Weakening racial vilification protections threatens progress towards reconciliation

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Reconciliation Australia today reaffirms its opposition to any amendments to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, including the proposal to remove the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’.

“Any changes to the Racial Discrimination Act that weaken protections from racial vilification threaten our progress towards reconciliation,” said Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Officer, Justin Mohamed.

“Senator Bernardi’s proposed amendments risk making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples more vulnerable to racism and normalising unacceptable tolerance toward racism under the guise of free speech.

“The current Racial Discrimination Act places no more restrictions on free speech than other legislation regularly enforced in Australian society. All Australians deserve the protections from racial vilification that Section 18C  provides.”

In Australia today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience high levels of racial prejudice and discrimination, resulting in increased anxiety, depression and suicide risk. Reconciliation Australia’s recent The State of Reconciliation in Australia report shows one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced recent verbal racial abuse.

“The statistics around racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are unacceptable. All Australian lawmakers and citizens must demonstrate zero tolerance towards all forms of racism and discrimination to correct this shameful status quo.

“Only by rejecting racism and valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, rights and experiences will we progress reconciliation in Australia”, Mr. Mohamed added.

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