16 November 2021

Inquiry into racist incidents in the ACT to begin immediately

| Lottie Twyford
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Giulia Jones.

Opposition spokesperson on multicultural affairs Giulia Jones said she was glad racism had proved to be more important than party politics. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Following anecdotal reports of an increase in incidents of racism since the beginning of the pandemic, the ACT Government has established an inquiry into why this is happening, where it’s happening and what can be done.

The inquiry will begin immediately and be conducted by the Legislative Assembly’s Education and Community Inclusion Committee.

A motion raised by Opposition spokesperson on multicultural affairs Giulia Jones last Thursday (11 November) received tripartisan support, prompting Mrs Jones to say it was good that racism had proven more important than party politics.

The inquiry will invite confidential submissions from victims of racist attacks in the ACT, those who witness them, seek the input of the Human Rights Commission and ACT Policing, and look to outline evidence-based solutions to combatting racism.

It will also examine the reporting mechanisms available for those who experience racial abuse or vilification. Mrs Jones has previously said she’s heard from multicultural community members that they were unaware incidents could be reported to the Human Rights Commission.

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Mrs Jones told the Assembly last week that she hopes the inquiry will reveal the context around incidences of racism in the community.

She spoke once again about some of the experiences people have shared with her, such as rocks being thrown at windows, people being verbally abused in their own homes and women in hijabs being screamed at, business owners of Chinese origin being targeted and Indian-Australians called ‘curry dogs’ and ‘f–ing Indians’.

Mrs Jones acknowledged that Canberrans had been placed under extreme pressure through COVID-19 with financial stress, changes to home life with working from home and children learning from home and extended lockdowns all contributing to this.

“This has unfortunately led to an apparent rise in the number of verbal attacks and threats of violence on people in the Canberra community on the basis of their ethnic or cultural origin, religion or language,” Mrs Jones said.

“Let’s be clear, COVID-19 can affect anyone and is not transmitted in our community by persons of any specific race, ethnicity, religion or culture.”

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ACT Greens spokesperson on multicultural affairs Andrew Braddock spoke in support of the motion, saying “people who engage in this kind of behaviour [racism] do not and cannot represent us”.

He also noted reporting should be “independent, safe, easy and non-invasive” while accommodating for language and ability.

Mr Braddock went on to note the need for the ACT to have an anti-racism strategy which would be “a fully-fledged plan to support social cohesion and inclusion at all levels, moving beyond the short-term celebration of visible and palatable signs of cultural differences, like music, dancing, and food, and asking the hard questions about representation, power, and resources”.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Tara Cheyne said the ACT did already have a strong legislative framework in place to address racism and racial vilification but said she welcomed the opportunity to hear from the community about the gaps in the current system as well as the root causes of racism.

“We are a proud multicultural community and there must be zero tolerance for any form of racist behaviour,” she said.

Ms Cheyne also noted that some people may not choose to report racism as such incidents are often fleeting, can be from strangers and can be difficult to prove.

A discussion paper will be prepared by 31 March 2022. The committee will report back by 30 September 2022.

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Racism and discrimination are intertwined and affect people in broadly complex ways. Will the hearing be looking at Territory Laws and how our laws can be potentially influenced by the Religious Discrimination Bill which will be introduced to Parliament next week by Liberal Attorney General Michaela Cash? There has been much talk in the press about the bill. No-one knows what the final text will be. The wording of the draft has been heavily influenced by conservative Liberals and the Catholic Church including Martyn Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby. Mr Iles has strong connections to the Canberra Young Liberals. Giulia Jones has strong religious conservative beliefs and her moral convictions are well known. In a nutshell, the draft bill introduces a ‘statement of belief’ clause, which overrides all Commonwealth, state and territory anti-discrimination laws including the Fair Work Act. The draft bill potentially allows health practitioners to ‘conscientiously object’ to providing particular health services based on religious beliefs. The draft bill also introduces the ‘Folau clause’ which makes it allowable for people to express their religious views, including derogatory and harmful comments without the threat of recrimination.

How many times have we heard activists use the term “white privilege” or the word “Hater”, to tear down someone who has a different view?

This type of language is spiteful and inflammatory and yet it is deemed acceptable when championing a cause. Go figure.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s about Race, BLM, Gender, Marriage, Animal Rights, Climate Change or the name of a brand of cheese, activists drive wedges through our community and turn brother on brother, sister on sister.

Our society would be a lot friendlier towards each other if it weren’t for those who believe their views and agendas are more important than everyone else’s.

Does racism exist? Yes. It exists in every country and every community. In our own, we are all technically “racists”. We prefer the company of those who are the same as us. We are wary of people we don’t know or things that are foreign to us. I’m sorry, but that is human nature. Everyone is different. Even amongst family, we are all different.

Differences only become problems when we don’t treat people with respect.

William Newby5:29 pm 18 Nov 21

An enquiry into something we don’t even know is an issue, if anything we have been more locked up by the pandemic or rain, how has this lead to increased racism? More naval gazing in the ACT. I have lived and traveled the world over and would not say that Australia is any worse than anywhere else I have seen; China and India themselves are possibly the most racist countries I’ve lived. Is this ‘racism’ we are concerned about or just ‘white racism’ – being from NZ I get called Kiwi all the time, if the same were applied to any other nation there’d be mass sackings and an ‘investigation’ where I work; sensibly there has been no such thing.

A major concern is that much racism nowadays is coming from the left-wing Labor in the modern era, especially before the upcoming federal election, such as the commentary by Labor politicians, such as Michael Daley and Daniel Repacholi, as well as the commentary from QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk about India and the South Australia’s Labor’s “Can You Trust Habib? controversy. This is commentary that would be expected from ’90s era One Nation.

Does being told by a shop assistant that “you need to get a tan because your legs are really white” count as racism? What about being called ‘Australian skippy’ and made noises at like a kangaroo because you are fair skinned? Please stop saying white Australians are racist because they are not any more racist than any other country on earth. I have travelled many places and been called gringa, whitey, ghost and many other things. Focus on homelessness and poverty, not pretend hurt feelings.

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