Aussie intolerance exposed
A show of our reputed racism makes for interesting viewing, writes
AUSTRALIA has a complicated, conflicted relationship with India. To our shame, Indian students in this country have been targets of violence. Some have died. Indian call-centre employees cop vile verbal abuse from Australians they contact.
Journalist and commentator Joe Hildebrand took it upon himself to escort four everyday Indian citizens around Australia to introduce them to its people.
The result is the new six-part documentary Dumb, Drunk and Racist, its incendiary title a reflection of the way some Indians have come to view us. What was the idea behind this show, Joe?
It’s a bit like a bookend to Go Back to Where You Came From, this unexpected hit where a bunch of hand-wringing inner-city lefties said, ‘‘I always thought we were horribly intolerant and now this proves it’’. But it also turned around a bunch of ‘‘We grew here, you flew here’’ types who saw the whole picture for the first time. The same production company came up with the idea for Dumb, Drunk and Racist based on an item that ran a year or so ago about how Indian call-centre workers were trained to expect Australians to be stupid or intoxicated or out-and-out racist bastards. The recordings you feature of Australians unloading utter vitriol on these call-centre workers is staggering.
These are all real recordings. We went to a different call centre and we got all these different recordings the employees had made – it’s pretty horrible for them to hear those things about themselves. I think it’s part of this age we’re in – so many things are remote and disconnected and people feel they can say whatever they like without consequences. Tell me about the four Indians you take around Australia.
We have a student whose family was worried about sending him here because they thought it was violent, a newsreader on this 24-hour news channel who was privy to plenty of anti-Australian stuff, an education consultant who flat-out tells students not to come to Australia because it’s unsafe and of course a call-centre worker who had experienced some Australian bad behaviour firsthand. Is it just Australians who act this way?
Indian society is very westernised in many ways but it’s also quite conservative. And our behaviour, well, we might call it rambunctious or devil-may-care, our larrikin streak, perhaps. India (places) a great deal of importance placed on etiquette and decorum. You take a bunch of people from that society to a B&S ball, there’s going to be some culture shock. What do you think everyone took away from the
road trip? We wanted these people to think, ‘‘Hey, Australia’s not that bad’’, but at the same time we also kind of wanted to shock them by saying, ‘‘You thought that was bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet!’’ But then again, we wanted to say, ‘‘Look, we’re actually really not that bad – that guy you see doing the Nazi salute is just crazy!’’ Everything we tried to show them, we inadvertently showed them the opposite, good and bad.
Wednesdays, 9.30pm, ABC2.
host Joe Hildebrand with his visitors.