Tag Archives: law

Australia, still in denial?

Australia’s acknowledgement of racism has grown considerably, since Adam Goodes was Australian of the Year (2014). This could be largely due to the fact that his cause was anti-racism. The Racism. It Stops With Me. campaign was launched soon after. Over 250 organisations joined the anti-racism campaign, which promoted racial equality (including All Together Now). It seemed that Australia was finally ready to kick racism out of the country once and for all.  However, it seemed in 2015, Australia once again took a step back as it questioned incidents of racism as actually being racist or not. The questioning of an incident being racist or not was seen most prominently during the booing bullying of AFL player Adam Goodes. People in the media questioned the validity of the incessant and constant targeted bullying, of this particular player, as being racist or not. It was undoubtedly fueled by racism, as the ‘issue’ that had people begin the booing of Goodes occurred after he displayed (during the Indigenous Round of AFL) an Indigenous symbol to the crowd as a victory showcase after scoring a goal. Idiotic though it may seem, racism is often just so.

We’d like to take the time to add to the discussion on Goodes, that being ‘politically correct’ is giving respect. It is the correct way to act. Denying respect includes denying racism. Or, as Marlon James put it, “most of us are non-racists” and are content to be so: “I won’t, I don’t, I’ve never” are not statements that change those individuals, groups or institutions that are prejudice, bigoted and racist. This ‘non-racism’ occurs when you know something is racist but by doing nothing it does not stop it from occurring. The question the comes to: How do we make active people trying to end racism?

We make active people trying to end racism by giving them knowledge of how it acts, interacts and attacks society and individuals ability to succeed, be unified and progress.

Non-racism along with racism denial are two important factors in the continuing of racism in Australia and internationally. So, here is a reminder of what racism denial looks like:

 

Racism Denial 2016 (Conflict Copy) (1)

Proposed changes to racial vilification laws

All Together Now is concerned about the proposed racial vilification laws which the government released yesterday.

We believe this draft falls short of balancing freedom from racial vilification with freedom of speech. Currently the Racial Discrimination Act — which has been an effective piece of legislation for nearly 20 years — balances these two freedoms under Section 18C and 18D. Yet the new proposal grants too much freedom for people to offend, insult, or humiliate people on the basis of their race. It will severely weaken protection from racial discrimination which particularly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

We are particularly concerned that section 2(b) of the proposal focuses on physical harm while ignoring the psychological damage that many targets of racism experience. Australian research has found that a range of health problems including high blood pressure and heart disease, depression, anxiety, low birth rate and premature birth can all be caused directly by people’s personal experiences of racism.

By focussing on physical harm, sections 1 and 2 of the proposal ignores the fact that the most common types of racism experienced in Australia are racist talk and exclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity or cultural background according to the ongoing Challenging Racism research project.

Finally, the new proposal “does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.” Given these very broad exemptions, we are left asking in what circumstance racial vilification or intimidation would be unlawful.

As we stated last week, the Challenging Racism project announced new research findings that nearly 80% of Australians support the current laws against racial vilification. 2,100 respondents were asked whether it should be unlawful to humiliate, insult, offend or intimidate someone according to their race, with the results showing:

  • Offend – 66% of participants agreed or strongly agreed it should be unlawful
  • Insult – 72% of participants agreed or strongly agreed it should be unlawful
  • Humiliate – 74% of participants agreed or strongly agreed it should be unlawful
  • Intimidate – 79% of participants agreed or strongly agreed it should be unlawful

All Together Now will continue to analyse the draft Bill in more detail to fully consider its potential impacts. We strongly encourage individuals and organisations concerned about this proposal to make a Submission before 30 April. Diversity is one of Australia’s strengths, and we pride ourselves on the success of multiculturalism in this country. Lets not forget the Racial Discrimination Act as it currently stands has been an important foundation for this success and this is why it is key for such protections to remain.

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.