Challenging prejudice and racism is an important focus for psychology, and for all levels of Australian society. The APS position paper on racism and prejudice was first published in the Australian Psychologist (Sanson, Augoustinos, Gridley, Kyrios, Reser & Turner, 1998), at a time when ongoing public debates about ‘race’ and prejudice had gained new political salience in Australia. While the focus of those debates has shifted to new targets, many psychologists remain concerned at the levels of racism that underpin much of the media discussion and institutional responses to issues such as terrorism, ‘border protection’ and child sexual abuse. A changing landscape has also appeared with respect to theory and research within psychology and other social science disciplines around prejudice and racism. An update of the original position paper currently underway contains a summary of research and future directions for the community at large to tackle this problem.
This submission to the Attorney-General’s Department addresses the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The APS supports strong protections against racial vilification and discrimination, and hence the submission advocated retention of the existing Act. The APS submission emphasised the demonstrable links between racism in all its manifestations and the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and drew on evidence indicating that weakening race discrimination laws could send the message to the community that racist speech is acceptable, and consequently risked increasing racist behaviour and attitudes.
This submission provides a response by the APS to the development of the Australian Government’s National anti-racism strategy. We firstly provide an overview of issues we believe are important to the strategy, including defining key aspects of racism, identifying the health and wellbeing impacts of racism, and specifically addressing racism against Indigenous people and then Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities. The submission then addresses the objectives set out in the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy Discussion Paper, providing recommendations for what we believe should be included in the National Anti-racism Strategy. The APS endorses the establishment of a national partnership to develop and implement a National Anti-racism Strategy for Australia, and encourages the ongoing engagement of Indigenous and CALD communities in all parts of the strategy.
In particular, the APS urges that the legal or human rights framework within which the strategy is developed be strengthened, that the focus on racism be broadened beyond individual responses to racism to address systematic and institutional forms of discrimination, and that the health and mental health systems be identified as priority sites for action in combating racism.
On June 1st and 2nd 2009, over 40 researchers from across Australia met at the University of Western Australia Boatshed in Perth for a roundtable discussion focused on research concerning racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The APS, together with the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA), co-hosted the roundtable alongside several other key organisations - the Human Rights Commission, the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, WA, the School of Indigenous Studies UWA, and the University of Notre Dame Australia. The Roundtable was initiated by AIPA Chair and APS Fellow Dr Pat Dudgeon, who saw it as one way to renew the momentum for combating racism that was generated a decade ago by the APS Position Paper Racism and prejudice: Psychological perspectives (1997).