Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Indians brand Australians as dumb, drunk, racist

  • Print

BRISBANE -- Here's a challenge. Sum up your country in three words, but please don't use 'dumb, drunk, racist,' because Australia has secured copyright.

Dumb, drunk and racist is what India is calling Australians who until recently were affectionately regarded as an uncouth but convivial people -- disarming, tail-waggingly friendly and possessed of a rough-hewn charm.

"Friendly, coarse, irreverent'' might have been our three-word summary but now globalization, which has reduced the world to a gossipy small town, has thrown up -- dumb, drunk, racist.

Pithy enough to feature regularly in the Twittersphere, it originated in Indian call centres where managers instructed staff Australia was the stupidest continent on the globe, populated largely by bigoted drunkards.

Staff was told to speak slowly to Australians who were "technologically backward'' and gently warned Australian customers might also call them, wait for it, "brown bastards."

Sydney-based journalist Joe Hilderbrand, deeply affronted by such baseless vituperations, decided to set the record straight by inviting four well-educated young Indians for an Aussie road trip to prove what an affable crowd we really are.

Rather awkwardly for Hilderbrand, his mission, broadcast this week by the ABC, only proved that, yup, dumb, drunk and stupid was not merely a perceptive summary of our character.

It was 'right, bang on the money,' as an Australian punter might say.

While Hilderbrand is a savvy satirist, he was clearly unnerved to uncover an ugly seam of almost wilful ignorance running through his nation while filming the documentary, creatively titled Dumb, Drunk and Racist.

White supremacists, rowdy bands of protesters intimidating asylum-seekers and street-fighting drunks were all greeted by the puzzled stares of the visiting Indians who, as if to elucidate our ignorance, were cultivated and courteous people.

Hilderbrand did face a difficult challenge. India has for years been suspicious about Australia after widespread reports racists often bash Indian students studying in Australia.

And it's true Australia is no longer seen as the friendliest kid in the global playground. American comedian Robin Williams famously declared after a visit Down Under "the Australians are basically English rednecks.''

Williams insists he was misinterpreted -- "I should have said good ol' boys'' -- but the outraged local reaction reached all the way to the prime minister's office and confirmed we're sensitive to what might be uncomfortable truths.

Reputations of countries can be unfair and far removed from reality but, for better or worse, each has one.

The majority of Australians gazing at America might think 'brash, confident, successful,' which conjures up images of a wealthy businessman.

Thinking of England, an average Australian might go for 'superior, conservative, stoic,' with perhaps one of the royals slipping into our minds.

For Italy, we might settle on 'exuberant, festive, food' and France 'cultured, intelligent, rude' while Switzerland is a little more difficult -- 'staid, pretty, and something about chocolate.'

An Australian vaguely familiar with Canada might offer 'solid, progressive, tolerant.' That's something of a contradiction in terms and conjures up images of a pot-smoking-but-otherwise-diligent Mountie.

It might also be wide of the mark. But you've got to admit, it's a whole bunch better than 'dumb, drunk and racist.'

Michael Madigan is Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2012 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police address homicides targeting homeless community

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A pelican comes in for a landing Wednesday afternoon on the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba - Standup photo- June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google