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31 Mar, 2012

Australia Seeks Public Comment for Strategy to Curb Growing Racism

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Canberra, 29 March 2012 — Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke has called on all Australians to get involved in the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy for the country.

The Government’s National Anti-Racism Partnership, led by Dr Szoke, today launched a discussion paper, website and online survey to kick start the conversation about addressing racism through consultation with the community.

“There are three ways you can contribute to the National Anti-Racism Strategy – by making a submission in response to the Discussion Paper, by completing the online survey or by participating in a public meeting,” said Dr Szoke.

The Commission is undertaking a range of public consultations between March and May 2012 which Dr Szoke says will provide valuable guidance to shape and form the Strategy. She anticipates the strategy will be launched in July 2012, and implemented over the following three years.

“The purpose of the consultations is to raise the profile of the Strategy, in addition to collecting ideas – we want to hear what you think works and about other successful strategies that have been used in the past,” said Dr Szoke.

The National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy aims to promote a clear understanding in the Australian community of what racism is, and how it can be prevented and reduced.

The National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy is a key initiative of Australia’s Multicultural Policy – The People of Australia, which was launched in February 2011. The online submission process will run until Friday 11 May 2012.

The 2011 Mapping Social Cohesion report showed that 14% of Australians surveyed by the Scanlon Foundation reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of their colour, ethnic origin or religion. This figure has been increasing in recent years – it was 9% in 2007, 10% in 2010 and 14% in both 2010 and 2011.

National data from the Challenging Racism Project was released in 2011 and measures the prevalence of racism and racist attitudes in Australia. The research found that:

• around 85% of respondents believe that racism is a current issue in Australia;

• around 20% of respondents had experienced forms of race-hate talk (verbal abuse, name-calling, racial slurs, offensive gestures etc);

• around 11% of respondents identified having experienced race-based exclusion from their workplaces and/or social activities;

• 7% of respondents identified having experienced unfair treatment based on their race;

• 6% of respondents reported that they had experienced physical attacks based on their race.

Although racism takes many forms, the discussion paper describes racism generally as “a belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others. Racial discrimination involves any act where a person is treated unfairly or vilified because of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin.”

It says, “Racism may take the form of stereotyping, name calling or insults, commentary in the media, speeches at public assemblies and abuse on the internet. It can include directly or indirectly excluding people from accessing services, employment, education or sporting activities.

“Racism can occur systemically, as the result of policies, conditions and practices that affect a broad group of people. For example, research shows that systemic racism can result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students experiencing poorer outcomes in education, or job applicants without Anglo- Saxon names finding it difficult to gain job interviews.”

According to the paper, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience high levels of racism in Australia, across multiple settings. For example, the Challenging Racism data released in March 2011 found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents experienced four times the racism of non-Aboriginal Australians in relation to contact with police and in seeking housing.

“Similarly, 2008 research found that 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over the age of 15 reported experiencing discrimination in the preceding 12 months, in particular by the general public, in law and justice settings and in employment. More recent research has found that three out of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples regularly experienced race discrimination when accessing primary health care, contributing to some people not being diagnosed and treated for disease in its early stages.

“It has been identified that the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today are compounded by the historical disadvantage caused by previous racially discriminatory policies.”

According to the paper, “Culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia are themselves diverse, having quite different experiences of migration and settlement. As a result, their experiences of racism vary considerably.

“The Challenging Racism research found that people born overseas experienced higher rates of racism than those born in Australia, and were twice as likely to experience racism in the workplace.”

The paper says that recent research suggests that “settled” migrants tend to experience lower levels of racism or racist attitudes than more recent arrivals to Australia. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s recent work with Arab and Muslim Australians and African Australians suggests that these communities are at a higher risk than more recent arrivals of experiencing discrimination and prejudice.

Says the paper, “This supports previous research undertaken by the Commission that found “visible” ethnic and religious minorities, are groups more likely to be regularly subjected to racism because their “difference” in terms of skin colour, dress or cultural/religious practices singles them out as targets of racism.”

Download the discussion paper here.