: Discussing racism

Constance on the Edge

 

constance-on-the-edge

One family. Two wars. Three countries. What does it take to forge a new life far from home?

On the 23 November, All Together Now is holding an exclusive screening of Constance On The Edge at the Dendy Opera Quays.

Filmed over ten years, Constance On The Edge is a documentary about a Sudanese refugee family that settled in New South Wales. Constance on the Edge gets to the heart of a contemporary untold story about the courage and resilience it takes to build new lives. The film also highlights the important role communities play in encouraging a sense of welcoming, healing and belonging.

Discover the official trailer here: 

Following the screening, a panel with discuss the issues related to racism, belonging and integration that are highlighted in the film, with Belinda Mason, director of the movie, Oishee Alam, antiracism academic, and Vijhai Utheyan, son of Sri Lankan refugees.

Constance on the Edge is a powerful and beautiful story of a refugee family who will do everything to protect each other while navigating the challenging settlement journey in Australia. It’s a heartwarming film and a reminder that welcoming is the most powerful tool we have.”

Mohammad Al-Khafaji

CEO, Welcome to Australia

 

Book your tickets now!

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/constance-on-the-edge-charity-screening-tickets-28674288569?aff=es2

 

All profits will be used by All Together Now to promote the prevention of racism.

There’s nothing casual about casual racism

Cosmo article imageCosmopolitan magazine published an article about casual racism in the October issue of their magazine (which is no longer on sale).

If you missed it, you can download a copy of the article (PDF) thanks to Cosmo!

The article features our Everyday Racism app as a solution to teaching people how to speak up against racism.

1 Racism: the taboo topic oft misunderstood

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article about 7-Eleven workers of Indian descent continuing to being exploited, despite the outcry back when the exploitation was originally exposed in September 2015.

These immigrant workers were being paid as little as $16 to $0.43 per hour, and well below the minimum rate.

You have to congratulate the Australian Press for and not discussing the broader issue at hand i.e. racism.

Why is racism such a taboo topic to us? Australia is still marred by its own history, the period of colonisation and assimilation, which upended the First Australians and many migrants.

Much has been said and talked about the past, including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying “Sorry” to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal people.  However, there is a sense of hubris here in the analogy here that once an apology to Aboriginal people, forever no more racism in Australia altogether.

The reality is very different.

Today the country now has over 40 different ethnic racial groups living inside our borders and roughly 1 in 5 Australians have experienced racism in their lives.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister who claims to be right-progressive.  For the incumbent PM I have one of my own policies: vouch for a multicultural (and intercultural) Australia.

Alongside the $1bn Innovation boom and the $1bn Clean Energy Innovation Fund, put aside some money to a government initiative: Cultural Diversity Future Fund.

The aforementioned Cultural Diversity Future Fund will be two-pronged: Firstly research into contemporary ethnic and racial issues for 22nd century Australia.  And secondly, commercialising these ideas through the creation of a multicultural, intercultural Australia, which defines people based on talent, or contribution to the economy, instead of ethnicity.

A culturally diverse 22nd century Australia.

Journalism and Response-ability

Journalism and Responsibility

 

On Monday 22nd of February, Paul Sheehan, an Australian reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) released a double page spread about an Australian woman named Louise. She claimed to have been brutally assaulted and raped by a group of men from a specific ethnic minority group. In the article the sub-heading stated, “We’ll never know the scale of the rape epidemic in Sydney”.

 

Louise’s story was later shown to be fictitious.

 

The article was then retracted by the SMH, but the stigma associated with the ethnic minority group is likely to remain, just like the stigma has remained with refugees and asylum seekers from the “Children Overboard Scandal”. The damage created by the media is difficult to reverse.

 

This is because such stories conjure up horrifying images in the minds of readers and whilst reading the article, the readers believe the information that they are consuming is fact. The initial shock value of these stories has a real affect in the mind of the reader; it virtually imprints itself like an un-washable stain.

 

The ABC’s “Media Watch” recently investigated the SMH report and showed an Australian woman speaking at a Reclaim Australia rally at Martin Place on April 4th 2015. This was Louise telling the same story that Sheehan reported in the SMH in February 2016. To call the story “news” is debatable.

 

To add insult to injury in this saga, the SMH printed a small apology (of 99 words) in the bottom corner of page 2 on the following Wednesday. That’s right: the lie takes up two pages and the truth gets 99 words.

 

The most basic form of modern racism makes people from minority ethnic backgrounds invisible. A more sinister form of racism makes people visible through negative acts.

 

Even if the SMH story was true it would still be a form of racism to nominate the ethnicity of the men because it’s really not important. If the story happened to be true, then the rapists are still rapists regardless of their ethnic or cultural background.

 

To make any impact on achieving racial equality, journalists need to play their role: to tell real stories as they happened, and without prejudice. After all, racism stops with every single one of us.

 

Working With Diversity

Today All Together Now officially launches its new project, Working With Diversity.

Working With Diversity shines a light on racism in Australian workplaces and works with businesses to eliminate racism so that employees can work in an environment safe from racial harassment and discrimination.

This project started in early 2015 when several of our volunteers disclosed that they had been targets of racism in Australian workplaces. We were curious, and decided to investigate further by asking a wider range of people about their experiences.

Over one year, we found many people who were willing to share their story with us. They mentioned overt racial discrimination like abuse, resume filtering, hearing comments or jokes in the workplace based on stereotypes, verbal assumptions about English language skills, and stereotyping people into roles due to their ethnic background.

Some people we spoke with also mentioned more covert behaviours that meant discrimination was unsatisfactorily dealt with, such as reluctance to discuss racism in the workplace, and lack of role models (i.e. lack of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds — including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — in middle and senior management positions).

Some also mentioned workplace initiatives to improve outcomes for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, such as leadership programs, and some mentioned easy solutions that employers could implement, such as training for staff.

Unfortunately we are unable to feature all of the stories on our website. We found that some people who were brave enough to tell us their story later retracted it because they were concerned about the ramifications of speaking out. They were concerned that talking about workplace discrimination might brand them as a whistle-blower or complainer and consequently affect their future work prospects.

It is extremely concerning to us that people are too scared to speak publicly about racism in the workplace. It suggests that victims are being denied the right to freely express their experiences, while the perpetrators continue with their discriminatory behaviour. This silencing behaviour means Australians are unaware that racism is occurring in workplaces across Australia.

Additionally, it suggests that more research needs to be done to understand the extent to which discussions about race-based prejudice in the workplace are taking place. To address the problem we need to have a better understanding about what ordinary people are experiencing on a larger scale.

All Together Now believes that the first step to creating that understanding is to gather more stories about people’s experiences. This will create a clearer picture of what is really happening. You can help us do this. If you have witnessed or experienced racism at work please send us your stories. If you’re not clear what racism is in a work context, there’s a definition on All Together Now’s website.

The Secret River and the Power of the Arts

I’ve seen the power of the arts to move, to educate, drive change and foster social cohesion many times. I experienced it intensely first hand, when I produced Crossings: Songs from the East in 2013.

The concert showcased a cross-cultural collaboration of traditional and improvised music spanning the Greek, Kurdish, Arabic and Persian traditions. It was an exciting coming-together for the first time of local Sydney-based musicians; four out of the five were first generation Australians from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. They drew from both their musical heritage and their contemporary experience of multicultural Australia.

The audience, which we surveyed, said things like:

“Beautiful to see a coming together of cultures through the arts”…

“Brought back memories of home”…

“Wonderful! Especially watching the musicians improvising – working together… so much richness (and they say multiculturalism doesn’t work)! It is alive and brings so much richness to our lives and to Australia”…

The experience of that production impacted all involved, from the artists to the audience and everyone in between, in ways that only arts and cultural experiences can sometimes – on the level where words cease and only the senses and the human spirit exist. One comes away from an experience like that with a sense that something in them is a little different… a little changed.

As an audience member watching the Sydney Theatre Company’s latest production of The Secret River, I came away with exactly that feeling. I was shattered at the brutality of the story – the brutal truth in the story – but I was compelled to watch and listen.

I felt like I was bearing witness to a history not told often enough. In the author, Kate Grenville’s, words: “This book isn’t history, but it’s solidly based on history. Most of the events in the book “really happened” and much of the dialogue is what people really said or wrote.” Knowing this, I felt the weight of responsibility, like I was almost charged with the duty of carrying this history on, of re-telling it. So I made it my mission for days afterwards to tell everyone I met to go see the show.

It was hard to watch at times. The woman sitting to my left had her eyes closed for much of the massacre scene. It wasn’t explicit or visually disturbing – but it sat in that space – the space where words cease and only the senses exist. Clearly for the woman beside me, her senses were in overwhelm. I was grateful that the night I attended happened to be followed by the Q and A session with the actors and co-director afterwards – it was an opportunity for the audience to re-compose and debrief almost. More than that, it was a way to bring the savage racism of our history into the present.

The discussion that ensued was open and honest. The actors told of their own experiences of facing and witnessing racism today. Actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf told of how she was refused a ride by four taxi drivers on the street just outside the theatre. Richard Piper, who played the most savage of the white characters, talked of how the experience of being a part of this production changed him – made him reflect on times where he had been a bystander to racist incidences and had not acted. He spoke of the need for us all to speak up and take a stand in similar situations, and of his resolve to do differently next time. An audience member asked the questions: “What can we do? How can we do better when we leave this theatre?”. One of the younger cast members, Madeleine Madden, spoke about the power of the arts to move and affect change. Everyone on stage seemed to acknowledge a sort of shared social responsibility to tell the story with authenticity and sensitivity.

I came away with the feeling that the sentiment in that Q and A session was shared company-wide, and with 2 mins of online research I discovered the Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘Human Rights and Social Performance Statement’ As part of STC’s commitment to “operating as a responsible organisation” they state: “STC’s statement on Human Rights and Social Performance reflect our ability to uphold human rights within our organisation and our sphere of influence. We adhere to both international and local human rights legislation and reflect these in our human resources policies, practices and Code of Conduct.” Further down, in relation to audiences and the arts industry, it states: “We share our learning and promote human rights issues through giving voice to social issues by our choices in productions and our industry networks by contributing to conversations.”

This initiative – of writing the importance of social responsibility into the policies and strategic objectives of an organisation – is exactly what we need more of – especially in the arts and cultural industries, whose core ‘business’ is in the creation of meaning.

Go and see The Secret River if you can. Or read the book. Or watch the TV series. And share the story. Continue the conversation. It is our shared responsibility.

Review by Kiriaki Koubaroulis