UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
5 November 2012
Item 67: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Statement by Ms Tanisha Hewanpola, First Secretary, Australian Mission to the United Nations
Thank you Mr Chair.
Multiculturalism and diversity are central characteristics of Australian society and our national identity. Twenty-six per cent of Australia’s population was born overseas, and Australians speak around 300 languages, including indigenous languages. Yet, despite this vibrant and successful multicultural experience, some Australians continue to experience the impact of racism and this is not acceptable to us.
The elimination of racial discrimination remains a key priority for the Australia Government. To build a fair and inclusive community where racism is a thing of the past, governments, citizens, corporations and community groups alike must take concerted action against racism, racial discrimination and prejudice, whenever they see it. Australia agrees with the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur on Racism that the implementation of national legislation enshrining principles of non-discrimination and prohibiting incitement to racial and religious discrimination is an important step in this process. Australia similarly supports institutional measures to tackle racial discrimination, such as the establishment of national institutions that receive and resolve complaints from individuals.
However, legal and governance measures alone are not sufficient to eliminate racism in society. Racism can only be eliminated when communities work together to foster tolerance and cultural understanding. Initiatives that address the root causes of racism must be supported. And we must all speak out when we witness acts of racism – whenever and wherever they may happen.
Australia is committed to achieving its objective of eliminating racial discrimination. In August, we were proud to launch our National Anti-Racism Strategy. The Strategy aims to break down divisions between people of different races in the areas of education, the media, government services, the internet and in the workplace. Through the Anti-Racism Strategy, the Government and the community is promoting public awareness of racism and its effects, sharing examples of good practices for stopping racism, and encouraging initiatives that empower communities and individuals to reduce and prevent racism. We are particularly proud that the Strategy was a joint initiative of the Australian Government, community organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is a practical example of the effectiveness of partnerships between Governments and national human rights institutions.
Australia agrees with the Special Rapporteur’s observation that the media has a key role to play in the fight against racism. Media messages that advocate tolerance and thoughtfulness, and that acknowledge the benefits of racial diversity, can help to emphasise the potential for different races and cultures to live in harmony. The media can and should use its influence to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity and reinforce the positive economic, social and cultural contributions that diversity brings to society.
Additionally, modern technology has made it possible for people from all races and backgrounds to interact instantly on the internet. Where the media promotes stories that portray negative racial stereotypes, citizens must also be critical consumers of the information they receive, whether on television, in the press or online and refute such views. In addition, the government has a complementary responsibility to condemn messages that reinforce negative racial stereotypes.
Australia is firmly committed to the fight against racism, and encourages governments, civil society, communities and individuals to remain firm and to work together to this end.