The Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has called for a national conversation about hate, prejudice and racism.
Speaking in Wollongong last night, at the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra’s Annual General Meeting, Commissioner Tan said we face difficult terrain in our work to combat racism and racial discrimination.
“A day does not appear to go by when we are not confronted with a message or a piece of news that seems to challenge and undermine the resilience of our multicultural society, or that displays or promotes varying degrees of overt or subtle expressions of racial, cultural and religious hostility or bigotry.
“I believe that a national focus on our recommitment to anti-racism and multicultural diversity is needed now more than ever.
“A national conversation is needed if we are to address hate, prejudice and racism in our society. It will require and call for courage and moral leadership, across our political and civil community, to lead on this issue,” Commissioner Tan said.
Commissioner Tan highlighted the findings of the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion survey released this week.
It found 85 per cent of respondents believe multiculturalism has been good for Australia and a strong majority also support Australia's non-discriminatory immigration policy.
But concern about the level of immigration appears to be increasing - up to 43 per cent considering immigration levels to be 'too high', up from 34 per cent just two years ago.
On discrimination, 19 per cent of respondents reported they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their race or religion in the previous year.
Certain groups in our community face particular challenges, too. When asked directly, a substantial minority of people report holding negative feelings towards Muslims, for instance.
“The findings suggest we have every reason to remain vigilant in our work to combat discrimination and promote inter-racial tolerance, understanding and friendship.
“We cannot sit back and assume that our multicultural harmony and our multicultural consensus will take care of itself. It requires an active endorsement, and an active recommitment from all of us.
“We must be vigilant against threats to our multicultural harmony. We must oppose racial extremism and violence in all forms, and we must be on guard to ensure threats to our community are appropriately dealt with.
“Over the next few months I will be travelling the country and speaking with communities about their experiences and their views on what can and needs to be done.
“It is critical that I am fully across and briefed on community experiences and understandings of racism and racial discrimination and the issues that concern and confront them,” Commissioner Tan said.