Australia needs to deal with hard truth on racism: Indigenous commissioner June Oscar

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner June Oscar. Source: SBS

June Oscar acknowledged there is a resistance to talking about the impacts of racism, particularly the effects on the everyday lives of Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner June Oscar said racism is "alive and kicking" and needs to be confronted for the country to move forward.

Speaking on ABC TV, Dr Oscar said she disagreed with remarks by newly appointed race discrimination commission Chin Tan that Australia is not racist.

The former lawyer has also said he does not intend to use his role to solicit complaints on racism.

Indigenous people face racism on a daily basis: commissioner

Dr Oscar urged her colleague to reconsider his approach.

"It's an opportunity to inform Commissioner Tan on the work and voices of those I have been engaging with on the ground," she said referring to the Women’s Voices Project, which involves consulting with Indigenous women and girls on their experiences.

"And it is critical that he - as the new race discrimination commissioner - is aware of the experiences and everyday lived realities of Indigenous girls and Indigenous peoples in encountering institutional racism, and personal experiences of racism at school and in public places.

"It is alive and it confronts women and girls, and Indigenous peoples on a daily basis."

Dr Oscar said her conversations with Indigenous women as part of the Women's Voices Project have highlighted their common experience of facing 'racist attitudes' in public spaces, supermarkets and by service providers.

"I have been watched and followed in shops - and it is not a nice feeling," she said.

'Truth-telling critical for Australia's future'

Dr Oscar said she is eagerly awaiting the recommendations from the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition to be handed down on 29 November.

The Morrison government has not embraced the recommendations from the 2017 Uluru Statement which called for a truth-telling commission on the impacts of dispossession and colonisation on Indigenous Australians.

"I think one of the key things that Indigenous peoples have been raising is that there are processes available to us, to the nation, so that we can deal with the hard truths and the history," commissioner Oscar said.

"Truth-telling and healing is a necessary part of moving forward. But dealing with these issues is absolutely critical for any healing process to be effective in Australia."

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