As 2016 draws to a close, I wanted to thank all those who have stood up against racism and spoken up for multicultural Australia. It has been a year when we have seen profound challenges in the form of xenophobia and intolerance. If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we have every reason to be vigilant on race relations and community harmony.
The Racial Discrimination Act
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights is conducting an inquiry into freedom of speech and Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act. The Committee will now be taking submissions until 23 December 2016. I would encourage all those with an interest to consider making a submission.
Along with other members of the Australian Human Rights Commission, I appeared at a hearing the Committee held in Canberra. As I made clear in that hearing, I do not believe there should be amendments to section 18C and 18D. The Act is our legislative statement against racial discrimination and must continue to send a strong message to our society that racism of all forms is unacceptable.
The Commission’s submission makes clear that we believe sections 18C and 18D strike an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and freedom from racial vilification. Here’s our fact sheet on sections 18C and 18D of the Act, and how they operate.
Race hate and the RDA are covered in the Commission’s latest fact sheet
Racial tolerance and community harmony
This year has seen a lot of political rhetoric about immigration and multiculturalism, which has not been helpful for our social cohesion. It’s important that we have leadership on such matters. Our public debates do help to set the tone of our society.
In the weeks following the Federal Election in July, I made various public statements about the importance of responding to racial and religious intolerance, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian Australia, the Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics Live Podcast, the ABC (online, The World Today, RN Breakfast), A Current Affair and Sky News.
Interview with Sky News Australia in the wake of the election
Speaking with A Current Affair
Some perspective is also needed on race relations right now. According to the Scanlon Foundation’s latest Mapping Social Cohesion survey, 83 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism is good for Australia. As I make clear in my comment for the Sydney Morning Herald, the findings demonstrate that there is no ‘silent majority’ of racists in Australia.
Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Leadership Blueprint
One of our highlights this year was the launch of Leading for Change: A blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership in July. The report is the product of the Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Leadership Working Group I established last year that included representatives from Westpac, PwC Australia, The University of Sydney Business School and Telstra.
Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Leadership Working Group members with Brian Hartzer, CEO Westpac
The report is a landmark study of cultural diversity at the executive leadership levels of our public companies, public service, federal parliament and universities. In each of these sectors, those with a non-European cultural background made up no more than 5 per cent of senior leaders. Find out more by clicking on the image below to view our video on what cultural diversity in leadership might look like in ten years’ time.
Video: Leading for Change
With Luke Sayers, CEO of PwC Australia, at the Melbourne launch of Leading for Change
At the Canberra launch of the Blueprint, hosted by Dr Martin Parkinson and the APS 200 group
The blueprint’s release has received extensive coverage, including in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, the ABC, the Guardian and the Australian Financial Review. I also wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, and joined ABC News Breakfast and the Drum. Throughout August, September and October, I spoke about the Blueprint at more than 30 events across the country.
On ABC News Breakfast
Building on the Blueprint’s findings, I have established a Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity which will meet for the first time in early 2017. The Council’s founding members are John Denton AO (CEO and Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth), Michelle Guthrie (Managing Director, Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Peter Hoj (Vice-Chancellor, The University of Queensland), Tony Johnson (Managing Partner and CEO, EY Oceania), Tan Le (Founder and CEO, Emotiv), Ian Narev (CEO, Commonwealth Bank), Dr Martin Parkinson PSM (Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet) and Luke Sayers (CEO, PwC Australia).
Cultural diversity in media
Early in the year, we hosted a RightsTalk on media and diversity. We had a great discussion with Victorian Multicultural Commissioner Helen Kapalos, writer Benjamin Law (creator of SBS’s The Family Law) and actor and comedian Rob Shehadie (co-creator of Nine’s Here Come the Habibs).
You can watch the event in full here or visit my Facebook page to hear a few brief words from the speakers directly.
With Rob Shehadie, Helen Kapalos and Benjamin Law at the Media and Diversity Rights Talk
Student Prize and Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture
This year, we inaugurated a new annual Student Prize competition open to students in Years 10 and 11 who submitted a speech or essay about racism. This year’s winner was Mohamed Semra, a Year 11 student from Maribyrnong College in Melbourne for his essay on his experience growing up in Sudan and in Australia.
With Mohamed Semra, Student Prize winner
Mohamed’s prize was awarded at the 2nd Annual Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture, which was delivered by David Morrison AO, Australian of the Year 2016. Mr Morrison examined how and why Australia is at its best when we embrace the world around us rather than turn inwards.
With David Morrison AO guest speaker at the Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture
National Anti-Racism Strategy and Racism. It Stops With Me
I’m pleased to say that the National Anti-Racism Strategy and the Racism. It Stops With Me campaign has had another successful year. Running since 2012, the campaign focuses on public awareness and education to promote a clear understanding of what racism is, how it can be prevented and what can be done when it is witnessed.
With school captains of Burwood Girls’ High at a morning tea to mark International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
This year, the Department of Human Services joined the strategy partnership and the number of organisational supporters increased by more than 10% to a total of 352 with many more individuals pledging their support online.
Supporter of the month for September: UTS takes a stand against Racism
Congratulations to the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council who recently took out the Racism. It Stops With Me Award from a competitive field at the annual Human Rights Awards in Sydney.
As part of the National Anti-Racism Strategy, we also developed a series of early childhood education resources. The Building Belonging materials are a comprehensive toolkit – including an ebook, song with actions, educator guide, posters and lesson plans – focussed on encouraging respect for cultural diversity and tackling racial prejudice in early childhood settings.
Our new ‘Building belonging’ resource for early childhood educators
The Racism. It Stops With Me website also has a huge range of resources available to the public. Find out more about becoming a formal organisational supporter.
Selected Articles, Speeches, Interviews and Panels
Here are some articles, speeches and interviews that may be of interest. All articles and speeches from the year can be found here and here.
National days should prompt reflection as well as inspire pride, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 2016
Pauline Hanson might be back but Australia has moved on, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2016
Diversity is more than just souvlaki and dragon dance, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 July 2016
We can’t eradicate racism but telling its targets to grin and bear it isn’t good enough, Guardian Australia, 21 September 2016
There isn’t a silent majority of racists in Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 November 2016
The Success of Australia’s Multiculturalism, Speech given at the Sydney Institute, 9 March 2016
Knowing thyself, Speech given at University of Sydney Graduation Ceremony, 13 May 2016
Leading by example, The Walter Lippmann Memorial Oration, ECCV, 25 May 2016
The passions, race and cultural diversity, The Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Oration, Ormond College – University of Melbourne, 23 June 2016
Populism, Race and Democracy, Speech given at The Festival of Democracy, The University of Sydney, 6 September 2016
Responding to Intolerance, Speech given at the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Foundation’s Annual Lecture in Bigotry and Intolerance, Australian National University, 21 September 2016
One Plus One: Tim Soutphommasane ABC, 25 February 2016
Do we see a diversity of views and faces across our media platforms?, ABC Drum, 3 May 2016
The Danger of Ideas Sydney Writers Festival, 19 May 2016
Race Discrimination Commissioner says there’s ‘no excuse for xenophobia’, RN Breakfast, 5 July 2016
The Bamboo ceiling, Festival of Dangerous Ideas, 3 September 2016
How immigration shaped Australia, Defining Moments in Australian History Series, 21 September 2016
‘We should be committed to tolerance’: race discrimination commissioner, RN Breakfast, 22 September 2016
If you’ve read this far, thank you! I look forward to working with you in 2017. Best wishes for the season.
Until next year,