By Meg Hill
The Multicultural Hub holds its sovereignty in a city used as a backdrop for recurring racial tensions.
On August 9 the Hub hosted a community forum titled Standing up to the Racist Law and Order Agenda – set up by The Greens and a number of South Sudanese community leaders.
It’s only 500 metres from the city loop at Melbourne Central where until early August people were compelled – out of a literal lack of choice in the matter – to watch Sky News as they waited for their train.
The state government pulled Sky News after it aired an interview with self-described fascist Blair Cottrell.
Mr Cottrell has argued for portraits of Hitler to be hung in classrooms and Mein Kampf issued to students. In June, a video went viral showing Mr Cottrell physically intimidating a street performer in Federation Square with an aura of hyper-masculinity, violence, and homophobia so outright it was caricaturist.
His offences are too long to list, but have been widely reported and bragged about on Mr Cottrell’s social media accounts.
Conceivably, someone on their way to The Hub on August 5 – perhaps for one of the many reading circles or EAL (English as an additional language) training sessions held there – may have seen Mr Cottrell’s interview on Sky News. He called for immigration controls and action against “foreign ideologies”.
While the state government made the decision to remove Sky News from city loop screens after the interview, speakers at The Hub just a few days later said the Andrews government was helping to perpetuate racism.
The latest instance cited is the introduction of anti-association laws applicable to those as young as 14.
Senior lawyer at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service David DeWitt told the crowd the laws were “racially motivated”.
So, while we’re all freed from watching fascist figureheads on train platforms, African youths will now have to think twice about whom they catch the train with – or potentially face a criminal conviction.
Just weeks ago, hundreds of people gathered outside Channel Seven’s headquarters to protest the station’s Sunday Night story on “African gangs”’. The young organisers of that protest were among the audience at the Multicultural Hub.
The list of those implicated in promoting the ongoing fiction is long, even just surveying this year. Before Sky News interviewed Mr Cottrell, Channel Seven ran its hysterical gang story, and when the anti-association laws were announced, Peter Dutton and the federal government claimed diners in Melbourne were scared to go out to eat because of African gangs.
“When I get on the train I have to make myself small, because Peter Dutton says I’m a thug,” writer, artist and youth worker Flora Chol told the crowd.
If this seems never-ending, it’s probably because it is. Greens candidate for Richmond Kathleen Maltzahn spoke about the shifting nature of racism in Australia – the Irish, the Vietnamese and Muslims, to name a few.
“And indigenous people since the beginning,” she added.
Local federal member Adam Bandt noted the “youth riots” that no one ever really heard much about, failed to pick up media attention when it became apparent they were white youths.
Radio presenter and community worker Matoc Achol described trying to fit in as the only black person in his high school. Community advocate Deng Malek Deng articulated why his community didn’t trust the police.
A Somali woman who felt uncomfortable voicing her opinion in person sent her story to be read out. The start of this article claims a sovereign space in the Multicultural Hub, but one has to get there first.