Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council

Australian Government
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council
Ms Helen Szoke
Race Discrimination Commissioner
c/o National Anti-Racism Secretariat
Race Discrimination Team
Australian Human Rights Commission
GBO Box 5218
Dear Ms Szoke
On behalf of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, I would like to thank
the Australian Human Rights Commission for the opportunity to provide
advice on developing and implementing a National Anti-Racism Strategy. Our
detailed response can be found in the attachment to this letter.
I look forward to the Board’s publication of the next How Australia is Faring
Yours sincerely
The Hon Bruce Baird AM
Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council
18 May 2012
The Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council (RRAC) is a key body providing
advice to the Government on matters relating to refugee and humanitarian
settlement. Council members are appointed by the Minister for Immigration
and Citizenship on the basis of their individual experience, expertise and
commitment to settlement issues, in particular relating to refugees.
The Council’s perspective and opinions on the National Anti-Racism Strategy
are primarily influenced by its concern with refugee welfare.
Objective 1: Create awareness of racism and how it affects individuals
and the broader community
The National Anti-Racism Strategy should seek not only to raise Australians’
understanding of other cultures but also to invoke empathy for the personal,
economic and social damage that racism can cause. Heightened anxiety,
stress and depression among those who experience racism can alienate
victims from engaging in the broader community, including education and
employment opportunities. This can result in lower lifetime income, higher
welfare dependency and community-wide segregation.
It is in the interest of all Australians to prevent this from happening and to
ensure that refugees and other minorities feel welcome and become or
remain productive members of society.
People should be encouraged not only to be tolerant of difference but to
embrace multiculturalism and the benefits of cultural diversity.
RRAC recommends that the Strategy involve a whole-of-government
approach that aligns with the National Social Inclusion Agenda. In particular,
the Council suggests that the Australian Human Rights Commission work
collaboratively with the Australian Social Inclusion Board, which has
expressed an interest in indicators and evidence of racism and discrimination
in Australia.
Objective 2: Identify, promote and build on good practice initiatives to
prevent and reduce racism
RRAC would value the identification of employment, education and sports as
priority areas for the Strategy in promoting a better understanding of refugee
and other migrant circumstances, and encouraging changes in attitude and
behaviour to embrace diversity.
One of the current priorities for RRAC is enhancing employment and
educational outcomes for refugees. Refugees are generally highly motivated
to find employment and are committed and willing to give back to the
Australian community. However, they may face a number of barriers to
employment including labour market discrimination.
A recent study of Refugees and Employment in Australia1 noted that:
 Discrimination on the basis of race, religion and ethnic origin plays a
role in creating unsatisfactory employment outcomes; and
 ‘Everyday’ street racism does not affect levels of life satisfaction among
refugees as much as perceived racism in the labour market.
Further, research conducted by economists at the Australian National
University2 noted that job applicants found it easier to get an interview for
entry-level jobs if they had an Anglo-Saxon name. This suggests that the
attitudes of the broader community have a real impact on outcomes for
The Council is working with the Government to engage with employers to
promote better understanding of what refugees have to offer the labour
market and to facilitate pathways to employment. This initiative focuses on a
need to drive behavioural change as well as attitudes.
In terms of youth education and outreach, most schools are likely to have an
anti-racism policy in place. In addition, an initiative was launched in 2000 by
the NSW Department of Education and Communities, Racism. No way!,
aimed at assisting Australian school communities and education systems to
recognise and address racism in the learning environment
( The Commission may wish to consider
researching the impact of such policies and initiatives; in particular some of
the innovative approaches schools have used to address problem behaviours
and attitudes. Whilst some may be very specific to the local community,
others may be suitable to include as ‘best practice’ models in future
educational resources.
Initiatives such as these require high level support from Government and
leaders in business and the community in order to affect change. It is also
important that all levels of government present a unified message on the
importance of identifying and addressing racism.
Modelling of positive language and behaviours by public figures such as
celebrities, musicians, sports people, academics, politicians etc, can
strengthen positive messaging to the wider community. Engaging popular,
well-known and respected figures in public announcements and media
campaigns may be particularly effective in ‘reaching’ people and potentially
changing racist behaviours and attitudes.
A recent example of this is the broadcasting of radio announcements featuring
sporting personalities for Play by the Rules, an initiative to create a safe, fair
and inclusive environment in sport and recreation (to which the National AntiRacism Strategy is already linked) (
Colic-Peisker, V. & Tilbury, F. (2007). Refugees and employment: The effect of visible difference on
discrimination. Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University.
Booth, A., Leigh, A. & Varganova, E. (2010). Does racial and ethnic discrimination vary across
minority groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment. Australian National University
The Council would like to highlight the important role and positive influence
that sport has within our community. Sport can bring people together to share
in a mutual passion or strive for a common goal; it can unite people of all ages
and ethnicities, and foster a sense of belonging, acceptance and an
understanding of other cultures. Utilising this platform through sports clubs
and sporting events can be an effective tool to foster inclusion and combat
In addition, while specialised events such as Harmony Day, which celebrates
cultural diversity, play an important role in promoting tolerance and respect,
mainstream sports and cultural/musical events provide the opportunity to
reach a potentially wider audience.
In developing the Strategy, the Commission may wish to give consideration to
the ways in which broader initiatives could be tailored to meet the specific
needs of local community circumstances. It is essential that ordinary
members of the community are encouraged to show initiative and feel that
they have a stake in ensuring Australia continues to develop as an inclusive
and welcoming society.
The Council commends innovative approaches which provide a range of
opportunities for people to feel connected through new digital and social
media technologies as well the more traditional television, radio and visual
advertising mediums.
An example of this is the 2011 SBS series, Go Back to Where You Came
From (, comprising a three-part series
and subsequent discussion forum, generating much interest and discussion in
the broader community. The reality show challenged the perceptions of six
ordinary Australians and many viewers (between 500,000 and 600,000 per
episode) as it documented their experiences of what life might be like for an
asylum seeker coming to Australia. The accompanying website provided an
opportunity for members of the community to interact and have their say
through a range of forums including a fact-based simulation, a quiz, a
competition, conversation streams, and accompanying school resources.
Objective 3: Empower communities and individuals to take action to
prevent and reduce racism and seek redress when it occurs
Positive role models and personal stories of people who have spoken up
against racism and experienced positive outcomes need to be promoted and
publicised. These serve to empower others who may feel discriminated
against, victimised or marginalised.
People need to be made aware of their rights in regards to discrimination and
have access to avenues where they are encouraged to speak up and talk
about their experiences. Processes for reporting or redressing discrimination
should be straightforward and easy to use so that victims are not discouraged
from pursuing justice.
Anti-racism initiatives should seek to complement the work of local
communities and not duplicate unnecessarily. Initiatives should also offer
opportunities for people to share their views in the anti-racism discussion.