Racism in Australia: today and tomorrow

May 11, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has responded to a request for recommendations by the Australian Human Rights Commission to enable it to plan its future anti-racism strategy.

 

The response from the ECAJ as submitted by its executive director, Peter Wertheim…

 

Re: National Anti-Racism Strategy for Australia

Thank you for the opportunity to have input into the development of a new National Anti-Racism Strategy for Australia. Our organisation, which is the peak national body that represents the Jewish community throughout Australia, welcomes the Australian Government’s initiative in developing such a strategy.

The annual reports on Antisemitism in Australia published by our organisation over the last 20 years have identified some persistent themes in contemporary Antisemitic vilification including the myth of an international Jewish conspiracy and attacks on the “Jewish lobby”; Holocaust denial as a form of harassment, often accompanied by Nazi- Jewish analogies and assertions that the history of the Holocaust is a Jewish invention; anti-Israel propaganda as a vehicle for denigrating the Jewish people; and more traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes and religious misrepresentations.

For reasons which will be obvious to anyone familiar with the history of the Jewish people, our community has a special interest in, and commitment to, combating racism in all its forms, including Antisemitism. The policy platform of our organisation expressly calls for government and community action to support social inclusion, aboriginal reconciliation and multiculturalism and to oppose and prevent all forms of racism. Copies of the relevant policies are set out in Appendix 1.

1. The nature of the problem

Although Australia is generally a tolerant and peaceful place compared to most other countries, racism remains a serious problem. As the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy (NARPS) Discussion Paper – 2012 noted, racism in Australia manifests itself most frequently in non-overtly-violent forms such as exclusion from full participation in society, impediments to equity and access in the availability of services and public acts of vilification. Yet it has long been recognised that violence often lies just below the surface, particularly in connection with racial vilification, and has occasionally burst forth in all its ugliness into full public view.

As early as 1991, the Report of the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia 1 noted high levels of violence in Australia induced by racial hatred, as did the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody the same year.2 Both reports recommended legislative intervention to proscribe racial vilification. They recommended the introduction of a range of remedies including, in the case of the first Report, criminal sanctions.

Subsequent developments have included:

  • The rise to prominence, and subsequent fall, of the One Nation Party (ONP) between 1996 and 1999. The ONP’s official platform included abolishing policies related to Aboriginal and multicultural affairs and restricting immigration.3 The rhetoric of many of its leaders led to frequent allegations of anti-Aboriginal and anti-Asian racism.
  • On the evening of Saturday, 14 February 2004 riots broke out in Redfern in Sydney sparked by the death of Thomas ‘T.J.’ Hickey, a 17-year-old indigenous Australian.
  • On 19 November 2004, civic disturbances began on Palm Island in Queensland following the death of an indigenous resident, Mulrunji in a police cell. The events led to the first trial of an Australian police officer for a death in custody. The officer was acquitted by a jury in June 2007.
  • In March 2005 the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released a report that concluded that racist taunts are a principal cause of violence in schools.4 That is an experience unfortunately shared from time to time by Jewish as well as other students and teachers.5
  • Racial violence against people ‘of middle eastern appearance’ developed into a full-blown riot at Cronulla beach in Sydney on 11 December 2005 and led to retaliatory riots by young men from the Lebanese Muslim community over subsequent nights. Several countries issued warnings against travelling to Australia.
  • On 14 October 2006, a Jewish Hasidic man named Menachem Vorscheimer, while walking on the street, had his religious garments removed from him and was punched in the face in front of his two children by a team of drunken footballers on a passing bus.
  • In 2009, a political controversy erupted in Australia and in India as to whether a spate of physical attacks against Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne over the previous three years, including several knifings and murders, had been racially motivated.
    Racism in Australia should therefore be seen not only as a source of discrimination and injustice but also as a potential source of violence that threatens the cohesiveness and peace of Australian society. It needs to be addressed at both levels simultaneously.

2. Defining racism

There is no single, straightforward definition of racism. In general, racism is an attitude based on prejudice, but it takes many forms and adapts to changing circumstances. At its root, racism is an aversion to or diminution of the “other” based on an actual or perceived difference in race, colour, descent or national, ethnic or ethno-religious origin.6 The aversion or diminution can manifest itself and be rationalised in a multitude of ways.

The categorisation of persons into social groups, including groups identified by race, and the attribution of characteristics to these groups (stereotypes) can be seen as helping to satisfy the human need for understanding by simplifying the complexities of the social world. This suggests that “social categorisation and stereotyping has a fundamental and universal cognitive base”7 and that social categorisation entails some degree of stereotyping.

“Many laboratory and field studies have shown that the mere act of categorising individuals into distinct groups is sufficient to trigger ingroup favouritism and outgroup discrimination…Other cognitive consequences linked to social categorisation include the exaggeration of differences between groups; the accentuation of similarities between self and other ingroup members…; and the tendency to perceive an outgroup and its members as more homogeneous (‘they are all the same’) than ingroup members…

Stereotypes can be activated automatically without conscious awareness, even among people who embrace egalitarian beliefs.”8

Although social categorisation and stereotyping create a conceptual framework for racism, they do not make racism inevitable. The leap from social categorisation and stereotyping to feelings of aversion towards or diminution of members of a perceived outgroup is based on other, non-cognitve factors. The necessary motivation to make the jump from categorisation to aversion can emerge from a need for self-esteem, and to overcome feelings of insecurity and inadequacy; competition for jobs and scarce resources, especially during periods of economic hardship; anger in reaction against oppression; or guilt and fear by members of a socially dominant group in respect of their unjustified privileges.9

The NARPS Discussion Paper (at page 3) therefore over-simplifies when it defines racism as “a belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others”, or indeed as the product of any kind of purely intellectual process, whether evidence-based or otherwise. People who are motivated emotionally and psychologically or by self- interest to accept racist beliefs will do so even when there is overwhelming evidence that should have led them to give up those beliefs. The “reasons” proffered for racist attitudes are rationalisations, usually ex post facto.

Most racists are aware of their false beliefs but they deceive themselves into believing the truth of their beliefs and they rationalize their bad actions and behaviors that arise from the false beliefs. Morally, racists choose not to live the best moral life they can and they make moral choices and decisions that are not morally and rationally informed. So, because racism involves essentially false personal beliefs and negative attitudes, I disagree with the views that a social institution of power is necessary for racism and for one to be a racist, in the sense that there cannot be racism without the social institution of power. I also disagree with the views that racism involves attitudes and beliefs that must be manifested negatively in one’s bad actions or behaviours.10

Two things follow from this:

  • (i)  Racism is not invariably directed by the powerful against the powerless or by the majority against the minority. The reverse (‘reverse racism’) can and does occur. In our view, the credibility of the National Anti-Racism Strategy among the many Australians who do not identify as part of an ethnic community will depend in part upon the strategy also addressing, and being seen to address, reverse racism. A distinct part of the strategy must be directed towards counter-acting prejudices and stereotypes commonly held by members of minority communities against the majority and against other minority communities, and imbuing respect in their place.
  • (ii)  Education aimed at preventing or counter-acting racism should not be limited to the mere presentation of facts and dispelling of falsehoods. To be effective, such education should also become exercises in self-understanding and in understanding the motivations of others. (See under section 4 below). As tolerance and, ultimately, respect are nurtured, appropriate practices need to be rewarded effectively, and inappropriate practices actively discouraged.

3. The Legal Framework

No serious advocate of legislative measures aimed at counter-acting and preventing racism would contend that such measures alone can be a sufficient response to the problem of racism. It is a truism that one cannot legislate to abolish prejudice. Education, from school age onwards, is essential for attacking prejudice in the long term. However, the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Both educative and legislative measures can, and in our view should, be employed simultaneously. Further, by establishing a clear community standard, legislative measures themselves have an educative value which should not be underestimated.

  • Liability for Racial Vilification

Legislation has been enacted by the Commonwealth and by each of the States and the ACT to prohibit both discrimination and vilification on the basis of race. Legislative provisions directed against racial discrimination address some of the consequences of racism, but only the provisions that are directed against incitement address the manipulation of underlying emotions such as hatred and contempt.

The liability imposed for racial vilification can be civil and/or criminal. In this regard, the treatment of racial vilification in Australia is far from uniform, as is summarised in the table below.

 

LIABILITY FOR RACIAL VILIFICATION IN AUSTRALIA

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JURISDICTION

LIABILITY

Commonwealth

 Civil only

New South Wales

Civil and Criminal

Queensland

 Civil and Criminal

South Australia

Civil and Criminal

Tasmania

Civil only

Victoria

Civil and Criminal

Western Australia

Criminal only

Australian Capital Territory

Civil and Criminal

Northern Territory

Nil

Other variations in the relevant law from jurisdiction to jurisdiction include the following:

  • Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania are the only States that have additional legislative provisions imposing liability for religious vilification which is often, and erroneously, conflated with racial vilification;
  • The formulation of the civil prohibition in the Commonwealth legislation11 differs significantly from the formulation of the equivalent provisions in the legislation of the States and the ACT;
  • The criminal liability regime in Chapter XI of Western Australia’s Criminal Code (racist harassment and incitement to racial hatred) differs significantly from that contained in the legislation of other jurisdictions, which only take effect if the vilification amounts to incitement to commit violence.
  • It is only in Western Australia that the criminal proscription of racial vilification has been tested in an actual prosecution12 and been the subject of judicial interpretation.13
There is now abundant evidence that the present remedies in Australia are inadequate and inappropriate for dealing with determined racist agitators who are not ashamed to identify themselves as racists. A review of the effectiveness of the current legislative provisions prohibiting racial vilification across Australia should be undertaken as a part of the National Anti-Racism Strategy.
The review should also assess the appropriateness of the fact that the RDA fails to criminalise racial vilification, as required by Article 4(a) of the International Conventionon the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and that Australia has relied upon its reservation to that Article for this failure.

The UN’s ICERD Committee has for some years recommended that Australia withdraw its reservation and enact legislation to give full effect to Article 4(a) of the ICERD, especially serious acts of racial hatred, incitement to such acts and incitement to racial hatred.14

The ECAJ endorses the ICERD Committee’s recommendation and concurs with the Committee’s reasons and supports the submissions concerning Article 4 of the ICERD which were made to the Australian Government in June 2010 by the National Association of Community Legal Centres and the Human Rights Resource Centre, and endorsed by more than 100 NGO’s across Australia.15

Any legislative review should assess whether the Government should implement this recommendation by introducing suitable criminal sanctions for intentional racial incitement and for serious harassing and intimidating behaviour on the ground of “race”, whether or not such behaviour amounts to incitement to violence. We believe the provisions of Chapter XI of the Criminal Code of Western Australia deal with the matter of serious and intentional incitement to racial hatred in an appropriate and effective manner. The review should recommend whether substantially similar provisions should be enacted for Australia as a whole by the Federal Parliament.

On the other hand, it will be recognised that the prohibition of offensive behaviour on the ground of religious belief presents more difficult problems in reconciling competing rights. Certainly the right to engage in civilised debate about the merits of any religion is central to our democracy, and anything in the nature of blasphemy laws would be intolerable. We do not advocate legislation prohibiting religious vilification per se or including this issue in any review of the existing legislation.

  • Cyber racism

Australia currently lacks a distinct legal regime to deal with cyber racism. Under the present law16, even if a court or tribunal makes an order or declaration based on a finding that the publication of online content is in breach of any Federal or State law (including Part IIA of the RDA), that order or declaration does not enliven any of the powers in relation to such material that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) currently possesses in relation to material classified as ‘RC’ by the Classification Board. Those powers include the power to issue take-down notices to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and should be extended to apply to any online content the publication of which is in breach of the law.

In respect of cyber hate content that is hosted by an ISP located outside Australia, the Government has indicated it will introduce compulsory internet filtering to block overseas sites containing criminal content.17 However, it remains unclear as to whether this will also apply, as we believe it should, to websites promoting racially-motivated violence or racial hatred.

The criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer networks, including the production, offering, dissemination or other forms of distribution of materials or messages with such content through computer networks is not a matter that can be addressed effectively by any State or nation acting alone. The emergence of the internet and social media operating on a global scale provides a simple and powerful means to support the wide dissemination of ideas of racism and xenophobia which cannot be contained within the borders of any State. In order to investigate and prosecute such behaviour, international co-operation is vital.

The National Anti-Racism Strategy should therefore include a process for assessing whether Australia should become a party to the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems (ETS No. 189) and enact legislation to give effect to its provisions. According to the Explanatory Report to the Protocol:

The purpose of this Protocol is twofold: firstly, harmonising substantive criminal law in the fight against racism and xenophobia on the Internet and, secondly, improving international co-operation in this area. This kind of harmonisation alleviates the fight against such crimes on the national and on the international level. Corresponding offences in domestic laws may prevent misuse of computer systems for a racist purpose by [States] Parties whose laws in this area are less well defined. As a consequence, the exchange of useful common experiences in the practical handling of cases may be enhanced too. International co-operation (especially extradition and mutual legal assistance) is facilitated, e.g. regarding requirements of double criminality.18

Australia’s laws in this area are not merely ‘less well defined’ but do not specifically address the problem of cyber racism at all. In our view, accession to the Additional Protocol and the enactment of legislation to give effect to its provisions would send an unmistakable signal that Australia intends to treat this burgeoning problem with the seriousness it deserves.

ISP’s and platform providers are not always aware that particular on-line material constitutes cyber racism and, once they are made aware, many are anxious not to be identified publicly as purveyors of racism. Overall, however, self-regulation has not worked. It involves trying to persuade publishers, internet service providers (ISP’s) and platform providers such as YouTube and Facebook to remove offending content voluntarily, usually on the basis that the offending material violates the provider’s terms and conditions. This is not always the outcome, and it is rarely an outcome that occurs promptly. Many publishers of cyber racism do so knowingly and assert that their right of free speech over-rides the rights and freedoms of the individuals or groups they vilify or harass. Some of them consider it a badge of honour to be tagged as a racist. Their ISP’s and platform providers pretend to be mere conduits and disclaim all responsibility for the way their services are used.

ISP’s and platform providers lack the knowledge and insight into racism to enable them to make an informed decision about whether a particular publication has crossed the line into racial vilification or harassment. More to the point, web-sites often generate advertising revenue for their owners, and the owners pay the ISPs. In social media platforms, the more viewers and discussion, the more advertising revenue can be created, and this advertising revenue usually goes directly to the platform provider. ISP’s and platform providers have a clear commercial interest against any form of regulation, and in being as permissive as possible. The final decision about whether or not to allow an allegedly racist publication to remain on the net should not rest with them.

Ultimately, even though the law is not the whole answer to cyber racism, it must be a critical part of the answer. Without the ultimate sanction of the law, the scourge of cyber racism will continue to grow unchecked.

Accession to the Additional Protocol and the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation in Australia would only be the first step. A recent decision of the High Court19 has clarified the need for legislative change in order to make providers of internet services responsible for legal compliance. After-the-event pursuit of internet vilification is costly, time-consuming and lacking in real deterrent power against a determined offender who is not ashamed to be identified as a racist. In our view, Government has an important role to play in developing a culture of compliance across all of those participating in social media.

The National Anti-Racism Strategy should therefore include a well-calibrated combination of education and law reform to encourage and, if necessary, require ISP’s to take reasonable steps to keep racist material off websites which they host, and platform providers to keep racist material off their platforms and thus to give real effect to their own terms and conditions of use.

4. Objective 1: Create Awareness of racism and how it affects individuals and the broader community

  • The harms of racism

Expressions of hatred and vilification of members of identified communities which are identified by race and which are based on negative stereotypes of the characteristics shared by members of those communities, amount to more than offence, more than “only words” and more than hurt feelings. It is conduct which has the effect of generating not just ill-feeling against members of a particular group but also a sense that vilification is socially acceptable, and of impliedly justifying acts of violence or discrimination against them.

Racial vilification is particularly harmful because it contributes to a climate of hatred and violence towards marginalised or disempowered sectors of the community. Vilification of entire groups of people is harmful to members of those groups because it undermines, and can ultimately destroy, the sense of safety and security with which they go about their daily lives.

To be a member of a group which is regularly vilified in the print and electronic media or on the internet is to be on the defensive when interacting with workmates, friends and others who are not members of that group. Such is the power of modern communications. As one is being judged as a member of a group, rather than on one’s personal merits, one’s power to alter public perceptions by one’s own individual actions is extremely limited, perhaps non-existent.

As a factor motivating criminal behaviour, racism can be especially pernicious. The UK Crown Prosecution Service guidance for prosecuting racist crime describes the effect of these crimes on victims as follows:

The impact on victims is different for each individual, but many experience similar problems. They can feel extremely isolated or fearful of going out or even staying at home. They may become withdrawn, and suspicious of organisations and strangers. Their mental and physical health may suffer in a variety of ways. For young people in particular the impact can be damaging to self-esteem and identity and, without potential support, a form of self-hatred of their racial or religious identity can result which may take the form of self-harm or even suicide.

The confusion, fear and lack of safety felt by individuals has a ripple effect in the wider community of their racial or religious group. Communities can, with good reason, feel victimised and vulnerable to further attack.20

  • School education against racism

As noted earlier, education against racism should go beyond the mere presentation of facts and dispelling of falsehoods. It should include teaching students to be aware of and to confront their own prejudices, and to understand the incompatibility of racism with basic values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law that have made Australia one of the world’s most stable, just and peaceful democracies and one of the most desirable countries in which to live. Programs involving peer-to-peer engagement between students of different cultural backgrounds should also be encouraged and funded as a part of any teaching of concepts of anti-discrimination and acceptance and appreciation of different cultures, including indigenous cultures.

Critical thinking is another educative tool for preventing and overcoming prejudice. Preparing students for a lifetime of learning should be more than just a cliché. Critical thinking is an essential skill which should be integrated in the curriculum beginning in primary school and reinforced in courses in history, literature and the natural and social sciences in secondary school. Again, the academic literature supports the concept of embedding skills like critical thinking and problem-solving within the relevant course content. This would be the antithesis of the current disastrous emphasis on rote learning, memorisation and recitation in our primary and secondary educational systems driven by the need to prepare for examinations that prioritise memorisation over critical analysis.

Knowing how to research and adopting a sceptical and analytical approach to all information, especially from online sources, should be so deeply instilled in students that it becomes second nature. Questioning assumptions and seeking and weighing alternative views should become a habit. This would provide a framework for giving students an insight into the validity of Enlightenment values and undermine the potential appeal of simplistic, extremist ideologies. It would also provide much-needed inoculation against racism and ideas of racial or religious supremacism.

The National Anti-Racism Strategy should include a fully-funded process for engaging school educators as part of a review of existing school curricula, including the National Education Curriculum. The review should assess the effectiveness of current curricula in developing:

  • Awareness of the nature, prevalence and effects of racism, including self- awareness of learnt prejudices;
  • Awareness of the benefits of a multicultural society and of the contributions to Australia’s development made by indigenous Australians and migrants;
  • Education about the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and the rejection of values which are inconsistent with them;
  • Peer-to-peer engagement between students of different cultural backgrounds; and
  • Critical thinking techniques particularly in response to racial stereotyping and
    theories of racial superiority or inferiority.
The  assessment should be followed by recommendations as to how these outcomes might be achieved to the extent that they are not currently being achieved. The ECAJ and its Constituents and Affiliates would be pleased to contribute their knowledge and experience to such a process.
  • Community Education

In our view, community education should have the same objectives as outlined in the previous section. There should for example be a media campaign similar to the anti- smoking campaign which not only imparts information about racism but also carries powerful emotional and psychological messages about the inherent unfairness and destructive consequences of racism, and also, on the positive side, the common humanity and basic concerns of all people. These messages should be promoted by high profile role models, such as sporting stars, popular actors, cultural figures and respected ‘elder states-people’.

We also suggest that a series of DVD’s be produced in many languages, including English, to illustrate real life situations in which cultural misunderstandings and clashes of values can occur, often leading to the development and manifestation of racist attitudes, and to explain how Australia’s legal system will resolve those clashes if the parties themselves cannot or will not do so. The settings for the kinds of situations covered could include the workplace, family conflicts, learning and teaching institutions, social occasions, shopping, disputes with neighbours and the use of public services. (The same videos, incidentally, could be shown overseas to all applicants for entry into Australia, and could contain other practical information about accessing services and so forth).

We consider the workplace to be a high priority area for community education. The Anti- Racism Strategy should seek to develop a workplace education campaign that engages employers, employees (including Unions) and government to raise awareness of the prevalence of racism in the workplace and its negative impacts on productivity, workplace atmosphere and job satisfaction, and to emphasise that employers and Unions are united in adopting a zero-tolerance policy against racism in the workplace.

5. Objective 2: Identify, promote and build on good practice initiatives to prevent and reduce racism.

  • What are the priority areas in which we should be addressing racism (for example: employment, education, sport, the media, cyber-racism)?

The Australian Jewish community agrees that employment, education, sport, the media and cyber-racism are each priority areas for addressing racism. We have addressed the employment, education and media sectors and cyber-racism elsewhere in this submission. Just as important, however, are the housing and retail sectors. People need shelter and food as primary needs, and in the context of housing and the retail-service sectors, even modest degrees of racism can have serious and significant consequences.

By way of example, in regional Australia, real estate agents far too often cite historical poor experiences with non-English speaking or indigenous applicants as a reason for preferring English speaking white Australians for rental accommodation. Again, in regional Australia, where goods and services are in short supply, indigenous Australians and immigrants, especially newly-arrived immigrants, often experience discrimination and indeed vilification, when shopping for their basic needs. The Jewish community has also recently faced issues of discrimination in the context of rental accommodation and strata title ownership.21

The National Anti-Racism Strategy should include a process for reviewing tenancy laws and prescribed strata by-laws in each State and Territory with a view to making any reforms that may be required to overcome discrimination in housing.

  • What measures should Government at all levels take to address racism?

We refer to previous sections of this submission in which we have made recommendations requiring government action in several sectors including education and the work place and through legislative reform.

Another important sector is the media. Much can be learned from the experience of the Macquarie Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in implementing a compliance program that not only required producers and announcers to be mindful of language and presentation that might vilify or encourage discrimination and vilification, but which also provided both training and guidelines as to how compliance might be achieved. This was done over 20 years ago in response to comments made on air by two high profile presenters. MBC admitted that the comments had been of a grossly racist nature and took appropriate action.

If responsible media organisations were encouraged to and, indeed, adopted compliance programs, which are not costly to implement, their commitment to doing so would be seen as a positive community service obligation, and also as encouraging commitment to respect among all Australians. Compliance programs, of course, do not operate as foolproof immunisation, but in our experience, they have worked to reduce the number of incidents of racist and vilificatory comments by electronic media organisations. Print media organisations have long had such guidelines in place.

In the context of new media, we refer to our earlier comments on cyber racism.

  • Can you give examples of strategies that you have seen used or been part of that have been successful in reducing or preventing racism? Why were they effective?

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and particularly its state-based constituent organisations, including notably the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, have long had a policy of engaging with government and the media as priority areas. In the last decade, a third priority area has been the education sector. In each case, constructive personal engagement at all levels of government and with key non-government organisations has been implemented, involving in many cases peer-to-peer contact between students of different cultural and religious backgrounds. (See our earlier comments in 4 above under ‘School education against racism’).

is practised by almost all Jews whether or not they are religiously observant. A typical mezuzah is about 10 centimetres long and 1 centimetre wide. It is affixed by adhesive or two small tacks. Approval has too often been refused despite the occupant offering to enter into a legally binding commitment to remove the mezuzah and make good any ‘damage’ on vacating the property. This resurgent form of discrimination is subtle and insidious.

Through constructive engagement, cooperative programs can be put in place that give effect to policies which all too often appear on paper but which lack implementation. By way of example, across the New South Wales education sector, both the education department and private providers have policies in place making clear that discrimination and vilification are unacceptable. However, these policies were not always backed up by practice, training programs, and compliance methodologies. The consequence was that in many places racism was not recognised when it occurred, particularly indirect racism.

More widespread was the problem that many teachers, students and administrators thought that racism was bad, but did not consider hatred of Jews, properly described as Antisemitism, to be a form of racism. Thus, students would bring from home various prejudices and teachers would take little or no action in preventing their expression. One of the reasons that the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies began prioritising the education sector was because of a number of complaints to the Board from teachers who were not supported by their employer when students, on discovering that the teacher was Jewish, began to vilify them.

The resources of the community sector in conducting any constructive engagement program are, however, very limited. We perceive that little or no government resources at either the Commonwealth or state level are focussed on building a culture both in and beyond the public sector in which all forms of racism including Antisemitism, are not only considered socially unacceptable, but in which there are carrots and sticks in place to ensure compliance.

Compliance needs to be in place before tolerance can be built, and once tolerance is built, mutual respect can develop. That is the usual order which follows the implementation of good policy. However, in our experience, policy on paper alone is ineffective.

It is therefore our view that Government must commit to identifying key sectors where compliance, followed by tolerance, followed by mutual respect, can be developed in consultation with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Programs with measureable goals must be put in place, and achievements then measured. The goals and the measures should be made public. Organisations that do well should be lauded, and publicly rewarded. Organisations which consistently do badly, should be ‘named and shamed’.

6. Objective 3: Empower communities and individuals to take action to prevent and reduce racism and seek redress when it occurs.

  • What strategies or approaches can be used to help individuals and communities who experience racism to speak up or take action? If you have experienced racism, what would have helped you to speak up or take action?

It is our experience, not least among first and second-generation survivors of the Holocaust, that individual self-help action is seldom undertaken. Those who promote racism and engage in vilification usually are or at least appear to be powerful participants in society. For the less powerful victims of racism and vilification to take action, they need to believe that there is a countervailing power equal to or greater than the actual or perceived power of the instigator. Community organisations can help. Effective, well- resourced government bodies should, however, do much more.

The National Anti-Racism Strategy should provide for ways in which government agencies and the community sector can work together to address racism across the board under the auspices of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Such an approach will help bring issues of racism in the community to the attention of the public and other service agencies and create a grassroots infrastructure from which to develop and maintain anti-racism initiatives and support networks. This is preferable to relying entirely on self-help. The Australian Human Rights Commission itself should remain the single over-arching body to oversee the development of effective anti-racism strategies in particular sectors.

In addition, the Australian Human Rights Commission should retain its existing role in handling complaints of racism and we believe its powers should be enhanced. The Race Relations Commissioner should be empowered to make and litigate civil racial vilification complaints in cases where the complainant lacks the knowledge, power or resources to do so effectively.

We believe the Commission should also be empowered to publish non-binding, advisory opinions in response to racial vilification complaints if they cannot be resolved between the parties. This function needs to be properly resourced so that redress can be achieved in a timely manner. This power should be available regardless of any other dispute- settling mechanism that might apply in any particular case.

No body other than the Australian Human Rights Commission is in a position to fulfil the need for:

(i)  a one-stop-shop that provides a safe place for complainants and witnesses to bring racist incidents to public notice and have them addressed;

(ii)  an appropriate venue to foster collaborative efforts of a coalition of individuals and organisations to develop a community response team that would address issues of hate, racism and bigotry in the community, incorporating both reactive and proactive strategies; and

(iii) the expertise, knowledge and experience to deal with racism effectively. Such expertise cannot reasonably be expected in other organisations which are responding to a whole host of other issues.

  • What strategies or approaches can be used to help bystanders address racism where and when it occurs?

We refer you to our comments in the preceding section.

7. Conclusion

A summary of our recommendations appears in Appendix 2. We remain ready to work with the government and the Australian Human Rights Commission in finalising the National Anti-Racism Strategy and in any process of review and assessment of the effectiveness of the Strategy going forward.

Appendix 1 to Submission to Australian Human Rights Commission concerning the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy

Excerpts from ECAJ Policy platform

  • 1.1  NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
    (a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
    (b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
    (c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;
  • 1.2  NOTES that as Australians we take great pride in what we see as the uniquely Australian values of social egalitarianism, “mateship” and a “fair go”;
  • 1.3  REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;
  • 1.4  PROUDLY AFFIRMS our ongoing commitment to reconciliation with indigenous Australians, to a multiculturalism that draws people into, rather than separates them from, Australian life, and to an Australia that is inclusive for all Australians and respects gender equality;
  • 1.5  ACKNOWLEDGES that in the Jewish community, social exclusion may result from a number of factors including: lack of educational or vocational opportunities; low levels of income; mental or physical illness or disability; or immigration without social support, and that such exclusion most often results in individuals being prevented through no fault of their own, from building a better future for themselves and their families;
1. Social Inclusion
This Council

1.6 NOTES that poverty amongst Australian Jews is no less prevalent than in other sectors of the Australian community and that aspects of inequality from which poverty stems and which require further investigation and support are:

 Workopportunitiesparticularlyinthecaseofimmigrants,familieswith young children, large families and religiously observant families and older people and people with a disability;
 AccessandEquityintheutilizationofservices-wheremembersofthe community do not have access to contacts, groups and opportunities which empower them to access the mainstream Jewish community and the wider society. This can arise from the inability to speak English, or lack of education and information, or lack of sufficient income to participate;

 Social stigmas where individuals experience social exclusion from the community as a result of mental illness, disability, or choice of lifestyle;

  • 1.7  ACKNOWLEDGES that across Australia there are numerous Jewish organizations whose role is to assist members of the Jewish community to overcome social exclusion and ameliorate poverty. There are community services, aged care services, and disability services, and there are educational institutions and synagogues that, inter alia, contribute to this work;
  • 1.8  RECOGNISES that the role of the ECAJ is to encourage organizations across Australia to: identify and rectify gaps in services that ought to be provided; encourage such organizations to seek opportunities to reach out to and provide services for those who are marginalized, and to engage Federal government departments to assist the community to ensure that the most comprehensive services are provided;
  • 1.9  RECORDS its belief that the maximum benefit across Australia will only be achieved by the Jewish community working at both national and State levels;
  • 1.10  SUPPORTS the development of projects, especially in smaller and regional communities, which bring hope encompassing a range of policy and program domains at many levels: education, training, employment, affordable childcare, assistance with housing, a range of disability and aged care services – support for care-givers; and above all – building up at community levels a network of supportive services, amenities and accessible transport facilities and social mentoring which reduce stigma and social exclusion from the networks and vibrant life of our community;
  • 1.11  WELCOMES the efforts of the Federation of Jewish Aged and Community Service Organisations in assisting to achieve these objectives.
2. Racism in Australia
This Council:
  • 2.1  DEPLORES all manifestations of racist action and speech, including antisemitism;
  • 2.2  SUPPORTS the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission and other public programs to educate Australians regarding the irrationality and evil of racism;
  • 2.3  CALLS ON leaders of all mainstream political parties to consistently articulate a vision of Australia which embraces cultural diversity and in which respect for the dignity and rights of each Australian is guaranteed;
  • 2.4  CALLS ON all mainstream political parties to place racist divisive and extremist candidates in the last positions when allocating electoral preferences;
  • 2.5  CALLS ON political, civil and religious leaders to play public, leadership roles in emphasizing the unacceptability of racism;
  • 2.6  Welcomes the appointment by the Australian Government of a Race Discrimination Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission separate to other Commissioner roles.
  • 3.1  NOTES the activities of extremist organizations, the currency of certain racist myths, the proliferation of racist material on the internet and the tolerance given to racist commentary by some sections of the mainstream media;
  • 3.2  NOTES the incidence of racial vilification and racially-motivated violence in Australia;
  • 3.3  AFFIRMS that effective responses to racism include moral and political leadership from public figures, legislation to give victims of racism legal remedies, and on-going public education;
  • 3.4  COMMENDS those public figures who have taken a leadership position against racism, including antisemitism;
  • 3.5  CALLS ON the Federal Government to strengthen legislative measures to combat racial vilification in the public domain and especially on the internet and to provide more streamlined, expeditious and effective remedies to individuals and groups who are the targets of public acts of racial vilification.
  • 3.6  COMMENDS the Federal Government for recognizing the need to reform the previous “urging violence in the community” offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code BUT NOTES WITH DISAPPOINTMENT that, despite the Minister’s assurance that workable provisions would be enacted to address this need, the relevant provisions of the National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2010 are unlikely to be at all workable because:
    1. the elements of the proposed offences have been formulated so restrictively that it will be effectively impossible for a prosecutor to prove those elements to the criminal standard; and
    2. the availability of defences under section 80.3 to charges under these sections is completely misconceived;
  • 3.7  EXPRESSES ITS DISAPPOINTMENT that the Federal Government enacted the “urging violence” provisions in the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 in the same form in which they appeared prior to the inquiry conducted by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in 2010 and without apparent regard for the written submissions and recommendations made by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Australian Human Rights Commission and others to that inquiry;
  • 3.8  CALLS ON the Federal Government to review as a matter of urgency the provisions of Subdivision C (“Urging Violence”) of Division 80 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code and to adopt the recommendations for reform of the legislation made to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in its written submission dated 21 April 2010.
  • 4.1  RECOGNISES Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first Australians, with unique cultures, languages and spiritual relationships to the land and seas;
  • 4.2  PURSUES a vision of an Australia that provides equal rights and life chances for all;
  • 4.3  AFFIRMS the fundamental importance of reconciliation as the basis of an Australian Community which respects the diversity of values, cultures, ideas and the contribution of all people;
  • 4.4  SUPPORTS Reconciliation Australia’s National Program of Action which encourages organizations and individuals to turn their good intentions into action;
  • 4.5  AFFIRMS that the ECAJ will continue to develop and implement a 20 Areas for action may include the ECAJ using its networks to:Reconciliation Action Plan that includes actions, timeframes for implementation and performance measures;

 raiseCommunityawarenessandunderstandingofthehistoric,socialand economic factors which contribute to the current levels of disadvantage confronting many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

 influencegovernmentsandbusinessestoaddressthesystemicissuesthat keep many Aboriginal and Strait Islander people and their communities in poor health and poverty.
 supporthumanrightsbasedapproachestoeconomicandsocial development programs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; and

 leadinter-faithalliancestodevelopandprovidetargetedfinancialand capacity building support to selected projects which strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations’ governance, management, service delivery and professional development.

  • 4.6  ENCOURAGES the Jewish community in Australia to increase its knowledge and understanding of the identity and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and reflect this awareness in our social relationships and our support for their advancement;
  • 4.7  CALLS UPON the governments, business and civil communities and people of Australia to take action to reduce the relative disadvantage many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may face by improving education, health, housing, employment, governance, social and communal relationships and law and justice;
  • 4.8  CALLS ON Jewish organizations around Australia to speak out in favour of reconciliation, actively participate in the annual events, Week of Prayer for Reconciliation and National Reconciliation Week
  • 4.9  SUPPORTS amendments to the Australian Constitution which will:
    1. articulate the fundamental values of Australian society;
    2. recognise the distinct identities and rights of Indigenous Australians
      arising from their prior and unique relationships with their lands,
      territories and resources;
    3. repeal current provisions in the Constitution which are based on racial
      discrimination (sections 25 and 51(xxvi));
    4. provide for the insertion of an enforceable guarantee of racial
      equality that would apply generally to the Parliament’s power to
      legislate (the racial equality guarantee);
    5. empower the Australian Government, notwithstanding the racial
      equality guarantee, to pass laws with respect to Aboriginal and Torres
      Strait Islander peoples for their benefit and advancement;
    6. empower the Australia government to negotiate and conclude
      agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on matters that affect their communities, and for the terms of such

agreements to apply notwithstanding any inconsistency with existing State or Federal laws,

in accordance with this Council’s written submission dated 26 September 2011 to The Expert Panel on the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

  • 5.1  AFFIRMS its support for Australia’s policy of multiculturalism, which has served Australia well as a basis for the social harmony which for all Australians to enjoy;
  • 5.2  Welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to multiculturalism as a policy which respects the right of all Australians to express their individual cultural identity, and to maintain and share their cultural heritage, within an overriding commitment to Australia and the basic values of Australian democracy and the rule of law;
  • 5.3  COMMENDS the Government’s policy of ensuring access and equity in the provision of government services, including the provision of mechanisms to address the barriers faced by immigrants who are not yet familiar with Australian culture and language; and
  • 5.4  WELCOMES the establishment of the Australian Multicultural Council as a body dedicated to articulating and promoting a distinctively Australian model of multiculturalism in accordance with clause 5.2.
  • 6.1  NOTES the value of the Internet in communicating information, knowledge and ideas but notes also that the Internet is increasingly being abused by individuals and organisations for the purpose of propagating racism including antisemitism;
  • 6.2  RECOGNISES the complexities involved in any system of regulation of on-line services;
  • 6.3  AFFIRMS the view that any communication by traditional means which is unlawful is and should be equally unlawful if it is effected through on-line services;
  • 6.4  SUPPORTS moves to bring in a Code of Practice for Australian Internet Service Providers and other regulatory measures for the Internet based on the principles that:

 Nothing that it is unlawful to print or broadcast should be able to escape legal prohibition merely because it is published or communicated through on- line services.

 The right to freedom of speech must be respected, bearing in mind that in democratic societies this right (as with all other rights) is not unlimited and, for example, does not permit the commission or promotion of unlawful acts, or other behaviour harmful to the community or any section of the community. No person, entity or organization should be punished for an act they could not reasonably know has been committed.

 Governmentshavearesponsibilitytocountertheactivitiesofthosewho harass and/or promote contempt and hatred for any section of the community.
 In these respects, the Internet should not be regarded differently to other means by which speech and ideas are disseminated.

Appendix 2 to Submission to Australian Human Rights Commission concerning the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy

Summary of Recommendations

Reverse Racism

 The National Anti-Racism Strategy must also address reverse racism. (p.5)

Review of legislation

  •   A review of the effectiveness of the current legislative provisions prohibiting racial vilification across Australia should be undertaken, with a view to strengthening and harmonising them. (p.6)
  •   The review should assess how the Government can implement the recommendation of the UN’s ICERD Committee that Australia withdraw its reservation and enact legislation to give full effect to Article 4(a) of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), especially serious acts of racial hatred, incitement to such acts and incitement to racial hatred. (pp.6-7)
  •   The review should recommend whether (and if so how) criminal sanctions for intentional racial incitement and for serious harassing and intimidating behaviour on the ground of “race”, whether or not such behaviour amounts to incitement to commit violence, should be introduced for Australia as a whole in substantially similar terms to those contained in Chapter XI of the Criminal Code of Western Australia. (p.7)

Cyber-racism

  •   The National Anti-Racism Strategy should include a process for Australia to become a party to the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems (ETS No. 189) and to enact legislation to give effect to its provisions. (p.8)
  •   The National Anti-Racism Strategy should include a well-calibrated combination of education and law reform to encourage and, if necessary, require ISP’s to take reasonable steps to keep racist material off websites which they host, and platform providers to keep racist material off their platforms and thus to give real effect to their own terms and conditions of use. (p.9)
    Education
  •   The National Anti-Racism Strategy should include a process for engaging school educators as part of a review of existing school curricula, including the National Education Curriculum. The review should assess the effectiveness of current curricula in developing:
    •   Awareness of the nature, prevalence and effects of racism, including self- awareness of learnt prejudices and explicit recognition that Antisemitism is no less acceptable than other forms of racism;
    •   Awareness of the benefits of a multicultural society and of the contributions to Australia’s development made by indigenous Australians and migrants;
    •   Education about the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and the rejection of values which are inconsistent with them;
    •   Peer-to-peer engagement between students of different cultural backgrounds; and
    •   Critical thinking techniques particularly in response to racial stereotyping and theories of racial superiority or inferiority.
      The assessment should be followed by recommendations as to how these outcomes might be achieved to the extent that they are not currently being achieved. (p.11)
  •   The National Anti-Racism Strategy should make provision for community education which should include a media campaign (similar to the anti-smoking campaign) and the development of a series of DVD’s in many languages, including English, to illustrate real life situations in which cultural misunderstandings and clashes of values can occur, often leading to the development and manifestation of racist attitudes. (p.12)
  •   The National Anti-Racism Strategy should seek to develop a workplace education campaign that engages employers, employees (including Unions) and government to raise awareness of the prevalence of racism in the workplace and its negative impacts on productivity, workplace atmosphere and job satisfaction, and tonimplement effective compliance programs so that practice actually follows policies which emphasise that employers and unions are united in adopting a zero- tolerance policy against racism in the workplace. (p.12)

Housing

 The National Anti Racism Strategy should include a process for reviewing tenancy laws and prescribed strata by-laws in each State and Territory with a view to making any reforms that may be required to overcome discrimination in housing. (p.13)

Media

 Media organisations should be encouraged to develop and implement compliance programs that not only require publishers, producers and announcers to be mindful of language and presentation that might vilify or encourage discrimination and vilification, but which also provides both training and guidelines as to how compliance might be achieved. (p.13)

Australian Human Rights Commission

  •   The Government must commit to identifying key sectors where anti-racism compliance programs, followed by tolerance, followed by mutual respect, can be developed in consultation with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Programs with measureable goals must be put in place, and achievements then measured. The goals and the measures should be made public. (p.14)
  •   The National Anti Racism Strategy should provide for ways in which government agencies and the community sector can work together to address racism across the board under the auspices of the Australian Human Rights Commission. (p.15)
  •   The Race Relations Commissioner should be empowered to make and litigate civil racial vilification complaints. (p.15)
  •   The Australian Human Rights Commission should be empowered to issue non- binding advisory opinions in response to complaints of racism if they cannot be resolved between the parties. This power should be available regardless of any other dispute-settling mechanism that might apply in any particular case. (p.15)

1 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Racist Violence: Report of the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia, Irene Moss, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chairperson of the Inquiry, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1991, p xviii, pp 387-398. http://www.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au/doc/racediscrimcomm_2.pdf

2 The complete national report and various State reports can be accessed via www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/IndigLRes/rciadic/.

3 http://www.onenation.com.au/Policy%20document.htm

4 School violence and its antecedents: interviews with high school students, http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_mr_r56

5 See e.g., Rutland, Suzanne D. ‘Negotiating religious dialogue: A response to the recent increase of anti- Semitism in Australia’, in Elizabeth Burns Coleman and Kevin White (eds), Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2006, pp. 17-30. UWS Challenging Racism Project – http://www.uws.edu.au/ssap/school_of_social_sciences_and_psychology/research/challenging_racism

6 For convenience, the word “race” is hereafter used for each of these types of groups.
7 Racism and Prejudice: Psychological Perspectives, The Australian Psychological Society Ltd, September 1997, p.19. http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/RP-racism.pdf

8 Ibid.
9 Ibid. pp.20-22.
10 Polycarp Ikuenobe, ‘Conceptualizing Racism and Its Subtle Forms’, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 41:2, 0021-8308, p.137.

11 Set out in Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (‘RDA’)
12 Perth District Court, DPP v Brendan Lee O’Connell. On 31 January 2011, the Defendant was convicted
by a 12-person jury on 6 counts of racial incitement and harassment under sections 77 and 79 of the WA
Criminal Code. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. His appeal was recently dismissed. 13 Mulhall v Barker [2010] WASC 359

14 CERD Committee, Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Australia, [14] CERD/C/304/Add.101, (April 2000); CERD Committee, Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Australia, [12], CERD/C/AUS/CO/14, (14 April 2005).

15 http://www.naclc.org.au/resources/UNCERD_Submission.pdf

16 See Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth).

17 Green Light for Internet Filter Plans (2009) ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/15/2772467.htm at 6 May 2010

18 http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Reports/Html/189.htm

19 Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited [2012] ACA 16

20 UK Crown Prosecution Service: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/racist_and_religious_crime/#a02

21 Recently, what used to be a pattern of no difficulty for Jewish people wishing to put a mezuzah (a small scroll placed on the door post on the entrance door of a Jewish home) on their door posts, has
changed. Some landlords and owners corporations are refusing to approve what is a very modest affixation on a doorpost to enable Jewish families to comply with a custom that has a religious origin but is practised by almost all Jews whether or not they are religiously observant. A typical mezuzah is about 10 centimetres long and 1 centimetre wide. It is affixed by adhesive or two small tacks. Approval has too often been refused despite the occupant offering to enter into a legally binding commitment to remove the mezuzah and make good any ‘damage’ on vacating the property. This resurgent form of discrimination is subtle and insidious.

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