AN ABORIGINAL mother has been left reeling after her three-year-old daughter was victim to a vicious racist attack during a trip to Melbourne.
Ballarat resident Rachel Muir took her daughter Samara, 3, to a Disney-themed children’s event at Watergardens shopping centre in Taylors Lakes last month.
Dressed as Queen Elsa from the animated film Frozen, Samara waited for two hours in line for a children’s snow pit.
But the day ended in tears when Samara was subjected to a spate of racial slurs from a mother and her two daughters waiting in line.
“The lady in front of us turned around to Samara and said ‘I don’t know why you’re dressed up for because Queen Elsa isn’t black’,” Ms Muir said.
“I asked the woman what she meant by the comment and then one of the woman’s young daughters screwed up her face, she pointed at Samara and said ‘you’re black and black is ugly’.”
Ms Muir said she was left stunned by the hateful comments.
Samara burst into tears and hid her face behind her hands.
“I looked around the line and there were little girls of all different races lining up dressed as their favourite Disney characters,” Ms Muir said.
“We were in Melbourne, one of the most multicultural places in the world.
“I couldn’t believe it.”
Refusing to be broken by the abuse, Ms Muir and Samara held hands and waited until they got to the front of the line.
But, in the days following the incident, Samara became withdrawn and refused to go to her weekly Aboriginal dance class.
“When I asked why she didn’t want to go, she pointed at the skin on her arm and asked why she was black,” Ms Muir said.
“I told her ‘because God gave you that skin colour, because you’re a proud blackfella like mum’.”
Ms Muir wrote a Facebook post about the incident to her family and friends. Within days it had been shared more than 1300 times.
“The saddest part of it all is that racism is alive and well and the next generation are being subjected to it,” Ms Muir said. “Nobody is born into this world a racist. It is learnt behaviour. It can be changed.”
Ms Muir said she shared the post to challenge bigoted views that still existed.
The attack was condemned by Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive Karen Heap, who said racism was still rampant in Australia.
“You ask anybody who is a darker shade living in this country and they will tell you racism well and truly still exists,” Ms Heap said.
“It almost cuts deeper these days because it isn’t as blatant as it used to be, so when it happens it comes as shock.
“It is horrendous that a grown woman would say that in front of her own children and to another innocent child. Rachel and Samara are proud Aboriginal women and that’s the way it should be.”
Ms Heap said it mirrored an incident last year, in which respected Aboriginal elder Ted Lovett was racially vilified at a Ballarat football match.
“The aftermath of incidents like this are shattering,” Ms Heap said.
“We live in a supposedly multicultural society but there is still so much more education and work that is needed to overcome racial discrimination.”
Federation University lecturer in humanities Dr Lesley Speed said a lack of diversity in popular culture played a significant role in setting social stereotypes that could lead to racism.
“There has been controversy over Disney because many of Disney’s movies are centred on the conventional ideas of beauty, femininity and masculinity,” she said.
“Frozen, which is supposed to be inspired by Scandinavians, doesn’t reflect indigenous Scandinavians who are traditionally people of colour.
“The lack of diversity has the potential for popular culture to be discouraging for children who see themselves as different if they don’t look like that.
“It would be great to see more diverse princesses.”
Ms Muir made an official complaint to the shopping centre’s management after the incident and found the staff to be “extremely apologetic”.
She said the shopping centre’s management told her antisocial behaviour was not tolerated and there would be extra security at future events.