Australia, a land of multiculturalism, has always been considered ‘the lucky country’. Unfortunately, not all Australians have experienced such positivity and luck. According to a survey conducted by Western Sydney University for SBS's Is Australia Racist documentary, one in five people have experienced racism over the last 12 months. Broken down, the statistics also reveal that half of all Indigenous survey participants said they have racism in the past year.
If these statistics inspire you to take action to make Australia a more inclusive place for people of all cultures and backgrounds, then listen up.
Here’s a guide of some of the organisations taking practical steps to face up to racism in 2017.
All Together Now
It's never too late to learn about how to be confident and stand up to racism.
“Racial equality is about long-term education and we provide resources to explain to people what it is and what they can do about it – in a constructive way,” says Priscilla Brice, managing director of All Together Now.
“Our aim is to create confidence [in people to] stand up to racism and provide the knowledge needed to differentiate between institutional and interpersonal racism."
The organisation hosts the Racial Equality Book Club in Sydney and will soon starting hosting it in Melbourne and Brisbane. Brice tells SBS that having these types of intimate events brings hope of combating racism through “building empathy about people’s lives by reading about them”.
All Together Now also uses comedy to break down barriers and will soon run its annual Comedy v Racism event on 23 March at Sydney’s Town Hall. “We’ve found that one of the biggest barriers towards equality is denial. By creating an atmosphere where people can have a laugh but also understand the point-of-view of the performer who are predominately People of Colour, we can break down barriers and make this experience accessible for everyone.”
Reconciliation Australia was created in 2001 to foster a stronger, positive relationship between the wider Australian community and Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The independent not-for-profit organisation also administers the Recognise campaign that aims to recognise First Australians in the constitution to ensure equality for all Australians.
Initiatives that you can volunteer for or request in your workplace include the Workplace Ready program, Reconciliation Action Plans, Share our Pride campaign, as well as Narragunnawli: a program dedicated to reconciliation in schools and early learning.
National Reconciliation Week will also be celebrated this year between 27 May and 3 June. It symbolises the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. Click here to keep up-to-date with the event’s details.
Centre for Multicultural Youth
Originally created under the Victorian Government in 1988, the now independent Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) is a not-for-profit organisation that supports young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
Lisa Spurr, communications and marketing director of CMY tells SBS that CMY is working hard to “continue to foster a positive public narrative about refugee and migrant young people, highlighting those who are flourishing in their new home…”
The organisation’s Youth Referral and Independent Persons Program matches Melbourne-based volunteers with young people who have to attend police interviews when a parent or guardian isn’t available to attend. Find information about volunteering with the program here.
CMY are also looking for volunteers to support their engagement programs to bolster social inclusion and cohesion in both Melbourne and the wider Victoria region.
Together for Humanity
Together for Humanity focuses on eliminating prejudices directed towards school children, their teachers and communities through open communication and education programs.
It runs interfaith forums and professional learning courses to provide students with opportunities to meet people of different backgrounds and religions.
By creating positive memories for students, this will hopefully have a positive long-term effect within society.
“To-date, more than 100,000 school students, teachers and community members have encountered our multi-faith teams of Jewish, Muslims, Christian...and Indigenous presenters,” national director, Rabbi Zalman Kastel tells SBS.
Rafi Felthun was one of the first participants to engage in the program at Sydney's St Ives North Public School when it started back in 2002.
Felthun tells SBS she still remembers the time a Muslim man and his Christian and Jewish colleagues walked into her school hall. Not even a year had passed since the September 11 event that changed the world and many of Felthun’s peers were trying to make sense of racist and religious tensions circulating.
“I remember being amazed and appreciative [of their visit],” she says. “While exposure to other faiths and cultures was far from a novel experience, the focus of the visit leant towards why we were all different yet special, not on the ways in which we were the same. I think it really shaped how I [grew to] define the community in which I belonged and how I approached interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue as I grew up."
“Readers can support our cause by hoping on the website educating themselves and sharing our resources with others,” says Rabbi Kastel. “We’ve also created the ability for people to 'virtually' meet a Muslim, a Jew or Aboriginal person or an atheist among others in our online Q&A section”.
Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (Australia)
Formed in 2007, the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN) is a national voice representing the needs and interests of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
MYAN has a chapter in each state and territory which work together to create a national approach to youth settlement. “Our aim is to help equip young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to tackle issues they tell us they are facing every day, and one of the biggest ones is racism,” says MYAN national coordinator, Nadine Liddy.
The organisation also runs a youth advocacy program for young people to participate in a Youth Ambassadors Network and engage with the public and government on relevant issues.
“Being a YAN member has changed my life,” says Queensland YAN member Paul Joseph.
People participating “don’t just care about the colour of each other’s skin, or what the world thinks of them. All they care about is standing boldly in the presence of racism, segregation, inequality, as young people fighting for change”.
“After being a YAN member, I believe as young people continue to stand in solidarity for a common good, the change that we need to defeat racism is in our hands.”
The next callout to become a Youth Ambassadors Network (YAN) member is in March 2017. Check out their website to see how you can become an ambassador or participate and join their range of Youth Advisory Groups and youth services.
Face Up To Racism with SBS, through a season of stories and programs challenging preconceptions around race and prejudice. #FU2Racism | Face Up To Racism.
Three documentaries, Is Australia Racist; Date My Race; and The Truth About Racism; are all available to view now on SBS On Demand.