University of Western Australia sociologist and anthropologist Professor Farida Fozdar and a team of assistants surveyed 513 people at the Australia Day fireworks on Perth’s Swan River foreshore last year to find out whether there was a link between car flag flying and racist attitudes.
Professor Fozdar said the team found that of the 102 people surveyed on the day who had attached flags to their cars for the national holiday, 43 per cent agreed with the statement that the now-abandoned “White Australia Policy” had “saved Australia from many problems experienced by other countries”.
She said that only 25 per cent of people who did not fly Australia car flags agreed with the statement.
Under the “White Australia Policy”, which was non-official government policy until after World War II, non-Europeans were barred from migrating to Australia.
The survey also found that a total of 56 per cent of people with car flags feared for Australian culture and believed that the country’s most important values were in danger, compared with 34 per cent of non-flag flyers.
Thirty-five per cent of flag flyers felt that people had to be born in Australia to be truly Australian, compared with 22 per cent of non-flag flyers. Twenty-three per cent of flag flyers believed that true Australians had to be Christian, while 18 per cent of non-flaggers agreed with the statement.
An overwhelming 91 per cent of people with car flags agreed that people who move to Australia should adopt Australian values, compared with 76 per cent of non-flaggers.
A total of 55 per cent of flaggers believed migrants should leave their old ways behind, compared with 30 per cent of non-flaggers.
“What I found interesting is that many people didn’t really have much to say about why they chose to fly car flags or not,” Professor Fozdar said.
“Many felt strongly patriotic about it – and for some, this was quite a racist or exclusionary type of patriotism – but it wasn’t a particularly conscious thing for many.”
The research backs up an opinion piece from PhD student Michael Britton, who has lectured in history and politics at Curtin University and Notre Dame University, which argues that flying an Australian flag on a car may actually be a sign of disrespect for the country.