August 2018 & Goodbye

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update — the final update, given my term as Commissioner concludes on 19 August.

Farewell Speech

In my last public speech at the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University (6 August), I reflected on the past five years in race relations. It has been a turbulent period, with contests over the Racial Discrimination Act — but the community support for racial equality and multiculturalism remains strong.

As I warned in the speech, we are now unfortunately seeing a triple threat to our race relations: the return of race politics, the fueling of racism by some sections of the media, and sustained attempts to weaken our institutional stance against racial discrimination. Last night’s speech by Fraser Anning in the Senate, praising the White Australia policy and calling for a ‘final solution’ to Muslim immigration, just underlines the dangers.

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Delivering my final speech at the Whitlam Institute

Based on the speech, I wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Canberra Times. I also spoke to RN Breakfast, SBS’s The Feed and ABC’s The Drum.

Speaking with The Drum’s Ellen Fanning

The speech (which you can watch here) was reported on by The Guardian, The Conversation, The New York Times, The Monthly, the ABC, CNN and the Financial Times. I also elaborated on some of the speech’s themes in my final interview, with the Saturday Paper.

Thanks to the Whitlam Institute for hosting the speech, and to Mark Dreyfus QC MP and Prof John Hewson AM for joining me as part of a panel discussion on the night. And thanks to all those who joined us — it was a packed venue with many friends and supporters.

With some of the ethnic community leaders who attended the speech, along with Mark Dreyfus

Community Farewells

I have been honoured to join celebrations hosted by the Chinese Australian Forum and Arab Council Australia this past month. They have brought together many different communities and organisations I’ve had the pleasure of working with these past five years.

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With the executive committee of the Chinese Australian Forum, NSW ECC and representatives of ethnic communities, John Alexander MP and Jenny Leong MP

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With (l-r) Maha Abdo and Randa Kattan (CEO, Arab Council Australia)

During the past month, I’ve been humbled by the many notes and expressions of support from different sections of the Australian community.

A special thanks to UTS, which this week gave me its inaugural Champion for Human Rights Award. It’s an honour to accept it from a university that has been a good friend of human rights and anti-racism, including our Racism. It Stops with Me campaign.

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With Verity Firth, Executive Director of Social Justice, UTS at the UTS Human Rights Awards

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Accepting the inaugural Champion for Human Rights Award

Cultural diversity, multiculturalism and leadership

Last month, the University of Sydney, in partnership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Human Rights Commission, released the report ‘Beyond the Pale: Cultural Diversity on ASX 100 Boards’. 

I was pleased to speak at the launch and to RN Drive about the research. The research was also reported on in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Marking the launch of the Beyond the Pale launch with Louise Petschler, Prof Greg Whitwell, A/Prof Dimitria Groutsis and Ming Long

I contributed an essay to the latest issue of the Griffith Review journal. As I argue, the past five years have presented some debates about race and representation, which should prompt us to reflect on what we mean by ‘mainstream Australia’.

I joined leading international political scientist Professor Pippa Norris at a Sydney Ideas event to reflect on the populist backlash taking place across Western liberal democracies.

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With Prof Pippa Norris and A/Prof Jennifer Barrett at the University of Sydney

And I was delighted to welcome to the Commission Reverend Jim Houston, who served as Assistant Commissioner to Al Grassby in the early days of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975-81). It was wonderful to hear Jim’s reflections on the workings of the RDA, on the occasion of the publication of his memoir, A Multicultural Odyssey.

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With Jim Houston at the Commission in Sydney

NARPS Report

Yesterday, we released a review and evaluation of the past three years of the National Anti-Racism Strategy. It has been a successful period for the campaign, with a projects on early childhood, institutional racism and youth anti-racism advocacy.

Not to mention our Racism. It Stops with Me campaign, which last year saw our campaign videos receive more than 1.6 million views on social media. Thanks as well to the 370+ organisational supporters of the campaign.

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Thank you

Finally, a word of thanks to all that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. There are some powerful anti-racism and multicultural advocates out there, and you’ve inspired me to keep pushing. Particular thanks to all those who spoke up in defence of the Racial Discrimination Act when it has been under attack.

I want to pay tribute to my talented and energetic staff at the Australian Human Rights Commission during the five years — they have been the elite special forces team of Australian anti-racism.

As I reflected last month, there have been some proud achievements: the successful defence of the Racial Discrimination Act, the National Anti-Racism Strategy, the work on cultural diversity and leadership. In each of those areas, I’ve tried always to give voice to people’s experiences, to empower communities, and always to speak without fear or favour.

It has been a privilege and honour to serve in this office. Thank you, and goodbye. Soutphommasane out.

Tim

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July 2018

Hello,

and welcome to this month’s update — the penultimate edition before I conclude next month.

Without fear or favour 

I gave an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald, reflecting on my term as Commissioner. I’m proudest of the two successful defences of the Racial Discrimination Act against legislative attacks in 2013-14 and 2016-17. They showed what can be done when Indigenous people, ethnic communities and Australians of goodwill all stand together in the cause of racial equality.

Photo by Wolter Peeters, as published in SMH

I don’t necessarily see my work as that of a ‘cultural warrior’, but race issues have been caught up in the so-called culture war. My approach has always been to be forthright in speaking out against racism — and to do my job without fear or favour.

We must now be vigilant not only about racism or any attempt to weaken the RDA, but also attempts to undermine the independent advocacy of the office of Race Discrimination Commissioner.

What we have achieved

As I enter the last month or so of my term, I’ve reflected on the work of the past five years. Some of our major highlights:

  • successfully defending the Racial Discrimination Act from change — twice (2014, 2017)
  • building the Racism. It Stops with Me campaign to more than 370 organisational supporters (2013-18)
  • setting the agenda on cultural diversity and leadership through two Leading for Change reports (2016, 2018) and the creation of the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity (2017)

Speaking with ABC News 24 in defence of the Racial Discrimination Act (2017)

And then there are our program achievements:

  • producing anti-racism campaign videos that have received more than 1.5 million views online (2017)
  • completing anti-racism projects (National Anti-Racism Strategy) relating to the workplace, schools, local communities, children, youth and government (2013-18)
  • marking the 40th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act, as documented in our Freedom from Discrimination report (2015) and the book I’m Not Racist But … (2015)
  • establishing the annual Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture on race relations (since 2015)
  • running a prize competition for school students in years 10 and 11 (since 2016)
  • forming an annual standing forum on racial tolerance and community harmony for communities, advocates and researchers (since 2016)

1.5 million online views of our Racism. It Stops with Me videos in 2017

None of this would have been possible without the support of our partners, and without the efforts of staff at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Advocates in Profile

The past week or so, I’ve taken the chance to acknowledge some of the many anti-racism champions that I’ve come across over these past five years.

I’ve been inspired by many advocates for racial equality, multiculturalism and Indigenous advancement.  I hope you will be inspired by some of their stories — as told to us via our Advocates in Profile page on the ‘Racism. It Stops with Me’ website.

 

Some of our Advocates in Profile

Racism. It Stops with Me and cultural diversity

It was fantastic to join the launch of the Be Brave, Speak Up campaign in Melbourne. The campaign, which encourages young people to take a stand against racism, is an initiative of the North Melbourne Football Club’s youth-centered not-for-profit, The Huddle.

The panel at the Be Brave, Speak Up launch

Thanks to SBS and Play by the Rules for having me as part of a lunchtime discussion on diversity and inclusion in sport, where we reflected on some of the commentary about football commentator Lucy Zelic’s efforts to pronounce surnames.

At SBS headquarters in Sydney with Mark Ella, Corene Strauss and Peter Downs

As I’ve said on social media, it should just be courtesy and decency to make an effort to pronounce names correctly. It’s a sad reflection of the times that there has even been debate about this in a multicultural Australia.

It was also great to join the Bx conference on behaviour economics and the Refugee Advocacy Service of South Australia on World Refugee Day, where I reflected on the need for us to be compassionate and welcoming towards refugees.

It’s not illegal to seek asylum

Public discourse on racism

It was concerning to see the harassment and intimidation of members of the Queensland Muslim community at a Kuraby mosque. People are entitled to go to a place of worship without having to fear being subjected to such threatening behaviour.

I have also been concerned by some recent media coverage of “African crime” in Melbourne on Channel Seven. We should hope for responsible media reporting about crime — as opposed to fear-mongering and racial hysteria.

I joined the ABC’s The Drum, where among other topics we discussed the “shunning” of Sarah Huckabee-Sanders in the US.

Speaking on the Drum panel

In a change of pace, I joined Canberra federal MP Andrew Leigh for an excellent chat about ethics, patriotism and multiculturalism as part of his The Good Life podcast.

Upcoming events – final speech

With just a little more than a month to go, there’s just a handful of events left, including A Cultural Backlash? (a panel discussion at the University of Sydney on Thursday 19 July).

I’m delighted the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University will host my final speech as Commissioner on the evening of Monday 6 August. It will be a final chance for me to reflect on the significance of the Racial Discrimination Act and contemporary debates about race and identity.

For more details and to register, please go to the Whitlam Institute website.

6pm, Monday 6 August — Whitlam Institute, Western Sydney University

Until next month,

Tim

 

June 2018

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update.

The office and title of Race Discrimination Commissioner

There has been some commentary about the office of Race Discrimination Commissioner. Some have even suggested that the role is not necessary because racism is so rare and isolated. It’s easy to say that if you don’t experience racism yourself — but there are no alternative facts for racism’s existence.

This is the reality of racism’s existence in Australian society

Speaking to SBS News about racial discrimination

I don’t believe we should be renaming the office, as reported via the Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian Australia, ABC, SBS and NITV.

It is only right and fitting that the statutory officer under the Racial Discrimination Act is called the Race Discrimination Commissioner. The legislation is concerned with racial discrimination. So is the office. As I explain in this speech on 12 June, you can’t fight racism if you can’t even name it.

As for suggestions the role of Race Discrimination Commissioner is somehow ‘divisive’, let’s be clear about how the real division comes from racism.

The Racial Discrimination Act

The talk about the title of Race Discrimination Commissioner may just be the prelude to another attempt to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act. This is because the only way you can change the title or function of the office is to amend the Act, which sets those terms.

Those who may want to change the Racial Discrimination Act should know that the mainstream of our society backs our legal protections against racism.

The 4th Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture

The Racial Discrimination Act was placed in some focus by Marcia Langton, who delivered the 4th Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture on 12 June in Sydney. It was a powerful lecture from Professor Langton, who explained the significance of the legislation in underpinning the development of native title and in civilising Australian society on matters of race.

With Professor Marcia Langton (l) and AHRC President Ros Croucher (r) at the Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture

We had a full house at the State Library of NSW, and I was pleased to see so many come out in support of the lecture — which I hope will continue next year. At the lecture, I was also delighted to award my annual Commissioner’s Student Prize to Emma Tam, a year 11 student from Pembroke School in Adelaide.

Congratulations to our 2018 Student Prize winner, Emma Tam

The National Forum on Racial Tolerance and Community Harmony

On 12 June, we also held our annual forum on racial tolerance and community harmony. Community representatives, anti-racism advocates and researchers, and policymakers discussed a range of issues including identity politics and media debates, the challenges in changing attitudes and behaviour, and the role of civil society advocates in anti-racism.

At our National Forum, with media panellists (l-r) Allan Clarke, Santilla Chingaipe, Benjamin Law, Naaman Zhou, Isabel Lo

In my opening remarks to the National Forum, I reflected on the state of our race relations and on some of the major achievements of the past five years: none greater than standing with communities and people of goodwill in defence of the Racial Discrimination Act.

National Anti-Racism Strategy: Youth, Institutional Racism and Racism. It Stops with Me

It has been a big month or so on anti-racism.

Youth

In Melbourne, from 4-6 June, we ran the National Youth Anti-Racism Initiative, a leadership workshop for 20 youth anti-racism advocates from across the country — and one of our major projects this year for the National Anti-Racism Strategy.

The two-and-a-half days included workshops on building advocacy and leadership skills, and also visits to the Victorian Parliament and the AFL. Thanks to the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network for partnering with us to help nurture the next generation of anti-racism leaders, and also to EY, Deakin University, SBS, and Victorian Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott for their support.

With our amazing group of youth anti-racism advocates on the steps of the Victorian Parliament

Institutional racism

In Canberra, on 14 June, we held a one-day forum and workshop on institutional racism — a second major project of the National Anti-Racism Strategy.

The 100 attendees were leaders from more than 60 organisations, drawn from Commonwealth, State and Territory government departments and agencies, and professional bodies. The event was conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission in partnership with The University of Sydney’s National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC).

There was enormous energy at the day, which focused on strengthening leadership on institutional racism in law and justice, health, education and human services.

With forum speakers Professor James Arvanitakis, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis, Dr Simon Judkins, Christine Craik and Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell

Racism. It Stops with Me

We were also delighted to return to the University of Sydney to relaunch the university’s commitment to Racism. It Stops with Me.

With Professor Greg Whitwell, Jordi Austin, Mariam Mohammed and students at The University of Sydney

Diversity and leadership

The Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity (which I chair) hosted its inaugural Cultural Diversity and Leadership Forum on 7 June. The forum brought together more than 80 leaders from business, government, media and higher education. This included leaders from the Council’s member organisations, including PwC, EY, Commonwealth Bank, ABC, The University of Queensland, Springfield City Group, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Our wonderful guest panelists at the Cultural Diversity and Leadership Forum: Lisa Chung, Angus Armour and Violet Roumeliotis

Speakers included Council members Raynuha Sinnathamby (Managing Director, Springfield City Group) and Tony Johnson (CEO, EY Oceania). The forum also featured a panel discussion with Violet Roumeliotis (CEO, Settlement Services International), Lisa Chung (Chair, Urbis; non-executive director) and Angus Armour (CEO, Australian Institute of Company Directors). It was a very productive day of discussions about data and targets, recruitment, and mentoring and professional development.

I was also pleased to speak at B&T’s Changing the Ratio diversity and inclusion conference for media and communications executives in Sydney, at St Andrew’s College at the University of Sydney, and to deliver the inaugural Asian-Australian Foundation Oration in Melbourne.

Speaking about the under-representation of cultural diversity at Changing the Ratio

In my appearance on ABC TV’s The Drum, the panel and I also reflected on some of the findings about millennials’ attitudes to issues including diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

On the ABC’s The Drum, where I admitted I am technically a millennial

Advocates in profile

As I enter the final two months of my term as Commissioner, I want to say thank you to all those who have spoken out against racism and to advance equality and multiculturalism. One way I’m doing that is by profiling some of the anti-racism and multiculturalism advocates I’ve had the privilege of working with and coming across.

In the next few days, we’ll be posting some profiles on our Racism. It Stops with Me page online. You can also expect an email from me to highlight the profiles.

Until next month,

Tim

May 2018

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update.

The Racial Discrimination Act

Earlier this month, the Queensland Government agreed to apologise and deliver a $30 million settlement to residents of Palm Island for racial discrimination linked to riots in 2004. I welcome this settlement, which is one of the most significant racial discrimination cases in Australia’s history and involved a class action on behalf of 447 Palm Island residents.

As I said in this interview with ABC’s RN Breakfast, the settlement highlights how the Racial Discrimination Act is an instrument of justice, and it is good to see the Queensland Government’s acknowledgement of the pain and discrimination experienced by the residents of Palm Island.

Photo: Andrew Zakeli/Fairfax Syndication

In case of interest, here’s some more information about how the Racial Discrimination Act works to protect all Australians from racial discrimination and to guarantee equality before the law.

Advertisement for the next Race Discrimination Commissioner

My five-year term as Commissioner comes to its conclusion in August and the Government has advertised for the position. I encourage all those with an interest to consider applying (applications close 9am, 11 May).  I hope that the next Commissioner will be someone who will be an independent advocate and defender of racial equality.

I’ve also responded to some of the commentary about the role of my office, and to suggestions that calling out racism amounts to being unpatriotic.

My letter to the editor in the Daily Telegraph (19 April)

Cultural diversity and leadership

We’ve continued to receive strong interest in our second Leading for Change report on cultural diversity and leadership, the result of our partnership with the University of Sydney Business School, Asia Society Australia and the Committee for Sydney. This has included further coverage on ABC’s The Drum, the Sydney Morning Herald and Junkee. The report has also been cited in a number of articles about cultural diversity, including in The Conversation, the Sydney Morning Herald and Women’s Agenda.

Discussing our Leading for Change findings on The Drum

We have also since had further events at Clayton Utz in Sydney at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

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Speaking at the second Sydney launch at Clayton Utz

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On the panel at the Melbourne launch featuring (L-R) Vik Bansal, Tania Farha, Alice Wong, Sam Almaliki and Sarah Abo

I also spoke about the results of the report at the inaugural Australia New Zealand Police Advisory Agency conference in Melbourne (‘PC18’) and at the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra.

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Speaking at PC18

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Speaking at The Treasury in Canberra

Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture & Student Prize

Registration to attend the annual Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture is now live. This year’s lecture is being delivered by Professor Marcia Langton and will take place on Tuesday 12 June at Customs House in Sydney.

Final Poster 2018

Submissions for this year’s Student Prize will close tomorrow, 11 May. The prize is open to high school students in years 10 and 11 and more details can be found here.

Supporting communities 

In partnership with the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), we held a public forum about media, race and public debates in Melbourne. The event brought together community organisations, anti-racism advocates and members of the media for a dialogue about how reporting and commentary on race matters. Thanks to the 140-strong crowd that attended our event at the Wheeler Centre for a valuable discussion.

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With (L-R) Kristen Hilton, Adel Salman, Helen Kapalos, Zione Walker-Nthenda, Alex Lavelle and Sarah Abo

It was also wonderful to visit the NT and catch up with representatives of Darwin’s multicultural communities and my colleague, the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sally Sievers.

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Meeting with representatives of multicultural communities in Darwin.

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Meeting with Sally Sievers, Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Until next month,

Tim

April 2018

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update.

Cultural diversity and leadership

Today we have released our second Leading for Change report on cultural diversity and leadership, which finds a significant under-representation of cultural diversity within the senior leadership positions in Australian business, politics, government and higher education. The report has been produced in partnership with the University of Sydney Business School, Asia Society Australia and the Committee for Sydney.

Here’s an opinion article I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, and some coverage in the New York Times, Guardian Australia, the Australian Financial Review and SBS. I also spoke with ABC News Breakfast and RN Breakfast about the research.

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I was able to provide something of a preview of the report in this interview with Patricia Karvelas on the ABC’s The National Wrap.

Speaking on The National Wrap

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 21 was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — a day for us to rededicate ourselves to the task of eliminating racism in all its forms.

In the lead-up to the International Day, I participated (via video) in a debate about racial discrimination at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva.

Beaming into the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

I was delighted to host a morning tea at the Australian Human Rights Commission on the eve (20 March) of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We were particularly pleased to have three high school students from Holroyd High, Sydney Boys High and Pymble Ladies College share their reflections on what racism means and how we must combat it.

With Melissa Li, Lincoln Hui and Lisa Togba

With representatives from the Jewish, Armenian, Chinese and First Peoples community organisations

On the 21st of March itself, the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity held an event at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra, focusing on the need to move beyond food festivals in embracing cultural diversity.

Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture & Student Prize

I am pleased to announce that this year’s Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Marcia Langton of the University of Melbourne. The lecture will be in Sydney on 12 June.

Student Prize

The Poster for the 2018 Student Prize

We are now also accepting entries for this year’s Student Prize for high school students in years 10 and 11. More details can be found here — the closing date is 11 May.

Race and public debates

Public discussion continues about foreign influence in Australia, and I’ve continued my caution about how we debate this. As I say in this letter to The Age, in a liberal democracy we must protect the integrity of our institutions — but we can do so without flirting with language that can stir up racial prejudice.

There have also been a number of incidents involving racial profiling and racial vilification — such as this one in a Myer store and the abuse experienced by Greg Inglis in the NRL. There is no place for racism in our society, and we must hold it to account whenever and wherever possible.

National Anti-Racism Strategy and anti-racism

Congratulations to Multicultural QLD for instituting a speaker series as part of its implementation of the state’s Multicultural Charter. I was honoured to be the first speaker in March where I reflected on why anti-racism work is integral to multiculturalism.

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Delivering a talk as part of the Multicultural QLD Speaker Series

Thank you to Uniting, a supporter of our Racism. It Stops with Me campaign, for the opportunity to speak about the need for greater literacy on racial differences.

Addressing the Uniting Leadership Forum in Sydney

And it was great to join the National Centre for Cultural Competence conference at the University of Sydney to reflect on the ongoing challenge of responding to institutional and structural racism.

With NCCC staff and conference keynote speakers – an inspiring lot of thinkers and advocates

Until next month,

Tim

March 2018

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update.

Racial tolerance and public debate

Over the last month, there has been extensive debate about foreign interference with our public institutions. It’s an important issue but we must not flirt with exciting anti-Chinese racial sentiment.

That was my caution in this speech to an event hosted by Western Sydney University and Asia Society Australia, which coincided with the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first Chinese immigrant to the colony of NSW. Here’s an excerpt of the speech published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Speaking at a Symposium held by Western Sydney University and Asia Society Australia

Amid some calls for the reduction of our immigration intake, I have also spoken about the need for responsible public discussion about the issue, which avoids any licensing of prejudice or intolerance.

Speaking to SBS World News about the reopening of debate about immigration

And, like many, I was deeply disturbed by how former assistant commissioner of Victoria Police, Brett Guerin, had made some racist and other obscene posts online. We expect and trust all Australian police officials to do their job fairly and to be free of prejudice.

Speaking to TEN News about there being no place for racism in any Australian police force

 

Supporting communities

It was wonderful to catch up with a number of community leaders and representatives this past month. As always, I stand with all First Peoples and multicultural communities in fighting racism and in defending the Racial Discrimination Act.

With First Peoples, Chinese, Vietnamese, Jewish, Arab, Indian, Greek, and Armenian community representatives

Thanks to Marta Terracciano and Mary Karras for their work in representing NSW ethnic communities

Great to catch up with the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre and their peer advocacy network

I was also pleased to facilitate a dialogue in Sydney between community organisations, civil society anti-racism advocates and members of the media about race, media and public debates. I will be holding a similar forum in Melbourne next month in partnership with the Victorian Multicultural Commission and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

An excellent panel discussion on race and media with (l-r) Randa Kattan, Julie Lewis, Naaman Zhou and Katelin McInerney

And I enjoyed joining the Haymarket Chamber of Commerce in Sydney for their Chinese lunar new year dinner – giving me an occasion to practise a few phrases of Cantonese and Mandarin!

Taking part in a Q&A with Haymarket Chamber of Commerce president Simon Chan

Racism. It Stops with Me

Thank you to the Tasmanian Equal Opportunity Commission and the Multicultural Council of Tasmania for hosting a fantastic Roundtable discussion in Hobart.

It was excellent to welcome seven Tasmanian organisations, from business, the public sector and civil society, to the Racism. It Stops With Me campaign as new supporters at the event. These included the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania, Relationships Australia (Tasmania), the Tasmanian Council of Social Services, The Royal Gurkhas Institute of Technology and the Pub Banc Group Pty Ltd.

With the seven new signatories to our Racism. It Stops With Me Campaign in Hobart

Cultural diversity and leadership

I was pleased to be part of a number of discussions on cultural diversity and leadership with the Asian Leadership Project, ANZ and NAB in Melbourne, and with the NSW treasury and Clayton Utz in Sydney.

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Speaking on the panel for the Melbourne launch of the Asian Leadership Project at ANZ

At the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion event at NAB in Melbourne

I’m also proud to have concluded our inaugural Cultural Diversity and Leadership Fellowship program, in partnership with the University of Sydney Business School, which brought together 27 leaders from the private and public sectors. Congratulations to the leaders who took part – all champions of diversity.

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Here with (l-r) Prof Greg Whitwell, Assoc Prof Robin Stonecash, Det Insp John Zdrilic, Insp Andrew Hurst (our NSW Police fellows, who took out the prize for best presentation at our “graduation” night) and Assistant Commissioner Joseph Cassar of NSW Police.

 

Until next month,

Tim

February 2018

Hello,

Welcome to my monthly update on activities. I hope that you have enjoyed a good start to 2018, and had the opportunity to have a summer break.

Conclusion of my term as Race Discrimination Commissioner

As many of you may know, this marks my last year as Commissioner, as my five-year term comes to an end this August. We have a busy six months ahead, with important work planned in community harmony, cultural diversity and leadership, and with the National Anti-Racism Strategy. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you throughout the country before I conclude my term.

Racism and public debates

Already this year, there have been examples of racism and bigotry being normalised in public discourse: neo-Nazi personalities being given soft platforms on the evening news, the casual airing of racist jokes on prime time TV, to name a few. We mustn’t allow racism to become part of what is deemed normal or acceptable.

We can’t allow organised neo-Nazi groups to be normalised

There is a particular responsibility for those in public life to do nothing that encourages prejudice, bigotry or hatred. The tone of public debates signal to society what is and isn’t acceptable. When public figures endorse prejudice and intolerance, it can embolden a minority of our society to vent their bigotry.

Prejudice, bigotry and hatred have no place in our public life

Youth crime

One good illustration of some of this: the debate about youth crime and African communities in Victoria. As I said to Fairfax Media, while people are understandably concerned about crime, it’s important to cool down some of the commentary. We had had too much panic and not enough perspective.

Racial panic doesn’t enhance public safety and community harmony

The issue of youth crime is complex. A lot of it reflects social and economic disadvantage. It shouldn’t be reduced to race and ethnicity. Racial panics about crime create more problems than they solve. Experience tells us that sowing fear and whipping hysteria are sure ways to divide communities.

Australia Day

The debate about Australia Day generated a lot of heat and passion. Clearly, 26 January means different things to Australians. For many, it is an occasion to celebrate; for others, a time for renewal. And for others still, it is a day of mourning.

National days should be occasions for us to reflect — and to rededicate ourselves to improving our country and living up to our best. Let’s ensure we conduct debates with respect and through them understand each other better.

Until next month,

Tim

2017: the year in review

Hello,

It’s almost the end of the year, one that has presented some challenges for race relations. Thank you to all those who have stood up against racism and have spoken up for equality and tolerance.

The Racial Discrimination Act

We saw a second attempt to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act this year. Following a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry, a bill to amend the RDA was introduced in the Senate in March. The bill was defeated, though the parliament did amend the Australian Human Rights Commission Act’s provisions concerning the Commission’s complaints-handling.

Answering questions about the Racial Discrimination Act

It was welcome that the Senate voted down the proposed changes to the RDA, and that the RDA remains in its current form. As I have said in a number of media interviews and statements, we must not do anything to embolden any racial discrimination or hatred.

Speaking with News 24 about the Parliamentary Joint Committee’s report

There also remains an important task in ensuring people understand how laws such as the RDA work. Within media reports and commentary, there have been inaccurate characterisations of me having ‘urged’ or ‘encouraged’ complaints. As Commissioner, I regularly inform people about their right to lodge a complaint if they believe they have experienced racial hatred. It is wrong to suggest that giving this information amounts to soliciting complaints.

Racism. It Stops with Me

In October, we released a set of new community service announcement videos, which highlight everyday and casual acts of racism in public places. As I said in my opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald, it is important all of us do our part in stopping racism – and this involves responding to it whenever we can. I was also interviewed on ABC Weekend Breakfast.

With Commission President Rosalind Croucher and panellists Tracy Howe, Verity Firth and Jeremy Fernandez at the CSA launch for Racism. It Stops With Me.

With Commission President Rosalind Croucher and panellists Tracy Howe, Verity Firth and Jeremy Fernandez at the CSA launch for Racism. It Stops With Me.

In November, we followed up with two additional videos, featuring conversations about sport, sledging and racism. The message: whatever our differences, together we can all stand up to racism. Do take a look at them and share them with #standup.

Screenshot of our ‘rugby’ #standup video

So far, the four videos we have released the past two months for the campaign have attracted about 1.5 million views on Facebook and YouTube — a fantastic response, and something we hope has started many new conversations about fighting racism.

Racial tolerance and community harmony

Where does hatred come from? And how must we respond? Many have been asking these questions, in light of the alarming rise of white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements internationally. Here in Australia, there are also concerning signs that racism and bigotry have been emboldened – and, as I said to the BBC, have been normalised in public debate.

In this opinion article for the Sydney Morning Herald, I make clear that we mustn’t give any ground to racist extremism. It’s not enough to be non-racist; we must also be anti-racist. This includes responding to racism not only when it emerges in dramatic and violent forms, but also when it exists in structural and institutional forms. And it includes ensuring that multicultural voices are not shut out from our public debates.

Delivering the UNESCO Chair Annual Oration at Deakin University, where I spoke about institutional dimensions of racism

We were honoured this year to have Dr Jackie Huggins, the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, deliver this year’s Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture. The lecture has now had its third successful year. Newcastle student Kupa Matangira, of Hunter Christian College, took out this year’s Student Prize through her essay on racism, ugliness and kindness.

With Jackie Huggins, this year’s Kep Enderby Memorial Lecturer

Delighted to award Kupa Matangira this year’s Student Prize

It was also wonderful to have various community organisations, advocates and researchers participate in our forum on racial tolerance and community harmony.

Facilitating discussion at our forum

Along with my friend and colleague Kevin Cocks, the QLD Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, I visited the Hervey Bay, Sunshine Coast and Townsville communities — where we hosted forums with local residents about social inclusion and diversity.

Hearing from the Sunshine Coast community

Hearing from the Sunshine Coast community

Cultural diversity and leadership

The Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity, a group of CEOs that advocates for greater cultural diversity in leadership, met around the country throughout the year. Members spoke on panels in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — starting and building on conversations about issues including merit, targets and organisational culture. In 2018, the Leadership Council will be hosting a summit on cultural diversity.

With some of the new Leadership Council members

With some of the new Leadership Council members at our Sydney event in March

With Leadership Council members and panellists at our Melbourne event in August

In November, the Commission and the University of Sydney Business School launched a pilot leadership program on cultural diversity. The program is an executive education course designed to promote leadership on cultural diversity in business and government. The pilot recognised 27 inaugural fellows drawn from Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Woolworths, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, Attorney-General’s Department (Commonwealth), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Reserve Bank of Australia, NSW Police, QLD Police, NSW iCare, Thermo Fisher, and Chartered Accountants ANZ.

With the 27 inaugural cultural diversity and leadership fellows

It has been encouraging to see further coverage of the under-representation of cultural diversity in Australian institutions, and to see, among other things, leaders of the legal profession pledge to undertake more work to get more out of their cultural diversity.

With the Managing Partners of the Law firms who have signed the Cultural Diversity pledge

With the Managing Partners of the Law firms who have signed the Cultural Diversity pledge

Multiculturalism and citizenship

Proposed changes to Australian citizenship laws, including the citizenship test, have generated significant debate. I know many, particularly those in our multicultural communities, have been concerned with the idea that immigrants from non-English speaking countries must demonstrate university-level English in order to pass the citizenship test.

Speaking at FECCA’s biennial conference in Darwin

The Commission made submissions into the proposed legislation, and also to a Senate inquiry into strengthening Australian multiculturalism. I also addressed these issues in speeches to FECCA, Diversity Arts Australia and Victorian school principals, where I have highlighted it is unfair and unreasonable to hold naturalised citizens to a standard (namely, command of English), which many Australian-born citizens would not possess.

And I’ve continued to challenge people to think about Australian multiculturalism not as merely about food and festivals — great though those things are — but about realising our country’s potential. I contributed this essay to Asia Society’s Disruptive Asia volume and have spoken in a number of interviews with ABC TV and ABC RN’s Life Matters about the meaning of multiculturalism.

Interview with ABC's Australia Wide program

Interview with ABC’s Australia Wide program

International

In November I attended the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s session at which Australia appeared — part of Australia’s periodic reporting to the UN treaty body on racial discrimination. In my statement to the Committee, I highlighted that while progress has been made, there remains much work to be done in eliminating racism in Australia.

Delivering my statement to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

While in Geneva I also spoke at a forum hosted by the Committee to discuss global challenges in combating racism, racial profiling and ethnic cleansing.

With civil society representatives, who were in the audience at the UN Committee’s forum

In July I was honoured to be part of the Australian Government’s delegation to Laos to participate in the 5th Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue. The Human Rights Dialogue is a biennial meeting between the Australian and Lao governments to discuss a range of human rights issues.

Participants in the 5th Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue

Participants in the 5th Australia-Lao PDR Human Rights Dialogue

While in Vientiane, I had the opportunity to speak to students at the National University of Laos and participate in a workshop on social inclusion.

With students from the National University of Laos

With students from the National University of Laos

Taking part in the social inclusion workshop

In case you missed it …

Here’s where you can find my speeches and articles from 2017.

Thanks for all your support and work in anti-racism over the past 12 months. I look forward to seeing you — whether in person or on-line — in 2018.

Until then, best wishes for the season,

Tim

 

December 2017

Hello,

and welcome to my monthly update on activities.

New videos for Racism. It Stops with Me

Last month we released two additional videos as part of the Racism. It Stops with Me campaign. They feature conversations about sport, sledging and racism. The message: whatever our differences, together we can all stand up to racism. Do take a look at them and share them with #standup.

Our rugby themed video

Our AFL themed video

So far, the four videos we have released the past two months for the campaign have attracted close to 1.5 million views on Facebook and YouTube — a fantastic response, and something we hope has started many new conversations about fighting racism.

Australia’s appearance at the UN on racial discrimination

In the final week of November, Australia appeared before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva. This Committee, which consists of independent experts, monitors states’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Australia implements the Convention primarily through the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

I had the opportunity to address the Committee during the session.

As I said in my statement, Australia’s success as a multicultural society must not induce complacency. It remains of urgent importance that the Racial Discrimination Act continues to set a standard for racial equality and tolerance, that there are steps taken to strengthen Australia’s multiculturalism, and that Australian governments respond to findings of racial discrimination. (Here are reports of the session from the Commission, the UN Committee, and Fairfax Media.)

 

Addressing the UN committee in Geneva

While in Geneva, I also spoke at the Committee’s forum on racial discrimination in today’s world, joining a panel of speakers from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the United States.

With Committee chair Anastasia Crickley following the forum

Cultural diversity and leadership pilot launch

In November, the Commission and the University of Sydney Business School launched a pilot leadership program on cultural diversity. The program is an executive education course designed to promote leadership on cultural diversity in business and government.

We know that cultural diversity remains under-represented within the senior leadership of Australian organisations. It’s time we look into changing that, if we are to make the most of our society’s talents (a point I made in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald about parliament).

With our 27 inaugural fellows

The pilot recognised 27 inaugural fellows drawn from Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Woolworths, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, Attorney-General’s Department (Commonwealth), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Reserve Bank of Australia, NSW Police, QLD Police, NSW iCare, Thermo Fisher, and Chartered Accountants ANZ.

Marriage equality and multicultural Australia

In a speech to Western Sydney University’s Advancing Community Cohesion conference, I addressed some of the recent commentary about multiculturalism and the same-sex marriage postal survey.

While it is true that members of some ethnic communities are generally not in favour of same sex marriage, it may not be the case that ethnicity alone explains how some responded to the survey. The available evidence appears to suggest that religiosity  may be a more significant factor in explaining the high ‘No’ votes in some parts of Sydney, in particular.

In a world that many describe as post-truth or post-factual, our social cohesion is not always well served by jumping to conclusions.

At Western Sydney University’s advancing community cohesion conference

Racial tolerance

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has recently published a report showing a concerning rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the past year. As I said to the New York Times, this reflects how far-right groups have been emboldened to spread their messages of hatred.

We saw an example of this recently when one such group targeted NSW senator Sam Dastyari for some racial harassment in Melbourne. But there are many other examples, too. It’s important as a society that we send a strong message that any racism is not to be tolerated.

Speaking to SBS World News about far-right racist groups

I was delighted to have the opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges in my work as part of a panel at the University of Sydney’s Department of Government centenary celebration. I did so as a proud alumnus of the Department.

The panel at the University of Sydney’s Department of Government centenary celebration

And congratulations to Peter Balint on the publication of his book, Respecting Toleration. Honoured to be part of the book’s launch in Canberra.

With Peter Balint and colleagues following our panel at the ANU

 

Until next month,

Tim

November 2017

Hello,

and welcome to my update on activities this past month.

Marking 42 years of the Racial Discrimination Act

It was a busy day of activities on 31 October, as we marked the 42nd anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act coming into effect.

Dr Jackie Huggins, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First People’s, delivered the 3rd Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture on race relations in Sydney. It was a powerful address, which drew a standing ovation from the capacity audience of 150 people. At the Lecture, I also awarded my annual student prize to Kupa Matangira, a Year 10 student from Hunter Christian School in Mayfield, NSW.

Earlier in the day, we also held a forum on anti-racism, which reflected on the state of Australian race relations and developments concerning diversity and inclusion.

With Dr Jackie Huggins, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

With Dr Jackie Huggins, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

Dr Soutphommasane awarding essay prize winner Kupa Matangira

Awarding essay prize winner Kupa Matangira

Institutional and structural racism

I’ve given a number of speeches this past month on institutional and structural racism. As I said in my UNESCO Chair oration, racism can have many faces – and doesn’t always involve hatred or malice. This was also a theme in my speech (reported here in Guardian Australia) to Deakin University’s international conference on institutional racism.

With Prof. Fethi Mansouri and Vice-Chancellor Jane Hollander of Deakin University at the UNESCO Chair Oration, 10 October 2017

With Prof. Fethi Mansouri and Jane Hollander Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University at the UNESCO Chair Oration, 10 October 2017

Multiculturalism and citizenship

Congratulations to the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia on their biennial conference.

As I noted in my speech in Darwin, this was my third and final speech at FECCA’s gathering (given the conclusion of my term next August). My speech reflected on issues of citizenship, multiculturalism and anti-racism.

Tim delivering speech at FECCA 2017

Speaking at the FECCA biennial conference in Darwin, 9 October 2017

I was also delighted to speak at a UTS graduation of communications and education students in Sydney, and to the National Community Foundations forum in Melbourne.

UTS Graduation, 12 October 2017

UTS Graduation, 12 October 2017

Diversity, inclusion and leadership

We had a great Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity event in Brisbane’s Customs House, hosted by the University of Queensland.

The event included a panel discussion on diversity and innovation, featuring Leadership Council members Professor Peter Hoj (Vice Chancellor, University of Queensland), Dr Martin Parkinson (Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and Ms Raynuha Sinnathamby (Managing Director, Springfield Land Corporation).

Leadership Council, Brisbane 2017

With Professor Peter Hoj, Karina Carvalho, Raynuha Sinnathamby, and Dr Martin Parkinson – Brisbane, 19 October 2017

A warm welcome to Raynuha, who is the Leadership Council’s newest member – here’s a Q&A with Raynuha via the Leadership Council’s website.

There were excellent discussions at the Diversity and Inclusion in Sport forum, where I gave a keynote speech about the relationship between sport and politics.

Diversity and Inclusion in Sport, 6 October 2017

Diversity and Inclusion in Sport, 6 October 2017

And congratulations to Media Diversity Australia on their launch event last month. As one of the organisation’s advisory board members, I’m delighted to see it create momentum for more diversity in Australian news and current affairs media.

MDA Launch with Waleed Aly and Antoinette Lattouf

Media Diversity Australia Launch with Waleed Aly and Antoinette Lattouf, 30 October 2017

Racism. It Stops with Me

It’s great to welcome Internet Removals and Basketball Victoria as the newest supporters to our Racism. It Stops with Me campaign.

It has been an active period for the campaign, following our release of two new community service announcements. If you haven’t yet seen them, do take a look – and share them. And also check out our revamped Racism. It Stops with Me website, which contains more information about racism and how we can respond to it.

Until next month,

Tim