections with China, along with various lucrative illicit activities undermine the UN Security Council sanctions regime and expose the declining strategic leverage that Washington and its allies have over North Korea.

The symbolism of March 26 is also important as the third anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean navy corvette ROKS Cheonan, which sank in the Yellow Sea with 46 fatalities after a North Korean torpedo purportedly pierced its hull. The Cheonan was patrolling the southern side of the disputed Northern Limit Line maritime boundary between North and South Korea near Baengnyeong Island.

Anniversaries such as these play an important role in the legitimation of the Kim regime to the North Korean people, as evidence of the government’s commitment to defending the country against so-called “imperialist aggression”.

North Korea’s increasingly hostile posturing is indeed troubling for regional stability. This does not mean however that the country’s leadership is crazy or irrational. This behaviour may be strategically flawed and potentially dangerous, but it does have a decipherable logic. Foreign observers should exercise a measured concern in evaluating the potential strategic and domestic drivers Pyongyang’s aggressive behaviour.

Benjamin Habib does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Sydney photo exhibition looks at meaning of ‘home’

An international photo exhibition in Sydney explores what ‘home’ means to different people, as part of the Reportage Photography Festival.


One of the exhibit’s organisers and photographers, David Maurice Smith says the theme was chosen because of its varied meanings.

“Home means something to everyone,” he says.

“Whether you have one, or whether you don’t. Whether it’s a feeling, an actual place or people around you, it can mean a lot of things, so it was a nice, broad opportunity for us.”

The exhibition contains photographs taken both in Australia and abroad.

Photographer Andrew Quilty’s work features in the show. One of his photographs (which features in the video above) was taken in the aftermath of last year’s Hurricane Sandy in the United States.

“I went back to the area to do another assignment and while I was there I wanted to go back and see how the community was rebuilding,” he says.

“So I walked back along this long stretch of beach and I was just photographing the houses I came upon. And this one, it was right at the end of the day, there was hardly any light at all and I just thought it looked kind of foreboding and it had that apocalyptic feel.”

Artist Lee Grant’s work in the exhibit focuses around the growing multicultural diversity in Canberra.

“Growing up in the ’80s there, particularly — it was really white.”

“I was sort of an anomaly, as was my mother — she’s Korean. So we were foreigners in some ways. But suddenly going back there with my children was really kind of a stark difference to the way it was [when I was] growing up, and I was interested in exploring that a bit more.”


(© Jeremy Piper)

(© Nick Moir)

(© Tamara Voninski)

(© Lee Grant)

The Oculi exhibit ‘Home’ runs from May 22 to June 10 at The Rocks, Sydney.

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Comment: Vaccination is a decision worth making

No parent wants to watch their child get sick, especially from a disease that is preventable, for which there are trusted and widely used vaccinations available.


Yet it seems some parents are still willing to take that risk, believing that diseases like measles, small pox and whooping cough are not going to happen to their child. Until they do.

The facts speak for themselves. There were only 4863 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) reported in Australia in 2007, this rose to 38,500 cases in 2011.

Since 2008, eight babies have lost their lives as a result of contracting whooping cough. In 2011 and 2012 there was a measles outbreak in Australia, with more than 400 cases reported.

It seems for some reason a number of Australians have decided that immunisation is not as important as the authorities would like them to believe. The question remains why?

I was born in a country where preventable diseases run rife. Where poverty is extreme and it isn’t uncommon for parents to watch their children die before their very eyes.

The country is Pakistan. A place where 61 out of 1,000 children under the age of one die every year. Many in the country know firsthand what it is like to watch someone they love die of a disease that is preventable.

They have watched helplessly as the illness takes grip of the weakest in their family, usually a child, and squeezes the life out of them. It is painful, it is slow and it is something they never forget.

It is why they travel hundreds of kilometres and even risk their lives in order to get vaccinations, which can be a matter of life or death.

The poverty and conditions of Pakistan are very far removed from the realities of your every day Australian.

If you’ve lived in this country your whole life and not travelled to some of the poorer parts of the world, you might believe that such poverty exists only on your screens – in the world of TV or the Internet.

When I’ve mentioned the details of what life is like in Pakistan to a few Australians who have chosen not to get their children vaccinated, they automatically blame the sanitation and hygiene of third world countries as a reason for the prominence of diseases over there.

While there is truth to that logic, Dettol and closed gutters aren’t the only answers to combating the spread of preventable diseases.

The WHO recommends vaccination rates of 93% to ensure herd immunity – that is a form of immunity where a significant majority of the population is vaccinated in order to protect those who for some reason can’t be immunised.

Yet in parts of Australia vaccination rates have dwindled to below 85%. Some of these places include the richest suburbs in all of Australia, such as Mosman and Vaucluse in Sydney.

It seems for many of those living in these areas there is a strong belief that disease and illness can never happen to them or their children. This along with an increased trust in “natural medicine” has lead them to mistrust science.

The dark shadow of a widely discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism also still hangs in the minds of those unwilling to vaccinate their children.

This is mainly due to the persistence of the ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ (AVN) – a vehemently anti-vaccination group that has managed to persuade a number of parents who trust “Dr Google” more than their own GP (when Googling for “vaccinations” for example, the AVN is one of the first links to appear in the results).

There are also those who simply blame their busy lives for not getting their children vaccinated.

To counter the arguments of such busy parents the Australian government has released an app that allows you to keep track of when your child needs to be immunised.

This along with a “maternity immunisation allowance” are pretty much the extent of the solutions the government has come up with. But perhaps another approach is needed.

Apps and payments have so far not been effective in persuading those who have made up their minds to not immunise, so perhaps we need to bring emotion into the equation.

It took an emotional response to persuade people to stop smoking – all the warnings about cancer and death were easily ignored, but the pictures of disfigured limbs on cigarette boxes and ads about fathers on their death beds being visited by their children were much harder to avoid.

Would then the pictures of a child suffering from diphtheria, his body so bloated it looks like he’s going to explode, or the sounds of a baby taking his last painful hacking coughs as a result of contracting pertussis, or the images of a child with measles, every inch of her body covered in agonising itchy, red welts persuade people to vaccinate? I’d imagine it’s more likely to.

No parent wants to see their child suffer, and we would all rather ignore the worst aspects of what can happen, to both us and our children.

But if that gets in the way of matters of life and death, it’s time we got tough and forced those who’d rather bury their heads in the sand, to come up for air and look around at the reality of the decision they’ve made.

Saman Shad is a Sydney-based freelance writer. Twitter: @muminprogress

Jabbed: Love, fear and vaccines airs Sunday May 26 at 8:30pm on SBS ONE

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Olympic bid squashes seven games into a week

Seven games of squash, in seven days, across seven continents.


It’s a tall order but former world number one, Peter Nicol, and fellow Briton Tim Garner are playing the long-distance run of games to raise awareness of the sport’s bid to be included in the 2020 Olympic Games.

Stopping in Sydney on the third leg of the Seven Continent Challenge, the pair were a little tired but excited about their travels ahead.

“It’s been great to visit different countries across the world,” Garner said.

“One, to show squash is played in different areas of the globe and to see different people’s reaction to what we’ve done in each place is inspiring in itself, that we are doing a very good thing for the sport.”

The challenge is independent of the official Olympic bid by World Squash, but has the support of players, past and present.

“They think we’re mad, but they are also appreciative,” said Nicol.

“They are doing everything they can to back the bid, but they obviously can’t do something like this [challenge]. They have their personal careers to think about.”

World Squash will present their case to the International Olympic Committee at the end of May with a decision to be made in September.

While the sport put in failed bids for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the feeling is more optimistic for the 2020 bid.

“I rate our chances highly,” said Nicol. “When you see polls, it’s at the top or near the top.”

“I think it’s the best chance we’ve ever had”.

While Nicol and Garner admit they are “has-beens” and won’t be playing in the 2020 Olympic games, they know if squash were to be included it would drive participation.

“Kids will want to become Olympic squash champions,” said Garner, “it will help bring more kids into the game and something to strive for.”

The benefits were echoed by local squash players in Australia.

“It’s a great opportunity for a lot of young kids to train and play in a great sport and go further,” said Tim Wyers from the Elanora squash club.

“This would help every young squash player because it would add to the professionalism of the squash tour,” said Aaron Frankcomb from Willoughby squash club.

Despite a perception that squash was shrinking in participation, the Australian squash circuit continues to grow.

“With the centres closing, it appeared the sport was dying, but it’s actually quite the opposite” said Jason McLauchlan, NSW Squash board member.

“I think it’s making a comeback after a ten-year lull. There are now lots of tournaments and comps”.

“But we need councils to get on board and free up some council land,” said Mr McLauchlan who is calling on governments to help grow the sport.

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