Weakening racial vilification protections threatens progress towards reconciliation

The proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act will only act to undermine the trust built between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

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.

Get the facts on Section 18C of The Racial Discrimination Act.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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