One in five Australians has experienced racism in the past 12 months, according to one of the biggest ever surveys conducted on racism and prejudice in the country.
The survey by the Western Sydney University, found two thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders reported being called names and being treated with a lack of trust and respect.
"Researchers say the rate of racism in Australia has escalated in the past ten years, and is now a public policy issue that needs urgent attention."
More than half of Indigenous Australians experienced racism not only in the workplace but at school, university, shops and restaurants. Nearly 60 per cent also endured racism on public transport.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' experiences of everyday racism was 25 per cent higher than for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants.
NITV decided to collect real life stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced everyday racism that has affected their past, present and will continue to do so in the future.
Dave – Worimi
“One story that sticks out to me was back in High School. I changed schools in year 10 and was really the only black person in the entire school. Sometimes kids would say racist jokes specifically about Aboriginal people and even use the word ‘Abo’… it was in front of the whole room, and people didn’t understand that it was even wrong or classified as racist. They also didn’t know that I was Aboriginal and how much that impacted me.”
Maddie – Gomeroi
“I remember working as a dental assistant and one day, some dental students came in to see if the dentist on duty could do a survey. One of the students was Aboriginal, and the receptionist said that she couldn’t believe it. I asked her why and she said ‘because Aboriginals aren’t that smart’.”
Kris – Gumbaynggirr
“I was in the city and in a rush to catch my ferry back home to Manly, I remember there was a young lady walking down to Circular Quay as well… As I started walking faster I could she see her grab her purse and pull it closer to her, after already continuously looking back at me over her shoulder. As the rain started spitting, I walked faster and she too quickened her pace, but ended up slipping on the floor.
I walked over and helped her up asking if she was ok, she said: ‘yes… but I turned around and saw that you were black and thought you were going to rob me…’
She didn’t even thank me for helping her up. It didn’t hit me until I was on the ferry later on and I actually processed what had just been said to me. I was so hurt I posted it on Facebook and received a lot of support from friends, but considering that was only last year I’m still in shock that even happened.”
Rhanna – Palawa
“Last year at a party I experienced racism when a fellow colleague and I started speaking about our cultural heritages. I told him was Indigenous and he replied saying: ‘but you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal.’ If that wasn’t bad enough, he continued the already absurd conversation by also saying that he didn’t know Aboriginal people ‘could have green eyes’ and continued to tell me that there had to be ‘something else’ in my background because I guess I didn’t look ‘Aboriginal enough.’ The worst thing is this was only a few months ago."
Luke – Yalanji
“It’s hard to think of just one time to talk about because it becomes so normal that it happens on a regular basis. But for me, just last week, I was on a packed train and an older white lady wouldn’t sit next to me, even when I asked if she’d like a seat she gave me a filthy look and just wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t until the couple in front of me got up, that she went and sat down. She clearly did want to sit, but not next to a blackfella…”
Ryan – Arrente
"I was at a party with some friends and I had both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal friendship groups… This particular party was hosted by my non-Aboriginal friends in a suburb in Alice Springs and it was predominately all white private school kids… I ran into a mate who told me an old friend from school was interested in me. I thought cool and told my mate why not. So he went off to chat with her and came back a bit later to tell me: ‘nah probably not going to happen bro, she said she likes you, but her older sister made her promise to never get involved with an Aboriginal boy’… I was pretty hurt because we were supposed to be friends but I guess I wasn’t quite her type…"
Makayla – Eora
“Whenever I go and watch my brother play at the knock-out we always get called half caste because we have fair skin. It’s offensive to hear that because there’s so many negative connotations with that word, especially when it’s coming from people of your own culture… that’s one that continues to happen every year and has stuck with me for as long as I’ve been going to the knockout."
Danny – Gomeroi
“In primary school when anything went missing or stolen – who do you think got the blame? Every single time, from such an early age, me and the two other Indigenous kids would always be taken aside and asked if we were the ones that stole it… imagine being the one to be constantly picked on and blamed… I’m now 41-years-old and still to this day, when things go missing I get anxious because I was always the first one to blame.”
Nancia – Meriam Wuthathi Juru
“I wonder if its racism or people just being rude… Whenever I walk into a dress shop I feel like I’m under constant surveillance. There was an incident when I recently walked into a flash dress shop and I was accompanied by my Aboriginal friend and we both had the same feeling that we were being monitored more than other people in the store, just because we were black women. It’s happened before and I don’t let it stop me from getting by, it’s something I’m very aware of when I’m with a big group of Aboriginal people and I can’t believe it still continues today.”
Joel – Bougainville of Papua New Guinea
“Quite often I’ve felt uncomfortable when I’m walking around my suburb with my family. It’s the way certain older white people express themselves and how they look at my family and I. I’m not being bias - I know my kids are gorgeous, what 5 and 8-year-old child isn’t? But I’ve seen the way a lot of older white people ‘judge’ us when we walk past and it’s not a nice feeling. Quite often I’ll turn to my wife and ask if she thinks that person had a problem with the way our family ‘looks’ and she says – yeah probably!"
Overall, 17 per cent of the survey's respondents experienced racism in the past year.
A third reported racism at work and within an educational facility, while a quarter experienced racism in relation to healthcare, police and housing.
The figures were slightly higher for the Muslim community, with 60 percent experiencing racism in a school or job setting.
Researchers say the rate of racism in Australia has escalated in the past ten years, and is now a public policy issue that needs urgent attention.
The findings were based on a study of 6000 people between July and November 2015 that was commissioned by SBS for the documentary Is Australia Racist? which aired on Sunday night.
Face Up To Racism #FU2Racism with a season of stories and programs challenging preconceptions around race and prejudice.
You can watch Is Australia Racist? at SBS on Demand, Date My Race (airs Monday 27 February at 8.30pm) and The Truth About Racism (airs Wednesday 1 March at 8.30pm).
Watch all the documentaries online after they air on SBS On Demand.