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Annual Report 2001-2002: Chapter 7

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Annual Report 2000-2001

Chapter 7: Race Discrimination

Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner - Dr William JonasActing Race Discrimination Commissioner and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
Dr William Jonas, AM

Education and Promotion

World Conference Against Racism

The United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) will be held in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001.

The WCAR has been the focus for the major activities of the Race Discrimination Unit over the last year. Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Jonas determined that the WCAR provided a unique opportunity for the Commission to engage in direct dialogue with Australian civil society. The aim is to undertake a robust and honest assessment of, and identify action oriented strategies to address, racism in Australia today.

In developing the plan for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s involvement and input to the WCAR Dr Jonas noted:

“we are firmly of the view that international activities such as the World Conference, and indeed the entire human rights system, can only be meaningful if they are related to the day to day experiences of people, wherever and whoever they may be.”

In recognition of Dr Jonas’s commitment the Commission has undertaken a multifaceted approach to its preparations for the World Conference Against Racism and this has included both regionally and internationally based initiatives.

Dr Jonas will compile a final report based on the findings and outcomes of the preparatory activities. This report will be presented to the Commonwealth Government and to delegates at the WCAR and other relevant forums. The WCAR and the final report will then inform the Racial Discrimination Unit activities over the next year with the aim of implementing concrete strategies to combat racism in Australia. The first of these will be a National Conference on Racism in Australia in early 2002. The conference will provide a forum for reporting back on the outcomes of the WCAR and the civil society consultations with the aim of working towards a national plan of action against racism.

Civil Society Consultations

National Youth Forum on Racism

The first national activity organised by the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission in the lead up to the World Conference Against Racism was a National Youth and Racism Forum held in Canberra on 7 May. Creating a specific space for young people to exchange views was considered crucial to the consultation process. Too often young people are given only a marginal space, yet it is they who hold the key to a future world free of racism and intolerance.

The aim of bringing together a group of young people from all states, representing a number of different organizations, was to stimulate discussion on racism and provide a forum in which participants could share common experiences of racism and related intolerance. Representatives from a broad range of communities attended the forum, as well as representatives from State peak youth organisations, the United Nations Youth Organisation, Community Aid Abroad and ATSIC.

The forum was a success producing a valuable discussion paper, outlining a number of issues relating to racism and youth. It also put young people in contact with each other and as a result a number of Youth Forums have been organised by the participants in their respective states.

National Summit on Racism

In preparation for the World Conference Against Racism, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, with funding assistance from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, organised Racism and civil society: A national summit on racism, on 8 and 9 May 2001. The Summit brought together a broad range of civil society, including Indigenous community and peak NGO leaders, academics, legal practitioners, human rights activists and representatives from business, religion, arts, sports and media. Several delegates from the previous day’s Youth Forum remained to participate in the summit. Over two days the summit, through animated, enthusiastic and at times challenging working groups, developed a number of strategies and recommendations for the Commission to take to the WCAR.

Professor Maurice Glèlè-Ahanhanzo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, officially opened the Summit. Professor Glèlè- Ahanhanzo addressed the themes of the WCAR which focussed on identifying action oriented strategies. President Tay chaired and introduced the opening session of the Summit and Dr Jonas made a detailed presentation setting the scene for the WCAR and the role of the Commission’s dialogue with civil society. The Summit was also addressed by a range of speakers who covered areas as diverse as racism in sport, the media, employment and the education system. Leading academics presented papers which highlighted that the commonly held view that rural Australia holds more racist attitudes than the city is not true. They also canvassed the new forms and languages of contemporary racism.

15 Regional consultations covering every State and Territory of Australia

Once again these consultations were in part made possible through the financial assistance provided by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Throughout June and July 2001, the Commission conducted 15 consultations with civil society across all States and territories, in the following locations:

Perth, Broome and Kalgoorlie
Western Australia
Darwin and Alice Springs
Northern Territory
Melbourne and Sale
South Australia
Cairns and Brisbane
Parramatta, Orange and Newcastle
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory

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The Commission directly invited community organisations and individuals across the country to attend the forums. In a number of the centres advertisements were placed in the local newspapers and radio interviews were conducted prior to the consultations to encourage the general public to attend. The Commission received support from State government agencies and local community organisations in the preparation and promotion of the consultations. The average attendance at the consultation workshops was 40 people. With the largest consultation taking place in Melbourne where over 100 people attended. The attendees at the consultations represented a cross section of society, including Indigenous peoples, representatives of culturally and linguistically diverse background communities as well as individual members of the wider community and representatives from local, State and Commonwealth government agencies.

The consultations were conducted over a full day. The participants covered the five major themes of the WCAR and through two workshop sessions one entitled Sources, causes and victims of racism and the other entitled Prevention and remedies to combat racism. Then each consultation had a plenary session to develop recommendations and strategies.

The outcomes of each consultation and the Commission’s national report on the consultations are available at the Commission’s web site:

Focus groups with specific women’s communities

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Women’s Focus Groups

In June and July 2001 the Commission’s Sex Discrimination Unit in collaboration with the Race Discrimination Unit conducted a series of consultations with women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Sydney. The Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW was engaged by the Commission to organise the consultations and ensure the participation of women from various communities. Meetings were held with workers from organisations working with refugee and newly arrived migrant women. Additional meetings were held with women from Sydney’s Muslim and Vietnamese communities. These meetings were organised in recognition of the ongoing problems of discrimination against racially disadvantaged women. A report of these consultations will form part of the Commission’s final report.

Indigenous Women’s Focus groups

In July 2001 it is planned that to further the Commission’s inquiries into the impact of the intersection of race and gender, officers from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Unit and the Sex Discrimination Unit would conduct focus groups with Indigenous women. Commission staff will travel to areas in western New South Wales to gather information that would assist in better understanding the experiences and issues Indigenous Australian women living in rural and remote communities face on a daily basis. Once again the findings of these consultations will form part of the Commission’s final WCAR report.

Other community specific consultations


While a broad community consultation was organised in Melbourne, the Equal Opportunity Commission, Victoria, on behalf of the Commission, conducted a community consultation with Melbourne’s Indigenous community, after Indigenous representatives made requests for a separate meeting.


In April 2001 the Commission contributed funding and organisational assistance to the Youth and Racism Forum held in Adelaide, organised by the peak youth body in South Australia. A senior representative of the Commission also addressed the forum on the WCAR and racism in Australia.

As a result of this forum and the National Youth Forum held in Canberra on 7 May, the participants from Western Australia and New South Wales have organised, with the assistance of the Commission, similar state based forums.

Other community discussion initiatives

Preparation, commissioning and publishing of specific discussion papers on issues related to racism. These were aimed to facilitate informed discussion and debate and also to critically assess the current status of racism in Australia.

The Commission developed a discussion paper entitled, Combating racism in Australia and also produced Gender and Race intersectionality. Both of these papers and other relevant papers and outcomes of all the consultation processes have been posted on our WCAR website.

The Combating Racism in Australia discussion paper was distributed to every member of State and Commonwealth parliaments with a covering letter from Dr Jonas informing them of the consultation process that the Commission was undertaking, inviting them to provide comments on the discussion paper and to pass on the information to their constituents.

Development of a specific WCAR site within the Commission’s website.

In recognition of the growing importance of the internet as a means of providing access to community input the Commission established a WCAR specific site on its general website. The WCAR site included relevant background documents, reports and links to UN and NGO sites dealing with the WCAR. To facilitate discussion and feedback a moderated bulleting board was established and publicised widely through NGO networks and through our consultation meetings. People were encouraged to make submissions and send us further comments after each of the consultations.

During the period from 7 May 2001, when the site went live, over 11,800 page views were recorded on the WCAR site.

Approximately 40 submissions to the bulletin board have been received and posted on the web site. These submissions and comments will inform the final report.

Nationally based meetings

The Non Government (NGO) Forum held a meeting on 17 November 2000 where they discussed their role in relation to WCAR participation and preparation. The Commission addressed the meeting about its preparations for the WCAR and the engagement it aimed to achieve with NGO’s.

The Commission co-sponsored a meeting on 30 November 2000 on Women and Race. Dr Jonas and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Susan Halliday addressed the meeting. The meeting aimed to ensure that there would be specific and effective input to the Commission’s WCAR preparations on the issues of gender and racism.

An ATSIC Regional meeting of Indigenous Peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada and the United States of America was held in Sydney in February 2001 in preparation for the WCAR. Dr Jonas presented the opening address to the Conference and participated in the deliberations of the Conference. The outcomes of the Conference provided an important Indigenous perspective to Australia’s contribution to the WCAR and have informed the preparations of the Commission.

The Commission participated on 23 February, in Sydney, in the Race and Gender Forum organised by Association of Non English-Speaking Background Women of Australia (ANESBWA) and Women’s Rights Action Network Australia (WRANA). The Forum brought together Indigenous, immigrant and refugee women to exchange experiences of racism and the intersection of racism and gender. This is one of the key themes of the WCAR.

International activities

The Race Discrimination Unit assisted the Asia Pacific Forum to develop a paper on the role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). Dr Jonas on 8 August 2000 attended the 5th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum in Rotorua, New Zealand and delivered a speech addressing the role of national human rights institutions in relation to the WCAR, the Commission’s work in preparation for the Conference and the need for NHRIs in the region to adopt a common set of recommendations to the Conference Secretariat.

Dr Jonas attended a national conference on Racism in South Africa from 30 August–2 September 2000 hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission. The Conference was the South African National meeting in preparation for the World Conference against Racism to be held in South Africa at the same time next year.

As part of the WCAR preparations the UN arranged a number of regional workshops of member States and the Commission was represented at the Asian Regional Workshop which was held in Tehran in February 2001. The Commission presented an oral report to the Workshop outlining its position on the WCAR and issues in regard to the Draft Declaration and the Draft Programme of Action.

Dr Jonas attended the meeting of the Open-ended Inter-sessional Working Group of the WCAR in Geneva from 6-9 March 2001. The meeting considered the draft declaration and programme of action for the WCAR prepared by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the request of States parties. A Commission position paper on the then current draft was developed while in Geneva. The paper reflected the position of the regional Indigenous peoples conference in Sydney and the Asia-Pacific Forum paper on National Human Rights Institutions.

While in Geneva Dr Jonas also met with a range of organisations and individuals about the WCAR. These included Penal Reform International, and staff of the High Commissioner’s office. The meeting with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was in the main to discuss the Commission’s application for funding for national activities for the WCAR. Subsequently the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights granted the Commission $26,000 (US) which proved essential to the Commission being able to undertake its Australian civil society consultations.

Further meetings were also held in London and Ottawa about the WCAR. In particular, Dr Jonas met with the Runnymede Trust which was undertaking community consultations in Britain in preparation for the WCAR; The Canadian government Secretariat for the WCAR and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

From 21 May to 8 June Dr Jonas attended the 2nd meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the WCAR in Geneva. This meeting dealt with continued discussion on the WCAR Draft Declaration and the Draft Programme of Action. After the completion of the meeting it was decided to hold a 3rd Preparatory Committee meeting from 31 July to 10 August and Dr Jonas would attend part of the meeting.

Research and policy

Face the Facts

The Race Discrimination Unit and the Aboriginal and Islander Social Justice Unit completed the updating and editing of the revised version of the Face the Facts - Some questions and answers about Immigration, Refugees and Indigenous Affairs. Dr Jonas launched the publication 21 March 2001, the report is available on the Commission’s website at or in hard copy from the Commission.

As Dr Jonas states in his introduction to Face the Facts:

“This booklet is not only a resource for those who want to know more about Indigenous Australians, immigration and refugees. It also serves as a reminder to all of us that when we discuss these matters, we have a responsibility to inform ourselves of the facts and speak on the basis of reason and not unfounded myths”

Dr Jonas wrote to all state Directors’ General of Education, seeking their assistance with distribution in secondary schools. To date we have received positive responses and have distributed over 10,000 copies to schools and the wider community. Given the strong demand to date it is anticipated that we will have distributed well in excess of 30,000 copies by the end of 2001.

Race for Business

During the year the Race Discrimination Unit has continued to promote and develop strategies to refine the Race for Business train the trainers package.

On 26 October 2000 Dr Jonas addressed a large gathering of business, media, trainer and community representatives at a meeting in Adelaide convened by the South Australian Multicultural Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC) and hosted by Business SA. Dr Jonas canvassed the importance of the Race for Business package as a means of assisting the business sector in developing workplaces free of racial discrimination through practical and achievable guidelines.

As part of the ongoing refinement of Race for Business, meetings were held throughout major capital cities with potential strategic partners among trainers and peak bodies such as Industry Training Advisory Boards, TAFEs, business and individual managers within the public and private sectors. As part of this process the Race Discrimination Unit organised a workshop, which was conducted by the Executive Director of Health and Community Sector Industry Training Advisory Board in November 2000 with experienced cross-cultural trainers. The aim was to identify if the Race for Business package could be customised according to the Australian National Training Authority’s (ANTA) train the trainer criteria or if a new cross-cultural competency criteria needed to be devised. The outcomes of the workshop have assisted the Race Discrimination Unit in clarifying the required updating and refining of the package.

Rugby League - Racial and Religious Vilification Policy

Dr Jonas was approached by the NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) requesting assistance in a review of their Racial and Religious Vilification policy, which the Race Discrimination Unit helped draft in 1997.

The President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Operational Manager of the NSWRL signed a Memorandum of Understanding in early 2001.The Memorandum outlines procedures for the referral to the Commission’s Complaint Handling Section of complaints under the League’s Racial and Religious Vilification Code of Conduct.


The Race Discrimination Unit has taken the comprehensive review of the 1994 Water Report, which was completed by Dr Bruce Walker of the Centre for Appropriate Technology and edited into a public report entitled Review of the Water Report. Part of the process for preparing the final public document included a visit by Dr Jonas to Alice Springs to hold meetings with the consultant and visit one of the Aboriginal case study communities - the Mpweringe-Arnapipe community, about 75kms north of Alice Springs.

The review documents significant advances that have been achieved since 1994. However, long-term assurances of funding, for new capital works and on going maintenance and sustainability, need to be addressed by and between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.


Special Measures Certificates

Following on from the 1995 Alcohol Report the Race Discrimination Commissioner continues to be approached by local Indigenous communities requesting restrictions on the sale of distribution of alcohol to their community members.

During September 2000 the Commissioner received an application from the Wiluna Aboriginal Community in Western Australia requesting renewal of the ‘Special Measures Certificate’ that has been in force in recent years. The Race Discrimination Unit worked with the relevant parties to agree on the issuing of a new certificate, which is valid until 31 August 2001. The special measure certificates are issued under s8 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 after the Aboriginal communities and other relevant parties have negotiated agreements locally.

Dry Zones

Over recent years the Commissioner has had to address issues relating to the introduction of alcohol dry zones by local Councils, which have adverse impacts on Indigenous communities. One such case, which has been of concern to communities for over five years, was the proposal by the Adelaide City Council to introduce a dry zone in the Adelaide central business district. This would have had an adverse impact on the Kaurna Aboriginal people who frequent the Victoria Square precinct in Adelaide. Letters on this matter to Adelaide Council, state government ministers and officials were previously sent by former Race Discrimination and Aboriginal and Islander Social Justice Commissioners.

The case came to prominence once more when the Adelaide City Council was to consider the introduction of the dry zone proposal at its September 2000 meeting.

Dr Jonas made representations to the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Adelaide City Councillors, the Chief of Police, the Liquor Licensing Commissioner, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the South Australian Premier.

After Dr Jonas’s representations the Council deliberations lead to the development of a detailed Plan of Action, which involves broad consultation with all stakeholders and consideration of a range of options to deal with alcohol and drug dependency.

The State Government and Adelaide City Council have since decided to introduce a blanket dry zone for the Adelaide Central Business District for a 12 month trial period. Dr Jonas will continue to monitor this issue.

Other activities

City of Dandenong

Representatives of the City of Dandenong council and community organisations in Melbourne approached the Racial Discrimination Unit about racial vilification in their local area.

On September 29 2000, Dr Jonas visited the area’s refugee, immigrant and Indigenous communities. He visited a number of religious organizations, including the Orthodox, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian organizations and met several community leaders. A specific meeting was held with members of the Serbian community to update on developments relating to the racist violence on that community in the past several months. Dr Jonas also visited the Bunerong Co-operative of the local Indigenous community.

Dr Jonas and gave a keynote address at a civic reception held in his honour where he discussed issues of racial vilification and how to work towards a community which is more inclusive and accepting of difference.  

Media reporting

The Race Discrimination Unit was approached by representatives of the Vietnamese community in Adelaide in regard to their concerns with the reporting of issues relating to Vietnamese youth in the Adelaide Advertiser.

Dr Jonas agreed to follow up on the matter and in July 2000 agreed to facilitate a meeting between the Editor of the Adelaide Advertiser, representatives of the Vietnamese Community of South Australia and the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia. At the meeting the parties came to an in principle agreement that community representatives and the editorial staff of the newspaper would develop closer working relationships. The aim is to improve the media reporting of issues relating to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.


Dr Jonas met with the national Board of Directors of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), together with the State elected presidents and the Chief Executive Officers of the state Institutes, on 3 July in Adelaide.

Dr Jonas delivered a speech outlining the application of the Racial Discrimination Act to the real estate industry and the complaints and reported experiences of racial discrimination in real estate. This included highlighting some of cases from the ‘New Country, New Stories’ report prepared by the Race Discrimination Unit in September 1999.

The speech specifically addressed the need for the industry to develop national professional standards, similar to those in operation in other countries, to prevent racial discrimination in the provision of housing and ensure compliance with the Act.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

The Race Discrimination Unit prepared a submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by way of background to its consideration of Australia’s report under ICESCR later this year. The submission dealt with the two-year waiting period for social security benefits, which applies to all newly arrived migrants. In his submission Dr Jonas canvassed the two year waiting period requirement in relation to ICESCR article 2 (Full realisation of rights under the ICESCR) and article 9 (Right to social security and social insurance).


Attached is a selection of speeches, seminars and presentations made by Dr Jonas in the reporting period. Selected papers are available on the Commission’s website at:

3 July 00, Dr Jonas presented a paper to the Board of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, state Real Estate Institute Presidents and CEOs.

 8 August 00, Dr Jonas presented a paper to the Asia Pacific Forum in New Zealand.

29 September 00, Dr Jonas presented a keynote address to the Councillors and Community at a Civic reception in his honour at Dandenong Council Victoria.

26 October 00, Dr Jonas delivered a speech at a Race for Business Forum organised by the SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, Adelaide.

6 November 00, Dr Jonas delivered a speech at the Cyberhate: Bigotry and Prejudice on the Internet conference, Sydney.

9 November 00, Dr Jonas launched an RDU publication, On the Sidelines, Perth.

10 November 00, Dr Jonas delivered a speech at the FECCA Conference on “Human Rights in Multicultural Australia – Retrospect and Prospect”, Perth.

10 November 00, Dr Jonas delivered a speech at the Western Australians for Racial Equality Annual General Meeting, Perth.

30 November 00, Dr Jonas addressed the HREOC Women and Race Forum on the World Conference on Racism, Sydney

20 February 01, Dr Jonas addressed the opening session at the Conference of Indigenous Peoples and Racism, A Regional Meeting for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Sydney.

21 February 01, Panel discussion and workshop session at the Conference of Indigenous People of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States – Indigenous Peoples and Racism, Sydney on the theme of prevention of racism.

7 May 01, Dr Jonas delivered a speech to the National Youth Forum on Racism

8 May 01, Dr Jonas delivered a speech to Racism and civil society: A national summit on Racism

13 June 01, Addressed HREOC staff and representatives from NGOs regarding the status of the preparatory Committee deliberations for the WCAR.

June 01, Dr Jonas delivered a speech to a number of regional consultations for the WCAR.