Racism can have serious negative consequences for the people who experience it and witness it, and for wider society. Racism is easier to overcome when it’s properly understood.
‘There are no words to describe how racism feels. Everyone deals with it differently. Some people lash out verbally, others withdraw into themselves. Some people can talk openly about how it feels, others hide it deep within...How many of our children are trying to learn in racist classrooms? How does a child reach their full potential and exercise their rights as citizens of this country when they are given messages every day that they are worthless human beings? What if it was your son or daughter? What would you do?’
– Mark Williams, 1999
Australia is a vibrant, multicultural country. We mainly celebrate our diversity, but there are many people in Australia who regularly experience prejudice, discrimination and racism.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including children, racism is a real and ongoing issue. Evidence shows children experience racism, prejudice and discrimination at levels higher than for most, if not all, other groups in Australia.
The 2020 Australia Reconciliation Barometer Report found:
- 52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced at least one form of racial prejudice in the past 6 months (43% in 2018).
- 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents agree that Australia is a racist country (51% in 2018)
Race relations is one of the five dimensions of reconciliation in Australia.
This dimension calls for all Australians to understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences. The result is stronger relationships based on trust and respect and that are free of racism.
Educational settings play a major role in forming students’ and children’s attitudes and world views. Their efforts extend to the wider community.
You can counter racist attitudes and their negative effects by:
- helping students to understand respect cultural differences
- discussing racism with students and children
- actively modelling anti-racism.