Letter to the editor The Age 10 January 2010

Parents, educators and community leaders are right to be outraged when a popular social networking site like Facebook is used for racist and derogatory comments targeting various migrant groups and non-English speakers. Because it shows a failure by this country’s leaders and role models to set a positive example when debating sensitive topics like the acceptance and settlement of asylum seekers, the management of population and natural resources, and the expansion and preservation of Australian cultural traditions. How rarely do children hear these issues discussed calmly and rationally without the debate sinking to the lowest form of political point scoring? How different is the catchcry “speak English in Australia” from the much-publicised political promise to “turn the boats back”, especially in the minds of the young and impressionable? Yes, parental responsibility is required here but more resources are desperately needed in schools to help teach children to respect all cultures ….and to appreciate the positive contribution migrants make to Australia. We look forward to hearing that the proposed national curriculum includes a subject that will achieve this necessity But it’s also high time that key figures in the public eye thought hard about the messages they send out on issues like migration and acceptance of difference. In this election year let’s hope civility and responsibility comes to the fore across the political divide and within the broad community. And closer monitoring of popular websites may help curb the misuse of the internet. At the end of the day, the ugly side of Facebook is simply a symptom of the ugly face that lies beyond the computer screen.

Sam Afra JP


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