People were surprised by racist abuse on a Melbourne bus this week? They need to get out more. I’ve had two racist encounters on Sydney trains this week alone.
The other night I was sitting next to Dave (not his real name) on the Blue Mountains train. He was heading home to Emu Plains after his day shift as a barman at a Sydney pub. We got talking.
He was originally from Auburn, he said, but he was glad his family didn’t live there any more because the place was run down.
I mentioned that I’d recently been told that Auburn was now the second-poorest local government area in New South Wales, and the council had trouble paying for services.
“Yeah well it’s all full of Lebs and Arabs now,” Dave said. “They’re pretty much all on the dole.”
Awkward silence ensued.
Dave’s story amused me, though, because only a few days earlier I’d been on another train, a local through the western suburbs, and I shared the carriage with a group of four or five Muslim women and a vast collection of children they’d taken on a day trip. They were heading home to Auburn.
They were friendly women. We chatted about many things, from the mystery of how children can still be so rowdy at the end of a long day to where they might do a first aid course. “St John Ambulance,” I suggested. “Or the Red Cross.”
Suddenly I felt embarrassed to have mentioned two organisations with Christian roots. “Perhaps your local mosque runs them,” I added, before realising that churches generally don’t run such things so why would a mosque? And why don’t I know what services a mosque may or may not provide?
But then why does an Anglican church in Enmore run yoga classes? It’s all very multicultural.
We chatted about Auburn too. I’d recently been told that in Auburn you can find the best Turkish Delight this site of the Bosporus.
“It’s a lovely place,” agreed the women. “But it’s not as good as it was. Too many foreigners. Chinese and the like.”
Racism is widespread in Australia, bubbling to the surface in everyday conversations.