• Representatives from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
Organisations have used International Human Rights Day to highlight their growing campaign against the federal government's proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
Malarndirri McCarthy

10 Dec 2013 - 4:44 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2015 - 5:24 PM

It is currently against the law to insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people based on their race.

There is growing apprehension amongst Human Rights groups across the country that racism will escalate if Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is repealed.

“These organisations have joined together because we are concerned about the potential for the repeal of this legislation or the watering down of this legislation,” said Hugh de Kretser from the Human Rights Law Centre Australia.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples say the current law has worked well for the last 20 years and that there is no need to change it.

“We do not believe anyone should be able to vilify someone, that is offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate anyone on the basis of race. We say that racism is not okay,” said National Congress co-chair Kirstie Parker.

Representatives from the Jewish, Chinese and Arab communities have joined with the National Congress in a meeting with Attorney General George Brandis this week to discuss his plans to amend the Racial Discrimination Act.

The National Congress has made it clear they will not support any amendment to Section 18C of the Act.

"We believe that it’s important for the government to show some political leadership on this issue, not to respond in a knee-jerk way to extreme views and to take a very rational, cautious approach to change. As I say that at this stage we don't believe a case has been made for the need to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all," said Ms Parker,

Over 150 organisations are pushing for the Federal Government to maintain strong and effective racial discrimination laws in Australia, many of them adding their voices to this growing campaign.

Priscilla Brice, managing director of Australia’s only national not-for-profit organisation with a sole focus on addressing racism, All Together Now, says the campaign will help prevent exploitation.

“There are health impacts on both children and adults who are targets of racism. It affects people's mental health and their ability to fully participate in society. By removing people's fundamental protection from racial hatred under the Act, it will put perpetrators in a stronger position which can be exploited,” said Ms Brice

Any changes to the Racial Discrimination Act are set to enter Parliament early next year.