Exclusive: The federal opposition is calling on the Morrison government to fund a fresh national anti-racism campaign amid a rising tide of race-based attacks.
With race-based attacks on the rise, the federal opposition wants the government to fund a new national anti-racism campaign - the first in more than seven years.
Australians who have experienced racism first-hand have welcomed Labor's call - but say the priority must be difficult conversations, not box-ticking.
The latest report on social cohesion by the Scanlon Foundation found that, despite overwhelming support for a multicultural Australia, racist attitudes persist.
Academic and author Dr Ryan Al-Natour can recall the first time he was “called a terrorist”, days after the September 11 attacks, as a teenager walking through Penrith train station.
He told SBS News the situation is getting worse as racism morphs into narratives about people’s identity, culture and religion.
“The first thing you're reminded of is that the person being racist - or the people being racist - is in touch with what they see as a flaw in you,” he said.
“It's someone reminding you that you don't fit into this particular landscape - that you are different.
"It is extremely dehumanising."
While the Scanlan Foundation report found support for multiculturalism remains high at 85 per cent, forty per cent of Australians admitted to holding negative or very negative attitudes towards Muslims.
There’s also been an alarming 30 per cent rise in direct anti-Semitic attacks in Australia, according to a monitor’s latest annual report.
After the number of recent, racially-motivated attacks, Labor is calling for a new, federally funded, anti-racism campaign.
Labor’s spokesperson for multicultural affairs Andrew Giles told SBS News Australia needs a government that labels racism as unacceptable.
“From the top down, Australia’s political leaders have got to make clear there is a zero-tolerance approach to racism, that we won't fan the flames of racism, that we will call it out when we see it,” he said.
But according to Dr Al-Natour, the behaviour of politicians in recent years is actually part of the problem.
He said the solution must be found in communities, not in Canberra.
“I don't think politicians are reliable in terms of setting the tone of addressing racism,” he said.
“Anti-racism is about correcting stereotypes, but unfortunately, in this country, it can be about making mainstream Australians feel good when it should be about having difficult, uncomfortable conversations.”
More than seven years ago Prime Minister Julia Gillard funded the Racism – It Stops With Me campaign.
Now, Labor wants the Morrison government to fund a new awareness drive targeting its prevailing threat.
“Too often we pass over how slights can damage people can deny them the opportunity to fully participate," Mr Giles said.
"This isn't just a matter of individuals doing the right thing. It's a matter of national leadership.”
Mr Al-Natour is concerned there is still confusion over how racism is interpreted.
"Unfortunately, in terms of mainstream understandings of what racism is, the definitions are being extremely distorted," he said.
“A lot of people think that simply eating Chinese food or having a kebab on the weekend is apparently proof that someone is not racist, it's a lot more complicated than that."
"The Morrison Government has zero-tolerance to all forms of discrimination, especially racism," a spokesperson for the Attorney-General told SBS News.
"The government also recognises that intolerance towards Australia’s Muslim and Jewish communities has sadly been on the rise in recent times.
"But as Labor knows, groups such as Muslims are not protected under the Racial Discrimination Act because they are not recognised as a “race” of people."
The spokesperson called on Labor to support the government's new Religious Discrimination Bill, instead of "focusing on political point-scoring."