Toowoomba rallies behind refugees

From the Sunday Mail.

Visit defuses race tensions

By David Murray and Jessica Lawrence
31jul05

A FEDERAL Government Minister has visited Toowoomba in a bid to defuse simmering racial tension in the city.

Multicultural Affairs Minister John Cobb’s visit follows the circulation of racist material in the city, home to 750 Sudanese refugees.

Toowoomba’s leaders are furious that the actions of a few have tarnished the city’s refugee success story.

NSW National Mr Cobb blasted “idiot” right-wing extremists who claim to be on a recruitment drive in Queensland, saying it was them – not the Sudanese refugees – who were not welcome.

He told a public meeting of 100 people, including Mayor Di Thorley and Sudanese refugees, the rest of the community did not share the extremists’ views.

“Perhaps they need to have a hard look as to whether they are in the right country. Perhaps they should go somewhere else,” Mr Cobb said.

“Australia is not behind them – they are on their own.

“There are a few spots in Australia that have made an enormous effort to help humanitarian migrants and Toowoomba is one of them.”

The Sunday Mail has confirmed the source of the race hate material is a man who says he is from the Darling Downs town of Crows Nest and uses the internet alias Stug111 – a name taken from a World War II German tank.

The material urged people to contact the White Pride Coalition and included a pamphlet describing white women as an “endangered species”.

Online, the man has been far more vitriolic, singling out Sudanese refugees and those who welcome them.

“When the muds they sponsor to come and live here start to rape, rob, murder there grandchildren, maybe they will wake up,” he wrote in a mis-spelled message. “I will not stop until our country is free again and our children will be able to play freely like we once did.”

He also admits online to distributing material attacking multiculturalism around Toowoomba and on other occasions targets gays, uses the name of an SS officer, and says the US Central Intelligence Agency was behind the September 11 terror attacks.

White Pride Coalition co-founder Terry Davis said the material the man distributed was part of a “recruitment drive” aimed at marshalling forces against multiculturalism.

“I view multiculturalism as an imposed death sentence,” he said.

Anti-racism watchdog Fight Dem Back says there are “no more than 20” White Pride Coalition members in Queensland.

They “are the main gang to worry about and if our sources of information are to be believed, there are a couple of Ku Klux Klan groups operating as well,” said campaigner Mathew Henderson-Hau.

Sudanese refugee Albino Chol says they are unfazed by the actions of the extremists: “Despite the fact one can experience certain pockets of problems here and there we don’t feel we are being discriminated.

“Toowoomba is our home and we are happy here.”

Abraham Mabior, a university student who has been in Australia for three years, said extreme right-wing views were “not representing the Australian community”.

Helping to counter any perceptions of racism in the city are operations such as the Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Centre, which has 60 volunteers helping the area’s newest residents with everything from language lessons to understanding phone bills.

“Toowoomba is a refugee-friendly place,” said one centre official.

“Considering the history of Toowoomba almost being monocultural, the acceptance of people into this town and the way they’ve been integrated into society has been a good, positive story.”

Councillor Lyle Shelton said refugees and migrants had been “welcomed overwhelmingly”.

The first two Sudanese families moved to Toowoomba about seven years ago and there are now 750 refugees in the area.

“I’m very distressed on how it reflects on Toowoomba,” Cr Shelton said.

“It’s probably two blokes in their pyjamas with a website and they are making us look like some remnant of the Ku Klux Klan. This city has a wonderful record of opening its arms to people from other nations.”

Police Minister Judy Spence encouraged anyone who experienced race-related violence to come forward. “Race crimes will not be tolerated,” she said.

Fight dem back · 31 July 2005 · Discussion