I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we're gathered, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present and any Elders here today.
I would also like to acknowledge our partners in this project:
- Chief Commissioner, Ken Lay
- CEO VALS, Wayne Muir
- Chair North Metro Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Linda Bamblet
I would like start with a quote - from the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Tenth Annual Report - 1987
"Some of the discrimination the Equal Opportunity Office hears about is merely unthinking or fairly subtle.
But there is one part of the Victorian community where unjust, unequal, prejudicial treatment is not subtle at all, but an everyday, lifelong and life-threatening experience."
That was written almost 30 years ago and is referring to the Victorian Aboriginal community.
We all agree that there is still much work to be done in many areas where discrimination continues to play a pervasive and damaging role in people's lives.
For that reason, one of the Commission's strategic priority groups is the Aboriginal community.
Through our work we aim to improve access to rights for Aboriginal Victorians and reduce discrimination in daily life.
We are doing this through community engagement. We are developing an online resource to educate and raise awareness around the diversity of Aboriginal identity and culture in Victoria.
We have undertaken research into the experiences of Koori women in the justice system and continue to follow up on the recommendations of that research to develop diversionary programs, for example.
And through Report Racism, the Commission is committed to stepping up and doing things differently to address the discrimination that people face daily.
We have worked with the Aboriginal community and our partners on this project and I thank everyone who has put in so much hard work to come up with a new way of addressing this discrimination.
We know that racism and discrimination is a daily experience for too many people in our community – and in particular for many Aboriginal Victorians.
We know that racism is directly linked to mental health.
We know that racism bears an enormous emotional, physical and financial toll.
No Victorian should be disadvantaged because of their race.
No Victorian should be abused because of their race.
No Victorian should feel that their complaints won't be heard and feel that they are not supported.
It is also important to remind people that bystanders play a huge role in addressing racist behaviour.
It is up to all of us to call it when we see it happening – and you can do that through Report Racism.
We see examples of racism in highly public situations, such as on the footy field directed towards AFL player Adam Goodes, right down to people being refused service in a shop, or being denied entry to a bar because they are Aboriginal.To address this, we have collaborated with Victoria Police and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to develop a third party reporting system, to trial in Northern
Melbourne and Shepparton and then extend to other areas in Victoria.
We are very pleased to be able to present Report Racism, the result of that collaboration, to you today and I hope you all continue to work with us to fine tune it make it a really relevant and useful tool that brings changes to peoples lives who experience racism.
We know that for many reasons, the Victorian Aboriginal community does not generally report their daily experiences of racism – either to the Commission or to Victoria Police.
Report Racism is a new way of using the laws we have in place, and encouraging people to know their rights and to feel safe and supported when reporting an incident.
The way it works is that reports can be made:
- by a witness, victim or a third party.
- People can report anonymously or they can provide their name and details so we can follow it up
- People can report online at reportracism.com.au or through a reporting place, such as the Neighbourhood Justice Centre or VALS - people will be fully supported to make their report in a safe environment
- or you can call the Commission Enquiry Line
When Adam Goodes was abused on the footy field and spoke out about racial abuse he said the following:
"Yeah, I'm putting my neck out there and, at times, people want to knock it off. But I'll continue putting my neck out there because there are so many good people out there who are supporting the messages, who want to see some changes."
Report Racism is an opportunity for us to bring about those changes and I hope you encourage your friends and family and clients if they experience racist behaviour to use it and to let us know where and when and how often this behaviour is occurring so we can all work together to drive it out.
I would also like to take this opportunity to again thank our partners, Victoria Police and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service whose support and dedication to the project have made this groundbreaking mechanism for Aboriginal Victorians to report experiences of racism possible.
I'd also like to thank the North Metro RAJAC for their help and support in getting this up and running and I am really looking forward to seeing what the outcomes of this will be.
I would also like to thank Josh Muir, the artist responsible for the fantastic artwork being used for Report Racism.
Josh draws on his Aboriginal heritage as inspiration for his artwork, using elements of hip hop, street art and comics to inform his work. He tells us his painting for the Report Racism project represents themes of liberty, strength and humility, and is based on the notion we should all feel free in our own skin and free to soar above discrimination.