On October 14, Australia will not be the same country that it was before. No matter how the results of the voice vote shake out, there is one thing that is certain: eliminating racism must be our next critical national priority.
It is a creature with tentacles that appears to be impossible to kill, and its poisonous nature appears to have only altered in more recent times.
At the beginning of this year, I urged lawmakers and the general public to refrain from letting the debate on voice to deteriorate into one about race, and I emphasized the importance of respect as the foundation for all conversations.
My worst nightmares came true, and I can’t believe it.
The discussion that has surrounded the referendum has, at its finest moments, provided illuminating illustrations of attentive listening, calm and dignified explanation, and optimistic anticipation for a better future.
At its worst, we have been exposed to offensive discourse, witnessed the perpetuation of discriminatory and racist stereotypes, and saw individuals being labeled as “un-Australian.” In our country, racism has been brought to the forefront as a direct result of widespread misinformation and disinformation.
It is completely intolerable, as well as terribly harmful, for such views to be tolerated in the national discussion, where they frequently go unchallenged.
I am dismayed by the manner in which some participants in the discussion have contributed to the escalation of racial tensions and brought harm to the people of the First Nations. Sadly, this has caused the message that giving First Nations people a voice in parliament is a critical step to remove the injustice, discrimination, and systemic racism that First Nations people endure by involving them in the decision-making process about issues that pertain to them to be buried.
Since quite some time ago, the Australian Human Rights Commission has been conducting consultations with First Nations and multicultural groups to obtain their perspectives on the concerns, priorities, and potential solutions regarding the fight against racism. In the following months, we will have a better idea of the scope of the harm that has been caused.
What we do know, and what has been reaffirmed throughout this referendum, is that Australia requires a national anti-racist framework and a response that is bipartisan as soon as possible in order to combat racism.
We simply cannot afford to wait much longer. This monstrosity has no business existing in our world. It is not only harmful to the people of the First Nations, whose prolonged collective suffering ought to be enough of a driving force to motivate positive change. However, racial discrimination is still practiced on a daily basis by far too many people in Australia, coming from a diverse range of origins.
A proposal for a national anti-racism framework (Narf) was presented by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2021. The Narf would serve as a central reference point that would assist in guiding all aspects of Australian society – from politics to civil society – to thoroughly combat racism. At this point, we are engaged in collaborative efforts to establish the framework with all levels of government, institutions, and community organizations.
It will lay forth tactics and specific activities to combat racism in all of its manifestations, including interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism.
The suggested framework will place a significant emphasis on educating the public and increasing their level of awareness. The events of the past few months, as well as the magnitude of false information and deception, have demonstrated that there are significant voids that must be filled. Education that is consistent across the country and is based on facts, empathy, and understanding can significantly reduce the prevalence of fake news and scaremongering strategies, and it can also help advance racial equality.
We will not be able to collectively recognize or avoid racism, nor will we be in a position to respond in a way that is both safe and successful if there is not widespread awareness of racism and how it functions in our society. The development of tailored unified solutions that are founded in the actual life experiences of communities that have been negatively racially impacted is an essential step in the process of moving ahead.
The only way to effectively combat the evil that is racism is for all of us to band together and take a stance against it. Those in positions of authority need to take the initiative.
On Saturday, exactly one week before the referendum, I will complete what has been a fulfilling and challenging five years as the commissioner for race discrimination. I would like to reiterate my call to all Australians to assist in the development of a community that is founded on our better nature, one that is opposed to racism and promotes racial equality as well as justice for all.
As a concerned citizen, I will be paying close attention to the vote with the knowledge that the serious harm that has been inflicted to the people of First Nations as a result of the discussion must never happen again. for people of any race. Regarding any measure.