Australians are being urged to stand up to racism in their daily lives.
Launching a new national strategy to combat racism on Friday, federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon called on individuals to call out bad behaviour wherever they encounter it.
“It does require people to stand up when they see something that’s wrong and like in all other areas of bullying, the silence of the majority allows bullies to get away with bad behaviour,” Ms Roxon told reporters in Melbourne.
The strategy comes on the heels of a random survey of 2000 people last year, in which one in seven Australians reported experiencing discrimination based on their colour or background, a figure that has risen steadily in recent years.
Federal race discrimination commissioner Helen Szoke said racism was more prevalent in Australia than people believed.
“Australia is not a racist country, but racism exists and we have to do better,” she told reporters.
Dr Szoke said the Australian Human Rights Commission’s strategy would begin a national discussion about what racism is and include initiatives to prevent it.
She said racism could take a real toll on people’s lives and communities.
“Discrimination costs us financially and culturally,” she told the launch.
The three-year strategy is supported by a campaign titled “Racism Stops With Me” and has the backing of industry, unions, national sporting groups and Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation national director Jacqueline Phillips said public consultations held in the lead-up to the strategy showed racism was a reality for many indigenous people.
“Racism is an ongoing reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and can result in feeling like second class citizens in their own land,” she said.
Reconciliation Australia co-chair and former race discrimination commissioner Tom Calma said racism was a significant obstacle to achieving a reconciled Australia.
Ms Roxon said most Australians accepted people who come from other parts of the world but ignorance and bad behaviour still existed.
“We all like the idea of a fair go,” she said.
“Now we actually have to make sure we deliver it in our daily lives.”