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Canberra forum tackles institutional racism

Race Race Discrimination

Leaders from Commonwealth, State and Territory government departments and agencies met in Canberra on 14 June to discuss institutional racism.

The Australian Human Rights Commission hosted the event as part of its National Anti-Racism Strategy, in partnership with the University of Sydney’s National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC).

Over 60 participants focussed on institutional racism in law and justice, health, education and human services.

“Racism comes in many forms. We can find it challenging, however, to deal with when it is structural and systemic,” Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane said.

“This forum and workshop will equip leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to understand institutional racism, and to deal with it with greater sophistication.”

Commissioner Soutphommasane, Professor Juanita Sherwood (Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the University of Sydney) and Dr Gabrielle Russell-Mundine (Academic Leader, NCCC) led the discussions.

The keynote speaker was Professor James Arvanitakis (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Western Sydney University).

Other speakers included the Hon. Chief Justice Chris Kourakis (Supreme Court of South Australia), Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell (NSW Police), Dr Simon Judkins (President, Australian College of Emergency Medicine), Christine Craik (President, Australian Association of Social Workers), Craig Ritchie (CEO, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), and Professor Robert Slonim and Associate Professor Shyamal Chowdhury (The University of Sydney).

“It was an energising day of candid reflection. There is enormous goodwill among leaders of the Australian public service and professional bodies to do better in tackling institutional racism.

“And we saw from this event that leaders understand the conversation has to move beyond just diversity and competence, and into the work of anti-racism,” Dr Soutphommasane said.