Seven accused of ganging up on race relations

nswpolice1Channel 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


  1. I thought it was a fair portrayal. From what I saw while living in Sydney between 1995 and 2003 the problem was far more widespread and sicker than channel 7’s depiction. When will the truth be sacred again?
    …and people wonder why the Cronulla riots happened!!!! Well, Australians will give people a fair go but they will certainly not be victimised in their own country!
    The treatment of the police by Magistrate O’Shane was deplorable as well – when are good police going to get some real support from the legal profession?!!!!!

  2. The first episode of this tv show is a joke, these people that turn around and direct and make these shows wouldnt have a clue about crime, who runs it or how it runs. They got the italians on next week and i highly doubt there would be the same response to that episode as there was to this.
    I must agree with ‘steve’ there is crime all over australia, middle eastern gangs, italian gangs, australian gangs, many gangs not just the middle eastern who out of nothing become the perfectionists. What about south australian bikie gangs there not middle eastern run, yet the south australian govt doesnt let them associate.
    Get a grip of yourself channel 7, little do you know about any gangs, you just hear, assume, direct and film, then cause racial intolerance.

  3. This is only the first episode, the other episodes could be showing bikie gangs etc. It should be put into context with the whole series taken into account. Having said that, Seven should maintain a balance in the way ethnic people are portrayed, show ethnic gangs but also include ethnic people in other areas such as lifestyle programming as well and I don’t mean Border Security (the mind boggles as to why it is broadcast on The Lifestyle Channel).

  4. Neon Kitten, RichoTB and countless others have summarised my feelings towards this show. Don’t watch it, people, and maybe Seven will stop programming such insular drivel (and the others *cough* Customs *cough* might stop copying them).

  5. Will people still be complaining so loudly when they show white gangs on this show? I am sick to death of the race card being played when ever it suits certain people. Face the facts middle eastern gangs are a problem in NSW as well as other parts of Australia. Then again so are white gangs, aboriginal gangs, asian gangs, african gangs… Open your eyes people.. perhaps if you could walk the beat or see what a police officer sees everyday of the week you wouldn’t be so naive. There is good and bad in all races and the community needs to join together and offer other alternatives especially to youths joining gangs.

  6. Your quite right FJ anything for ratings but this kind of racism coming from a cop and broadcast by 7 is disgusting.

    But you gotta admit 7 know their audience.

  7. “The reason we used these titles is because NSW has crime units which are called the Middle Eastern, Asian, bikers and so on.” – That may be true, but those conversations aren’t usually broadcast to the entire country. Now that it will be, unintended consequences should be taken into consideration, and so they should have perhaps scrapped the idea of airing this show entirely.

  8. David, you called it 100% correctly in your original review.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed the Border Security promos that Seven’s been running this week:

    “The only thing standing between us and them – Border Security”

    Seven’s obviously decided that playing the xenophobia card rates.

    I hate them for that.

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