On 2 May 2019, a community symposium was held at The State Library of Western Australia in Perth entitled One of Us?: Complicity and Critique After The Christchurch Massacre.

The symposium was presented by The School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University, and The Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, WA.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opened an official book of condolences for the victims of the Christchurch attacks with the words, they are us.

We, our, us, them are the most basic units of defining belonging and non-belonging. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern chose to redefine these terms within her nation, claiming as kin the victims of the Christchurch massacre and disowning the killer. Yet, in other contexts, the killer was humanised, in line with his own self-representation as “an ordinary white man” — someone who could be “one of us.” In the case of the 2011 massacre in Norway, author Åsne Seierstad notes that descriptions of the killer emphasized qualities that made him appear less like one of us.

Following the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, we again face questions of them and us as national and global tensions play out in new configurations of violence and terror.

Who are “we”? Who is “one of us”? Who are we part of? Whose humanity do we recognise as akin to ours?

In this symposium, community members, academics and artists consider the fraught term, one of us, exploring questions of the normalization of racism, everyday Islamophobia, and the connections between various forms of othering – “us and them” – in Australia and elsewhere.

We consider our complicities with violence and explore ways forward. A Q and A panel will address pre-submitted questions on how to recognize and resist the destructive identifications of us and them and the ways in which they are reproduced in our daily lives.

Featuring:  Randa Abdul-Fattah (video), Sky Croeser, Shaheen Hughes, Imam Yahiya Ibrahim, John Kinsella (video), Marilyn Metta, Marziya Mohammedali,  Suvendrini Perera, Ayman Qwaider, Sabah Rind,  Sara Saleh (video), Kim Scott, Rabia Siddique,  Fadzi Whande, Yirga Woldeyes.

Convenors: Shaheen Hughes, Hannah McGlade, Marziya Mohammedali,  Suvendrini Perera

Organising Committee: Michelle Bui, Sky Croeser, Thor Kerr, Marilyn Metta, Baden Offord, Ayman Qwaider, Antonio Traverso.

In his powerful speech in the Senate Senator Pat Dodson stated, “We turn our back against xenophobia, against hate crimes and against any gunmen who hold innocent people in their sights. We call out those who exploit fear and ignorance for political gain, who mock the traditional dress of women of another culture, who seek donations from the manufacturer of weapons of war to override our own laws and who argue that it’s all right to be white. Their actions and exhortations would plunge this country back into the killing times. You’ve got to remember that this history is well known to First Nations peoples.”


The symposium started with a video from the beautiful virtual garden of healing introduced by Shaheen Hughes and a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country by Uncle Ben Taylor.

Video: Marziya Mohammedali.


The symposium began with an introduction by Rabia Siddique and a reflection by Suvendrini Perera about the concept of ‘One of Us’ in the context of the Easter attacks in Lanka.

‘In Lanka, there is no history of violence between Christians and Muslims. In recent years, rather, both these groups have been the target of Buddhist majoritarian extremism and violence; both cast as interlopers living on sufferance on the land that is the property of the latter. This is not so different, actually, from the premise of white supremacist thinking – that the land belongs to one specific group and that others are an unwanted presence to be removed; that they are interlopers.

In Lanka the ideologies of global Islamism, in which the Christian West is framed as the enemy, were projected onto a very different local environment where Islam and Christianity historically have co-existed. Contemplating the killing of Christians by Islamists … Lankan Christians and Muslims were both asking, in their different ways, Who are we? Who counts as one of us?

These words: We, our, us, are the most basic units of defining belonging and non-belonging.  They are fraught at every turn. “One of us’ is a double-edged sword of a term.  On the one hand it signifies kinship, comradeship, community. But community, as we know, also works as a form of exclusion, of a symbolic, and sometimes literal, refusal, casting out or annihilation of the other. One of us: it’s almost always a question as well as a statement —  or to put it another way:  within the affirmation ‘one of us’ is perhaps always already inherent a question, signaling the doubled edged nature of community itself.’



“One of Us?” – Complicity and critique after the Christchurch massacre 


Three Villanelles by John Kinsella

John Kinsella contributed via video three villanelles in response to the Christchurch massacre, the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka and the actions of white supremacists.

‘We write against violence, we write against intolerance, we write in solidarity with human life and all life. Fascist hatred has no part in it.’

On racism – a call for change

PANEL 1: Reflections

In the first panel, Chair Rabia Siddique asks panelists Sabah Rind, Kim Scott, Ayman Qwaider and Sky Croeser to reflect on what ‘One of Us’ means in the context of the recent massacres in Christchurch and Lanka.

Randa Abdul-Fattah and Sara Saleh contributed videos of their immediate responses following the Christchurch massacre.

Randa Abdul-Fattah: ‘We told you the threat is white supremacy. You ignored us’

Sara Saleh: ‘Christchurch and truth telling’

PANEL 2: Ways Forward

In this panel the Chair Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, posed the question to panelists Dr Marilyn Metta, Imam Yahya Ibrahim and Fadzi Whande, ‘What can we do to prevent this kind of atrocities in the future?’

POEM: ‘This is not us…but it is’

by Marziya Mohammedali


Please Read

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