PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, a weekly program produced by the Australian Government on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
In February last year, the Australian Government announced a new multicultural policy called The People of Australia. It highlights the importance of a culturally diverse and cohesive nation.
Part of the policy was to establish a national partnership to develop and deliver a National Anti-Racism Strategy for all Australians, and consultations have been underway to find out how racism affects people in communities around Australia.
Newslines’ Danika Nayna has this report.
NAYNA: Racism isn’t just about name-calling, threats or physical violence.
People can also experience racial discrimination when applying for housing, a job, getting credit or any other form of being treated unfairly because of a person’s race.
There’s no easy way to stop racism but one thing is clear: nobody deserves to be discriminated against.
And that’s why the Australian Government has asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to consult on, develop and deliver a National-Anti Racism Strategy.
Consultations have been happening around the country to find out where people are experiencing racism and what solutions community members have come up with and what they are using already, or that they would like to see in place in the future.
I spoke to National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Director Rod Little at the Canberra consultation.
LITTLE: Racism for me is about treating people differently who are different to you and that could be in many ways quite harsh, it could be violating their fundamental rights and I think where we live in an equal society we should be equal.
NAYNA: Why do we need a National Strategy to fight racism in this country?
LITTLE: I think we need a strategy, we need the whole of the Australian society to be supportive of eliminating racism in communities and particular from my perspective and the National Congress, is that we need to eliminate racism to decrease the numbers of our people that are on welfare, in institutions, better health and all of those other things so that we can live in society equally.
NAYNA: What can people in their own communities do to stop racism?
LITTLE: I think the first thing for our people is to not be afraid to make complaints and do that to the ‘nth degree so that you will get some outcome but don’t give up.
NAYNA: Incidents of racism often go unreported. This can be because people don’t know where to turn or don’t understand how to report racism or make a complaint. Some people give up and others are fearful of what might happen.
Justin Mogridge from Port Augusta in South Australia works in Community Development and for an Aboriginal Men’s Program. He encourages people to use the services available to them to fight racism.
MOGRIDGE: A lot of times we don’t take it any further because we might live in fear of reprisal against whoever is attacking or seen to be attacking us.
And whether it be verbal or whatever, I think it’s something that we as Aboriginal people in this day and age have the right as Australian citizens as well, to be able to stand up and take and seek whatever support we can from the services that are out there to protect us and support us.
That may be if it’s Aboriginal legal rights or the Legal Aid Commission, there are services out there that protect and support us through whatever complaints we want to lay because at the end of the day, we have rights too.
NAYNA: An anti-racism strategy consultation was held in Justin’s community of Port Augusta. He says that one of the most successful examples for tackling racism came when barriers were broken between Indigenous people and the local police force through a game of cricket.
MOGRIDGE: I think in a lot of communities and especially here, there’s always that dark element of racism that pops its head up every now and again. It could be that a lot of people would say its institutionalised racism that crops its head up.
There may be community perspectives in regards to when an Aboriginal family might move into a street, they’re targeted and pressured from all angles because they’re Aboriginal.
NAYNA: What do you think needs to happen in order to reduce racism and for people to live well together?
MOGRIDGE: Whilst I’m aware that there are issues out there, whether it be within the police force or the housing or education, whatever it might be; one of the things that I have strived to do over the years, going about about 2005 it was I remember working in close with a couple of police officers to build better relations and better community spirit, we held an Aboriginal Community & Police Cricket Day and that was a good opportunity to try and break down a lot of the negative stuff that’s out there in the community.
It’s one step but there’s a lot more that we can do and it’s those types of events that can bring people together in a positive light.
PRESENTER: You’re listening to Newslines Radio. Today, we’re talking about the new National Anti-Racism Strategy.
It will be a strategy to raise awareness of racism, looking to an equal future with no discrimination.
Newslines’ Danika Nayna was at the Port Augusta consultation, speaking with some of the participants about their thoughts on racism and how to stop it.
MCKENZIE: My name’s Alwin McKenzie. I’m a person that lives in Port Augusta on the Davenport Community, Aboriginal community about four kilometres out of Port Augusta. I just wanted to learn a bit more about the National Strategy and also to talk about some of the issues that relate to Port Augusta.
NAYNA: Can you tell me what some of those issues are for your community?
MCKENZIE: Well, what people have brought up today is the need for cultural competency to be in place and a lot of the services that are in Port Augusta whether it be the police force, the housing, there needs to be a lot more awareness when Aboriginal people present at the services.
It’s obviously a lot more than services. It’s actually in the midst of the community in all facets and people just have to be aware of it. We need to talk about it, learn about it and identify it and see it as it is.
And there were talks about how it affects Aboriginal people as they present to health services and things. Lots of times maybe it is racism causing some of the stress that people seem to have with it.
NAYNA: Being a member of this wonderful town, what would Port Augusta look to you if racism was reduced? What would it look like?
MCKENZIE: Actually you said it right; it is a lovely town. There are lovely people in here; Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal people but it would be a place where people are working together.
When challenges arise, working on those challenges together and seeing them as not insurmountable but things that people, while working together, people will look forward to these challenges and say, “Bring them on, we as a town will be able to overcome them and deal with them.”
NAYNA: The participants of the Port Augusta anti-racism consultation were fired up with great ideas on how racism can be overcome.
Traditional custodian of the Port Augusta area, Lindsay Thomas, is a custodial specialist.
Lindsay already works to reduce racism within his community by educating the incarcerated men he works with about both traditional ways and white man ways.
He also believes that cultural competency is a good way to reduce racism, but says that cross-cultural training should be for Aboriginal people as well, not just for non-Indigenous people, to help all parties understand one-another.
THOMAS: I believe racism is basically education. And that means for both parties: non-Aboriginal or Aboriginal people. How you go about educating well, the way I do with Aboriginal people is in traditional ways.
That’s through the arts, through the music, through cooking and through story-telling. It’s a lot of hands-on stuff which they pick up straight away. This is what I teach.
I’m a big believer in cross-cultural training, etcetera, and I teach these men non-Aboriginal values and they run with that, they understand that because as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals, we have a lot to offer each other and a lot of things are very similar in our culture. When you look at the values, it’s just a matter of having the education side of things where people are on the same page.
NAYNA: Port Augusta is lucky to have strong Aboriginal leaders with big ideas on tackling racism. Justin Mogridge is optimistic about how the Anti-Racism Strategy will help them, and other communities, achieve their unifying goals.
MOGRIDGE: I think in any society, any town, any city, no matter where you go you’re never going to get a perfect place to live and if there was we’d all be there.
Today I think it’s just looking at strategies to ensure that we as a people, we as a community, can live in a safe environment and respect each other and support wherever we can.
At the end of the day it’s for our children, our grandchildren and our future together if we’re going to be growing as a community and as a town.
PRESENTER: The public community consultations have wrapped up for the Anti-Racism Strategy.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is reviewing all of the consultations, submissions and survey comments to help contribute to the Strategy, which is scheduled to be launched in July 2012 and will be rolled out over three years.
You can find out more about the Strategy and what the Australian Government is doing to fight racism on our website indigenous.gov.au.
You can also read our Indigenous Newslines magazine there, follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend us on Facebook.
I’m Nathan Ramsey, catch you next week.