A major protest in September last year when hundreds rallied against a planned mosque.
A major protest in September last year when hundreds rallied against a planned mosque. john mccutcheon

OPINION: Is Australia becoming guilty of apartheid too?

WE had three toilets in our house growing up, but the dirty outside one full of cobwebs was never built for my precious, white bum.

It was the place our black workers, if we had any, were expected to use.

While they were good enough to clean the faeces out of our toilet bowl, the thinking was they weren't good enough to use it.

I used to wonder why we could never go out to eat with our Indian friends at the Spur, one of our favourite chain restaurants.

But I never really did anything about it.

Kathy Sundstrom.
Kathy Sundstrom. barry leddicoat

I even had my own pretty African name they gave me, Noboghle, which apparently meant "beautiful one".

I never understood why Greg, the hunky boy in my Year 7 class (Standard 5 in those days), used to sneer when he saw me on the bus and call me "Kathy for the kaffirs".

I never really knew what a "kaffir" was, except it was a derogatory term for the people who were nice to me.

It didn't use to make sense that my dad had to carry his ID book (an identity document) when we went to the beach to prove, despite his olive skin, he was actually "white".

It makes me laugh today when people comment on how jealous they are of my olive skin in summer.

For some reason, I've been thinking about my apartheid upbringing in South Africa this week.

It may have something to do with being approached by Sunshine Coast Safe Communities at the Nambour Show with their concerns about mosques and the spread of Islam.

It may be that it is refugee week and there are questions as to whether the government paid people smugglers to return a boat to Indonesia.

For years, I have been one of those rigorously opposing refugees because it was such a headache for my family to get into this country.

We used to joke "come in by boat, it's easier".

And I too have watched the way Islamic State has slaughtered Christians in horror and I share the fear something like this could happen here.

But as I remember my childhood, I remember the fear of black people, endemic in the culture I grew up in.

If we allowed blacks to share our toilets, our buses, our beaches and our restaurants, we believed the "rooi gevaar" - red danger, referring to Communism - would take over.

That fear now seems so out of place and the horrors and tragedies that take place in South African are born out of poverty, need and lingering hatred for apartheid oppressors.

My recollections have forced me to look at my own concerns about refugees and Muslims and see if they are based on radicalised fear-mongering or fact.

I admit, in shame, I have often allowed fears to overshadow compassion.

I'm not sure what the answer is. I understand we have to have some protections in place.

But segregating people, denying rights and closing doors to people who've giving up everything to escape has never worked.

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