Sandra Lee

Is Australia a country of racists? And Betty Ford’s sex shock

September 2, 2009 at 6:31 pm

marie claire Australia October 2009 cover

marie claire Australia October 2009 cover

Big question: is the sunburnt country with its lands of sweeping plains littered with red-necks, racists and bigots?

I’ve addressed that question in a new story in the latest edition of Australia’s fashion magazine, marie claire, that hit newstands today – the one with Rachel McAdams on the cover.

In the aftermath of the violent and racist attacks on foreign students from Asia, the words “racist” and “Australian” have been used often in the same sentence, but what does the evidence show?

“When people make snap decisions, they fall back on their prejudices,” says Australian National University Professor Andrew Leigh, who conducted a survey to determine the level of discrimination faced by job applicants of various ethnicities.

The results of his survey might just surprise you.

Meanwhile, it was heartening to realise that Australia has one of the biggest hearts among western countries when it comes to accepting immigrants under the Federal humanitarian Resettlement Program. In the 2007 – 2008 year, the nation welcomed a total of 13,014 people from a variety of countries.

Sure, we could do more, but it’s not a bad start on a per capita basis.

Meanwhile, marie claire closes on a tribute I’ve written about on one of America’s finest and most poised former First Ladies, Betty Ford.

Former First Lady of the United States, Betty Ford, during her days in the White House

Former First Lady of the United States, Betty Ford, during her days in the White House

Perhaps not surprisingly, the 91-year-old will be remembered for what she did with her years in the White House, as well as afterwards including establishing the respected Betty Ford Center for the treatment of people with drugs and alcohol dependence.

Disarmingly open and unashamedly outspoken, she was a feminist who directed the women’s lib movement to a new audience of conservative stay-at-home women when it was strategically focused on the already radicalised bra-burners and younger women at universities; she was an advocate for people who, like her, suffered addiction to alcohol and drugs – legal and illegal; and she was determinedly honest following the scandalous presidency of Richard Nixon, whom her husband replaced.

But my favourite discovery was when Mrs Ford, in the very early days of Gerald Ford’s presidency, stunned the media and the world when she revealed that – shock, horror – she absolutely would sleep in the same bed as him. At the time, the president a kept a separate bedroom from his wife. What a brazen hussy!

For more on whether our lucky country is a racist country and to discover the wonderful life of an incredible woman, pick up the latest copy of marie claire.

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