Study finds racism not a big issue in Gladstone

GLADSTONE's community bucks the statewide trend when it comes to racist attitudes, with migrants and indigenous people being treated with respect here.

Queensland and New South Wales are the most racist states, according to a 12-year study published in 2011, but Gladstone migrants and indigenous residents say racism isn't bad here.

The Gladstone region's migrant population increased four-fold since 2001 because of incentives for skilled migrants to move to regional areas, and now accounts for 20% of the population.

The Challenging Racism Project highlighted people of Muslim, Asian, Jewish and indigenous cultures as those who would most likely feel the heat of racist attacks.

It was the largest survey of racist attitudes ever undertaken in Australia, and found half of all survey respondents held anti-Muslim sentiments.

But in Gladstone racist behaviour was isolated to a few individuals, said Islamic Society of Gladstone president, Dzulkamal Ahmad.

"In general it is a welcoming place for Muslims," he said. "I think in general most people are more open to seeing people from different backgrounds, especially in Gladstone."

Indigenous man Mervyn Dennis said he'd never experienced racism in Gladstone, where he's lived for 35 years.

"I grew up with all my mates here, and they're all pretty respectful," he said.

The 45-year-old said he was unsure whether newcomers to the town were as respectful.

"I don't know what new people are like. I grew up with locals."

Gladstone Regional Council's multicultural community relations officer Luis Arroyo said Gladstone was a tolerant place because of incentives to skilled migrants.

"Traditionally, residents of Gladstone City have been exposed more broadly to different cultures due to repetitive industrial cycles than other residents from less industrial areas and therefore, Gladstone may be more accepting and tolerant," he said.

Co-author of the report, race researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, said Gladstone was doing remarkably well, given that cultural diversity here was relatively recent.

"It is most definitely the case that encounters with cultural diversity do over time normally generate a positive view," he said.

Topics:  gladstone migrants multicultural racism

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