'One in ten' Australians is racist

A groundbreaking new report into racism in Australia shows more than one out of ten of us have racist tendencies, SBS' Shalailah Medhora reports.

A groundbreaking new report into racism in Australia shows more than one out of ten of us have racist tendencies.

Despite that, the University of Western Sydney research says the majority of Australians believe in diversity and tolerance.

The research comes just days after the federal government decided to add the word "multicultural" to one of its minister's portfolios.

For governments of all persuasions, it's an issue that just won't go away.

Now, leading-edge research has shed light on what it means to live in multicultural Australia.

A University of Western Sydney report - led by Professor Human Geography and Urban Studies Kevin Dunne - shows the overwhelming number of Aussies are tolerant, egalitarian and open to different cultures.

But despite this, more than twelve percent of us admit to being biased.

"Eighty-seven percent like cultural diversity, they see the benefit of it. Only 6 percent would argue against that, but one in ten have some really hard attitudes, bad attitudes," Kevin Dunne said. “They believe races are different from one another - some inferior, some superior, that races should be kept separate. One in ten Australians. That's quite a lot.”

The Challenging Racism Report found strong geographic links to racism... and a strong correlation between higher education and tolerance.

Malaysian-born performance artist Tiara Shafiq agrees in principle with the report's findings and claims she's experienced racism while applying for permanent residency.

She says prejudice can manifest itself in subtle ways.

”A lot of things that people do, that they think are well meaning, are actually quite hurtful or racist,” she said. “The people who do them would not ever consider themselves racist.”

The Challenging Racism Report lists a number of initiatives aimed at reducing racism - mainly, facilitating contact between different cultures.

The research comes at a time when Australia is more ethnically diverse than at any other time in its history. Yet a large proportion of people are pro-assimilation. What does this mean for the government's policy of multiculturalism?

Senator Kate Lundy says the report highlights the community's overwhelming support for diversity, and a sound rejection of old assimilationist policies.

”I think it shows that we are completely on the right track here in ensuring an updated response to nurturing and celebrating a multicultural Australia,” Lundy said.

But events in Australia's past like the Cronulla riots and the allegations of racist attacks against Indian students have tarnished Australia's reputation abroad.

And as attitudes towards multiculturalism soften within our borders, repairing Australia's image abroad will be the next big challenge.

Source SBS

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