The Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has urged Australians to reflect on the anti-racism principles and legacy of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela in combatting racism.
Commissioner Tan spoke at the Nelson Mandela Day Commemorative Committee event in Melbourne, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD).
Commissioner Tan quoted Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Commissioner Tan said this is a powerful message to consider, as we celebrate IDERD, and reflect on the significance of the day in the aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy.
“This terrible event was a stark reminder that we must all remain vigilant against the resurgence of far-right and extremist activity and against threats to our multicultural harmony,” he said.
The United Nations declared International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, six years after police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful protest against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa.
Each year since then, the world comes together to remember its collective obligation to promote understanding, tolerance and the building of an international community free from all forms of racial discrimination, segregation and barriers, racism and related intolerances.
Commissioner Tan said the fight against racism is a very long walk and one that cannot be done alone.
“We will reach our destination only if we all walk as a community and share the equal burden of common purpose and values.
”In a time where we are experiencing a re-awakening and increasing popularity of racist right-wing politics, challenging and exposing racism is urgently needed, now more than ever.
“We are seeing the ugly face of prejudice and bigotry resurface in a way many may not have expected.
“We are seeing for example, the proliferation of largely unregulated spaces on the internet including social media where these views thrive. Where keyboards have become tools of oppression, hatred and fear-mongering.
“Extreme supremacist ideologies, events and instances have appeared in Australian public life - the recent St Kilda neo-Nazi rally supported and attended by a federal politician, divisive speech which called for a return to the White Australia policy; a parliamentary motion and debate that seek to promote one group and direct denigration and prejudice against others.
“When these things happen, they must be rejected and regarded for what they are, repulsive and repugnant, and they do not belong in Australia.
“These acts of racism and all acts of racism, need to be challenged and countered, they pose a real and present danger and threat to our national and community safety and cohesion, to our multicultural way of life and to the progress that we have made as Australians, in promoting racial equality and harmony in our society,” Commissioner Tan said.