Victorian Government launches Bystander Intervention – responding to Islamophobia and Antisemitism program. 

December 15, 2018 by  
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The first of eight government-funded sessions of the Bystander Intervention Program has been held at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum.

Jennifer Huppert [C] at the ;lunch

As part of the program launch, Richard Wynne MP powerfully alerted to the current statistic that as many as 1 in 5 Victorians experience racism and that race-based discrimination is part of their daily lives.

“We know that Muslims in our community, men and women, many times in the presence of young children, have and are still experiencing verbal abuse.”  Antisemitism remains a significant issue for Jewish communities.  After highlighting a 60 per cent rise in antisemitism reports nationally, Richard Wynne declared “it is clear to us that racism of which Islamophobia and antisemitism are rooted in, harms societies and is deeply corrosive at every level.”

The bystander program which teaches Victorians the approaches to intervening in acts of racial discrimination is a collaborative project by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), Australian Intercultural Society, Australian Union of Jewish Students and Benevolence Australia.  Jennifer Huppert, President of the JCCV believes: “the program achieves two things.  One is empowering people to have the skills to deal with incidents of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia when they come across it, be it in the community or in their workplace.  And the other is as a collective dignified community that different cultural and religious groups can work together for the good of Victoria.”

In response to the state rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia, the Government has funded this program as an early initiative under its Anti-Racism plan being developed.  Jennifer Huppert expressed appreciation for the ongoing Government support and highlighted that the problem of racism is one for all of us.

Jennifer Huppert said: “The JCCV receive excellent support from the Victorian Government for our Social Cohesion Program of which this Bystander Intervention training is part of.  Bystander action is beneficial to the broader society and crucial in shifting behaviours and attitudes.  It can shift the burden of dealing with racism away from the target to the broader society.  Racism is a problem for all of us, rather than just those who experience it.  Bystander action helps consolidate social norms which make racist behaviour unacceptable in society.”

She hopes the funding will continue to enable this program to be rolled out more broadly.  “Depending on further funding we aim to include train the trainer sessions.  This way we can train more people to run these types of sessions within their own organisations.”


Report by Car;y McClen

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