Page 812 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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(a) that Canberra is one of the most multicultural Australian cities and that our community harmony, built on respect for diversity, our common humanity and fairness, underpins our social and economic wellbeing;

(b) and recognises the value of protections under the law from racial abuse and discrimination;

(c) the Commonwealth Government’s proposals to withdraw a range of protections offered under the Racial Discrimination Act; and

(d) the Law Reform Advisory Council is currently considering the ACT Discrimination Act 1991, to ensure that it offers the best possible protection against discrimination in the ACT; and

(2) calls on the ACT Government to:

(a) continue to review the ACT Discrimination Act 1991 to ensure we have appropriate protections; and

(b) provide a submission to the current review of the Commonwealth’s Racial Discrimination Act so it might continue to protect individuals from racial abuse in Canberra and Australia.

It is appropriate that we are discussing the protections our citizens should expect from racial abuse and discrimination. We are one of the most multicultural cities in one of the most multicultural nations. Our community harmony is built on respect and fairness—respect for our diversity, our common humanity and respect for individuals. Racism and discrimination have no place in our community.

A recent Canberra Times editorial suggested that people subjected to racial abuse are unduly sensitive and should perhaps just “toughen up”. This is offensive and misrepresents the effects of abuse. Racial abuse is intended to hurt and humiliate. It attacks your identity, your sense of self and your place in the community. It is delivered with malice and forethought by people who believe themselves superior because of their race.

Perhaps Senator George Brandis believes the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words shall never harm me.” But does he know how it feels to be abused, to have your family abused, because of your race? Does he know the harm done, which can be worse than a physical blow?

We have outlawed bullying in schools and at work. Yet racial abuse not only harms an individual’s mental health but it also destroys our hopes for community cohesion. Like many other Australians, I have been on the receiving end of racial abuse and the word “offensive” does not come close to describing how it felt.

Racism and bigotry are about what people think and intent is a principle that has been enshrined in our criminal law for centuries. A crime committed intentionally is viewed differently to one without intent. It is the difference between manslaughter and murder. It seems that our major sporting codes are tougher on racial abuse than our

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