white flight, australian schools, everything is terrible

Australian schools are suffering from white flight fed by some racist shit, and it is awful and holding us all back, and also I’m probably a genius based on a Buzzfeed article.

Last week, three articles.

1. White flight: race segregation in Melbourne state schools

Natalie Sims was told not to send her son Daniel to Fitzroy Primary School.

Other local mothers called her “brave” for sending him to a school where the students were mostly Somali and Muslim from commission housing nearby.

“There was a suggestion that I wasn’t being careful enough with my child’s education,” says Ms Sims.

WOW. WOW. Are you fucking with me? This is my nearest primary school, the kids here are the best, I would ADORE sending any and all small humans in my life to Fitzroy Primary School.

They’ve been called “sink schools” – schools drained of affluent families and high achieving students.

White families with higher incomes are opting to enrol their children in over-subscribed schools a few suburbs away.

They favour Clifton Hill, Princes Hill and Merri Creek primary schools, where 79 to 84 per cent of families are among the state’s richest.

These schools – with just 10 to 30 per cent of students speaking a language other than English at home – offer accelerated programs, overseas trips and boast above-average NAPLAN scores.

So what happens when you take your kids out of a school, when you’re a person with a lot of money who moves their kids to a different school: you create a drain, an ongoing problem of rich families moving away and less affluent families (brown families, my family) having to deal with that.

You create a problem where those of us who remain look at ourselves, and look at other schools, and think, what is wrong with my school? You create a situation where we look at each other and think, I had better put myself into debt to send my daughter to a different school.

(I spent senior school in a fancy private school on a partial scholarship; my fees went from $300 a year to $2000 a year, and the uniforms and travel time that all encompassed, because my local, slightly brown, government school was “not extending me enough”)

“They may not view it as racism, but it is … you can sugar coat it, and put it differently, but I won’t.”

2. This article is fine, I guess: Only ‘doctors and lawyers’ get in to popular state schools

She also said it was common for schools to state their demographics.

When asked why the school thought it necessary to publish that its families came from middle class areas, she replied “it is a statement of fact.”

3. I literally can’t breathe from this opinion, the idea that this is how you solve this problem: White flight in schools: it’s not about racism

The idea that it’s the so-called “high achieving” kids’ social responsibility to sacrifice their own education to somehow drag up the level of their peers (by osmosis?) is obnoxious and entitled. How do I know? After being bored witless for most of my school years, I decided to leave. The principal called me into his office and told me I couldn’t go because “we can’t afford to lose students like you in the senior levels because you bring our scores up”.

This is not how you solve this problem!

So how do you choose which group will suffer?


This article is awful! It’s anecdote as solution! It’s anecdote as accuracy! Also it highlights bad teaching as if it’s the right solution! And also it gives many terrible racist people another argument to use to deny us things. And also:

The idea that smart kids should sacrifice their own education to drag up their peers from non-English speaking families is simply obnoxious.


[Liz notes: I went to a bunch of super-dooper-white schools which ALSO had terrible teaching aimed at the lowest common denominators, only no one could blame it on the non-white kids, we just knew they were bad schools. Private and public, for the record. For a good time, ask my parents how overjoyed they were when they found out they were spending a fortune on school fees and I didn’t know how to use commas.]

[Also, I still don’t know how to use commas.]

Because here’s where this attitude, where this fucked up, terrible, this is my experience so this is the way attitude takes us: Sydney’s finest Asian Australian students still missing out on leadership roles.

For the past 20 years in a row, one Sydney high school has taken out the top HSC results in the state.

At James Ruse High in Sydney’s north-west, an ATAR of above 99 is so expected that it became its own satire song.

“100 ATAR, 100 ATAR, 100 ATAR,” year 12 students rapped in a take on Psy’s Gangnam Style. “99.95, not good enough”.

It is also a school where up to 80 per cent of students come from a language background other than English, most of them from Asian families, according to the NSW Department of Education.

And yet, the statistics show that despite students of Asian origin dominating the academic scale at schools like James Ruse Agricultural High around the country, few rise to the top of the political, business and academic pile.

Australians of Asian descent make up to 12 per cent of the country’s population but only four members of the federal Parliament. Of the 17 government departments only one counts a leader of Asian descent as its head.


But it’s US holding you white peeps back


With our languages other than English and our working class immigrant families

The unconscious bias goes right to the top. The country’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, has been asked if he worked in IT or Finance, or most recently, as an accountant.


Don’t think even for a minute to say ‘oh it’s because of the industries Asian-Australians are expected to aim for, family, etc etc, because we’re not even on the boards of those industries! Do you know why? It’s not because we’re not leadership material!

(Incidentally, relatedly, I just did this at Buzzfeed, If You Can Identify 75% Of These Languages On Sight, You’re Probably A Genius, I got 16/19 (aka 84%) without guessing because I SPEAK FOUR OF THEM, SO SUCK IT)

It’s fine, though, it’s not up to Australia’s smartest (white) kids to pull us brown kids up, and it’s definitely not racism. IT’S FINE.

We usually try to end these kinds of rants on calls to arms or further readings or whatever, but I can’t. I’m too angry. I’m so angry I just watched trash movie Centre Stage 2: Turn It Up to calm down, and it is not a good movie. Will the indecencies never end?!

Okay wait, here is a 101 you can read: White flight: Why are our state schools segregating? There’s not a heap we can do as individuals other than support our local schools and make decisions based on ability and accessibility not CODED RACISM but it is a start I guess.


One thought on “white flight, australian schools, everything is terrible

  1. I can remember back in the 1980s, when I was in primary school (and dinosaurs walked the earth), I was sharing classes with students who were of all kinds of different backgrounds. There were people whose families had come from Italy, people whose families had come from all the various British cultures (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales), people whose families had come from Iceland, people whose families were Indigenous Australian (although they didn’t mention it as such), people whose families had come from South Africa (not pale skinned), and people whose families had come to Australia by boat from Vietnam and Cambodia. Meanwhile, the region of Perth I lived in was also running extension programs for the “academically gifted and talented” – some of the first in the state. There were at least three kids from my primary school who went to the classes (I was one of them). So yeah… racial diversity wasn’t really hurting us any.

    Then again, this school was in a working-class/lower middle class area, and this was well before John Howard had decided to start throwing government money at private schools – so if you wanted to send your kid to a private (usually Catholic) school, you had to stump up the whole of the fees yourself. Otherwise, it was all government schools, all the way.

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