National Anti-Racism Strategy an opportunity to publicly condemn racist thoughts and actions

On Friday 24th August 2012, Dr Helen Szoke will launch Australia's National Anti-Racism Strategy on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Professor Kevin Dunn, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at the University of Western Sydney, says the launch of the Strategy is an important milestone in our nation's battle against racism.

"For too long, the dominant political discourse in Australia was the public denial of the existence of racism," says Professor Dunn.

"Finally, there is no room for argument. The Australian Government has recognised that racism is a problem and the AHRC has been tasked with developing a national response to the issue."

Professor Dunn was the lead researcher on the 12 year Challenging Racism Project, which in February 2011 revealed the perspectives of more than 12,500 surveyed Australians and provided a national picture of the racism, ethnic relations and cultural diversity.

He says most Australians have readily admitted for some time that racism is a problem in Australia, but politicians have taken longer to see the signs.

"Australian people acknowledge that racism is an issue. 27 per cent have experienced it in the form of name-calling and insults and 23.4 per cent have been treated less respectfully on the basis of race – but many politicians were still in denial," says Professor Dunn.

"When Indian students were being attacked in Melbourne and Sydney in 2009 and when riots broke out in Cronulla in late 2005, the automatic response of our Government was to reject the common factor that was obvious to everyone else – racism."

In the forthcoming book Global Islamaphobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West, Professor Dunn and Alanna Kamp contributed a chapter about the infamous Lindsay Leaflet Scandal in 2007.

The Scandal occurred when, four days before polling day of the Australian Federal Election, four men aligned with the NSW Liberal Party participated in a letterbox drop in North St Marys, using leaflets that outlined the mission of a fictitious Islamic Australia Federation.

The leaflets proclaimed electoral support for the opposition, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and fabricated claims that the ALP was supportive of the construction of a mosque in the local area.

Co-author Alanna Kamp says the Liberal Party volunteers targeted an area of the Lindsay electorate where there are fewer Muslims than in the Sydney residential average, and where they assumed that voters could be swayed by an Islamaphobic fear campaign.

"Islamaphobia is a global phenomenon, and clearly these volunteers believed that by stirring up anti-Islamic sentiments in the local region, they could deliver political injury to the ALP," she says.

"The developers and distributors of the Lindsay leaflet were never held to account for their attempts to incite fear and hatred, nor for their planned use and reinforcement of Islamaphobia.

"The perpetrators were punished for breaches of the Electoral Act but not for their incitement of racism."

Professor Dunn says the existence of racism has slowly become accepted in Canberra and, finally, the Government is taking steps to condemn its existence in society.

"In the fight against racism, one of our most powerful weapons is public discussion – bringing the most difficult issues to the front of people's minds, and not allowing them to hide in the shadows," says Professor Dunn.

"The AHRC's National Anti-Racism Strategy provides this opportunity – hopefully Australians, and the Government, will take up the challenge."

Global Islamaphobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West, edited by Dr George Morgan from the Institute for Culture and Society at UWS, will be officially launched on 18 October 2012.

For more information, please contact the UWS Media Unit.


23 August 2012

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer