Culture

Junk Explained: Who Are Reclaim Australia, What Are They Protesting, And Should We Even Care?

While you were shovelling chocolate eggs and spiced fruit buns into your mouth in celebration of a four-day weekend, some of our nation’s major cities were descending into chaos. Pauline Hanson took to a stage in Brisbane to declare she’s not a racist, Melbourne’s Federation Square was packed with police on horseback trying to control an estimated 3,000 protesters who were literally spitting in each other’s faces, and while people scrambled to cover all this, you may have even seen a smattering of neo-Nazis trickle through your news feed.

Australia, please meet Reclaim Australia: the patriots who are finally here to save you.

reclaim

Who Are They?

Reclaim Australia is a protest group which has existed in some form since 2013, but became particularly active from the beginning of this year. Up until now, the self-described “grassroots movement” has been dealing in familiar small-time fare like snarky, poorly formatted memesbad quality pictures of national emblems and weird images explaining how Facebook works to presumably help your angry uncle navigate it all when he’s sunk too many tinnies at the local RSL.

Now, with that vital groundwork in place, they’ve turned their attention to organising rallies across the country to show their patriotism, and condemn a number of practices from different cultural groups.

Judging by a recent press release, the items they seek to reclaim include “equality and tolerance of all races and religions”, “equality at law”, “freedom of speech”, and “equality of gender”. But the more specific version of this manifesto on their website is a little more troubling, stating their mission to ban burqas, halal certification, and the teaching of Islam in any government schools. Their other demands include vague statements like “Keep our rights and freedom of speech”, “Introduce pride in the Australian flag” and “Keep our traditional values i.e. Christmas, Easter, Australia Day, Anzac Day”, seemingly unaware of the fact that Christmas doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at all.

Despite this fairly consistent anti-Islamic sentiment, the group maintains they are not racist. They have repeatedly distanced themselves from neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups and instead labelled themselves as regular people who have “had enough of minorities not fitting in and trying to change our Australian cultural identity”.

“We just want our successful Australian way of life retained — that is not ‘racist’, that is just plain sensible!”

As New Matilda note, one of the group’s leaders Shermon Burgess has specifically addressed this distinction in the below video where he calls Aboriginal people “dickheads”. “If you speak about Islam or mass immigration to Australia, you’re not being racist,” he clarifies, while presumably drafting his amendment notice to Webster’s Dictionary.

Including its national page and city-based offshoots, the group has just under 50,000 followers on Facebook, but how many of those are actually active supporters is unknown. If we use Sydney as an example, it’s somewhere around 3%; just 200 of their 7,000 Facebook fans rocked up to the first protest. Sure, it was raining, but that’s basically the angry old man version of trying to throw a huge house party only to have just one awkward friend from high school rock up with a good bag and an iPod full of Savage Garden.

So, Why Are We Talking About Them?

Anyone who’s read one of Miranda Devine’s more inflammatory columns or knows that Jacqui Lambie is a person who exists in the world, has no doubt heard this kind of rhetoric before.

It’s surprisingly widespread — The Daily Tele is still one of the country’s best-selling papers, and someone out there has to be voting for Lambie — but it’s probably not something you encounter on a daily basis. Awful high school friends are easily deleted from Facebook. No one’s forcing you to listen to Alan Jones.

But Reclaim Australia have proved themselves a little harder to ignore, holding protests in 16 locations across the country over the weekend.

Many of these were just as you’d expect — Canberra’s big stand could have easily been confused with an extended family picnic outside Parliament House; Esperance Bay had a whopping 18 patriots in attendance; and despite their brilliant marketing shot of a kangaroo breakdancing, things likely didn’t go well in Rockhampton, as they didn’t upload a single picture of their rally. But major cities like Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne saw hundreds brandishing flags, signs and banners, chanting through the city centre, and generally fucking up your plans to get into the train station hassle free.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, despite their affirmation that their actions would be completely peaceful, not racist, and free from neo-Nazis, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The conflicts which broke out in Melbourne, for instance, made it into the international news.

A speaker in Adelaide started his speech by asserting “Australian culture is better than Islamic culture”, despite the fact that sentiment is literally the dictionary definition of the word racism.

And there were a few skinheads there for good measure, too.

This conflict in Melbourne was in part caused by the presence of a specially-formed counter protest group called No Room For Racism. Consisting of members from the Socialist Party, the group challenged the claims made by Reclaim Australia, labelling them racists and antagonising the protesters with their own chants. A representative from Federation Square told Fairfax there were an estimated 3,000 people in attendance including the counter protesters, and police on horseback were also deployed to control the crowds.

There were however a number of other counter-protesters who took a less aggressive approach.

Organisers of Reclaim Australia have now promised more protests which will be “much, much bigger”.

What Do People Think About This?

With such polemic arguments coming from both groups, there’s understandably been a strong reaction from a number of people.

Andrew Bolt unsurprisingly offered a tentative defence of Reclaim Australia, criticising the actions of those who partook in a counter-protest, and arguing that Reclaim Australia was the result of a growing dissatisfaction with Islamic extremism.

The RSL have also condemned those from No Room For Racism for being disrespectful, after two women in Sydney burnt the Australian flag. NSW Veteran Affairs Minister David Elliot told The Daily Telegraph it was “sickening”.

On the flip side, some Indigenous people have expressed concerns about the Aboriginal flag being used by those supporting the Reclaim Australia movement, claiming it should instead be used for “inclusive” ideologies. As the image also appears in conjunction with the Australian flag on all the group’s official banners, this is a concern which has been raised repeatedly on social media.

When someone noted the issue on the Newcastle page, organisers responded saying, “we have Aboriginals on the organising committee and a large support base from the Aboriginal community … we’re promoting the Awabakal land councils claim over the Newcastle port and foreshore area [and] demanding that the government does not close remote communities.”

Songwriter John Schuman has similarly spoken out against the group using his song about the Vietnam War, ‘I Was Only 19’. “I am very, very disappointed to see my work co-opted by what I, at my most charitable, consider to be a very confused ‘patriotic’ movement,” he said in a statement to The Australian.

But while there have been a number of community responses like this, not to mention an ongoing dialogue for and against on social media, the reaction from politicians has been relatively minimal.

Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt retweeted a number of sentiments against Reclaim Australia, including one which read #ReclaimMulticulturalism. He also posted on a link to the protest news on his Facebook page stating, “Love, respect and acceptance — these are the values of the Australia we know.” These thoughts have been echoed in a media release issued by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich made no public statement about the protest in Martin Place. Brisbane Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro also chose not to comment about the protest in her city, which incidentally featured a speech from the state’s waking nightmare, Pauline Hanson.

Despite recently being crowned as the Man Who Most Resembles A Plain Beige Doormat, Bill Shorten seems to be the most outspoken politician at the federal level, telling Channel Nine he condemns all violence, and stating Reclaim Australia are misguided in their goals.

“This idea somehow that there’s a big conspiracy amongst the Muslim minority to bring in Sharia law is just completely exaggerated. I think it is really wrong to tar everyone in a minority with the view,” he said, doing a bang-up impression of a person with an actual view on something.

But despite this comment from the Opposition Leader, and the fact that some of the country’s major cities descended into violent protest over Easter, there has been no word on the matter from Tony Abbott.

On Monday, the Victorian Islamic Council has told The Age the government should be “setting an example of what Australian values are really about”.

“The commonwealth has been quick to call on our community and leaders to speak out against extremism and hate preaching, yet when these are directed at us they have remained silent,” said Council President Ghaith Krayem. “We expect the government to speak out strongly against these co-ordinated rallies and call them what they really are, and that is nothing more than a racist and bigoted attack on Muslims.”

With Abbott still holding his tongue, perhaps the best response has come from Labor MP Tim Watts. The Member for Gellibrand spent the majority of his Easter Saturday denouncing the protest group, and methodically trolling their supporters.

What Do We Do With All This?

It’s hard to imagine the events of the weekend changed any minds on the matter. Those who came out to “reclaim the nation” were only angered further by those they viewed as the enemy of their cause. The majority of those standing up to the group did little but amplify the attention given to the protest itself. The violent turn things took makes it difficult to fully sympathise with anyone at all.

Of course, the fact that Reclaim Australia have been able to solidify themselves as a group in the public eye speaks a lot about the state of Australia’s far-Right. Not everyone laughs when Jacqui Lambie rambles about Sharia law or halal foods. There are still people out there who listen to Pauline Hanson. The group’s broad denouncement of Islam for “hostage sieges”, “foiled beheading and bombing attempts”, is not dissimilar from what’s been expressed by our Prime Minister.

The group itself might be small-time, but what its existence says about cultural relations in Australia is worth talking about. The trick is in finding the right way to start that conversation.

Feature image via Getty.

Comments

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    Contemporary governments are to blame for this current epidemic of hatred. They allow people’s prejudices and fears to fester so long as it fits within their own agendas. In many cases they subtly promote it, by way of inaction or implied support. Neither party appears equipped to combat it as this would take leadership with a vision. It would take a committed group of people who had the welfare of the many as their guidance, rather than self concern or vested interest dominating their decision making.
    Much of why the current protests of hatred are occurring is because of misinformation and ignorance. No political or religious organisation has categorically stood up and said “this is wrong” in a clear and concise way. Those who have use spin speak because they are all compromised in some way or another. Both major political parties want to reign in free speech as it is an impediment to their unfettered powers and terrorism is something that they use to reduce or tighten current freedoms. If they spent as much on educating people on why it is illogical to hate someone because of their race colour or sexuality then over a couple of generations this would disappear. (The open use of words such as nigger, poofter and spastic etc as derogatory terms is a case in point.) That many of these discriminatory practices have their basis in religious doctrine and teaching should tell governments to stop letting these groups bear so much influence. The problem there is that too many are beholden to some faith or another. (Same sex marriage would not be an issue if this were not the case.)
    We are not warring with Islamic terrorists, that is just the current excuse. What we need, is to stop allowing fundamentalists of any type to gain traction without vigorous opposition from people of influence and in government. Don’t allow it to occur just because you think it will advantage your position. Politicians, stop being hypocrites and stop trying to be re-elected. Religions, stop being hypocrites and stop trying to protect the bank balance. Both of you need to stop pandering to their power bases and may find that the power base is only powerful because you pander to them.
    Maybe, just maybe, the majority want peace and fairness.

  2. fibee says:

    Thanks for linking directly to I Was Only 19. Good music is the only way I can read about assholes like these guys without smashing my head into my desk.

  3. Terry Wrist says:

    The whole movement probably snowballed after the Man Haron Monis siege.Can’t blame them for not wanting more of that type of people in this country, the more you bring in the more trouble you’re going to have with radicals.

  4. Terry Wrist says:

    Strange that the left wants to bring many more Islamic folk to this nation, when Islam is far, far more conservative than Christianity.How many muslims support gay marriage? Nuff said.

  5. Rex says:

    Oh really, and the anti reclaim australia protesters were angels and didn’t carry on in exactly the same way. I’m always amazed how people like yourself are quite happy to label all the reclaim australia protesters as assholes but get upset should someone label all muslims as extremists. Isn’t that a little hypocritical……

  6. Rex says:

    What about freedom of speech? Seems some are happy to let socialist lefties scream filthy names at others but should it be returned in kind then suddenly the socialist lefties are calling people racists. Funny thing about the socialist lefties is that they don’t have enough of an education to realise the difference between “racist” and “bigot”.

  7. Rex says:

    The left won’t be happy until they have totally screwed Australia up. They have already (through their ALP/Greens parties) stuffed Australia economically, torn apart our sense of identity and now want as many people as possible from non conforming cultures to come here and basically destroy anything Australian. I now don’t consider friends who vote ALP friends anymore and i now have no time for the universities that produce such filth that constantly show up at protests just to piss people off.

  8. Samanjj says:

    We bombed Afghanistan and Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of their civilians and have the nerve to call all Muslims extremists. Wake up. There is no place for any of this extremism be it Muslim, secular, Christian or otherwise in a modern enlightened world.

  9. Rex says:

    You got proof that we killed “hundreds of thousands” or are you just throwing a figure out there?

  10. Ayn Rancid says:

    That first skinhead is legit antiracist, there’s a very interesting history of progressive skinheads.

  11. Samanjj says:

    That was a quoted figure from an American institution after the invasion. After that the U.S. invasion force kept counts secret then in some cases stopped counting. How many do you think we killed? None?

  12. Rex says:

    “We” are not American nor are we British nor are we Canadian nor are we any other nationality. “We” are Australian so why don’t you give me a figure of how much the Australian troops supposedly killed. Once you have done that then tell me how many of those causalities were “collateral damage” by Australian troops. My guess is you going to find absolutely zilch in regards to it because our troops are pretty damn well trained and do question orders unlike the US and UK.

  13. Terry Wrist says:

    Not in my name.You’ll find the globalists invaded Iraq to secure oil supplies.They want to invade Iran (and have for several years) in order to control the straight of Hormuz and therefore cut off supply of oil to China if necessary.Afghanistan was invaded because the taliban were outlawing opium production.Last year poppy production in Afghanistan reached record highs, go look it up, 27% higher than 2013.

  14. Terry Wrist says:

    Racist is just their “go to”.Interesting article on ZH today that applies to modern lefties http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-07/most-whiney-thin-skinned-easily-offended-society-history-world

    The full answer escapes me, but I know it requires everyone to come to terms with these five Absolute Truths:

    1) If it wasn’t intended to offend you, then you shouldn’t be offended.

    2) You do not get to decide someone else’s intentions. They do.

    3) Being offended is a choice you make. Nobody is responsible for that choice but you.

    4) Even if the slight was intended and deliberate,
    functioning adults understand that they must move on and not dwell over every sideways glance or rude comment.

    5) You have to stop doing the trendy internet thing where
    you write something on a piece of paper and take a picture of yourself holding it up while frowning. It’s just annoying at this point.

  15. Rex says:

    Thanks for that article, how so true it is.

    I was on a online media site the other day and commented that in this day and age everyone is entitled to have an opinion whether we like it or not.

    Sure enough i was called a Racist, Islamaphobic, Nazi and a Christian Extremist (funny since i’m not a Christian).

    All because i said people are within their rights to voice concerns. I didn’t say i supported one side or the other.

    The responses were microaggression at it’s best i suppose you could say.

    Anyway, good article and some of the pics and comments on it had me falling over in laughter.

    I seriously do wonder where this insane world is going at times.

  16. Josh says:

    This is not about Islam. The demographics of the counter-protesters made that very clear. It wasn’t just Muslims protesting; it was the whole degenerate ensemble of gays, lesbians, socialists, aggrieved aborigines, migrants, refugees, etc. What possible motivation could bind this motley crew of degenerates? Simple: their hatred of Anglo-Celtic Australia and Western Civilization in general. That Muslims treat their women like sex slaves doesn’t matter for now to the feminists because what takes priority is destroying Anglo-Celtic Australia.

    We are on the right side of history because we are the underdogs and because the science is on our side. Very soon now establishment drones like JUNKEE will look very foolish.

  17. OSandJ says:

    If you hate Muslims so much, why do you care if Muslim women are treated badly?

  18. OSandJ says:

    The bigger issue is that you don’t seem to have a problem with RA. I feel sorry for you.

  19. OSandJ says:

    Anti-intellectual as well as racist/bigoted. Why am I not surprised? I shouldn’t be so mean I guess, there are studies which show a correlation between the under-educated and conservatism.

  20. Josh says:

    I don’t hate Muslims, which i made clear in my first sentence, “This is not about Islam.”

  21. Josh says:

    there are studies using similar methodologies showing that aborigines and black people have lower mean IQs than whites.

  22. Vivenne Kingswood says:

    You idiot. You have VERY limited knowledge of history of this country and of our ‘Anglo-Celtic’ background. Sit down with my 90 year old, Irish immigrant grandmother for 10 minitues and listen to what she was to say about how welcoming your ‘Anglo-Celtic Australia’ was to the Irish. You seem to think that all us whities are all so wonderful to each other. Have you even heard of the potato famine? Do you know anything about the (still current and still violent) relationship between prodestants and catholics? You think that just becuase we are all ‘white’ that somehow we are all hunky-dory? What the hell does Anglo-Celtic even mean? Are we all somehow part Scottish too? Because the English also hated the Scotts, and the Scotts hate the Irish and the Welsh… And anyone from the greater ‘white’ parts of Europe. Pick up a damn history book, shhesh.

  23. Josh says:

    The English hated the Scots so much, which is why a disproportionate number of colonial governors were Scotsmen… Almost none of the anglo-irish conflict that was going on in britain occurred in Australia. Only a handful of Irish uprising are known to me, and they were all very quickly put down.

  24. David Hill says:

    ahh Josh so you want the white australia policy back then is that right ?

  25. David Hill says:

    Reclaim must of missed the part of the Australian constitution which says we have freedom of religion .

  26. Katanyavich says:

    Utterly delusional, and totally incorrect. Attitudes like yours are what’s wrong with this country.

  27. Rex says:

    Couldn’t care less what you think leftie.

  28. Rex says:

    So typical, throw the “racism” word about. As for uneducated, i’m doing quite well financially and live a good life, you don’t get to be there without an education. As i said to the other leftie, i couldn’t care less what you think.

  29. Rex says:

    So that means freedom to preach hate? Where do you people have your heads? In the sand or what. There has been plenty of cases where Imans have been recorded preaching hate for the west. I guess your ok with that just like the other dills who have posted this morning. I also guess you would be fine with a delusional young muslim kid blowing himself up in the name of religious freedom too and in the act killing innocent men, women and children.

  30. Rex says:

    Assumptions and presumptions….

    So typical of the lefties in this world.

    How about you respect others to be heard and their opinions to be voiced instead of ramming your own down others throats sunshine.

  31. Rex says:

    No i don’t have a problem with free speech. Seems you are ok for Islamic preachers in Australia to spew hate and have a forum based on religious freedom telling young men and kids to go blow themselves up or kill other people of different faiths but no one else is allowed to voice an opinion against them for saying it. You tarring the RA people with the same brush is no different to other members of society tarring Muslims with the same brush you hypocrite.

  32. Rex says:

    Your the idiot trying to use a problem that is occurring in the UK. I don’t see Irish or Scots or English at each others throats here in Aus. Maybe you should go live in England where you can vent your microaggression onto someone there who cares.

    As for telling someone to go pick up a history book and then not even knowing what an Anglo-Celtic is, it makes you look pretty silly in my eyes.

  33. Josh says:

    well, israel has a Jewish Israeli policy; japan has “essentialy” a Japanese japan policy. It doesn’t seem that out of place in the world.

  34. Terry Wrist says:

    Yes, don’t forget countries like Liberia, where you are only eligible for citizenship if you are a black African.Lefties don’t know the meaning of the word racist, sad considering how much they overuse it.

  35. Terry Wrist says:

    That explain why Detroit is such an economic powerhouse after voting left wing for 50 years straight.

  36. Terry Wrist says:

    Hardly freedom of religion for those of other religions who find the majority of processed food on the supermarket shelves is blessed with a foreign god.I’m not religious personally but i can see why Buddhists,Christians,Hindus etc don’t like it.

  37. Richard Cunningham says:

    Reclaim Australia isn’t preaching hate?

  38. David Hill says:

    Actually no I am not ok with terrorism of any sort , we have to look at why people are attracted to extremism , personally I think people who feel ostracised and made to feel not accepted are more likely to be lured into extremist groups

  39. Tristan Conway says:

    I don’t understand why bigoted rightards envoke freedom of speech. It’s not part of or constition and there are acts that condemn hate speech. It’s not a valid argument.

  40. Samanjj says:

    We were the allies. Howard made sure we went in with the U.S. and UK. France didn’t. We should have stood with them.

  41. Samanjj says:

    I think you might have something there Terry. Trade should be open and beneficial to all parties. If it has to be done with a gun we’re missing the point.

  42. Vivenne Kingswood says:

    So a bunch of people who hated each other for being slightly different for hundreds (thousands?) of years, very recently, finally, worked out that it was better for everyone socially and economically if they stopped fighting and worked together. And this outcome is only appropriate in this particular circumstance because they all had white skin. Different langauges, cultural tradtions, religions, ceremonies etc etc, but white skin. You can ignore all the other aspects that make them different and (in some cases) irreconcilable (Irish Catholic v CofE) as long as the skin colour is right (white). The reason I hate the term ‘Anglo-Celtic’ is becuase it’s a nonsense term used by people like you who do like to think the Irish/Scots/Brits/Welsh are the same, when they are quite obviously not.