Reporting Diversity
Case Study Two

Reporting on immigrant communities
– Sudanese immigrants in two regional centres


Toowoomba – critical incidents

2. Identification of letterbox campaign instigator – August 2005

On August 22, 2005, The Australian reported that the Crow’s Nest man behind the July WCPA campaign in Toowoomba had been identified as Jim Perrin, and that police were tracking his activities. The article quoted extensively from Mr Perrin’s online messages, and reported that residents believed his views were common knowledge around the town. The curator of the Military Museum where Mr Perrin volunteers opined that support for white supremacist groups was widespread in Toowoomba. Darren Abbott is quoted asserting that “…they are not extremists, they’re patriots standing up for their country. They say what the majority of Australians think”. The article paraphrased Sudanese community leader Angelo Geng, again stating that the majority of Toowoomba’s residents were sympathetic and supportive. A brief follow-up report was published in The Australian on August 23. This item stated that the Defence Department had rejected calls from Toowoomba’s Aboriginal community to stand down Mr Abbott, curator of the Military Museum, following his comments describing WPCA members as “patriots”. The Toowoomba Chronicle published an article on August 24 reporting that Mr Abbot had denied his statements were racist. He contended that his comments were taken out of context and the report misrepresented his views. Mr Abbot denied knowing that Mr Perrin held racist views when he referred to him as a “good bloke” while speaking of his former membership of the museum committee. The article made only a passing reference to the accusations against Jim Perrin and did not refer directly to the WPCA campaign.

The Toowoomba Chronicle reported on August 23 that racist graffiti had been painted in a local park overnight. The article included photographs of the graffiti and quoted one piece which read “all niggers deserve to die”. Local residents were quoted expressing their outrage about the graffiti, some focusing on the message and others on the vandalism. The article made no reference to the WPCA campaign or the reactions of African or Aboriginal residents. The final Chronicle article was a short piece reporting that the Sudanese Community Association had found a permanent location on the local TAFE campus after searching for a year. Community leader Albino Thook1 is quoted describing plans for the new meeting place.

Follow-up

On October 19, the Chronicle published a report that racist material had been distributed to a street to which a Sudanese family had recently moved. The article quoted Sudanese community leader Angelo Geng refuting perceptions that refugees lived on hand-outs which were spent at the pub or on holidays. Mark Copland from the Social Justice Commission was paraphrased asserting that refugees received very little government or community assistance, relying on relatives and church groups to provide them with basic necessities on arrival in the community. The report included a brief overview of the racist campaign, including the graffiti incident and a March 2004 incident in which a Sudanese family was targeted.

1Previously identified by the Toowoomba Chronicle as Albino Chol Thiik, in the August 1 article "'We like it here'. New Federal Minister listens as Sudanese scuttle allegations of racist community in Toowoomba".

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