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Agenda for racial equality 2012-2016 - Commissioners message

Agenda for racial equality 2012-2016


This document is released on the first anniversary of my appointment as Race
Discrimination Commissioner – the first time in over a decade that there
has been a dedicated, full time commissioner with a national role to promote
racial equality and address racial discrimination.

Over the last year, I have travelled to every State and Territory, and met
with community members from all walks of life. What I’ve seen and heard
has given me a clearer picture of the state of racial equality in Australia

I have been encouraged by the good efforts being taken across Australia to
promote racial equality. It is clear that there is a strong commitment to
multiculturalism and that the majority of Australians are proud of our racial
and ethnic diversity.

It is also clear, though, that inequality along racial lines still exists.

I am proud to be part of the partnership charged with formulating and
implementing the National Anti-Racism Strategy that was launched in
August 2012. Racism is a very real, and often daily experienced, issue in the
lives of many Australians. Yet is poorly understood by many of us: those who
experience it often feel their experience is discounted or diminished by the
wider community.

Recent debate about asylum seekers and refugees has too often authorised and
enabled xenophobic and racist opinions to be aired. The tenor of many of these
public conversations overshadows our successes and puts obstacles in the way of
achieving our aspirations to racial equality.

But racism is only part of the problem. It is my strong belief that we
also need to focus on addressing inequality that exists along racial lines.

Research tells us clearly that experiencing racism is hugely harmful to the
health and wellbeing of individuals. But if racism tends to be experienced as
acute incidents, inequality tends to be a chronic – often lifelong –

Unlike specific acts of racism, entrenched inequality is rarely headline
news. Unless we highlight and act against it consciously, we run the risk of
both entrenching inequality, and rendering it invisible.

Inequality is detrimental to our society as a whole. When some people do not
have the same access as others to employment, education, health care or other
essential services by virtue of their race they are less able to contribute to
the economy and the community.

We also need to tackle inequality because it is a pre-condition for racism.
As long as our community accepts that some people will have poorer life outcomes
because of their racial background, we lay the groundwork for an atmosphere in
which it’s acceptable to treat them unfairly.

So we need to focus not just on eliminating racism, but also on how to
building racial equality.

This document sets out a national agenda for achieving racial equality in
Australia. It identifies key areas of effort and priorities for potential future

This Agenda will guide my work as Race Discrimination Commissioner. I hope
that it also provides a resource for others to review their own practice, to
identify areas for effort and to understand how all parts of our social,
economic and cultural landscape fit together to shape our achievement of
equality for all.

By its nature, it is an aspirational document. It is focused on identifying
and building on our strengths and addressing our key challenges. It is not
exhaustive, but identifies both those initiatives that are already in place and
can be built on, and those that are still needed, to progress racial equality
with the aim of building a harmonious and cohesive society.

Australia is in a position to demonstrate to the rest of the world what a
successful multicultural, inclusive and respectful – an equitable –
society can look like. The milestones to racial equality that run along the foot
of this document mark the progress we have made to date. We are well advanced
already, and well-placed to build on this progress in future.

Dr Helen Szoke

Race Discrimination Commissioner.

Areas of effort
Ensuring social and economic outcomes
Reducing inequality and improving life chances
Advocate for Government policies and programs to be implemented in ways
which protect and promote the human rights of all racial and ethnic groups in
Supporting sustainable employment outcomes
Identify opportunities to support and promote good practice initiatives to
achieve employment outcomes for vulnerable racial and ethnic groups
Recognition of overseas qualifications
Work with bodies that regulate professions to identify and address any
systemic inequalities in the recognition of overseas qualifications
Supporting inclusive education
Identify opportunities for partnerships to support the inclusiveness of the
education system for young people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds
Investing in language proficiency and competency
Engage with the settlement sector to address barriers to the use of
qualified interpreters in service delivery
Improving cultural competence for appropriate and quality service
Partner with public sector agencies to improve cultural competency in the
delivery of government services
Building a strong legal framework
Improving protections against discrimination
Develop resources to help business understand and comply with their
obligations regarding racial discrimination under Federal law
Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Support the community education campaign for constitutional recognition of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Advocate for the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples.
Protection of workplace rights for all people, including temporary
migrant workers
Work with employer bodies, unions and other regulators to identify and
address practices which may contribute to employment discrimination
Preventing racism and racial hatred
Raising awareness of racism and supporting responses to it
Implementation of the National Anti-Racism Strategy with a particular focus
on young people
Combating cyber racism as an emerging form of bullying and racial
Build on previous work of the Commission to improve industry, regulatory
and community responses to cyber-racism
Improving responses to racial hatred and violence
Contribute to any consideration of changes to Australia’s legal
protections in relation to racial hatred and violence
Leadership in support of Australia’s diverse
Encouraging leadership in employment to support equal participation at
all levels
Support initiatives to improve cultural diversity in the leadership of
private and public sector agencies.
Enhancing diversity of representation in the entertainment
Identify opportunities to work with industry and its representative bodies
to encourage its diversification
Building collaboration and cooperation through the media
Work with the media industry and regulatory bodies to address reporting of
race issues