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2018 APS Congress

The 2018 APS Congress will be held in Sydney from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 September 2018

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Racism and discrimination

Challenging prejudice and racism is an important focus for psychology, and for all Australians.

Racism causes negative psychological, social, educational and economic impacts throughout the life span and contributes to mental health problems in the community.

Many psychologists are concerned at the racism apparent in public responses to current issues such as terrorism, ‘border protection’ and incarceration rates.

Key points

  • Racism refers to systematic assumptions that certain groups are superior to others, based on cultural differences in values, norms and behaviours.
  • Racism results in those considered inferior being treated less favourably in multiple ways. They may experience unequal opportunities, and fewer benefits and resources available to the wider community.
  • Racism is pervasive. It reflects deeply rooted historical, social, cultural and power inequalities in society. It involves the systematic use of power or authority to treat others unjustly.
  • Institutionalised racism is deeply entrenched and largely invisible. It affects groups as well as individuals.
  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have been shown to arise from learned attitudes and behaviours. These can be challenged and changed.
  • People can reject long-held stereotypes and avoid prejudiced attitudes and behaviours.
  • The expression of racism and prejudice has changed in recent decades from overt to more subtle forms. Yet there is strong evidence to suggest that it is still prevalent in Australia.

How the APS is involved

The APS opposes all forms of racism and recognises its destructive psychological and social impacts. There is no race or cultural group that is superior to others, and people are not ‘lesser’ because of their racial, ethnic or cultural origins. Racism interferes with our ability to see people as individuals, and diminishes people's ability to achieve to their potential.

The APS has been working to combat and prevent racism for many years:

  • The Psychological Perspectives of Racism and Prejudice position paper outlined psychological theory, research and practice in relation to racism and prejudice, and their policy and practical implications.
  • A special edition of the APS's InPsych magazine in August 2013 covered psychological perspectives and research on racism and effective anti-racism strategies.
  • The APS co-hosted a Racism Roundtable in Perth in 2009, which bought together 40 researchers and public figures from across Australia to share research concerning racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians..
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Psychology Interest Group was launched in Adelaide in 1991.
  • The APS Reconciliation Action Plan was launched in 2012 and completed in 2014.
  • The APS has made a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, acknowledging psychology’s role in contributing to their msitreatement and the erosion of their culture.
  • APS submissions to government inquiries have provided evidence of the harm caused by racism to individuals and the wider community. These have included inquiries relating to multiculturalism, freedom of speech and proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.
  • Psychologists have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of immigration detention, temporary protection visas and other policies of deterrence on the mental health and wellbeing of those seeking asylum in Australia.
  • Tips to assist adults, families, educators and children to move beyond racism.
  • The Communicating About Violence, Peace and Justice information sheet looks at what people can do to communicate better in relation to peace, justice and violence.