Individuals, communities and organisations right around the world are facing a reckoning on the issue of racism, Amnesty International included. From streets, to schools, to boardrooms, to parliaments, racism is being called out as a scourge and an injustice that can not be ignored.
Human rights are premised on a foundation of rights and equality for all people, but even organisations such as Amnesty International have shown ourselves vulnerable to perpetrating the same biases, inequalities and injustices that we call out every day.
Amnesty International Australia (AIA), including our board, staff, and activists, pledge our continued commitment to creating an anti-racist organisation that is committed to eliminating the institutional and societal structures that perpetuate racism, racist ideologies, discriminatory behaviours, prejudiced attitudes, inequality and white supremacy and privilege.
The Australian context
In Australia, racism and its inevitable inequities have its foundations from the colonisation and dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and continues with their ongoing experiences of discrimination and marginalisation.
In response to the waves of migration, Australia’s immigration policy was dominated by the discriminatory White Australia Policy. Since this time, Australia has been punctuated by multiple pieces of racist legislation, policies and practices.
Racism continues to manifest itself through the ongoing oppression, discrimination and marginalisation of minoritised racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups.
Racism results in inequities that can be seen through structural disparities in economic, education, health, housing and criminal justice experiences, outcomes, representation and participation. At an individual level, racism manifests itself in racially motivated violence, racial slurs, bullying, exclusion, benevolent racism and microaggressions.
As a human rights organisation, AIA recognises the value of all people and the importance of each person’s rights and identity to be protected and respected. We continue to struggle to overcome our foundational history and to decolonise human rights and become a movement led and informed by the people who are most directly impacted by racism, discrimination and other human rights abuses.
We are sorry
AIA is not immune from racism. Our structures, systems, policies, practices and people have played a part in perpetuating racism. We recognise this, and we commit to addressing not just the historical legacies of racism on different communities, but to decolonising our organisation internally.
At AIA, our people have spoken out bravely and generously shared their experiences of racism, underscoring the work we have to do.
We apologise with humility and without reservation to our colleagues, including staff and volunteers, past and present, who have experienced the pain caused by racism within our organisation. We also extend our gratitude to colleagues who have held us to account and demanded our organisation live up to its values.
AIA recognises we have made mistakes that have harmed people. We need to change and defend human rights inclusively. Positive change does not come without action and self-critique, and we pledge to continue to address and correct our own institutional legacies, practices, and unconscious biases that perpetuate institutional racism. We will make mistakes on this journey, and recognise that these mistakes have consequences. As an organisation and as individuals we will own those mistakes and ensure we address them.
So, what will be different?
In taking this action to be an anti-racist organisation, we will be a stronger and better organisation, more effective in delivering human rights for all.
AIA makes the following commitments:
- We commit to addressing structural racism through a review of our policies, systems, processes, recruitment, representation in senior roles and the way we do our work.
- We commit to tackling overt and covert forms of racism at AIA including discrimination, inequality, representation and microaggressions through the introduction of a culturally-competent hotline to report, and seek support for, experiences of racism within the workplace.
- We commit to reviewing and improving the workplace experience for diverse racial, ethnic and cultural groups to ensure it is culturally safe and inclusive.
- We commit to creating a more diverse workplace including developing an attraction, retention and progression policy and procedure and expanding identified positions across the organisation.
- We commit to educating ourselves, reflecting on and addressing our own behaviours and privilege, and not placing an onus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, People with diverse cultural identities, and People of Colour to educate us. We recognise that tackling racism and being anti-racist compounds a heavy burden on those with lived experience and will strive to ensure that this responsibility is shared. As an organisation we will provide educational tools, training and resources for all our staff and activists to support them on this journey.
- We commit to holding ourselves accountable on issues of racism in our organisation by reporting annually on incidents and how we have addressed them.
There is much more we can do and we make a commitment to continue to listen and learn from our staff, activists and the communities we work with and strive to be a better, stronger, and safer movement through this work.
We will remain engaged with, and contribute meaningfully to, Amnesty International becoming a truly anti-racist global movement.
Amnesty International is a global movement of 10 million people standing up for justice, freedom and equality. Together, our voices challenge injustice and are powerful enough to change the world. Learn more about our anti-racism campaign: it’s time to end racism in Australia in all its forms.