Government departments fail to tackle racism

Racism illustration. | Newsreel
A new report has called out a lack of action across all governments to address racism. | Photo: Team Jackson (iStock)

Australian governments are doing little to address racism within their departments, according to a new report.

The Australian Human Rights Commission report found governments and their departments at all levels across the country were failing to adequately address racism, even avoiding the term ‘racism’.

National Race Discrimination Commissioner Giridharan Sivaraman said approaches to identify racism were found to be ad-hoc, disjointed, reactive, and lacking coordination between governments, agencies and sectors.

Commissioner Sivaraman said the report outlined how negatively-racialised communities were forced to compete with one another for funding to support affected communities and that there was little focus on addressing racism against First Nations communities.

He said a lack of political bipartisanship was identified as an obstacle to action.

“Governments at all levels in Australia are not taking seriously enough their responsibility for action to address racism. If some areas of government are reluctant to use the term ‘racism’, how can they tackle it?”

Commissioner Sivaraman said Australia needed a national “whole-of-society” plan to address racism which coordinated efforts at all levels of government and across all sectors.

“It needs to set benchmarks and measure outcomes, and, importantly, it needs to centre those impacted by racism.

“Many people in Australia do not experience the dignity, respect and opportunity they deserve, particularly First Nations peoples.

“Recent ruptures in our society have seen dramatic rises in racism towards First Nations peoples, antisemitism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia. This shows systemic failures to deal with racism.”

Commissioner Sivaraman said the Commission planned to create a national framework to tackle racism and use recent Federal Government funding to develop a National Anti-Racism Strategy over the next four years.

“This report is a significant milestone on the road to launching a national anti-racism framework later this year,” Commissioner Sivaraman said.

Read the full report.