Anti-Racism Initiatives

Many practitioners are not familiar with effective mechanisms to reduce prejudice. As such, a review was undertaken of primarily Australia literature on how to reduce prejudice successfully. A number of various anti-racism mechanisms are suggested below:

Celebrations of cultural diversity

Local government areas or townships can host vibrant cultural festivals and fairs as a means of publicly championing the benefits of cultural diversity. These types of events should send a clear message that the broader community is shared by people of a range of backgrounds, and that everyone – despite their race, culture or religion – is welcomed and accepted. With the limited, occasional nature of these events, a concern is that they can exorcise cultural difference and position non-Anglo cultures as a curiosity for Anglo enjoyment. They can also affirm minority views that Anglo-Australian homogeneity is the norm, while cultural diversity is the exception. These concerns need to be kept in mind when using celebratory-type events and be used in concert with other anti-racism initiatives.

See 'Cultural Diversity Week'.(opens in a new window)

Provide accurate information to dispel 'false beliefs'

Providing accurate information on cultural groups, behaviours and traditions can be a useful way of dispelling any 'false beliefs' that may exist within a community. Research indicates that providing accurate information can decrease acceptance of these beliefs. However, prejudice still remains constant. Thus, providing accurate information is not a stand-alone activity and should be used in concert with other anti-racism initiatives.

See 'Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction'.(opens in a new window)

Engage local residents in conversations and consultations

Run an anti-prejudice intervention which encourages members of the community to openly discuss issues of racism. Rather than simply "preaching" information at the participants, they should be actively involved in the process. It is important that participants be given are given space to air their anxieties, experiences and ideas, even if some of this views could be perceived as "racist". The chance of overt hostility or resistance within the group can be diminished by encouraging participants to act respectfully towards one another. It should also be stressed that there is no "right" or "wrong" response and that when implementing such an initiative, no participant should be labelled as "racist" or prejudice". Anti-prejudice interventions can be important for developing a sense of the social context for the attitudes, opinions, and beliefs in a community.

Leverage emotions

It may in some circumstances it be appropriate to tap into the emotions of your participants, for example, by encouraging empathy or inciting moral outrage. The extent to which an intervention should focus on any given emotion depends on the style adopted, the target group, and, more generally, the context. If one's goal is social action rather than prejudice reduction, research indicates that moral outrage may be more appropriate. It is worth noting that most anti-prejudice interventions aim for their participants to "walk in somebody else's shoes", that is, invoke empathy.

See 'Go Back to Where you Came From' (opens in a new window)

Emphasis Commonality and Difference

Anti-prejudice interventions relevant to specific cultural groups must address issues of difference or diversity among groups. While it is important for participants in an intervention to feel some similarity with members of the target group, there are risks involved in concentrating on either commonality or difference alone. While past research seems to have emphasised similarity, this concentration can reinforce homogeneity. As such, some researchers argue that cultural distinctions should be equally valued. It is important for anti-prejudice interventions to include a sophisticated approach to both commonalities and the differences including, where possible, a decentring of mainstream Australia as the implicit norm with which all other groups are compared to.

Social and cultural context

When conducting anti-racism interventions it is important to be aware of the potential differences in participant's attitudes, or strengths of attitudes, across location and situation. Anti-racism initiatives are more likely to be effective if they are specific about the needs of a particular locality, and spend time with local communities to learn about their situations.

See 'Education and Refugee Students from Southern Sudan' (PDF, 364.09 KB) (opens in a new window)


Highlighting incompatibility and inconsistencies in beliefs can be influential in reducing prejudice. While people with contradictory beliefs are often able to rationalise their opinions, there is a tendency or social push for people to strive for attitudinal consistency. This mechanism is most effective when used in association with other initiatives rather than in isolation.

See 'Australian Human Rights Commission – 2010 Fact the Facts' (opens in a new window)


One of the mechanisms that practitioners can develop is to evaluate anti-racism initiatives. Addressing prejudice is a long-term process involving critical awareness of the issue, and engagement over time. It is therefore, important for post-test evaluations to monitor the effectiveness of anti-racisms initiatives at both a micro level, changes in the levels of prejudice amongst a group of participants, and a macro level, important policy changes or an increase in lobbyists and activists.

Building and Invoking Social Norms

Social norms are powerful and can legitimise attitudes. As such, prejudice is less likely to occur when clear social norms exist. Research has found that informing people that their negative views are not consensually shared can reduce prejudice and hearing other people publicly oppose racism can increase anti-racist views. Anti-prejudice interventions need to account for attitudes towards marginalised groups and in particular the fact that participants who are highly rejecting of "outgroups" are likely to overestimate their support in the community. Being convinced that this is not the case appears to be a useful anti-prejudice mechanism.

Arranging Appropriate Contact

Inter-group contact, under the right circumstances, is useful in combatting prejudice. However, due to cultural and contextual reasons, contact may not always lead to positive attitudes. For example, severe disadvantage may lead some people to engage in what others might consider anti-social behaviour. Given that positive contact has the potential to change attitudes for the better, including marginalised groups in the attitude change process should be beneficial. Representatives of target groups should be present and involved in anti-prejudice initiatives. It may however, be more beneficial in some circumstances to merely include representations and voices of the target groups by other means (for example, pre-recorded video clips).

See 'Sudanese Community Cross Cultural Training for Police' (opens in a new window)

See 'Building Bridges – Kar Kulture' (opens in a new window)

Describing self and group identities

When addressing issues of prejudice and racism, we need to reflect on our own identity. It would be useful for anti-racism initiatives to examine what being Australian means, and whether this national identity is in fact one that includes all Australians. Furthermore, depending on the context, it is also important to explore the privilege enjoyed by white Australians.  This strategy needs to be carefully planned and should take into account the social and cultural context of the region.

See 'EXIT White Power' (opens in a new window)

Finding Alternative Talk

This strategy seeks to address the use of prejudiced conversations or jokes. People should be made aware of the damage this type of talk can do, and should be discouraged from engaging in it. There is a need for further research however, on conversational skills and strategies that are effective in dealing with prejudiced talk. This relates to "bystander anti-racism", which involves bystanders speaking up in the face of discrimination.

The Source and Function of Attitudes

When attempting to change attitudes, it is a good to know both the source and the function of such attitudes. While the source of people's attitudes may be political rhetoric or media representations; for example, "asylum seekers are queue jumpers", the function may be a perceived value violation – "queue-jumpers take away Australian spots for 'genuine refugees'". It is also important to draw on people's values, direct and indirect experiences when identifying the source of people's attitudes.

Everyday anti-racism

A good deal of everyday racism occurs within public places, such as on the street, at sporting events or in workplace lunchrooms and school yards. Victims of racism are especially wounded by everyday racism if members of the public neglect to intervene on their behalf. Encouraging citizens to intervene when they see racism occur can have the opposite effect, affirming the victim that they are not alone in their fight and worthy of support. Everyday anti-racism is about asking citizens to take responsibility for what happens in public space and providing them with the knowledge and means to effectively combat racism. Furthermore, bystanders need to feel empowered and safe, in order to stand up for those who are being racially victimised (see 'Bystander Anti-Racism').

See 'What To Do If You Witness Racism On The Bus' (opens in a new window)

Addressing racism structurally / institutionally

Complex factors contribute to race-based discrimination and supporting diversity. Efforts to reduce discrimination also need to be targeted within organisational, community and broader societal structures. This approach emphasises the need for many different types of action and also highlights the value of working at multiple levels and across settings.

Increasing organisational accountability

Increasing organisational accountability is important for achieving changes in social norms and for reducing inequalities in power and resources within organisations. 'Organisation' can include workplaces, providers of services (e.g. schools, libraries, health services, local governments, banks), and formal structures for a community of interest (e.g. a sports club).

See 'Racism. No Way'(opens in a new window)

Using social marketing and media

A broad range of media can be used in anti-discrimination and pro-diversity initiatives, including television, radio, print, the internet and the arts. Communications and social marketing strategies can raise awareness of race-based discrimination, impact directly on attitudes and behaviours, and contribute to the development and strengthening of positive social norms.

See 'Everyday Racism App' (opens in a new window)


Pedersen, A, Walker, I, Paradies, Y & B, G 2011, 'How to cook rice: Ingredients for teaching anti-prejudice', Australian Psychologist, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 55-63.

Nelson, J, Dunn, K, Paradies, Y, Pedersen, A, Sharpe, S, Hynes, M & Guerin, B 2010, Review of Bystander Approaches in Support of Preventing Race Based Discrimination, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, North Carlton.

Trenerry, B, Franklin, H & Paradies, Y 2010, Review of audit and assessment tools, programs and resources in workplace settings to prevent race-based discrimination and support diversity, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, North Carlton.

Paradies, Y, Chandrakumar, L, Klocker, N, Frere, M, Webster, K & Burrell, M 2009, Building on our strengths: a framework to reduce race-based discrimination and support diversity in Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), Melbourne Victoria