Horrific Racism Threatens Social Cohesion of Australia, Australia's African Community Warns

RACISM is an everyday experience for Africans in South Australia, the Federal Government has been told.

The African Community Organisation of SA has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott regarding the proposed changes to racial vilification laws saying there is a “culture of vilification” in the community.

“There is no day that passes that I don’t hear of racial vilification in the community, either by emails, telephone, and radio or even in person,” the organisation’s President David Malinda has written.

“Most Africans experience racial and discriminatory behaviours in the workplace, schools, community access/funding, sports, local governance, business and at universities because there is a culture of vilification that has never had a strong government that puts laws that make it a criminal case to racially abuse people of different races.”

Attorney-General George Brandis is still going through thousands of submissions on the racial discrimination laws.

The changes he originally proposed, to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, were met with strong criticism and the Government is now consulting more broadly.

South Australia’s African community have told Prime Minister Tony Abbott that they face racist attacks daily. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Mr Malinda told The Advertiser yesterday that racism can begin with vilification, but bubble over into violence.

The organisation wanted the Racial Discrimination Act kept as it is.

“We explain sometimes it’s due to ignorance, sometimes inbuilt beliefs. We need to address these in a cool way,” he said.

Submissions to Senator Brandis were not released publicly but the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law has started publishing some of them.

A spokesman for Senator Brandis said the Government wanted the Act to protect freedom of speech and prohibit racial vilification, and that in its current form it did neither well so they were consulting the community to help develop a draft bill.

Brandis: Mockery a legitimate part of discussion

“There are a variety of views in the community — many who want Section 18C repealed completely, which is not the government’s view, many who want Section 18C to remain in its present form, and many who think Section 18C should be reformed,” he said.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said it was clear to him that racism is still an issue in Australia.

“(Section 18C) sets a standard that no one should be subject to racist hate speech,” he said.

A group of University of Adelaide academics have also written to the Government saying the laws were needed to protect vulnerable people from persecution.

“In recent memory in Australia, there have been a number of incidences where racist attacks have threatened this social cohesion and individuals within the community,” the group from the Public Law and Policy Research Unit write.

They say racially motivated hate speech can silence the voices of vulnerable racial minorities, which in turn can lead to brooding which could breed extremism and violence “further threatening social cohesion”.