Australia has been captured this last week by the controversy about crowds booing the aboriginal football player Adam Goodes. Goodes one of the best players in the game and was Australian of the Year in 2014, an honour he used to support his people and agitate for a change to the way Australian aboriginal peoples are treated.
Football fans have taken to booing Goodes and it has become so virulent and hateful that it is clear to everyone (no actually, not everyone - there is a sizable proportion of the population who thinks it is just fun) that there is a racist element to it. Our government has been acting as if there is nothing amiss and now Goodes has taken a break from football (for excellent comment see this interview with Stan Grant.)
|From the cartoon by First Dog on the Moon|
There is intense competition between the two nations on sports fields which can become less than friendly. In 2011 when New Zealand played France in the Rugby World Cup I watched the game at a local pub with an Australian friend. The jeering against NZ, the glee when a New Zealand player was injured and the savage anti-NZ venom spoiled the game for us and we decided not to watch games at a pub again. (Her actual comment was, 'Now you understand why I don't identify with my own country.')
I thought maybe the pub crowd had been extreme, but in July this year I read about the art of 'niggle' in the Guardian and suddenly understood a lot about Australia that I had not understood before, despite living here since 1987. The 'niggle' is what I hadn't understood.
So for the booing public the thought of being sent to New Zealand to learn would be the ultimate humiliation.
New Zealand has been on a steep learning curve regarding race relations over the past forty years and it's cross Tasman friend has a lot of catching up to do. I hope First Dog's treatment facility has accommodation for long term guests.
Addendum. 2/8/15 The Sydney Swans crowd today gave Goodes a standing ovation. A thousand T shirts with the number 37 printed on them (his number) were handed out and the crowd was a sea of red and white carrying messages of support. When our leaders don't lead, it is up to us.