Many community groups in Greater Shepparton have come together to examine the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, and to respond to these changes.
Faith Groups and officers of the Shepparton Interfaith Network have repeatedly participated in anti-racism enquires and reports and support all measures to facilitate harmonious relations and a lived cultural diversity, side by side in Greater Shepparton, be it in orchards, in the cannery, be it on the farms, in the industries, in our retail shopping areas. Greater Shepparton has a strong track record in promoting cultural diversity and harmony.
In concert with and in full agreement with the community groups of Greater Shepparton, the Shepparton Interfaith Network endorses the response to the Federal Attorney General, given here:
We, the undersigned groups from Greater Shepparton, join our fellow Australians from many community groups in expressing our strong opposition to the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1995.
The Act as it stands reflects the care taken in the original wording to find a balance between the right of individuals to free speech with the right of others to live without being subjected to racist comments and racist actions. It ensures all Australians are afforded protection from discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent and ethnic origin.
As the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane stated in The Age “Racism hurts its victims in real ways... it can inflict mental and physical harm. It can wound your very dignity as a person... it diminishes people’s freedom and their ability to participate in society.”
It is extremely concerning that the Australian Government would be considering any move that will weaken legislative protections against racism particularly given recent findings of racism in our community. The Australian Human Rights Commission reported a substantial rise in complaints of racism, a VicHealth report found that 97% of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed experienced racism in the past 12 months (and this survey included the Shepparton area) and a Greater Shepparton LEAD Project Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities survey indicated 65% of participants also experienced racism.
In considering the proposed changes to the Act and in the interests of building a more cohesive and democratic Australia, we strongly urge the Australian Government to show real leadership and stand strong against racism by abandoning the current proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. At the same time, strengthening public awareness and education programs such as the Human Rights Commission’s, “Racism. It stops with me” would send a powerful message that the Government was committed to building an Australia where bigotry and racism have no place.
We call on the Government to send a clear, unequivocal message: there is no place for racism in our society.
You may read more about the existing Racial Discrimination Act on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.