Go back, lunchtime prayers, Adam Goodes

Go Back to Where You Came From (Series 3) began last night and delivered an up-to-date picture of where many stand on refugees and asylum seekers. I commend the program website to you.

Participant Kim Vuga is quite weird: I think so at any rate. See Go Back To Where You Came From episode 1 recap: Kim Vuga told ‘You don’t know anything’.

The self-described freelance journalist from Townsville sent the show trending first on Twitter with her inflammatory comments…

  • “I don’t believe that people are stateless because everyone comes from somewhere.” Face, meet palm #GoBackSBS

The most explosive argument came as the show’s six participants stood out the front of Darwin Correctional Centre.

[Nicole] Judge, who worked on Manus Island and gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into the death of Reza Berati, became angry when Vuga called the 23 year-old Iranian asylum seeker a “troublemaker”.

“One of the troublemakers that had died had been standing over people,” Vuga said to her.

Judge, from Sydney’s northern beaches, became highly emotional as she defended Mr Berati.

“Please don’t insult me by insulting a man that I knew,” she screamed over Vuga.

“You have no idea who Reza Berati is. I knew him; I played soccer with him, and he died at the hands of an Australian employed guard.”

“You don’t know anything,” she told Vuga…

Even one of my more mindless pleasures, Channel 10’s Family Feud, has been reminding us that this is after all one of the most successful multicultural societies on earth. encompassing both people called “Vuga” (rather than Smith or Jones) and contestants like last night’s:


Imagine how shocked I was earlier in the evening when I found myself agreeing with Paul Sheehan when The Drum discussed NSW to audit school prayer groups for extremism amid claims radical Islam preached at Sydney’s Epping Boys High School. He thought this was nonsense.

I spent at least two years sitting in, and being made welcome in, such a lunchtime prayer group. I have alluded to this many times: London ten years on; Bringing it home; Recycle and prelude: nine years ago; Some reflections on the late teen suicide bomber. From the last one there:

My former student [a member of the lunchtime prayer group] does “look the part.” He is clearly sub-continental and may wear some kind of funny hat. He possibly carries Islamic literature. But of course it seems clear to me that he is a zero security threat – in fact, an asset to this country and, through his work, several others.

I just hope we can all make such distinctions: but unfortunately the common talk makes this difficult. We become obsessed with damnably stupid ideas about the significance of halal markings on chocolate – though not apparently by statements about the same item probably also being kosher. We start to see all Muslims as terrorists, or at best not to be trusted as not being sufficiently “Aussie”!

I do despair: but all praise to people like Tanvir (the blogger quoted above) and friends. There may be the hope we need.

To clarify too: such lunchtime prayer groups are not part of the official religious education that state schools provide space for, commonly called “Scripture”. In NSW:

Under the Education Act 1990, public schools provide special religious education. This is provided by authorised representatives of approved religious groups to students who have nominated that religion. Times for these classes are negotiated with the school.

In November 2011 the Minister for Education published a media release that announced a minimum time of 30 minutes of meaningful teaching time per week in primary schools and a minimum of one period per week in secondary schools.

Rather they are voluntary ex-curricular gatherings for cultural, social or other purposes (train-spotting or butterfly collecting, perhaps) usually run by students for students. I belonged myself in the 1950s to the Interschool Christian Fellowship which met at lunchtimes – and still does. Similarly the school I last taught in also had a Jewish group, at times a Buddhist group, and latterly an Islamic group.

My experience in the years from 9/11 to London then Cronulla 2005 is that the consensus on The Drum last night is correct: it is better to keep dialogue open rather than to seek to “audit” (and then ban or punish?) the expression of opinions, which will occur anyway.

I am much saddened by the treatment of former Australian of the Year and Swans player Adam Goodes. See Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes considering retirement over booing scandal.

Retired Swans premiership player Michael O’Loughlin, who Goodes considers a father figure, did not dismiss the retirement talk when contacted on Tuesday night, while AFL Players’ Association  said no one could blame Goodes if he made that decision…

An emotional O’Loughlin told Fairfax Media he was now embarrassed to take his family to away matches.

“I hope the world takes notice of this,” he said. “This isn’t a WA thing or an AFL thing – it’s an Australian issue. To be called an Abo, a nigger, a black so and so, for your entire life, and then expected to sit there and accept it, it’s a reflection on Australia and where we are as a country.

“For people to say it’s not racist … What else can it be? They are booing someone who is a dual Brownlow medallist and someone who has a hundred other accolades. They are booing someone who has done so much to make sure kids get a better education. They are booing someone who has given so much more back to the game than many others.

“I read about one fan who was evicted after yelling out, ‘Get back to the zoo’. He was just ‘banter’. What absolute garbage. Because someone like Adam doesn’t sit in the corner and accept it – and neither would I – he is booed.

“I won’t be taking my children to watch football interstate until that stops. My mate is copping it everywhere he goes.”

Goodes, 35, decided during the off-season to play one last season with the Swans…