Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Annual Report 2001-2002
Chapter 7: Race Discrimination
Race Discrimination Commissioner
Dr William Jonas
commenced duty as acting Race Discrimination Commissioner in September
1999 in addition to his duties as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner.
Statement from the Commissioner
In my capacity
as acting Race Discrimination Commissioner I was engaged for much
of 2001 in preparing for and participating in the World Conference
Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
which was held in Durban, South Africa, during late August and early
diverse and complex contemporary manifestations of racism and related
intolerance is a challenging task. The difficulties were certainly
reflected in the negotiation process for the World Conference as well
as in the debates on the Conference outcomes at the Economic and Social
Council and the General Assembly that followed.
While the World
Conference was plagued by some well publicised problems, it did provide
encouragement and direction for those engaged in the continuing battle
against racism. Particularly pleasing was the way in which both the
Conference and the Australian Government acknowledged the important
role of national human rights institutions in this battle.
For the first
time at such a World Conference the national institutions were allocated
their own space at the plenary venue and those wishing to speak were
granted sufficient time for meaningful interventions. A collective
statement prepared by participating national institutions was one
of the first universally accepted statements of the Conference. It
was read on our behalf in the plenary session by the then President
of the South African Human Rights Commission and was incorporated
into the Conference documents.
Government also recognised the significance of national institutions
and the importance of protecting their independence from government
when Senator the Hon Dr Kay Paterson said in her statement on behalf
of the nation:
would like to see the conference recognise that a positive vision
for racial and cultural diversity needs to be backed by effective
racial discrimination legislation, robust and independent national
human rights institutions, and innovative human rights education
to raise awareness of individual and collective rights.
role of national human rights institutions in education and public
awareness-raising activities to combat racism was particularly emphasised.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also
recently recognised the importance of this role for national human
rights institutions in its latest General Recommendation, Number 28,
on follow-up to the World Conference.
Among the activities
which I conducted in preparation for the Conference were 28 community
consultations on racism throughout the country. Unfortunately, these
consultations led me to the conclusion that racial discrimination
is still widespread in Australia and often institutional in nature.
Every community consultation identified Indigenous people as most
affected by racism and, as one Indigenous woman sadly told us:
We just live
with racism every day. It is like getting up, washing your face
and having a cup of tea.
A highly successful
national conference on racism titled "Beyond tolerance",
which I convened in Sydney in March 2002 as a follow-up to the World
Conference and to the 2001 national consultations, came to similar
conclusions. From all of these activities it has become clear that
strategies to combat racism need to be highly calibrated to the subtleties
of institutionalised and systemic discrimination and multi-faceted
to confront racism head on in each sector, even each locality, where
it is found.
Key opinion leaders
must be encouraged to act responsibly and, if necessary, required
to act in conformity with the law. The World Conference Against Racism
recognised, for example, "that the media should represent the
diversity of a multicultural society and play a role in fighting racism".
While the Conference noted "with regret" that "certain
media, by promoting false images and negative stereotypes of vulnerable
individuals or groups of individuals, particularly of migrants and
refugees, have contributed to the spread of xenophobic and racist
sentiments among the public and in some cases have encouraged violence
by racist individuals and groups", it also welcomed the positive
contribution which could be made by the media and by new information
and communications technologies such as the internet, drawing attention
to its potential to create educational and awareness raising networks
in our national consultations and the governments deliberating at
the World Conference Against Racism concurred in calling for a media
code of conduct with effective and transparent monitoring, complaint
handling and enforcement mechanisms with participation by representatives
from the general community.
media and the minorities most vulnerable to racism are the three principal
focuses of my anti-racism work in the coming year.
I will continue
to disseminate factual, accurate and easy to understand material about
human rights and racism. One of the most successful educational projects
that the Commission has undertaken in recent years is a booklet aimed
largely at the media, school students and the community titled Face
the Facts. This booklet, currently in its second edition, takes
a number of common misconceptions relating to Indigenous people, migrants
and refugees and provides factual information which shows how often
the public perception or understanding is quite different from the
I plan to consult
experts in racial vilification and internet regulation on measures
to improve the internet's compliance with Australian law on racial
vilification and develop online anti-racism education modules for
teachers and students. I am also working with Australian Arabic communities
on strategies to enhance their security and to protect their members
from racist violence provoked by events both at home and overseas,
particularly in the Middle East.
Education and promotion
World Conference Against
The United Nations
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa from
31 August to 8 September 2001, was the focus for the major activities
of the Race Discrimination Commissioner in the past year.
with civil society in preparation for WCAR included seeking submissions
and conducting community consultations. The consultations were supported
by a discussion paper, Combating racism in Australia, of which
more than 2 800 copies were distributed.
received 42 written submissions during the WCAR consultations from
individuals and organisations in every state and territory in Australia,
including the Broome Diocesan Office of Justice, Ecology and Peace,
Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission, Muslim Women's Welfare
Association (Australian Capital Territory), Amnesty International
Australia, Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee, Morisset
High School (New South Wales), National Ethnic Disability Alliance
and Multicultural Affairs Queensland. Extracts from selected submissions
were reproduced on the Commission's website in a moderated bulletin
board at www.humanrights.gov.au/worldconference/wcar_bulletin.html.
were convened in July 2001 in Hobart, Melbourne, Cairns, Brisbane,
Parramatta, Orange, Newcastle and Canberra. Also in July, youth forums
were convened in Perth and Sydney, a Victorian Indigenous community
consultation was convened in Melbourne and the Commission's Sex Discrimination
Unit held immigrant and refugee women's focus groups in Sydney and
Indigenous women's focus groups in north west New South Wales.
Records of all
consultations can be viewed on the Commission's website at www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/national_consultations/regional.html
respect and equality": A Summary of Consultations with Civil
Society on Racism in Australia was launched on 3 December 2001 and
attracted considerable interest. Three thousand copies were distributed.
Every Federal, state and territory parliamentarian received a copy.
On its release, the Commissioner commented:
we went, from the capital cities to rural and regional areas, I
was struck by the sense of marginalisation felt by Indigenous people
and people from non?English speaking backgrounds who do not fit
the stereotype of the "typical" Australian. It is clear
that racism is still 'alive and well' in Australian society. People
spoke of the covert and systemic racism they experience in employment,
education and the delivery of government services.
Among the 29
recommendations on which a substantial consensus emerged were the
- the need
to build strategic partnerships between governments, the private
sector and community representatives to develop practical anti-racism
- a media code
of conduct to eliminate racial vilification in all media
school subjects to recognise Indigenous history, the impact of colonisation
and the contribution of migrants to the nation's development
- a formal
Commonwealth government apology to Indigenous peoples.
civil society consultations were made possible by a grant of $US 26
000 from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
In addition to
the national activities, the Commissioner also participated at two
of the three Preparatory Committee meetings in Geneva. The third and
last of these was held 31 July to 10 August 2001.
Jonas, together with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward and
Commission staff, also attended two preparatory forums in South Africa
in late August 2001. A pre-conference Strategic Planning Meeting of
National Human Rights Institutions was hosted by the South African
Human Rights Commission in Johannesburg from 26 to 28 August. This
forum was attended by 52 national institutions and adopted a joint
statement for presentation to the WCAR plenary session. In this statement,
participating institutions committed themselves to:
- work to encourage
their respective governments to develop, through consultation and
cooperation with national institutions, national human rights plans
of action, including those addressing racism, and to monitor their
- work with
civil society, including non-government organisations (NGOs), and,
in particular, with groups and individuals who have experienced
or continue to experience discrimination or threats of discrimination,
when developing policies and programs to ensure their perspectives
- pay special
attention to preventing racism and work with the appropriate institutions
to ensure that educational authorities and other relevant institutions
integrate human rights, anti-racism, tolerance, diversity and respect
for others into their work and institutions.
and staff also attended sessions of the NGO Forum held in Durban in
preparation for the World Conference from 28 August to 1 September
and the Race Discrimination Commissioner was the rapporteur for a
panel discussion on "Globalisation and Racism".
At the World
Conference Against Racism, the Commissioner was a member of the Australian
Government delegation. In his independent capacity as Race Discrimination
Commissioner he addressed a parallel session panel on the role of
national human rights institutions, especially in the UN human rights
treaty system and treaty reform. He also addressed the WCAR plenary
session on behalf of the Commission on 4 September. Among other things,
the Commissioner said:
be no doubt that the greatest problem of racial discrimination in
Australia is the situation of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
This discrimination is institutional and systemic in nature, and
historically derived as a consequence of colonialism
A major obstacle
to the full realisation of equality and inclusion of Indigenous
Peoples is [the] emphasis among States and in the UN system on individual
rather than collective rights including rights to land and resources,
self-determination and autonomy, development and to practice culture.
The World Conference
adopted the "Durban Declaration and Programme of Action"
to renew efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
and related intolerance. These outcomes were overwhelmingly endorsed
by the UN General Assembly early in 2002.
convened a series of meetings during January and February 2002 to
discuss Australian implementation of the WCAR outcomes. He consulted
with Neville Roach, then chair of the Council for a Multicultural
Australia, Jeremy Jones (Executive Council of Australian Jewry), Fred
Chaney (Reconciliation Australia), Thu Nguyen-Hoan (Department of
Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs), Sandra Power
(Attorney-General's Department) and each state and territory equal
opportunity agency head. On 14 March 2002 the Commissioner convened
a workshop to discuss WCAR follow-up with state and territory Equal
Opportunity Commissioners, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioners
and staff and the New Zealand Race Discrimination Commissioner.
National Conference on Racism
tolerance conference on racism in Australia was convened by the
Commissioner at the Sydney Opera House on 12 and 13 March 2002. The
conference themes were:
- The fragility
and strengths of Australia's commitment to diversity, reconciliation
and equality of opportunity.
- The forms
of discrimination experienced by Indigenous people and people from
culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including multiple
- The priorities
for reforms to eliminate racial discrimination from all sectors
of Australian society.
Most of the papers
delivered at the conference are available on the Commission's website
A media forum
associated with the conference and entitled "Reporting Diversity"
was held on the evening of 12 March 2002 also at the Sydney Opera
House. It was chaired by ABC journalist John Highfield with panellists
Julie Nimmo (ICAM, SBS), Paul Murray (Radio 6PR, Perth) and Farah
Farouque (The Age, Melbourne). The Forum was recorded by the
ABC and edited for broadcast on ABC Radio National's "Big Ideas"
program on 31 March 2002, repeated 2 April 2002.
Research and policy
from the 1995 Alcohol Report the Commissioner continues to
be approached by local Indigenous communities requesting support for
agreements to restrict the sale or distribution of alcohol to their
community members. Such restrictions may be justified as special measures
to advance the enjoyment of human rights for Indigenous communities
and therefore a lawful exception to the prohibition on racial discrimination
in the provision of goods and services.
granted one year extensions on two exemption certificates in November
2001. One dealt with an agreement between the Wiluna Aboriginal Community
and the Club Hotel in Wiluna Western Australia while the other dealt
with restrictions imposed on a liquor licence held by Kings Creek
Station for the benefit of the Wanmarra and Ukaka Aboriginal Communities
in the Northern Territory. The Wiluna agreement includes provision
to ban the sale of takeaway wine and spirits to members of the Wiluna
Aboriginal community and to limit sale of takeaway beer, in cans only,
to certain hours. The Wanmarra licence conditions ban the sale of
alcohol altogether to members of the two communities and their visitors.
In August 2001
the Commissioner wrote to the South Australian Premier expressing
his concerns that the creation of dry zones in the city of Adelaide
may indirectly discriminate against Indigenous people. The dry zone
provisions restricted consumption of alcohol within the zones to people
eating a meal in a restaurant. The Commissioner noted that many Aboriginal
people would not be able to afford to buy a meal in a restaurant and
that the imposition of dry zones may therefore impact disproportionately
on them. Such a disproportionate impact would not be unlawful if the
imposition of a dry zone was reasonable in all the circumstances and
the Commissioner sought information from the Premier about the services
which would be provided for Indigenous drinkers to ameliorate the
effects of forcing them further away from the city precinct.
In June 2002
the Commissioner made a submission on the scope of the special measures
exception in the context of restrictions on alcohol sales to a liquor
licensing inquiry convened by the Western Australian Director of Liquor
Licensing. The community affected is the Irrungadji Community of Nullagine
Access to water
in the 1994 Water Report was that the Commission should follow-up
the water supply situation in the ten case study communities after
five years. Dr Bruce Walker, Director of the Centre for Appropriate
Technology in Alice Springs, undertook the review. His report, Review
of the Water Report, was launched on 3 October 2001. Dr Walker found
that, since 1994, a number of measures have been adopted to provide
water and sanitation and improve the health of Indigenous people.
In seven of the 10 communities, there were significant improvements.
Although he concluded
there have been improvements in technical delivery and higher levels
of spending, he found, however, that safe, clean, sustainable water
supplies are still not guaranteed. He recommended that the design
and implementation of systems of water delivery should reflect a cooperative
process of negotiation, community education, forward planning and
Post 11 September
On 12 September,
following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the Commissioner
wrote to all state and territory Multicultural Affairs Commissions,
Equal Opportunity Commissions, Ethnic Communities Councils and peak
Arabic and Islamic community organisations. Commissioner Jonas raised
concerns regarding an anticipated increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim
vilification and offered to establish an email clearinghouse to exchange
information and consider possible joint strategies and action. There
was a solid response from state and territory equal opportunity agencies
and from relevant non-government organisations and the "egroup"
operated until the end of the year. While agencies were grateful for
information shared in this way, few had the time or capacity to contribute
information during the crisis.
To assist agencies
to advise clients victimised by racism, the Commission sent resource
packages to 36 Migrant Resource Centres and to Arabic and Islamic
In October 2001
the Commissioner met with Dr Thu Nguyen-Hoan, Assistant Secretary
for Multicultural Affairs, Department of Immigration and Multicultural
Affairs, to exchange information and discuss strategies to head off,
if possible, a further escalation of racist attacks.
During 2002 the
Commissioner has progressed consultations with Australia's Arabic
communities, meeting with staff at Sydney's Noor Al Houda Islamic
College and members of the Australian Arabic Council in Melbourne,
while staff have participated in other meetings.
In January 2002
the Commissioner met Emeritus Professor Ken McKinnon and Jack Herman
of the Australian Press Council to discuss approaches to ethnic descriptors
and racial stereotyping in the print media.
Race relations in Kalgoorlie
Staff of the
Commission, with a representative of the State Equal Opportunity Commission,
visited Kalgoorlie-Boulder in May 2002 following expressions of concern
about deteriorating race relations in the city. They consulted widely
with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations.
concluded there were two underlying issues which, if addressed by
the community, could help to resolve shared issues of concern. The
first was a significant lack of accurate information about each other
and about legal rights and obligations. The second was a failure on
the part of community leaders to consult fully and effectively on
issues affecting Indigenous people in the city.
with the Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner for Western Australia,
the Commissioner recommended two interlinked strategies. The first
would involve delivery of information, education and training covering
legal rights and obligations, cultural awareness and cross cultural
communication. The second would involve the key stakeholders in negotiating
an Indigenous consultation protocol. The Commissioner has proposed
a mediator be engaged to assist in this process.
During a visit
to London in April 2002, the Commissioner and staff consulted with
staff at the Commission for Racial Equality, the Institute for Public
Policy Research, the Runnymede Trust and the UK Secretariat of the
European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and European and
International Policy on race equality laws in the UK and on WCAR implementation
A selection of
speeches, seminars and presentations made by, or on behalf of, Commissioner
Jonas during 2001-02 are listed below. Further speeches are available
on the Commission's website at www.humanrights.gov.au/speeches/race/.
Racism in Australia, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Regional Consultation for the World Conference Against Racism, Melbourne,
5 July 2001.
Racism in Australia, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Regional Consultation for the World Conference Against Racism, Newcastle,
27 July 2001.
for the World Conference Against Racism, Australian anti-racism
non-government organisations, Sydney, 23 August 2001.
on the Draft Durban Declaration, Pre-Conference Strategic Planning
Meeting of National Human Rights Institutions, Johannesburg, South
Africa, 27 August 2001.
rights institutions and human rights treaty bodies, Elements of
a Global Alliance Against Racism [etc]: Roles and Responsibilities
of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, National Human Rights Institutions
and Other Relevant Institutions, WCAR parallel forum, Durban, South
Africa, 3 September 2001.
on behalf of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission,
Plenary Session of the World Conference Against Racism, Durban, South
Africa, 4 September 2001.
and the World Conference Against Racism, Sixth Annual Asia Pacific
Forum Meeting, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 27 September 2001.
Against Racism - outcomes and relevance to Australia, post-WCAR
briefing for Australian anti-racism NGOs and agencies, 4 October 2001.
Beyond tolerance: national conference on racism, Sydney, 12 March
tolerance towards the elimination of racial discrimination in Australia,
Beyond tolerance: national conference on racism, Sydney, 13 March
Harmony and Multiculturalism, Rockdale City Council, Sydney, 21
and remedies for dealing with complaints of racial discrimination
and vilification, Sixth International Workshop of National Human
Rights Institutions, Copenhagen, Denmark, 11 April 2002.