Public intervention in racist abuse crucial: expert

Professor Kevin Dunn, the Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, was the lead researcher on the 12 year Challenging Racism Project, which surveyed more 12,500 Australians to provide a national picture of racism, ethnic relations and cultural diversity.

Professor Dunn says it's crucial the public intervenes in cases such as the Gold Coast attack, where two teenage women racially taunted and physically assaulted an elderly Indigenous man before another passenger eventually bundled them off the bus.

"It's crucial the public takes a stand to send the message racism is not okay and won't be tolerated, especially in violent cases like this where people are at risk," says Professor Dunn.

"In some cases people may be concerned their actions could make them unsafe or the target of abuse themselves, yet even in the event of these misgivings, there is always a way to provide help."

"Don't just sit quietly, make it clear that people with racist views are in the minority."

Professor Dunn says there are a variety of ways to help people who are experiencing racism.

"Even though it took some time before the two teenage girls were confronted and bundled off the bus, the fact the incident was recorded shows how important it is to gather evidence of these attacks so they can be reported," says Professor Dunn.

"Other ways to lend a hand could involve creating a physical barrier to protect the victim, seeking the help of other people to interrupt the perpetrators, or making a call to transport authorities or police."

A current project of the Challenging Racism Project is an examination of bystander behaviour during racist attacks in Australian society.

Members of the community who have witnessed an act of racism are invited to complete a confidential online survey. The researchers are interested in hearing from both those who did respond to racism, as well as those who felt they could not respond.

Researchers at UWS have also helped develop the Everyday Racism app, which challenges ideas of racism by having players live for a week as someone from a different culture or ethnic group.


28 February 2014

Media contact: Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer