Protestors chant and bend down on their knees. They hold handmade red, yellow and black signs saying 'stop don't shoot' and Black Lives Matter. Woman in front raises her fist and is wearing an Aboriginal flag tshirt.

United civil society across Australia call for a National Anti-Racism Strategy

Organisations representing Asian-Australians, Indigenous people, African-Australians, and diverse religions have joined forces demanding the Australian Government and Federal Opposition support the introduction of a National Anti-Racism Strategy.

30 organisations, including civil society groups and unions, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, calling for bi-partisan support for a strategy to eradicate the everyday racism experienced by Australia’s multicultural communities and First Nations people.

The call for a national strategy follows a sharp increase in complaints towards Asian-Australians since the beginning of February. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 30 per cent of all complaints made under the Racial Discrimination Act since then relate to COVID-19.

This racist behaviour is in addition to the ongoing discrimination and racism experienced all too often by First Nations people in Australia. This is clearly reflected in all the socio-economic indicators like life expectancy rates, education outcomes, housing and over representation in prisons and juvenile detention.

Mary Patetsos, Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA), said: “What we have seen in the past and what we see today is that racism manifests in many ways. Personal vilification and systemic racism directly impact on the lives of ordinary people, it serves to discredit and harm human potential. Australia urgently needs a strategy both broad and specific to combat racism wherever it is manifest. Recent events are both a wake-up call and an opportunity.”

Osmond Chiu, a member of the Chinese Australian Forum and Per Capita Research Fellow, said: “Australia currently has no national strategy to stamp out racism and while we welcome recent comments by both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition on this matter, we politely ask them to follow their words with actions and come together in bipartisan support of such a strategy. The increased reports of racism during this COVID-19 pandemic is appalling and unacceptable.”

Donnella Mills, Chair of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said: “All Australians must acknowledge there is no place for racism in our country and we need them to support us in every effort to eliminate its harmful and hurtful impact on all our people. We should also work collaboratively to Close the Gap and improve the life outcomes for First Nations people in Australia.”

Sam Klintworth, National Director of Amnesty International Australia said: “With tens of thousands of people taking action across Australia last weekend for Black Lives Matter, it is clear racism is an important issue that many want resolved. Without a national strategy, this worrying pattern of behaviour will continue to threaten our fundamental human rights as well as the social cohesion of our successful multicultural society.”