: Community action

#illridewithyou

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In light of the tragic events at Martin Place the #illridewithyou pledge and inspiring story behind it has been been embraced by thousands of Australians over social media.

As a tribute to the Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson and those directly affected by discrimination on a daily basis, Young Vagabond, has started the #letsridetogether movement in hopes of raising $1 million. The amount raised will be equally split between the immediate families of the victims and All Together Now to fund campaigns to educate people how to speak up against racism. All Together Now is Australia’s only charity with the sole focus of racism prevention and envisions our community free from racism.

In return NSW Government, RailCorp, the Victorian Government and Public Transport Victoria will be asked to commit to #illridewithyou by declaring Friday, January 16 – marking one month since the devastating situation in Martin Place – a fare-free day on all public transport in the greater metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney.

To ride together and help turn #illridewithyou into funds that stop racism in its tracks you can make a donation, share this campaign on social media, and contact your state’s transport minister with why you support the message.

http://www.letsridetogether.com.au/

https://www.chuffed.org/project/letsridetogether

Week 5 – Paris

It’s week five of the Churchill Fellowship and I’ve just spent the last few days speaking with antiracism organisations in Paris!

The first thing I learned was that in France, racism is complex and there are a multitude of issues. There is overt institutional and interpersonal racism toward Roma people. I’m getting the impression Roma people are subjected to racism whichever country they live in.

Muslims are also frequent targets of all types of racism; the burqua was banned a few years ago and girls are not allowed to wear a Hijab in school. Anti-Semitic sentiment is now on the rise.

Institutional and interpersonal racism toward people with African heritage is still common, even though decolonization and the Algerian War of Independence (a war between France and Algeria leading to its independence from French colonisation) concluded in the 1960s.

Far-right politicians have tried to capitalize on the public mood, and unfortunately they are succeeding. In the recent European Union election, France’s far right party Front National attracted 25% of the national vote (you can read more about this via New Statesman). Even some politicians who claim to be more progressive have recently been found guilty of saying racist comments, and there is a general lack of denial of racism by parliamentarians.

Despite these issues, the antiracism community across France remains active and passionate. There are four major organisations working on antiracism; the two solely dedicated to antiracism are Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisemitisme (LICRA) and SOS Racisme. More recently, new initiatives have emerged such as Les Invisibles which is attracting a new generation of activists.

LICRA was launched in the 1920s and so it has several generations of supporters. It offers legal assistance, raises public awareness of the issues, enables people to report racism via a mobile phone app, and produces a regular magazine.

Hundreds of people volunteer for LICRA around France, and these activists decide what is best in their area whether it is giving speeches in schools about racism and decolonisation, hosting theatre performances, or involving the community in sports like soccer and rugby. The LICRA officers support these volunteers and enable them to do this important work.

In contrast, Les Indivisibles is a much younger and smaller organisation but no less effective. They run an annual awards ceremony with a twist: it is a comedy event where awards are presented to the most racist comments said during the year! People can nominate and vote on candidates. Les Indivisibles also provides antiracism training.

I also had the opportunity to meet with Café Babel which does not aim to prevent racism per se, however it is an intercultural project so its work relates closely to antiracism work.

The organisation runs an online multilingual pan-European current affairs magazine written by volunteer correspondents around Europe. Café Babel employees edit the stories for publication, as well as train new volunteers how to write in a pan-European context. This is a successful cross-cultural youth project that has won awards for its work.

It has been really inspiring speaking to the people who work in these successful initiatives … but onwards! Next stop: Antwerp and Brussels.

Proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

All Together Now’s position statement

Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act is an important piece of legislation. In particular, Part 2A protects all Australians against racial discrimination by prohibiting offensive behaviour based on racial hated. Such basic protections are fundamental for a multicultural country such as Australia.

Under the Act, it is unlawful for a person to do or say something (other than in private) that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group on the basis of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

Yet there are also exemptions that ensure freedom of expression (or “free speech”) is protected. Artistic works and journalism created reasonably and in good faith are common examples of this.

Together these two sections in the Act – Sections 18C and 18D – ensure a balanced approach to racial discrimination. The courts have consistently interpreted sections 18C and 18D as maintaining a balance between freedom of speech and freedom from racial vilification.

Recently, the Attorney General announced that he plans to repeal some provisions in the Act, stating that the balance has gone too far in protecting people who are targets of racial discrimination at the expense of “free speech”.

All Together Now is extremely concerned that the government is considering changes of this nature. Being the only national charity committed to erasing racism, All Together Now has become aware of numerous instances of people being the targets of racist abuse in Australia.

The recently published Social Cohesion Report by the Scanlon Foundation revealed that one in five individuals surveyed were targets of racial abuse in the past year. This alarming statistic is up from one in eight the previous year and a new high in this annual survey.

Further, there has been a 59% increase in complaints of racial abuse to the Australian Human Rights Commission over the past year, with nearly half of these being complaints about cyber-racism.

On the face of it, it would seem that racism in Australia is on the rise.

Yet only one in ten Australians have strong racist views. A small minority is committing this racist abuse and they appear to be becoming more brazen. This is happening because people are not speaking up and letting perpetrators know that the majority does not share their views.

The effects of racism on individuals are real and lasting. Australian researchers have recently found that there are health impacts on both children and adults who are targets of racism. It affects people’s mental health and their ability to fully participate in society.

By removing people’s fundamental protection from racial hatred under the Act, it will put perpetrators in a stronger position, which can be exploited. Forms of cyber racism and racial abuse that are presently unlawful would become lawful activities. This will particularly affect frequent users of online social media – especially young people.

All the work that has been done over the past four decades to educate Australian people about their rights and responsibilities will be completely undermined under these proposed changes to the Act. Just as we start to gain some ground in helping people to understand they have a right to freedom from race-based hate, this freedom will be eroded.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Repealing provisions in the Act will not only have impacts on individuals and communities – it is also likely to affect the way in which Australia is seen by other countries in our region. The policy position will be heard loud and clear.

Since the new government has taken office, the Prime Minister has told several countries they are good friends of Australia, including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and India. This appears to be a sound strategy, given a large proportion of Australia’s tourists, international students and skilled migrants originate from these countries.

What will they think, then, when they hear that the government plans to repeal the Act? The recent outreach of “friendship” by our Prime Minister contradicts this policy position.

The Federal Government, lead by the Prime Minister and Attorney General, has committed to repeal provisions of the Act. However, there is still time for them to consult widely before introducing a draft Bill into parliament to effect these changes. This will ensure that that the government’s draft proposal takes into consideration the concerns of those who are most vulnerable to racial abuse.

What you can do

What All Together Now is doing

We are working with other civil society organisations and experts to ensure a coordinated response to the proposed repeal of the Act.

Australian school tackles racism

Last week we spoke with Al Jazeera English about our One Parramatta project as part of their story on tackling racism in Western Sydney. The video below demonstrates how one Australian school tackles racism:

If the video does not appear it means you do not have Flash installed, but you can also watch the interviews on Al Jazeera’s website.

The One Parramatta project – erasing racism in Parramatta

The One Parramatta project is an original pilot dedicated to addressing interpersonal racism in Parramatta.

An initial grant of $50,000 from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship made this idea of erasing racism in Parramatta a reality. From this seed funding, All Together Now managed to quadruple this amount by garnering over $250,000 of project value along the way by leveraging business, volunteer and community support.

Parramatta is one of the most multicultural places in Australia, with 51% of the population born overseas. But it is also a place where 31% have been called names or insulted due to their cultural background or race. Based on the study led by Challenging Racism from the UWS, it appears that young adults are both primary perpetrators and victims of racism in the Parramatta area.

The goals of One Parramatta project was:

  • to encourage people to reflect on their own behavior towards people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds;

  • to develop the feeling of belonging to the same community;

  • to provide people with information about how to speak up when they witness racism in their community.

  • to ultimately help in erasing racism in Parramatta.

 

Over the course of this one-year project, All Together Now spoke to +250 people, created seven films of one-minute length, and shared their stories at Parramatta local cinema and on social media. More than 50,000 people saw one of the episodes. The project evaluation found that:

  •  79% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they better understand racism after watching one of the One Parramatta films.

  • 88% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they are more likely to be welcoming of other cultures as a result of watching one the One Parramatta films

  • Several people acknowledged that they realized that they have the right to fight racism and to stand up.

 

“People do change when they are pushed to reflect on their past behavior.”

 

But the One Parramatta project is just a start: a small drop in an ocean of ideas and projects that All Together Now would like to develop. You can contribute to help see other projects become real by making a donation.

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One Parramatta Episode 7: This is just the start of the conversation

Episode 7 may be the last of the One Parramatta series but this is not the end.

In fact, this is just the start of the conversation we’ve been having with you for almost a year now, with:

  • 180 people who we spoke to in the streets of Parramatta
  • hundreds of likes, tweets, retweets, shares and word-of-mouth
  • 38,000+ people who have watched one of the seven episodes of One Parramatta on the big screen at Parramatta Event Cinema or on YouTube

We want your help to keep the discussion going among your friends, colleagues and family.

You have the power to prevent racism by speaking up; taking a stand; not looking away. You can be the hero in your city, in your streets, in your home, at work or at school.

If you have some ideas, we’d love to hear them; if you have some time, contact us; if you want to donate, you can do that here via All Together Now.

WIN MOVIE TICKETS

Tell us your opinion by filling this survey about the One Parramatta project and enter the draw to win movie tickets to any Event Cinema complex in Australia.