Date: 
Thursday 5 November 2015

Racial discrimination continues to affect many Australians, according to a new report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane will launch the Freedom from Discrimination: Report on the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act at the FECCA 2015 National Biennial Conference in Sydney today. 

“Despite our success as a multicultural society, many Australians continue to face racial discrimination, whether it be discrimination in employment, racial vilification or social exclusion,” Commissioner Soutphommasane said.

“Over the past four decades the Racial Discrimination Act has been the foundation of racial equality and multiculturalism. Even so, the Act on its own cannot guarantee that every member of our society can enjoy freedom from discrimination.”

The report includes key findings of the Commissioner’s national consultation to mark the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The consultations found strong support for the Act and educational measures aimed at reducing discrimination.

However, there were also community concerns about limited protections against anti-Muslim discrimination and significant institutional racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“As this report shows, the experience of racial discrimination continues to affect many Australians, in spite of our success as a multicultural society.

“Racial discrimination is a genuinely complex phenomenon – not born of any one cause, not confined to any one setting and not limited to any one community. It is also something that can be overt as well as covert, revealed in identifiable individual acts but also more insidiously in institutional form,” Commissioner Soutphommasane said.

“The Act plays an important role in countering racial prejudice and discrimination, whether as an instrument for making complaints or as a tool of community advocacy.

“The Act also provides sets a standard for how we live together, providing public assurance that those who experience racism will have the law on their side.

“At the same time, the national consultations we conducted throughout the year reminded us that legal protections are by no means sufficient in eliminating prejudice and discrimination. There remains room for improvement in our society’s response to racism.”

The report sets out future work for the Race Discrimination Commissioner, including:

  • convening an annual national forum on racial tolerance and community harmony;
  • advocating for the national school curriculum to ensure adequate education about racism and strategies for embracing diversity and inclusion;
  • exploring work to improve the treatment of cultural diversity in the media;
  • enhancing connections between the Act and current educational work under the National Anti-Racism Strategy; and
  • continuing the Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture as an annual event to promote public understanding and debate about racism.

The Commission has also released a short, educational video to promote public understanding of the Racial Discrimination Act.

For more information about the report, video and the Commission’s activities to mark the Racial Discrimination Act’s 40th anniversary visit https://www.humanrights.gov.au/rda-info.

Photo: Flickr