• Sonny Dallas Law. (The Point)Source: The Point
Sonny Dallas Law from country Queensland says he knows all too well how racism impacts quality of life as Deakin University releases findings that suggest racism costs Australian economy $44.9 billion.
Andrea Booth

The Point
6 Apr 2016 - 6:41 PM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2016 - 6:41 PM

"I've pretty much experienced racism all through life, and it definitely did affect me when I was younger," Mr Dallas Law, a cultural development officer, told The Point.

Encountering racism "probably sent me sometimes in the wrong direction because I felt there was no support at the schools for a young Aboriginal boy to deal with racism,"  the ambassador for TAFE, an Australian vocational learning institution, says.

His experience has been confirmed by controversial research undertaken by Doctor Amanuel Elias and Professor Yin Parades from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

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The research, partly funded by government agencies Vic Health and the Australian Human Rights Commission, claims racial discrimination is costing the Australian economy $44.9 billion per annum.

It goes on to say that 15 to 20 per cent of the country’s population experience racial discrimination, and it costs 285,228 years from healthy lives each year, compared to 204,788 years lost as a result of smoking.

The conclusions resulted from the researchers' analysis of three nationwide surveys and one Victorian survey from the period 2001 to 2011.

To arrive at the $44.9 billion figure, the methodology considered the economic impact of health disorders, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, that people said they had experienced from encountering racism.

"Racial discrimination is one of the important risk factors that can lead to negative health outcomes which end up becoming cost to an economy, for example, in Australia," Dr Elias told The Point.

"I've pretty much experienced racism all through life."

"If we want to reduce these economic costs that are related to the health effects of racial discrimination, then tackling or addressing racial discrimination in Australia is going to be an important policy measure to take."

But Simon Breheny, the director of policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, says while racism is a "terrible thing", the research provides a skewed view of Australia.

"I think it's a concerning piece of research because it depicts Australia, it paints Australia, in a very negative light, and we're a very tolerant and a very welcoming community," he told The Point.

Mr Breheny says he's concerned about this research being publicly funded.

"At a time when we're at almost at $450 billion of Commonwealth debt, is this the kind of thing that we really need to be spending public finance on?"