• Where do migrants find flatmates? (Gumtree)Source: Gumtree
There is an outcry that migrants are advertising for housemates, but only looking for people of the same nationality.
Sophie Verass

17 May 2016 - 12:12 PM  UPDATED 17 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

At least a dozen flatshare ads are seeking a housemate on online classifieds site, Gumtree, looking to share with someone of a particular ethnicity.

Reddit member Rubblaz posted these adverts on the forum and asked whether this behaviour was discriminatory. 


Alongside standard information such as house descriptions, facilities, and cost of bills were phrases such as “available for Nepalese couple”, “Prefer Japanese” or “Looking for Indian boy or girl”.

Even though the words “brown people only” or “no whites” did not appear, Anglo Australians appeared to be excluded from applying.

“It’s very sad that Australia is fragmenting into groups of people,” Rubblaz wrote. “This kind of discrimination could continue into other areas in the future, like when hiring people. It’s more difficult for poor people to find suitable accommodation and makes the housing crisis worse.” 

Other users added to to the thread, discussing why informal flat-share services have so many adverts soliciting certain ethnicities, and if doing so is acceptable.

While some contributors cried "reverse racism" and formed an argument similar to Iggy Azalea’s grumble at “Becky”, many were not surprised that people would prefer to live with someone from within their own community.

They thought it reasonable that general activities such as being able to converse with non-native English speakers or sharing similar cultural practices would factor into choosing who to share personal space with.

Dr Chris Martin, a researcher for City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said that racial discrimination law had exceptions.

“Generally speaking, discrimination in the provision of housing on the grounds of race is unlawful under both federal and NSW anti-discrimination law,” he said.

“However, there is an exception in the case of share housing, where the housing provider lives at the premises. I would suppose the rationale would be that sharing a house creates a fairly close personal relationship and anti-discrimination law should not go there.

"It is not against the law to refuse a person’s friendship on the grounds of their race, which is essentially the relationship created when sharing accommodation.”

While Godwin’s Law is possibly erupting somewhere on the matter, there's more to these adverts than simple anti-white discrimination.

Dusko Cuckovic, of the Australian Refugee Association, helps migrants lease properties and find a place to live in their new home.

“Many migrants have poor English, which makes applying for a property formally a big challenge," he said. "Filling in forms or using online facilities are just some of the issues facing migrants, which obstruct them from even getting the leasing process started.

"They also have problems like not having the financial resources to pay a bond or rent in advance, and many refugees don’t have required supporting documents which enable them to lease a property through the Australian housing system, like references or proof of income.” 

"Many migrants have poor English, which makes applying for a property formally a big challenge."

Websites such as Gumtree or Craiglist don't require complex English skills or Australian documentation, making them an attractive option.

“Housing stress is the main stress of settling into society and into the system, and if people are unable to have that security, every other area of their life like work or community integration is affected," said Cuckovic.

He said single refugees or migrants form the biggest challenge. Those who arrive without family or a partner generally can’t afford a house or flat on their own, but are uncomfortable with sharing personal space.

“Many of these people have been through a lot of hardship prior to settling in Australia and subsequently have trust and privacy issues.

"This is why we see so many ethnic communities live in the same area, as they want to establish support by familiarity."

And, he said, spending time with people similar to you is the easiest choice to make - again showing why informal leasing arrangements are so popular.

The Reddit community raised concerns that first-generation migrants are dominating flatshare ads online and in turn blocking share-house opportunities for white Australians.

But rather than asking if the content in their adverts is OK, we should start questioning if there is enough housing support for vulnerable people in Australia.

For settlement support and information, contact your nearest Humanitarian Settlement Service

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