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Australians Say #NotMyAustralia to Racist 'African Gang' Story

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The Australian community has rallied together to voice its disapproval over a story published by Seven Network’s Sunday Night program, which insisted “African gangs were running riot, terrorizing, and wreaking havoc.”

The story focused on an interview with Elaine French, who claimed her life was devastated after the Melbourne jewellery store where she worked was robbed by "armed African criminals" in both October 2016 and January 2017.

French told reporter Alex Cullen she could no longer go shopping due to the fear of running into “coloured people” and that she hoped the robbers would "be deported to where they came from”.

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The story received instant criticism online, with many calling for a total boycott of Network Seven. 

The #NotMyAustralia hashtag was coined by prominent South Sudanese-Australian leader and lawyer Maker Mayek in response to the program.

The #NotMyAustralia motion took off on Twitter, with thousands of Australians reposting the movement. Four days after the show aired, the hashtag had reached 306,913 Twitter accounts.

This online conversation follows in the footsteps of various other cases of Australian digital activism.

As a result of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stating Victoria was dealing with widespread gang violence, many members of the African-Australian community posted images of themselves doing good deeds within the community with the sarcastic hashtag #AfricanGangs.

Similarly, following Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's comments that claimed Victorians were afraid to go out at night, members of the community took to social media with images of themselves at restaurants with the hashtag #MelbourneBitesBack.

According to psychologist Azadeh Aalai, while these hashtags attempt to force change by placing direct pressure on leaders, they primarily work to shift societal views by giving individuals the opportunity to collaborate without the involvement of governments or non government organisations.

“The hashtag movement is an important demonstration of the power digital activism can have in raising visibility and awareness around issues that may be neglected by traditional or elite media,” she stated. “This will become a first step in introducing potential activists to like-minded peers, connect and organize events, learn more about issues, and begin the often long and arduous process of social activism."

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Will #NotMyAustralia prompt real change? It’s hard to tell. But for now, people have found an outlet and a movement that allows them to show solidarity whilst directly calling out racialised media coverage.

The average Australian is calling for sympathy, compassion, and togetherness — and that's certainly a very good place to start.