• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar at the 2018 Garma festival. (AAP)Source: AAP
Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar says Australia needs to confront 'hard truths' on racism for the nation to move forward.
8 Oct 2018 - 1:40 PM  UPDATED 8 Oct 2018 - 1:44 PM

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar says racism in Australia needs to be confronted in order for the nation to move forward.

Speaking to the ABC, the Bunuba woman responded to comments from the newly-appointed race discrimination commissioner that Australia is not a racist country.

“I know from my own personal experiences that racism is alive and it’s kicking,” she said.

“It’s alive and it is something that confronts women and girls, and Indigenous people on a daily basis.”

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Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan, who begins in the role on Monday, told SBS there are obvious challenges in Australia but "it’s not the same as equating the whole nation as being racist".

But Ms Oscar urged her colleague to be "aware of the prevalence of racism across the country".

“What I’m seeing and hearing is that it’s happening all too often in so many places,” she said.

Ms Oscar said Indigenous Australians often experience racial profiling, and she herself has been ‘followed around shops’.

Her comments come as the government received criticism from Labor for what it described as delays in appointing a new race discrimination commissioner to replace Tim Soutphommasane, alleging there may have been moves to change the role or scrap it altogether. 

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Ms Oscar, the first Indigenous woman appointed as social justice commissioner, says conversations with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across the country has emphasised racism as a common issue.

Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project builds on the legacy of the 1986 Women’s Business Report seeking to elevate the voices of First Nations women and girls, highlighting key challenges, priorities and aspirations for themselves and their communities.

The project group will next visit the Torres Strait to capture more women and girls voices about their concerns and objectives, with a report is expected in 2019.