Is being called ‘Australian’ a racist slur? One UK court says yes

A recent case in a UK magistrates court held calling someone a “stupid fat Australian” constituted racial abuse. PAUL BLEAKLEY argues that calling someone ‘Australian’ shouldn’t be considered a racial slur.

 
 

Australian thong
TO The Rt. Hon. Christopher Grayling, MP, on behalf of the Australian people,

My name is Paul Bleakley and I am writing to you in your capacity as Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom, and thereby one of the foremost figures in the British judicial system. An incident has recently come to my attention that has chilled me to the bone, and should pose serious questions for every Australian living in your fine country.

Czech-born Petra Mills was found guilty this week at Macclesfield magistrates’ court of racially aggravated public disorder after a drunken altercation with her native New Zealander neighbour Chelsea O’Reilly.

Her crime? She called Ms O’Reilly a “stupid fat Australian”. The court determined that referring to her neighbour’s nationality (however erroneously) constituted a racial slur and was fined £110 as a result of her abuse.

Lord Chancellor, when did being called an ‘Australian’ become a racial slur? Sure, Petra Mills used it as a part of her drunken tirade. That part of the story is not denied by anyone. But to claim that Ms Mills engaged in racial abuse implies that term ‘Australian’ has negative connotations. I do not know how things stand in Macclesfield, but every Australian living in the United Kingdom would wear the title as a badge of honour (even if it was yelled at them by a drunken nemesis).

Ms Mills claimed, in her defence, that she would not have abused Ms O’Reilly for being Australian as “(she) used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice.” Her lawyer argued that Ms Mills did not hate her neighbour for being Australian: she just hated her because she did not like her as person. I realise that the entire world is developing into a nanny state, but isn’t this verdict the epitome of political correctness gone mad?

Lord Chancellor, we do not find the term ‘Australian’ to be an example of racial abuse. We wear it with pride, regardless of the manner in which it is used. At the least, it is merely a descriptive term. At the best it is the greatest compliment Ms Mills could have given to her Kiwi neighbour, even though that was not her intention.

It is now a legal precedent that the term ‘Australian’ can be considered a racial slur in the United Kingdom. What is next? Will I be arrested and fined if I called someone an ‘English twit’ or a ‘dopey Welshman’? Will it be considered sexist if I call someone a ‘stupid boy’? This is not just a matter of Australian pride, Lord Chancellor. This is a matter of common sense.

I put my hand on heart and proudly claim to be an Australian, the word that is apparently so abhorrent to the Macclesfield magistrates’ court. Do not get me wrong, I do not stand for racism in any form. But this is not racism, and Ms Mills should never have been convicted for using a term that none of us considers a slur.

Lord Chancellor, explain to the Australian people why the British judicial system thinks it is so defamatory to be called an Australian. If you do not, we may have to take serious action. We may have to stop sending over the tapes of Neighbours and Home and Away. Then you will know that we are serious.

Yours in good faith,

The Australian People

To read Paul’s follow up opinion on the comments below see: The trans-Tasman rivalry: Friendly banter or all-out war? 

 
 
 

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About the author

Paul Bleakley is a journalist and academic raised on Queensland's Gold Coast. After graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism, he went on to teach high school English and History in his hometown. Paul's work on democratic revolutions will be featured in the upcoming book 'The Cultivation of Peace'. He loves reality TV, wandering aimlessly and wearing flip flops on cold London days.

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    5 Comments

    1. SS says:

      I would call it predjudice as Australians (and New Zealand) have a large diversity of cultural/racial makeup and being Australian isnt the domain of one RACIAL group

    2. ggg says:

      The comment implies that Australians are both stupid and fat. So that’s why it’s “racist.” Not saying that it’s good reasoning, just saying that it was probably the reasoning.

    3. Ian Goldsmith says:

      New Zealanders always get teased for being Australians when in Britain. New Zealanders and Australians immediately know our own differences in terms of speech inflection and such like, but often people from other countries don’t ‘get’ what it obvious to us.

      New Zealanders initially get confused as being Australians and then once it’s known that the mistake has been made, the fact that the New Zealander wants to be recognised as being from a different country, is useful as a wind up.

      The only reason New Zealanders get teased for it all is because it’s pretty well common knowledge that it works. It is effective as a tease and that is why people do it. It’s nothing to do with Australia in terms of being a slur on Australians and everything to do with the fact that New Zealanders take it all quite seriously and are very easily baited on it. That’s my impression as a New Zealander who has lived in Britain and encountered it once or twice. People weren’t being cruel in their own minds or slurring Australians or New Zealanders at all – just simply seeing it as a way to give a happy nudge.

      My impression is that Australians and New Zealanders are genuinely liked and that it isn’t meant as anything other than affectionate banter. The current story is simply bizarre.

    4. Damian says:

      @Steven: seems you were born in NZ, but chose to be a troll.

    5. Mr Logical says:

      It is not a slur to call anyone Australian – only those above Australians, such as New Zealanders.