Message to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - a video version of this speech can be found here.

The 21st of March is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Though here in Australia it is perhaps better known as Harmony Day. While many of us today will celebrate our cultural diversity, it is important for us to also remember and reflect on the history of this day.

On this day in 1960, police in South Africa opened fire on anti-apartheid protesters in the township of Sharpeville, killing 69 people. Since 1966, the international community has marked this day by renewing its commitment to eliminating racial discrimination.

We’ve made progress in combating racism, but it’s vital we maintain our efforts. We must continue to have laws in Australia that set a standard on racial discrimination. We must continue to educate people about racism and its root in hatred and ignorance. And we must do whatever we can in our daily lives – within our families, neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces – to challenge prejudice and discrimination.

So, today, let’s renew our commitment to equality and human rights. Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect. And everyone should be able free to live from racial discrimination.