In September, Petra Mills, born in Czechoslovakia, was arrested for racially aggravated public disorder for insulting her neighbor, Chelsea O'Reilly, in Macclesfield, Cheshire, south of Manchester. Mills' tirade against her neighbor came in the wake of violent domestic dispute with her own husband, Michael.
According to the Daily Telegraph, in her subsequent court appearance, O'Reilly testified: "[Petra] called me a stupid fat Australian b_tch. Because of my accent there can be some confusion over my nationality. She knew I was from New Zealand.”
O'Reilly added: "She was trying to be offensive. I was really insulted. She said she would kill my dog. Bizarrely she then blew raspberries at me like a child."
Mills defended herself, citing she was under pressure due to an imminent move to a new property.
"Yes, I shouted at [O'Reilly] but it had nothing to do with racism,” she said.
"I did not use the word Australian. I used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice."
However, the chief magistrate in the case, chairman of the bench Brian Donohue, decided that the word “Australian” was spewed by Petra as a derogatory term.
"You were in an emotional and inebriated state. The word Australian was used,” he stated. “It was racially aggravated and the main reason it was used was in hostility."
Petra, who also admitted assaulting one of the arresting police officers, received a fine of £110 ($175) for “racially aggravated public disorder” and £200 for the assault. In addition, she was adjudged fines of £50 for her victim, as well as £500 in court costs.
The peculiar incident received attention in media Down Under.
In a letter appearing in the Australian Times, Australian journalist Paul Bleakley wrote that the conviction in the case chilled him “to the bone" and that it "should pose serious questions for every Australian living" in the U.K., citing that the term “Australian” now may have “negative connotations.”
"I do not know how things stand in Macclesfield, but every Australian living in the United Kingdom would wear the title as a badge of honor (even if it was yelled at them by a drunken nemesis)," Bleakley wrote.
"At the least, it is merely a descriptive term. At the best, it is the greatest compliment Ms. Mills could have given to her Kiwi neighbor, even though that was not her intention."
However, given that the two protagonists in this court case are both white Europeans, one must wonder whether “Australian” or “Aussie” can be considered derogatory.
According to UrbanDictionary.com, “Aussie” can indeed be regarded as an insulting term, but depends on the context.
However, far more pejorative are terms like “Convict” (in reference to the fact that Australia was originally established as a penal colony); “Crocodile Hunter,” “Roo” (derived from kangaroo).
In contrast, the slang term for a New Zealand native – a 'kiwi', after the beloved native flightless bird – is not the least bit derogatory.