Where is Mr Brown?

Civic Crusader

‘Civic crusader’ Mr Brown stirred a debate in Wyndham on Indian festivals, racism and council funding for snake removers. Mr Brown got us right into the debate on everything that was right and wrong with the council and disappeared

The name is Brown, Alan Brown. He fired shots in the dark and caused mayhem in town.  Inflicting wounds, causing divisions and mass hysteria on social media. For days we feared it was the birth of ‘Pauline Hanson’ in Wyndham. But now he’s disappeared from social media causing rifts, suspicion and fear.

We don’t know if Alan was a fictitious name or a real person. Alan calls himself a ‘civic crusader’. His profile page had a photo of a white unshaven bloke chomping on a sausage. Some feel that Alan was set up to tarnish the image of Indian-born councillors before the Council elections next year.

Alan has been around on Social media instigating racially charged debates for a while. His posts often had a racial angle to it. Most issues and problems in the council, from pot holes to funding cuts for snake catchers, were pegged to Indian-born councillors. Alan’s idea was to divide the community on racial lines.

Wyndham City council has over 10,000 residents who moved to Victoria from India. According to 2011 census, 6.3 per cent of the city’s population is Indian. This makes it a fertile ground for divisive politics during election times. Alan’s main woe is that Indian-born councillors played the “Indian card” and ignored the plight of residents from other racial background. He felt there were too many Indian festivals in the area and assumed that most were funded by the Council. In reality, the recently organised India Day festival was organised with no Council funding. Alan tried arguing that the Council cut funding to the snake removers to organise Indian festivals.

Snake removers are a vital service in the community. Brown snakes and tiger snakes are often spotted in parks, backyards and other public spots during summer. Up until now, if residents spotted a snake, they could call the Council to get the reptile removed. With some of the most dangerous snakes calling Wyndham home, it was a necessary service. The Council withdrawing funding following a vote on the matter truly stirred up a hornet’s nest with residents debating, criticising each other on how to tackle snakes this summer. The snake debate clearly divided the community. Alan’s suggestion that the Council should send Cr Gupta and Cr Khan to catch snakes following the cuts was the ultimate insult. These comments had a major backlash and caused residents to register complaints against the page and Mr Brown.

Following heated discussions and Alan’s attempts to stir residents on racial lines, Cr Glenn Goodfellow posted a statement in support of his colleague Cr Gupta: “I will go on record to say that Cr Gautam Gupta in his role as diversity portfolio holder has done a great job in ensuring that not only that Wyndham now has a policy on diversity but a policy that is across all walks of life. I have not seen him push one culture above any other, I would say it has been the complete opposite, and this can be reflected in the people he has on his Cultural Diversity committee.”

The Indian Sun and SBS Hindi did a story on the topic and it instantly got circulated and further discussed widely. Some members of the Indian community called our office asking us to refrain from debating or dealing with Mr Brown. Now my approach would be different on this: Alan may be a completely negative person when it comes to stereotyping Indians as snake charmers etc. But running away from a discussion is never fruitful. It’s only a discussion and however charged it is, one might as well stick around and discuss it through. It gives us all an opportunity to put our views across.

A discussion is the healthiest aspect of a democracy. We know that Council elections are next year in Wyndham and things are about to get heated. There can be accusations and counter-accusations and we have to brace for some heated discussions. There can be racially motivated debates, but my suggestion is to dig in and debate it through.

If we do that, all the Alans and his friends will retreat. It’s only natural. Racism has no oxygen left.

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