Tuesday, 08 January 2019 08:25

We stand by Victoria’s multicultural communities

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission condemns the racist attitudes and behaviours displayed at a protest in St Kilda on the weekend, including Nazi symbolism and gestures. These actions are motivated by fear and hatred and have no place in our society.

The Commission stands by Victoria’s multicultural and multifaith communities. Reducing racism is a key priority for the Commission and we consistently engage with people from multicultural and multifaith backgrounds to build a greater awareness of their rights. We also work with the public, private and community sectors on specific interventions aimed at reducing racism in our community.

Multiculturalism has been a strong thread running through Victoria’s history – we have a proud history of welcoming people from all parts of the world, whose varied nationalities, ethnicities and faiths have made an important contribution to Victoria’s culture, economy and way of life.

Today, 49.1 per cent of Victorians were either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas, Victorians speak 260 different languages, and the state government estimates that this rich cultural diversity contributes $1 billion to the Victorian economy each year, through greater innovation and productivity.

Leaders from all levels of government and within the community have a critical role to play in condemning divisive racist rhetoric that targets Victoria’s multicultural and multifaith communities. We need to work together to advocate for an inclusive, respectful Victoria that represents our shared values, where all Victorians have a right to live their lives free from discrimination and vilification. Every Victorian deserves to feel like they belong in the state they call home.

Recurrent race-themed reporting over the last 18 months has coincided with a sharp increase in complaints of racial discrimination to the Commission, which rose 88 per cent in 2017–18. Collectively, we need to recognise that racism causes serious harm – to individuals, to communities and to our society as a whole. It can have very real impacts on the mental and physical health of victims, causing people to feel isolated, excluded and unsafe. It silences communities’ voices and prevents people from participating fully in our society.

In Victoria, we have specific legislation – the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 – that promotes equality and combats discrimination.

We encourage anyone who has experienced racism or vilification to contact the Commission.

Our Enquiry Line and complaints service can help. Phone us on 1300 292 153 or email enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au.

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