Australia is not a racist country, Greg Sheridan has declared in a passionate column for the Weekend Australian. This will not be a view shared by the good folk at the Australian Human Rights Commission who are underway with a program to develop something described as a “National Anti-Racism Framework”.
What exactly is “an anti-racism framework”, national or otherwise, you may ask. What will it involve, and why do we need one?
The details, available on the HRC Web site in excruciating bureaucratese, indicate the initiative had its origins back in 2021 when
…the Commission released a proposal for a National Anti-Racism Framework in response to enduring community calls for national action after heightened experiences of racism and racial inequality in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main things I can recall from the early days of the pandemic was YouTube videos of women squabbling over toilet rolls, plus the memories of otherwise mild-mannered men in the queue at Aldi warning me off if I breached the space limit — “a metre and a half, mate”. I don’t recall any racial inequality; we were all equally stuffed. But the HRC was focussed on the bigger picture.
From March 2021 to April 2022, the Commission consulted with the public, peak and community organisations, experts, service providers, human rights agencies, and government at all levels on the scope and vision for a Framework.
The Commission undertook more than 100 consultations in 48 locations around the nation. 164 public submissions were received nationwide, including a significant portion from individuals.
Oh, to be among that elite squad of 100 consultors. Wow, 164 submissions “including a significant portion from individuals”. Democracy in action!
As the culmination of these consultations and submissions, the scoping report identifies key considerations for the principles that should underpin a framework, three cross-cutting themes consistently raised by participants, and three sector-specific priority areas to guide this work moving forward.
One overarching principle was widespread acknowledgement of the need to centre First Nations experiences, including the experience of colonisation and its ongoing impacts.
Yeah, “colonisation and its ongoing impacts”. That sort of indicates where this is heading. Download the Report here if you are suffering from incurable insomnia. Some highlights:
The Race Discrimination Commissioner acknowledges the emotional labour of those with lived experience of racism who participated in the scoping phase of the National Anti-Racism Framework
The Commission also received feedback that the Framework needs a definition of racism that reflects a nuanced and intersectional understanding of racism and that is community-centric. Participants stressed that understanding racism only through the category of race does not address its breadth and complexity, including the systems and structures of power implicated in its process. The systemic nature of racism must therefore be acknowledged and addressed in the Framework
“Understanding racism only through the category of race does not address its breadth and complexity.” What the hell does that last sentence mean?
Participants also called for enhanced visibility and responses at the intersection of different forms of discrimination. They shared concerns that those who experienced racial discrimination and who were also part of LGBTQIA+ communities, who were refugees, who had precarious visa or citizenship status, and who are people with disability, women, and young people, those from certain religious backgrounds, and those also experiencing caste discrimination, amongst others, need stronger protections in terms of policy, programs, and the law
So, there are degrees of racism? It hurts more if you’re gay or missing a limb or “from certain religious backgrounds?” (I am guessing not Catholic).
Oversight and accountability within the criminal justice system, particularly in relation to the systemic discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was called for by many organisations, service providers, government departments and agencies as well as community members. Many participants also highlighted the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on people from migrant, refugee, and faith-based backgrounds, particularly through over-policing and an unequal access to justice. Participants advocated for the provision of safe complaints mechanisms, community-centred supports, and services for those caught in the criminal justice system, as well as culturally safe and unhindered legal assistance.
Next time I get pinged for speeding, I’ll be looking forward to a “safe complaints mechanism” and “culturally safe and unhindered legal assistance.”
Participants also strongly advocated for improved accountability of digital media through increased regulation and community-informed standards in relation to online hate.
Yeah, increased regulation of media, that is an ongoing HRC priority. The great Bill Leak, you’ll recall, was regulated into an early grave, and don’t forget how Gillian Triggs was worried about the thoughts you might express around the kitchen table.
An Approach to Market (ATM) currently advertised on the Austender Web site calls for an organisation able to provide for consultations with First Nations community members on this planned “Framework”. The HRC has set aside up to $550,000 for the successful tenderer, so if you feel you have the right stuff for the role get your pitch in before the closing date of September 29, 2023.
According to the tender documents, “The Commission requires a supplier to conduct consultations with First Nations communities across Australia, and collate findings.” Rule yourself out if you cannot demonstrate the
…ability to approach consultations with a human-rights based, intersectional culturally safe, trauma informed and place based (where possible) approach.
“Trauma informed” and “place based” are terms I confess to being completely unable to comprehend. If Quadrant Online readers are able to shed light on their meaning, or that of “intersectional culturally safe”, please enter an answer in the comments thread below. Your insights will be extremely helpful for fellow readers contemplating competing, seriously or not, for the half-a-million-plus bucks the HRC is so keen to spend.
The Approach to Market also highlights that “The objectives of the consultations are to: ensure the voices of First Nations peoples are centred in national discussions about a National Anti-Racism Framework.”
Crikey! You thought there was only on Voice? Forget it, there are many.
Large as it is, I fail to understand how $550,000 is sufficient to engage with indigenous communities “across Australia”. That’s a lot of territory to cover and a lot of diesel fuel.
Plus, it’s not like you can just walk into an outback town, rock up to the counter at the motel, servo, supermarket or pub and engage in the HRC-approved sort of way with the local indigenous community.
From the Austender document:
The National Anti-Racism Strategy has been funded by the Federal Government over the next four years.
Walter Waverley is the pseudonym of a Sydney journalist and businessman who prefers anonymity to grief from woke neighbours, friends and clients