Channel Seven’s Gangs of Oz has come under fire for its descriptions of members of the Middle Eastern community.
In the first episode interviewee Detective Superintendent Ken McKay, head of the NSW Organised Crime Directorate, says “Middle Eastern groups are involved in everything. If they didn’t invent it, they perfected it in terms of crime.”
“The criminal, in the Middle Eastern sense, is more cowardice (sic) than your general criminal. They’d rather use a gun than stand in a fist fight.”
But federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma, whose role as head of ethnic discrimination at the Australian Human Rights Commission makes him the country’s most senior voice on race issues, said that Mr McKay’s casual use of terms such as “Middle Eastern” caused communities to feel stigmatised.
“It would seem the commentary goes well beyond serving any operational purpose and is likely to be damaging to a community already affected by these stereotypes,” Mr Calma said.
Dr Michael Kennedy, a lecturer in social justice at the University of Western Sydney fears the show could spark a race row.
“What Ken has said in this show is completely counterproductive to what the police are trying to achieve,” he said.
“Using cliches and one-liners will alienate the community who have Middle Eastern heritage and … it will be officers on the ground that will have to put up with the backlash from these remarks.”
Criticism has also been levelled at the way in which the show’s narrator, actor Colin Friels, attempts to explain the history of Lebanese immigrants to Australia.
“‘For some of these migrants, the traditional system of family control broke down and the children ran amok,” Friels says.
But series producer Neil Mercer defended the show and Mr McKay’s remarks saying, “Ken was calling a spade a spade.”
“The reason we used these titles is because NSW has crime units which are called the Middle Eastern, Asian, bikers and so on.”
“With its provocative title, Gangs of Oz will appeal to those who helped make Border Security a massive hit. Narrated by Colin Friels, the first episode contains some ethnic generalisations, and pinpoints suburbs and streets of Sydney with a supposedly bad reputation.” – TV Tonight review.
Source: The Age
Photo: stock image