On Wednesday 25 June 2014, Greater Shepparton City Council in partnership with the Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group and Ethnic Council Shepparton & District, conducted the Respecting Difference Forum as part of the Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity Project. This took place at the Rumbalara Football and Netball rooms at Mercury Drive.
The forum aimed to address issues of racism and discrimination that may be experienced both on an individual level and systematically and to discuss the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Presentations allowed audience members to have a better understanding of the changes and what it means. The interactive Q&A session for local people enabled them to share their experiences and stories to encourage a mutual understanding of difference in our community.
Speakers at the forum were,
Cath Sedunary - Facilitator
For the past 20 years, Cath Sedunary has worked closely with key Victorian Aboriginal community organisations on a number of projects and has been responsible for the design and delivery of accredited training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the areas of alcohol and other drugs and family violence. In her role as education consultant at VEOHRC, Catherine continues to work with Victorian Aboriginal organisations and is a member of the VEOHRC’s Indigenous Working Group
Emily Chauvel works at Reconciliation Victoria and her main role is to raise awareness across Victoria about the campaign to firstly recognise Australia's First Peoples, as well as protect all Australians from racial discrimination in the Australian constitution. Emily recently completed her Masters of Social Science and Public Policy. Prior to working at RecVic, Emily worked in the Social Policy and Research Unit and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.
Dr Sundram Sivamalai
Dr.Sundram Sivamalai is currently a board member with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria a peak body whose mission is of a culturally diverse and harmonious society that is just, fair and inclusive where all people have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to, community life. He has an extensive background and qualifications in education, science, health, and administration, and program evaluation and is widely published in Australia. Sundram is currently Chair of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council and previously held positions as the Senior Deputy Chair and Regional Chair of Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia Inc, Associate Professor of School of Medicine & Dentistry at James Cook University, Senior Deputy Chair of the SBS BOARD, Senior Lecturer, Rural Health, Nurse and FECCA Regional Chair, Rural Health Module Coordinator all at The University of Melbourne, Nurse at The University of Melbourne
Leading Senior Const Glenn Gibson
Glenn has lived and worked in the Greater Shepparton area since 2000 and is currently based at the Shepparton Police complex as the Crime Prevention Officer. His role is about prevention and he works in the community for the community. Criminal behaviour damages our community and having initiatives like Glenn’s role in place helps to prevent this damage
Kaz is the Managing Lawyer of the GV Community Legal Centre and has previously worked as an acting principal and senior lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Services. She spent 15yrs in the Public Service with Parks, Fisheries, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Department of Immigration. Kaz undertakes pro bono advocacy work for intersex and Transsexual/Transgender people for a number of organisations. She has been a volunteer Fire Brigade member for 25yrs and received a National Emergency Medal.Kaz also fly’s an aeroplane that is the same age as herself, apparently it comes under the “antique” category.
Constitutional recognition was discussed and the timetable for changes to the constitution were also discussed. Racism in sport was aired, as the AFL is seen to be the primary agent for moral reformation, dignity and respect for all in this field at its public events. Such events receive prompt media coverage. It was oberved that words uttered in haste often damage people to the core. It was noted that this has a detrimental impact on who we are as a people and as a nation. Current legislation protects vulnerable Australians, and provides protection against villification and hate speech.
Australia has a reputation for social harmony and the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination act will be detrimental to that reputation. Over the year 2012-13 it was reported that there was a 59% increase in offensive comments and hate speech. Racial violence, it was noted, begins with words. It destroys community safety and leads people in the community to feeling they are unsafe. This goes against the grain of one of the goals of government, protection of the community, and damages the fabric of the community.
The role of Therapeutic Justice in addressing discrimination was discussed. The practice of criminal law in Victoria has undergone significant change with the introduction of new problem-solving courts such as the Koori, drug and family violence courts and now the establishment of a new division of the Magistrates’ Court, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood.
These kinds of problem-solving initiatives can be categorised as sharing in the legal philosophy of therapeutic justice, which is finding favour in many jurisdictions in Australia and internationally.
The approach of therapeutic justice is unique in the law in that the philosophy asks legal actors to consider the impact on the emotional life and psychological wellbeing of those affected by decisions of our justice system. This was noted with regard to homelessness and drug usage. The aim is to draw on the work of the social sciences in charting the therapeutic or anti-therapeutic effect of decisions by courts and justice agencies.
It was noted that abuse, in any form, usually has multiple issues underlying the abuse. For a person being abused, race is often one ground of abuse exacerbated by other issues. The other interesting issue raised in the question and answer session was the responsibility of employers when racial abuse occurs in the workplace.
The evening concluded with presentations to the presenters and host, and an enjoyable meal and conversation.