Adopt anti-racism framework, urges Australian Human Rights Commission

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday March 17, 2021

Australian Human Rights Commission-AHRC
Recent events have shown that Australia is facing a resurgence in racism. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian Human Rights Commission is calling on the federal government to implement its new plan for a national anti-racism framework.

The concept paper, released on Wednesday, outlines key components that need to be included in the framework. According to the paper, the framework must recognise and acknowledge Australia’s ancient Indigenous heritage, its British heritage, and its diverse multicultural heritage.

“A national framework should also acknowledge Australia’s geo-political location in the Asia-Pacific region in the ‘Asian century’ as well as being capable of embracing the history and circumstances of Australia’s diverse diaspora communities,” the paper said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan noted that recent events have shown that Australia is facing a resurgence in racism.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted injustices experienced by people from culturally diverse backgrounds and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed ugly racism against people of Asian descent here in Australia,” he said in a speech on Tuesday.

“And ASIO and the AFP have repeatedly identified home grown terrorism and extremism as a significant threat to the national security of Australia. It is also now just over two years since the terrible events in Christchurch, New Zealand, where an Australian man murdered 51 people, and attempted to murder another 40 people.”

Tan argued that it’s time to treat the “scourge of racism” in the same way that issues such as domestic violence and child abuse are treated.

“On those issues we have in place longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments in Australia, with three-year action plans to target priority issues and make serious headway in addressing them,” he said.

“Let me be clear: racism is a significant economic, social and national security threat to Australia. It is time we treated it as such. We need a new approach to combatting racism — one that is more cohesive across government, that builds community partnerships to prevent racism from flourishing, and one that is smarter and more effective.”

The AHRC’s proposed national framework would do this, Tan said.

The framework should be designed to recognise and address intersectional experiences of racism, and should be informed by Australia’s human rights obligations, its other relevant obligations under international law, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, according to the paper.

The plan has put forward eight priority national outcomes that all Australian governments should commit to address, including:

  • Understanding the nature, prevalence, and incidence of racism in Australia,
  • An effective legal framework to protect people from racial discrimination and racial hatred,
  • Commitment from all governments to eradicating racism and racial discrimination through their actions,
  • National anti-racism campaigns to build community understanding of racism and how to counter it,
  • Commitment from all sectors of Australian society to countering racism, and the formation of community partnerships,
  • Commitment from all sectors of Australian society towards adequate representation and participation of culturally diverse communities in all areas of public life,
  • Commitment from Australian governments to address racial inequality, with the adoption of specific targets and measures to address it,
  • Complimentary measures to strengthen multiculturalism, social inclusion, and Indigenous reconciliation.

The plan has been launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — also known in Australia as Harmony Day — on Sunday.

The AHRC will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan. It noted that Australia has not had a national anti-racism strategy in place since 2018, and federal funding for that strategy ended in 2015.


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