The National Anti-Racism Strategy held a public consultation in Shepparton, where members of the Shepparton Interfaith Network participated and made contributions.
What is Racism?
Racism takes many forms. In general, it is 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.
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.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently holding a limited number of public consultations around the country as part of developing the National Anti-Racism Strategy.
The aim of the Strategy is to promote a clear understanding in the Australian community of what racism is and how it can be prevented and reduced. For more information about the National Anti-Racism Strategy visit: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination
The Australian Government committed to developing a National Anti-Racism Strategy in Australia's multicultural policy, The People of Australia. It is anticipated the Strategy will be launched in July 2012 and implemented between 2012 and 2015.
In conjunction with the Rumbalara Football and Netball club, the Kaiela Institute and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Commission held a consultation in Shepparton on Wednesday 11 April, 2012 at the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club, Mercury Drive, Shepparton.
About 17 members from community agencies, Victoria Police Command and the local Yorta Yorta nation, and staff from the City of Greater Shepparton Council attended the consultation. Yorta-Yorta Nation Elder Paul Briggs welcomed all and gave a comprehensive overview of the situation of indigenous Australians in the region vis-a-vis strategies to reduce racism.
As this was the only consultation in Northern Victoria, two members of the Indigenous Australian community in Swan Hill attended and reported on racism issues experienced in their area, particularly in the field of obtaining housing, rental and retaining rental premises.
Racism in this region was summarised as race-based discrimination in employment and housing. A number of speakers proposed treatment of the behaviour vis-a-vis detest the sin, love the sinner. Akin to anger management, it was suggested that racism management programs be implemented. As 78% of racism occurs in workplaces, this was noted as a pressing need.
Shepparton Interfaith Network Contributions:
The roots of racism, be it subtle or direct, was barely explored or discussed. It was summarised as race-based discrimination.
The clash of cultures arising from the different values sacred to communities, and the failure to inculturate those values by cultural minorites on the one hand, and the failure by the host community on the other hand to address the clash of values was not explored.
It was observed that there is a lot of culture shock in both many minority communities and in the host community as well. Until this is recognised, the solutions offered will not be addressing the root causes of racism in our community.
We need studies of the root causes of racism in the community.
Another avenue of resolution was explored. At a recent conference on cults, the Australian experience of moving from family violence was nobody's business to family violence is everybody's business was raised. Harm, and any kind of violence in the family, is the business of the entire community. The markers of polite disinterest in family violence have well and truly moved beyond silence to community protection and the community as a whole taking action and providing support to those experiencing violence in the family.
This was raised at a recent cults conference in order to extend this notion to the harm caused by cults. Harm - particularly in its psychological dimension, is difficult to prove as a crime; however, it was noted that psychological harm was recently added to the Family Violence Act by the Federal Government.
It was suggested that the community needs to extend its markers on racism - particularly as it is a form of bullying - from cowering silence and victim-hood to firstly an experience of being harmed; persons who experience racism report mental health problems, principally Depression, Psychological distress, Stress and Anxiety.
Mental Health impacts
People who have reported experiences of racism, also experience stress and anxiety about future racist attacks, upon themselves and others. In a recent survey, it was found that among those who have experienced racism, they report:
- 1 in 5 (20 %) expect or anticipate that racism will occur
- 1 in 4 (25%) try to avoid places where racism happened in the past
- 1 in 7 worry about other people experiencing unfair treatment account their race, culture or religion every day, or at least more than once per week.
Racism needs to be part of the general community protection objectives of good government and be treated as seriously as bullying is treated. It was recommended that it come within the compass of the national and state government objectives of community protection.
Further notes about this consultation will be added as they come to hand.
FECCA, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia has provided an online resource: Key Racism Resources which includes FECCA's position paper, Best Practice for Countering Racism in Australia