‘People must stand up against these things’: Man films racial tirade at Coburg park

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January 6 2017 – 6:33AM

Emily Woods

Ahmed Abou-eid was enjoying a beautiful day with family at Harmony Park in Coburg on Wednesday when things turned ugly.

“My wife and friends frequent that park often, and the kids have a great time. It’s called Harmony Park for a reason – there’s so much friendliness in the park,” the Thornbury man said.

Racist tirade at Coburg park
Caution: strong language. An intoxicated man hurls racial abuse at a family enjoying a picnic at a park in Melbourne’s north.

“We had three female friends of mine with their children, and they probably had seven kids with them, the park was quite full and there were a lot of kids playing around.”

A man clutching a whisky bottle, hurling offensive language and racial abuse, quickly changed the mood from playful to frightening.

The man who racially abused several adults and children at a popular Coburg park on Wednesday. Photo: Ahmed Abou-eid.

The man who racially abused several adults and children at a popular Coburg park on Wednesday. Photo: Ahmed Abou-eid.

“This man was sitting on his own, on a table, and there was a couple not far from him sitting on a table next to him, and he started hurling abuse at them, and telling them to get out of the country,” Mr Abou-eid said.

“And so they left and then he came over to the playground where the kids were and started doing the same thing to us.”

Mr Abou-eid said said the man was clearly intoxicated, slurring his words and wobbling as he approached and started hurling abuse at anyone within earshot.

The man walked back to the table, and then came back for a second round. Mr Abou-eid said that was when he decided to film him.

“I thought this is too close for comfort, I better film this,” he said.

“F— off you wog,” the man can be heard yelling in the video. “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing, go back to where you’re sitting,” Mr Abou-eid responds.

“Have you thought about my family? No you don’t even think about it,” the man says, in between expletives, repeating the words “wog” and “dago”.

Ahmed Abou-eid, back centre, with his family (left to right) Salma, Isra, Yasmin and Aladdin. Photo: Facebook

Ahmed Abou-eid, back centre, with his family (left to right) Salma, Isra, Yasmin and Aladdin. Photo: Facebook

The man walks closer to Mr Abou-eid, realising he is being filmed, and says “you’re not allowed to take my picture”.

He walks around the playground, next to where the children are playing. “Oh you’re a macho man,” he says, inciting a fight.

He then turns on one of the women, “Go back to Greece you f—ing wog,” he yells.

“Have you thought about my family? No you don’t even think about it,” the man says, in between expletives, repeating the words “wog” and “dago”.

The man walks closer to Mr Abou-eid, realising he is being filmed, and says “you’re not allowed to take my picture”.

He walks around the playground, next to where the children are playing. “Oh you’re a macho man,” he says, inciting a fight.

He then turns on one of the women, “Go back to Greece you f—ing wog,” he yells.

The man eventually throws a punch at Mr Abou-eid, but Mr Abou-eid does not retaliate.

“Just go back, just go back,” he says to the man. At the end of the video the man sits down inside the playground, crosses his legs, and clutches his bottle of whisky.

Mr Abou-eid said after he stopped filming, several people around him decided to leave the park.

“Some families got their kids and got in their cars and drove off, and then about six or seven guys surrounded him and I think he got scared so he stopped abusing everybody,” he said.

Police were called several times during the altercation. Once they arrived the man was taken away, but Mr Abou-eid said he did not want to press charges as he didn’t want to relive what had happened.

“The police told me, they’ve had a few problems with him in the area, but not in the park, and not actually abusing anyone to the extent that he had that day,” he said.

“You think it’s the drink or the alcohol, but these people have this racism in them that comes out of them the more they drink.

“I would love to ask him why he has that much hatred towards people from overseas and what has someone done to him to make him feel like that.”

He said, by filming the incident, he hoped he could make people aware of the abuse, and urged people not to stay silent.

“These things are happening, they are real and people must stand up against these things. If they see something like that happen, don’t walk away, help out if someone needs help, step in,” Mr Abou-eid said.

Mr Abou-eid said he worried about how witnessing such abuse could affect his children in the future.

“My six-year-old asked me today if the man was still in jail. They’re still thinking about it, and they’re scared to go back to the park again,” he said.

“That park is a meeting point for a lot of friends and family, but now we will kind of think twice about whether we will go there.”

Moreland City Council mayor Helen Davidson said the behaviour was unacceptable.

“Moreland takes great pride in having such a culturally diverse community. This behaviour goes against what the community of Moreland stands for,” she said.

“Harmony Park was created by Moreland for people to come together; people of all ages, cultures and abilities. This footage shows that Moreland’s community does not tolerate this behaviour.”

Advice from the Australian Human Rights Commission about being a bystander to racial abuse is “if you see something, say something, if it feels safe to do so”.

“It doesn’t have to be aggressive, in fact it’s often more effective if it’s not. It could be as simple as saying ‘Why don’t you just leave him/her alone?”‘

Fairfax Media has chosen to blur the face of the man yelling abuse due to his level of intoxication.

 
Source

Scott Morrison fails the test, outed as a bully

Just when you thought the asylum seeker issue could not get any worse, we had the embarassing spectacle of the $800 Knob himself, the oleaginously and publicly pious Scott Morrison, very average former head of Tourism Australia, currently in charge of the network of concentration camps which house asylum seekers who arrive by boat, fronting the AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) with his Department secretary as willing spear-carrier, to take on one of the most formidable and forensic lawyers in Australia, Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the AHRC.

Watch the video of the AHRC hearing into children in detention here

And you can read The World Today‘s transcript here.

A New Matilda reader also took a transcript.

Public hearing ACT – National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Minister Scott Morrison and Department secretary Martin Bowles are involved from time segment 7:30 (full context starting at time segment 1:24:54).

The section related to the end sentence in this New Matilda article is:

Triggs: “…I’ve been there three times, you cannot get into any of the sections without going through armed guards, etc etc”
Bowles: “we do not have armed guards”
Triggs: “…I don’t need to (garbled)…”
Bowles: “we do not have armed guards”
Triggs: “…to describe them as not prisons…”
Bowles: “we do not have armed guards President, I’d like you to acknowledge that”
Triggs: “I’m not sure, but I’m, I’m, um, aahhhh”
Bowles: “I’d like you to acknowledge that, we do not have armed guards”
Triggs: “I will check that with my clients then because some of those guards are armed…”
Bowles: “well I, again, again President, I would like you to check that and I would like you to retract that”
Triggs: “well I ah”
Morrison: “I’d just like to understand what the president is suggesting”
Triggs: “The point I’m making is…”

Triggs: “…on any analysis that is either locked detention or a prison”
Morrison: “well Madam President you would’ve been to many gaols and prisons…”
Triggs: “indeed”
Morrison: “…and are you suggesting that Long Bay Gaol is the same as a pool fenced Alternative Place Of Detention at Phosphate Hill on Christmas Island”?
Triggs: “…………um, I would like to move on but basically I have been a practicing lawyer since I was 22 years old so I know a prison when I see it”
Morrison: “Madam President, I’ve just asked you, you’ve said that these places are prisons, now you’ve been in prisons, so you’re telling me that the Phosphate Hill Compound on Christmas Island is the same as Long Bay Gaol?”
Triggs: “I’m not saying they’re equivalent, I’m saying that the, the, prison facilities…”
Morrison: “Well, we can move on then I think Madam President”
Triggs: “Ok…”

So Morrison doesn’t believe that immigration detention is not imprisonment? And bluster-master Morrison thinks it is OK to talk over the top of one of the country’s most respected public servants?

Then he’d better try our random vision test. Ten mixed photographs of prisons and detention facilities. Can you spot the difference?

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We cannot. Morrison deludes himself yet again.

Racism And Technology Is Evolving Faster Than The Law

Reblogged from Vice

By The Anti Bogan  |

Hey remember that racist lady on the train? You know, the one who offered the heartfelt apology on Channel 7 while using a pseudonym? Yeah, she was horrible but she said sorry so she’s not racist anymore and anyway it was justified because she’s been the victim of racism before and she isn’t really a racist because she has a friend who is half Indian. And it’s okay too because she was splashed across mainstream, independent and social media for days and charged by police for public racial abuse within 48 hours. Thank goodness that’s over and will never happen ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, again.

When it comes to dealing with public discrimination, Australia has the state and federal legislation, but not the teeth. When a YouTube video of a venomous bigot spitting racial diatribe goes viral, it becomes newsworthy. It’s pure gold to mainstream television networks that push voyeuristic sensationalism to an audience hungry for car accidents, home invasions, shootings, and dogs on surfboards.

When this chunk of people power feels offended it’s suddenly vital for authorities and tall poppies to be seen to address the issues immediately. Enter the police spokesperson or local member for Boganville.

It often feels like incidents of racism are on the rise—particularly at the lowly public-transport-riding-citizen level. But a contributing factor is that every person with a mobile phone is now carrying a video camera. The same can be seen in the online world of racism: levels of bigotry have always existed, but now anyone with the Internet has a public voice and the ability to publish their opinions to the world. Camera phones and You Tube may give the impression that we’re more sensitive to racial injustice than our parents, but the actual system in place to protect people against racism is about as effective as clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook post.

Racism was, is and will always be a problem. But the less visible issue arising now is that our legal system isn’t evolving at the same rate as our racist outlets. The enforceable statutes that are in place to protect people from barbs of discrimination are clear and imposing, yet were implemented in a time when incidences of public rants and raves were limited to drunks and creeps on the street beating their chests and dragging their knuckles. It is frequently asserted that people can be ‘prosecuted’ or ‘convicted’ under the Racial Discrimination Act. It is regularly said that section 18C serves to protect hurt feelings at the expense of free speech. In actual fact, neither assertion is true. Additionally, 1 out of every 3 complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is declined due to a complex variety of reasons.

At the most basic level, the Racial Discrimination sector of the AHRC states that racial discrimination is against the law and that citizens may lodge complaints. But it continues by stating that it is “not a court” and cannot prove that discrimination has occurred. Additionally, the HRC will generally only accept complaints lodged by a member of the affected group. For example, if you are offended at a television advertisement where Indian people are portrayed in a negatively generalising way, you may only lodge a complaint with the HRC if you are of Indian descent.

At the authoritative level, making a statement at your Local Area Command (LAC) police station will generally prove to be fruitless as well. Officers will tell you that in order to act on online threats or acts of discrimination they will need to conduct an investigation into whether or not the person on the other end is who they say they are. According to one Constable at a local Sydney LAC, it would take up to three months to perform what is called an iASK. This is the same procedure undertaken by police officers when responding to victims of harassment via email or mobile phone. Dealing with online harassment is difficult due to the fact that people share computers and are tech savvy enough to use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that throw their IP location to far reaching corners of the world.

At the holy-shit-I-just-want-to-be-protected level, officers may assist you in applying for a PVO (Personal Violence Order), which can prevent a certain person from harassing you, but this is a lengthy procedure and requires you to be present in a court of law. Additionally, it only prevents one person from harassing you and does not stop them harassing others in the same way.

Our impotence to fight racism isn’t just confined to trolls, but rather compounded by a Scott Morrison inspired Government that attempts to demonize asylum seekers by calling them “economic migrants”. Our own Attorney General George Brandis floated the idea to remove what little protection we presently have (see Section 18C Racial Discrimination Act) because “people have the right to be bigots”. Luckily that didn’t come to fruition.

To say our discrimination legislation is in need of a refresh in an understatement— it was drawn up in a time when our Indigenous population was being referred to as “fauna” and refused the vote. Racism in Australia is an ugly shrouded reality, one generally muffled and confined to family homes and the boozy BBQs. In Australian culture racism is like smoking, just because it’s not allowed in public spaces doesn’t mean a huge section of the population is willing to give it up.

Media and law enforcement should be reacting to online discrimination with the same vehement opposition afforded to public transport bigots with equally, if not harsher penalties. Unlike Sue Wilkins (aka Karen Bailey), there are literally tens of thousands of bigots lining up on social media to offer their real names, smiling faces, and Bali holiday snaps in stark juxtaposition with their hate-filled opinions of people who are culturally, religiously, sexually, physically and politically different minded. To the rest of us, these people are achingly awkward and produce uncomfortable giggles and smirks. It’s hard to laugh at discrimination, but easy to guffaw at nutjobs who are losing their shit on public transport. Poor fools. They’re in a way the victims, to be honest. Victims of a sensationalist media and fear-striking Government that wants them to think they’re in need of saving from the unwashed, coloured mob.

Of course it is naïve to believe that discrimination will fade away and see us living in a harmonic utopia simply on the back of harsher penalties and legislation. It takes a multi-pronged and sustained effort of education, shifts in media and entertainment, endorsement from influential people, denouncement from politicians, and better guidance from parents to see bigots change their ways. But first things first, we need 21st century protections against abuse – if racism and hate can keep up with the times we need to make sure so can we. And if heaven forbid, you ever find yourself chucking a wobbly at some Asian on a hot train on your way home from 28 failed job applications, just make sure you say sorry and pretend your name is Richard Head.

“Racism against Strayans”

Recently the Australian Human Rights Commission announced a number of initiatives for public consultation on strategies for the promotion of anti-racism.

National Anti-racism Strategy

Here’s the Australian Pathetic Protectionist Facebook group Party in full chorus.

Pathetics reverse racism

And not to be outdone, of course Facebook hate group Australia IsDying was right onto it as well, urging its members to send their privileged self-centred whinges and moans grievances to Canberra.

Dopy bogots 1

We are sure that amongst the ensuing correspondence will be an outline of the sort of “final solution” the bogots favour – accompanied by the usual flurry of finger-pointing at all their favourite hate targets.

Gunsmoke 1

And we think that the AHRC may be having an uphill battle if this Q&A question is going to be typical of public understandings and perceptions. Though it is good to know that the need to support and promote the languages of Indigenous Australians was felt to be so important…oh wait…

Q&A question

And here’s Scott Pengelly adding his two cents’ worth

Scott Pengelly

Mistaking the many who ignored his dumb comment as signalling agreement, he then continues

Scott Pengelly 2

Yawn…

Yawn

A year ago serial whinging blog troll Niqi “Grant” made the following observation

Whingy Grant

Anyone with any personal ethics or feelings of self-worth would have ceased visiting this blog after that if it were such an affront to their beliefs. Not so “Grant”, since he possesses neither. He keeps coming back, just like virulent herpes or a persistent and odorous fungus.

And it’s not just on Facebook where you can find hard-done-by downtrodden white Strayans complaining about all that racism supposedly directed at them and their kind.

Whingy Robert

Note the standard line taken by “Robert”. He raises the spectre of a rash of race-based crime against white people but tantalisingly offers absolutely no evidence. As usual.

Back to Facebook for a minute where Christine Bailey and someone we assume is really called Kim Gibb are moaning and whinging about the mythical benefits supposedly paid to asylum seekers. As usual facts are not allowed to get in the way of yet another Strayan myth. At this rate the bogots will be rivalling the Greeks and the Scandinavians in the sheer volume of their fairy tales – except ancient mythologies are far more interesting.

Whingy Kim

And it looks like the bogots have even strayed over to that excellent Australian site Whirlpool Forums in order to share their tantrums with an unwilling audience of tech-heads, who in this instance were discussing the SBS reality show Housos.

Housos

Bogots have even managed to infiltrate the Fairfax parenting blog Essential Baby, specifically a forum discussing the recent ABC-TV series The Slap.

Who’d have thought that Mumma Bogot would actually have read an acclaimed Australian novel – though we best warn her that it was written by a gay man of Greek background before she plunges too enthusiastically into the heady waters of moaning about immigrants analysing contemporary literature.

Essential Baby whinge

We will let Angry Aussie have the last word, as he highlights Straya’s Whinger in Chief and steel-jawed inspiration for hate-mongers and whiney bogots everywhere – Andrew Bolt.

Elsewhere

This Blog is Racist Against Whites… Or Is It?

Uluru Nonsense

Racism exists in Australia – are we doing enough to address it?

Article by Helen Szoke | Published March 15, 2012

Racism exists in Australia

Racism does exist in Australia. We know this is a fact. Our own complaints at the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) tell us that.

It is also identified in research. National data from the Challenging Racism Project was released in 2011 and gave us information about the prevalence of racism and attitudes about racism.

We know from this research that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience high levels of racism, across multiple settings: in relation to contact with police and seeking housing their experiences of racism were four times that of non-Aboriginal Australians.

Similarly, in 2008 other research found that 27 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over the age of 15 reported experiencing discrimination in the preceding 12 months; in particular by the general public, in law and justice settings and in employment. Further recent research has found that three out of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples regularly experienced race discrimination when accessing primary health care, and that racism and cultural barriers led to some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples not being diagnosed and treated for disease in its early stages, when treatment is most effective.

More generally, the Challenging Racism research resulted in the following findings:

around 85 per cent of respondents believe that racism is a current issue in Australia;
around 20 per cent of respondents had experienced forms of race-hate talk (verbal abuse, name-calling, racial slurs, offensive gestures etc);
around 11 per cent of respondents identified as having experienced race-based exclusion from their workplaces and/or social activities;
7 per cent of respondents identified as having experienced unfair treatment based on their race;
6 per cent of respondents reported that they had experienced physical attacks based on their race;

Alarmingly, some research indicates a significant increase in racism over recent years: the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion 2011 report found that in 2010 there was a marked increase in reported racial discrimination, and that this increased reporting was maintained in the 2011 survey. Disturbingly, this research also highlighted the lack of awareness of most Australians about the issues faced by our First Nations peoples.

What is racism?

So the evidence says that racism exists in Australia.

This should not surprise us as racism is to be found in every society on earth in different forms.

The central issues are what racism is and how it impacts in the Australian context. My concern is that while the data suggests that racism does exist, we do not have much of a community dialogue about how racism manifests and the harm that it causes.

Without such understanding, it is difficult to see how we can move forward to eradicate racism.

Racism takes many forms. In general, it is a belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others. Racial discrimination involves any act where a person is treated unfairly or vilified because of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief. Racism impacts directly on the full enjoyment of individual’s human rights, in particular the right to equality.

Racism is experienced across a spectrum. It may occur in a passive way by excluding people socially or by being indifferent to their views and experiences.

Racism may take the form of prejudice and stereotyping of different groups in our community; in name calling, taunting or insults; or in actively and directly excluding or discriminating against people from services or opportunities on the basis of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief; for example, in relation to employment opportunities, access to education, or participation in sport.

Ultimately, racism is a denial of human relationship.

It can manifest through commentary or drawings in the media, speeches at public rallies or assemblies and abuse on the internet – including in e-forums, blogs and on social networking sites.

Sometimes racism can be reflected in not telling the history of an event or the experience of a group of people in our country.

In its most serious manifestation, racism is demonstrated in behaviours and activities that embody hate, abuse and violence – particularly experienced by groups who are visibly different as a result of their cultural or religious dress, their skin colour or their physical appearance.

Just as other forms of discrimination may relate to a number of attributes, so will the experience of racism. Racism may compound the experience of discrimination of a woman, who is treated less favourably on the basis of her race and her gender – or an older person, who is discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour and their age.

On occasions, racism can occur more systemically, as when people with overseas skills and work experience are overlooked for employment, or when job applicants without Anglo-Saxon names have difficulty being offered job interviews.

And it often is linked to poverty and social and economic status, as is the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples generally.

A key feature of racism in Australia is denialism.

Such denial may be a genuine response that suggests a lack of understanding that an act may be racist. However, there are also deliberate falsehoods, misinformation or evasion. Suggestions of racism may also be dismissed as an overreaction, where people think that telling a racist joke, for example, should be taken as just a bit of fun. Too often, stories start with “I’m not racist, but…”

Ultimately, racism is a denial of human relationship. Yet for many people it remains almost invisible, unnoticed except when violence is involved. Those who do not experience it often fail to understand how profoundly offensive it is.

Racism is bad for us

There is also significant research that demonstrates the damage that racism causes to individuals and society as a whole. Racism undermines social cohesion within the community. To ensure social inclusion, individuals need the opportunity to “secure a job; access services; connect with family, friends, work, personal interests and local community; deal with personal crisis; and have their voices heard.” Racism towards any individual or community undermines the achievement of each of these goals.

Racism also impacts adversely on the development of Australia as a multicultural society. If we conceive multiculturalism as a set of norms or principles in which the human rights of all are respected, protected and promoted, then the adverse impacts on groups in the community who may be treated less favourably on the basis of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin or religious belief is obvious.

Multiculturalism supports the ideals of a democratic society in which every person is free and equal in dignity and rights. Racism undermines these very foundations.

We have a unique opportunity at the moment to get our settings as a country right – Constitutional reform, legislative reform and a national campaign to address racism.

Current opportunities to strengthen our response to racism

Right now, we are at an interesting juncture.

There are three key initiatives playing out at a national level which address racism – the consolidation of Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination Laws, the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy and the discussion about whether or not we need Constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our Constitution.

The possibility of Constitutional reform, legislative reform and awareness raising: a powerful trifecta that we need to harness in order to continue to promote and support the cultural diversity and social cohesion of Australia as a country.

Constitutional Reform

It is interesting how little most Australians know about our Constitution. This is in contrast with countries like South Africa, where every person was given a copy of the Constitution when it was adopted in 1996.

In late 2010 the Prime Minister established an Expert Panel to look at possible Constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people formally in the constitution. The report and recommendations arising from the Expert Panel’s extensive consultative process was handed to the Prime Minister on 19 January this year. The question of when a referendum will be held on this important issue is yet to be determined by the Government.

The Panel’s report reminds us that two sections of the Constitution still enable the Commonwealth Government to make laws that discriminate on the basis of race: section 25 and the ‘race power’ in section 51 (xxvi).

Section 25 allows State laws to disqualify people of a particular race from voting at State elections. Such a provision has no place in a modern democracy like Australia.

Section 51 (xxvi) allows the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws for people of a particular race. There are examples where this has been relied upon in order to introduce laws that negatively discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Expert Panel has recommended that these two provisions be repealed.

The Panel has recommended that a new section 51A be inserted in the Constitution that explicitly respects and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and promotes the advancement of those peoples.

The Expert Panel has also recommended the insertion of a new section 116A, prohibiting the Commonwealth, and States and Territories, from making laws that discriminate on the basis of race, colour or ethnic or national origin, but permitting laws or measures which aim to overcome disadvantage, ameliorate the effects of past discrimination, or protect the cultures, languages or heritage of any group.

A further new section 127A proposes the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as the ‘original Australian languages’, whilst acknowledging that English is the national language of Australia.

My Commission has supported these recommendations. Obviously, we have a long way to go before we come to a referendum on these issues. But it is incumbent on us all to think about these issues, to know what they really mean, to raise them in our dinner party discussions, in our sporting activities, at our work, to dispel the myths that will inevitably fly around in the media and be promoted by people who do not understand or accept how important it is to ensure racial equality and recognition of our First Nations peoples.

Even the best anti-discrimination law will in itself only be part of an effective and comprehensive strategy to eliminate racial discrimination and promote equality.

Consolidation of Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination Laws

The project to consolidate Australia’s anti-discrimination laws into a single Act was announced by the Australian Government in April 2010 as a key component of Australia’s Human Rights framework.

The Commission has welcomed this project, as we consider that discrimination law can be made easier to understand, comply with, and where necessary to enforce.

The consolidation process offers an opportunity to not only embrace the stronger features of the RDA (including its broad human rights based approach to the areas of public life it covers in section 9 and its general equality before the law provision in section 10), but also address some of its deficiencies. If we were to ask what would improve the current legislative regime, there are two key responses: reviewing who can act and how people or organisations can act to enhance racial equality under the Act and enhancing the current compliance framework.

To take the first issue: all Commonwealth discrimination laws include capacity for complaints by or on behalf of persons aggrieved by discrimination, leading to investigation and dispute resolution functions for the Commission.

The Commission views complaints as an important part of a compliance framework directed to achieving the objectives of the legislation, in addition to providing a means of access to justice.

The Commission considers that the consolidation process offers opportunities to consider measures for improved access to justice for people and organisations seeking to assert rights, and for increased certainty for people and organisations seeking to comply with their responsibilities.

One set of issues about access to justice is presented by the fact that capacity to take action at the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court stage is more restricted than at the Commission stage. A complaint to the Commission can be made by any person or organisation on behalf of a person aggrieved by discrimination, and the Commission itself has power to launch its own inquiries into human rights and discrimination issues.

But at the court stage, complaints can only be made by a person or persons aggrieved – not by representative or advocacy organisations in their own right or by the Commission or other bodies seeking to enforce the law.

There are of course issues to consider about how and how far a body which provides an impartial complaint handling service could have an advocacy role, and we look forward to further discussion of those issues.

In terms of compliance provisions, there are a range of mechanisms provided (although not consistently across grounds) in various anti-discrimination Acts for achievement of their objects. The present review of these Acts provides an opportunity for consideration of possible improvements in the compliance framework for Commonwealth discrimination law to ensure that it meets, or better meets, the goals of efficiency and effectiveness in promoting the objectives of the legislation.

I want to emphasise that even the best anti-discrimination law will in itself only be part of an effective and comprehensive strategy to eliminate racial discrimination and promote equality. Parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination undertake a much wider range of obligations than simply enacting legislative prohibitions against racial discrimination.

The development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy

Finally, I want to address a key initiative that I have direct responsibility for: the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy.

This is very much linked to multiculturalism. The need for a strategy had been clearly articulated by the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council to the Government in April 2010. This advice was taken up in February 2011, when the establishment of a national partnership to develop and implement a National Anti-Racism Strategy for Australia was announced as a key component of Australia’s new multicultural policy, The People of Australia.

The Government’s intention is that the National Anti-Racism Partnership will draw on the existing expertise on anti-racism and multicultural matters across three government departments – the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs – together with the Australian Multicultural Council and the Australian Human Rights Commission. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) also participate in the Partnership as non-government representatives.

This membership of the Partnership makes clear that while the National Anti-Racism Strategy was born in the multicultural context, we are looking at its development through a broader focus – encapsulating both the experience of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and our culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities.

The Partnership has been tasked with designing, developing and implementing the Strategy, with five key areas of effort:

research and consultation
education resources
public awareness
youth engagement
ongoing evaluation

It is anticipated that the Strategy will be drafted by 30 June 2012 and implemented over three years, 2012-2015.

The aim of the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy is to promote a clear understanding in the Australian community of what racism is, and how it can be prevented and reduced.

We are looking at three broad objectives – to create awareness of racism and its impact, to build on good practice to prevent it and reduce it and to build capacity for people to address it.

If I return to my earlier description of racism, it amounts to a denial of human relationship. The implication of this is that racism is a matter for all of us – not just those who are targeted or suffer directly from it.

A National Anti-Racism Strategy is about making Australia a racism-free zone and articulating what role each of us have in achieving this. So it requires all of us to play a part – by not perpetrating racist actions ourselves, by not passively standing by while others perpetrate such actions and by committing ourselves to the notion that the ‘fair go’ is for everyone in our society and not restricted according to race, national or ethnic or religious background or some historical precedent.

Conclusion

We have a unique opportunity at the moment to get our settings as a country right – Constitutional reform, legislative reform and a national campaign to address racism. This complements our policy as a multicultural country, and other initiatives in play.

But there is a challenge in this for all of us. We share a common humanity, and we all have a role in respecting the right of all to enjoy it equally, with dignity and with the same opportunities to thrive.

This is an edited version of a speech given at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, on 16 February 2012.

Dr Helen Szoke is the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Race Discrimination Commissioner.

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