Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner June Oscar has declared that racism in Australia is “alive and it’s kicking” in response to comments by the nation’s newly appointed race discrimination commissioner that Australia is not a racist country.
- June Oscar travelling across Australia to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait women
- Indigenous people are often “watched and followed” in supermarkets
- Aboriginal communities are being punished under a “racist” employment scheme
“I’m hearing from women and girls across the country … that racism is one of the key emerging issues,” she said.
“I know from my own personal experiences that racism is alive and it’s kicking.”
The Morrison Government’s newly appointed race discrimination commissioner Chin Leong Tan has rejected claims that Australia is a racist country ahead of assuming his official role on Monday.
Newly appointed race discrimination commissioner Chin Leong Tan denies that Australia is a racist country. (Supplied: Swinburne University)
The lawyer has also revealed he will not use his position to solicit complaints.
But in an interview with the ABC’s National Wrap program, Commissioner Oscar said that she will inform the new race discrimination commissioner of “encounters of institutional racism” that confront Indigenous peoples on a “daily basis”.
“It’s critical that he as the new race discrimination commissioner is aware of the prevalence of racism across the country and it’s experiences from the everyday lived realities of women and girls and Indigenous peoples … and personal experiences of racism in the schoolyard and in public places,” she said.
Commissioner Oscar said she would work with Commissioner Tan to ensure that people were aware of the processes available to them when they do encounter experiences of vilification and discrimination.
Indigenous people subjected to everyday racism
Data obtained by the ABC has revealed the impacts of how Indigenous communities are being punished under a “racist” employment scheme.
Unemployed job seekers can be docked up to $50 per day for missing work-for-the-dole activities.
But statistics show that places with higher numbers of Indigenous participants were issued with more penalties.
Indigenous communities are being punished under a “racist” employment scheme. (ABC News: Dan Conifer)
Commissioner Oscar questioned why the sector is treated in this manner, offering a grassroots solution.
“I think we can help to address the employment and the active engagement of participants who are on this program by supporting local organisations and creating innovative work-for-the-dole programs informed by the people who live in these communities,” she said.
“We know that the access to different forms of employment may vary across these communities but we certainly shouldn’t be penalising people who are living in poverty.”
Commissioner Oscar has been travelling the country with the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project, which she hopes will “elevate” the voices of the nearly 2,000 women and girls she has encountered.
She identified “racist attitudes” experienced in public spaces like supermarkets as one of the key emerging issues raised, revealing her own personal encounters of “being watched and followed”.
“Why would someone select to a focus on, you know, my right in accessing these public places and not others who may appear to look differently to myself?”
The Commissioner will head to the Torres Strait next week, continuing conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women after her most recent sessions in far north Queensland, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
The Women’s Voices project’s final report is expected to be handed down in mid-2019.
Interactive map: which regions are being issued with the most work-for-the-dole fines?