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Attorney-General commits Government to anti-racism strategy in Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture

Race Discrimination
Content type: Media Release
Topic(s): Race Discrimination

The Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, has committed the Government to addressing racism in his keynote address at last week's Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture.

“Australia’s continued success as a multicultural nation must include an ongoing commitment to addressing racism,” the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

The Attorney-General spoke about the Government’s commitments to restoring the integrity of Australia’s anti-discrimination framework and the independence of the Australian Human Rights Commission, First Nations justice, and a national anti-racism strategy.

“The Albanese Government announced before the election that it would commit $7.5 million to fund the Australian Human Rights Commission to complete its National Anti-Racism Framework and implement a comprehensive national anti-racism strategy. This commitment was delivered with the funding announced in the Budget last month.

“The anti-racism strategy will develop a shared understanding of racial equality to build support for an inclusive national narrative in which the rights of all people are protected and promoted, regardless of race, ethnicity or cultural background,” Mr Dreyfus said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan, who hosted the lecture, spoke to the Commission’s initial scoping phase for a national anti-racism framework.

Commissioner Tan said that the leading feedback from all participants, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and those from non-Indigenous backgrounds, is the importance of centring the experiences of First Nations people and the ongoing impacts of dispossession, which are necessary foundations for anti-racism in the Australian context.

A panel discussion on online hate and the need for legislative reform followed the lecture, moderated by Jeremy Fernandez from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The panel was comprised of experts on online hate and anti-racism action, Dr Matteo Vergani, Rita Jabri Markwell and Professor Sandy O’Sullivan.

Dr Matteo Vergani, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Deakin University, said that the implications of online racism went well beyond digital platforms.

“On and offline harms are strongly interconnected. Targets of online hate are often targets of offline violence,” Dr Vergani said.

Sandy O’Sullivan, a Wiradjuri transgender/nonbinary ARC Future Fellow and Professor of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University presented shocking statistics about the barrage of online hate, racism and transphobia they received when hosting @IndigenousX, a rotating Twitter account.

“1892 people wrote something blatantly racist, transphobic or unsurprisingly both,” Professor O’Sullivan said. “What do we do to challenge that? One of the things is making sure that the people who are subject to [racist hate] are the ones creating the [national anti-racism] framework."

Rita Jabri Markwell, a lawyer based with the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN), said that online hate must be treated as a public harm, affecting groups and communities.

“We really need to shift [attention] towards the dehumanisation of group identity and hatred towards groups as an issue, not just harm directed at individuals…because it is a downstream consequence of allowing that hatred to run at a communal and a collective level,” Ms Jabri Markwell said.

The Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture is an annual public event held by the Australian Human Rights Commission to honour the memory of the Hon. Kep Enderby QC (1926-2015). As Attorney-General, Kep Enderby introduced into Parliament the Bill which would become the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The Memorial Lecture is held to advance public understanding and debate about the Racial Discrimination Act, racism and human rights.

The lecture was sponsored by the EU Delegation to Australia.

Click here to watch the 2022 Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture.


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