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From British race patriotism to inclusion: we are not a racist nation

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“Racist” is a powerful accusation to make against anyone, but since the Christchurch terrorist attack it has been frequently applied to Australia’s political mainstream. Hardly a day goes by without talk of our nation’s entrenched racism and how it fuels Islamophobia and extreme right-wing violence.

It’s not a persuasive argument, because anyone who seeks to whip up racist sentiments is relegated to the fringe of our public discourse. Besides, since March 15 the widespread outpouring of support for Christchurch’s Muslim community — and indeed Muslims in the wider Australian community — has been a rebuke to those who commit violence in the name of race and to those who think Australia is irredeemably racist.

For all our nation’s historic blemishes, and notwithstanding the pockets of xenophobia, we are a broadly liberal and tolerant multi-racial, multi-ethnic society. And it has been that way for the best part of half a century since both major parties chipped away at the great white walls of White Australia and moved quickly to enshrine the multicultural ideal as the basis of national community.

In a very short period — from Menzies and Calwell in the mid-1960s to Whitlam and Fraser a decade later — we moved from a nation dedicated to what the distinguished........

© The Age