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Let's talk about racism

About 1 in 4 people are born overseas and almost half of us have one parent who was born in another country in Australia today. This cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths, but not everyone always sees it this way.  

Sometimes people are treated unfairly or badly, because of the country they come from, their cultural background, what they look like or the colour of their skin. This is called racism.  

Racism is a form of discrimination. 

What is discrimination? 

Discrimination is when a person or group of people are treated badly or unfairly because of who they are. In many countries, including Australia, there are laws that say you can’t discriminate against someone because of where they’re born, their cultural background, what they look like or the colour of their skin. 

Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) says everyone should be treated equally and have the same opportunities, regardless of the colour of their skin, where they were born or what they look like.  

If you go to a shop, the owner can’t make you leave because they don’t like the colour of your skin or you accent. The same goes for when you’re taking the bus or train, visiting the public library or enrolling in school.  

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t fixed everything. Unfortunately, people still do and say racist things. Sometimes, people don’t even understand that what they’re doing or saying is racist.  

What can racism look like? 

There are different ways racism can happen. Sometimes, it’s easy to spot. Like when someone yells mean words, physically hurts another person or tells them they can’t do something because of the colour of their skin.  

When nasty comments are made about someone’s culture, language, food or traditional dress or a cruel cartoon is posted about the country someone is from – even if it’s meant as a joke – that’s racism too. 

Sometimes, racism can be harder to spot. For example, if a school had a rule that everyone had to speak English all the time, even during recess and lunch breaks, that would be unfair to students who might be more comfortable talking to their friends in another language. 

What are the impacts? 

People who have experienced racism can feel anxious and scared about doing things. Imagine you’re on the school bus and somebody yells at you about your skin colour. You might not feel safe to use the bus again. Racism can also make people feel like they don’t belong and that they can’t be themselves.  

What can you do to help? 

First of all, don’t be mean to anyone or treat them differently because of the colour of their skin, the country they were born, the language they speak or their cultural background. If you see someone saying or doing something nasty to someone else because of these things, check in with the person who’s being treated badly and ask them if they’re okay or if there’s anything you can do to support them. 

If it’s safe to do so, you can also speak up and tell the person who’s being mean that it’s not okay. You can also a trusted adult to help, like your teacher or coach.  

We all share the responsibility to help stop racism. As human beings, we are all equal and we have the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect. 

Learn more 

You can learn more about all the ways we are different from one another, as well as the many things we have in common by watching: