First step in tackling racism

By Adam Coleman

With the recent spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and other concerning signs of increased racial tension in Australia, government at all levels is increasingly expected to get on the front foot in creating positive and sustainable relationships between different communities. 

Last week the head of WA’s peak multicultural lobby group, the Ethnic Communities Council of WA warned that Australian society is becoming more racist as the economic downturn fuels hostility towards foreigners.

In response the Council has developed a website to give foreign students a way to anonymously report race-based incidents and to provide an insight into the seriousness of racism in WA.

We were reminded last week that foreign students are not the only targets for racial abuse. Parents of Aboriginal students in the town of Narrogin, in WA kept up to 25 children at home because of what they claim are racial slurs against indigenous students.

In response, Narrogin Council has drafted a reconciliation plan to recognise the region's indigenous heritage. The council will also promote Aboriginal culture, display more Aboriginal art, develop a cultural heritage building, develop a program to tackle racism in schools and fly the Aboriginal flag in the town.

In drafting a strategy to tackle racism before it develops, one would think it prudent to look at some of the best practice examples that currently exist.

Step One

An innovative website developed by the Macquarie University includes case studies that demonstrate a variety of effective approaches to racism and community cohesion.

StepOne was developed by Dr Amanda Wise from the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University and sponsored by the Australian government through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The website offers guidance and practical resources to help organisations implement community cohesion and community harmony strategies in local areas.

Some of the best practice examples of racism-tackling programs feature on the site include:

We are all Australian DVD – The aim of this NSW project was twofold, to educate and increase the awareness of our own students about racism, stereotyping and multiculturalism and to give them a voice in the broader community about their perspectives on these issues.

Living Libraries – a community-based initiative that aims to bring people together through one-to-one conversation and interaction and thereby encourage understanding, challenge negative stereotypes, and reduce prejudice.

Hand in Hand – consultation groups that sought to gather people's thoughts regarding the increasing cultural diversity within Holland Park.

Women Speak Out Anti-Racism Project – This project by the Immigrant Women Speak Out group in NSW aimed to work in educational, interactive and non-threatening ways with young and older migrant and refugee women on dealing with Racism.

Confronting Racism – This project worked with communities across Queensland to document the nature and extent of racism and provide regular reporting on incidents.

Sharing the Lode – This project aims to share the migrant history in Broken Hill in NSW with the entire community and help people appreciate migrants as important part of their history and community.

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