Objective 2: Identify, promote and build on good practice initiatives to prevent and reduce racism
1. What are the priority areas in which we should be addressing racism (for example: employment, education, sport, the media, cyber-racism?) The ASRC suggests that the Australian Human Rights Commission consider three priority areas in their addressing of racism. These include homelessness, employment and finally media perceptions.
(1). Housing and Homelessness: Asylum seekers face discrimination in the housing sector and are set up in the media and by the government as being in competition with residents for housing. This division has provided a potent ground for the generation of fear in the community that access to one of life’s necessities, a roof over one’s head, is being threatened by asylum seekers. Fear surrounding suggested competition for scarce housing induces a visceral fear and division in the community. This has been demonstrated clearly in a recent study by Spinney and Nethery 11. The study suggested that those who are currently homeless or at risk of being homeless have particularly negative views on asylum seekers and new arrivals.
The ASRC’s position paper Locked Out, which explores homelessness of asylum seekers living in the community, documents the exclusion of asylum seekers from the government’s approach to homelessness. As we have previously emphasised, social inclusion cannot be achieved without access to housing. The government’s act of exclusion in this way, based on visa, is a demonstration to the public that asylum seekers do not have a valid claim to housing, further entrenching their outsider status.12 (2). Employment: Another key area where significant gains could be made in addressing racism is in the area of employment. We know from field studies that there continue to be significant differences between people of different ethnicities in call-back rates for job applications depending on the applicant’s name.13 As reported by Hugo et al1,
‘…engagement with the labour market is pivotal to successful settlement and one of the most visible and important contributions that refugees and humanitarian entrants make to Australia’. Researchers including Hugo et al have demonstrated strengths of new arrivals in the employment sector. The findings from the Refugee Council of Australia’s ‘What works – Employment Strategies for Refugee and Humanitarian Entrants’ could be highlighted14.
These strengths could be a key area of focus in targeting racism. We know that migration is selective of those who take risks, create opportunities, and are entrepreneurial. These are strengths that generations of humanitarian entrants have demonstrated, and by doing so led to the creation of a wealthy Australia. Major employers in Australia could be encouraged to look at utilising this group of people and support the fast-tracking of people with equivalent qualifications.
(3). Media Portrayals of Asylum Seekers: One area the ASRC would like to see targeted in reduction of racism is within the media, including online forums hosted by media agencies. Asylum seekers provide an easy target for alienation by media outlets and often appear to be used to engender a sense of crisis and drama in Australian politics. There are multiple potential measures that could take to improve the currently largely negative portrayals of asylum seekers, some of which are suggested below.