Australia

Possible new national anti-racism strategy in the works amid coronavirus and right-wing extremism concerns

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has begun developing a new national anti-racism framework Source: AAP

The Australian Human Rights Commission says it has started work on developing a new national anti-racism framework.

Work on a new national anti-racism framework has commenced amid a spike in race discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing right-wing extremism.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday it had begun work on a potential new strategy with initial support from the federal government.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan, who has been tasked with leading the proposal, said a new strategy was critical in responding to a “substantial rise in race activities” and right-wing extremism.

“It is my view that it is an important element for this country to have an overarching framework to deal with racism,” he told the hearing.

“We [need to] have a framework that cuts across all sections of communities, from government to the corporate sector and community, about how we approach racism in this country.”

Mr Tan said racism and right-wing extremism had become “entwined” and he was equally concerned about both threats.

The Australian Federal Police told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday it was seeing a rise in young people being aggressively radicalised online by right-wing extremists. 

Calls for new anti-racism strategy

Labor and the nation’s peak multicultural body, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, have for some time advocated for a new anti-racism strategy.

Federal government funding for a previous anti-racism campaign - It Stops With Me - ended in 2015, the Senate committee heard on Thursday.

Since then, anti-racism strategies have been funded through the budget of the AHRC.

Chris Moraitis, secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, expressed his “full support” on Thursday for work to progress on the AHRC's new framework.

“We’re on the same track. We’re on the same wavelength. We want to go further with this," he told the Senate hearing.

"We certainly recognise that social cohesion issues are very important.” 

He said while no additional funding had been allocated to support the response at this time, it was possible some money could be directed towards the effort in the future.

Labor’s multicultural affairs spokesperson Andrew Giles told SBS News on Thursday it was beyond time the federal government stepped up to support a fresh strategy with a national ad campaign at its heart.

“We need to take proactive measures to tackle the scourge of racism,” he said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar also appeared before the Senate hearing and spoke about continued injustices experienced by First Nations people in Australia.

She said Black Lives Matter protests in Australia had brought attention to persistent concerns faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, such deaths in custody.

“These deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people highlight the ongoing need for systemic and structural change to prevent deaths in custody,” she said.

There have been at least 441 Aboriginal people who have died in custody in Australia since the royal commission in 1991, including five this year alone.  

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