Racism exists in Australia. This is a statement that most, if not all of you in this room believe is obvious. It is definitely indicated in this Report. However, it is not a truth that is readily acceptable by all Australians.
As part of the consultations for the National Anti-Racism Strategy, which was launched in August this year, I heard from many Australians about their experience of racism. How did racism make people feel? This is what some recounted:
It creates a divide. Australia is one country but it doesn’t feel like it.
It makes me feel less connected to Australia and the Australian community to the point where I find it difficult to identify as Australian.
It makes me feel awful. I feel so much revulsion that I sometimes feel physically ill. It is a major contributor to the anxiety I experience in everyday life.
I experience racism on an all too regular basis ... It is a tremendous psychological blow because it is something that I experienced from age 5 to now and I am often left feeling helpless and vulnerable for days afterwards.
It makes me feel like I am a lesser human being.
I’m a dark skinned African; racism is not something I experience once or twice in my life. Do I speak up or take action every day – of course not! I’d be exhausted, I’d be fighting every day ....
These tell of disturbing realities for too many people in Australia.
Many issues relating to the treatment Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were raised in these consultations – for example, the problematic way some sections of the media report issues relating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the barriers they face in employment.
Participants in public meetings in Mt Gambier and Port Augusta mentioned that Aboriginal peoples experience discrimination daily – when they are in shops, when being banned from hotels or taxis. One participant stated that Aboriginal people are ‘treated like dogs, like the lowest race in Australia’.
I heard about some Aboriginal people feeling ‘defeated’ or ‘inferior’ when they had contact with some government authorities such as public housing providers, health services and police.
One respondent, in an online survey, stated: Just being born Indigenous makes you feel second class.
As devastating and frustrating that this is the experience of many, in Australia, in 2012, I am glad it is being discussed, because to understand racism and racial discrimination in Australia, we have to be able to name the problem. It is an important step in understanding and addressing the problem.
The National Anti-Racism Strategy and the Campaign, ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’
The National Anti-Racism Strategy aims to promote a clear understanding in the Australian community of what racism is, and how it can be prevented and reduced. It aims to encapsulate the experience of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as well as our culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities.
One powerful method by which the Strategy achieves this end is through its Campaign - Racism. It Stops With Me.
The Campaign is about making Australia a racism free zone and articulating what role each of us have in achieving this.
And forgive me, for I’m about to do a shameless plug aimed at getting you all involved in this Campaign, because it provides all of you, as individuals or organisations, to actively address racism. All of you here today can sign up to become a supporter to the Campaign, the details of which are on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.
By promoting the Campaign, you and your organisation can become part of a growing network of organisations who are working to eradicate racism and you can access a range of resources including best practice examples. We can help each other develop strategies to address racism, share our experiences and we can encourage sectors to do the same.
You can also play a...