Education is paramount to eradicating racism

Multicultural Matters: Education Quarterly, Issue 5 2023

Racism is “a very real human rights issue in contemporary Australia”, according to the Amnesty International Australia 2022 Human Rights Barometer report.

Yet, some racially privileged groups don’t see the extent of it, states the Diversity Council of Australia’s 2022 Racism at Work report. Instances of racism targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have surged since the announcement of a referendum for a Voice to Parliament for our First Nations peoples. This is consistent with the experiences of other groups from specific cultural or ethnic backgrounds as peaks of racism coincide with some major world events, such as spikes in the COVID pandemic, human rights issues emerging during world cup events or when the media reports countries experiencing racially-motivated conflict. Our school communities are not spared these experiences, nor the students we teach.

The Diversity Council of Australia’s report advocates education – to empower individuals to recognise racism and call it out – as paramount to successfully eradicating racism.

What can we do to work towards eliminating racism? Schools can:

  • implement anti-racism education programs that identify effects of racism and develop skills in recognising and challenging it
  • appoint an Anti-Racism Contact Officer (ARCO) whose role is to counter and manage complaints of racism, and ensure the ARCO is supported to fulfil their role
  • ensure all school staff undertake Anti-Racism Policy training and recognise that everyone has a responsibility to implement anti-racism strategies.

Effective anti-racism education strategies include:

  • acknowledging and addressing racism
  • recognising and respecting the unique identities of Aboriginal peoples as the First Peoples of Australia
  • promoting the voices of those with lived experiences of racism to guide understanding and inform action for countering racism
  • recognising and fostering cultural inclusion, social cohesion, and community harmony
  • ensuring that sanctions are applied against racist behaviours and systems that deny equitable access to educational opportunity.
Schools should choose strategies that are appropriate for their local contexts and that address the needs of their school community.

For racism to be eliminated, all school staff must act on any instances witnessed or reported. We can and should promote the message that everyone belongs and that we all have the right to work and learn in an environment free from fear or harm. By incorporating Anti-Racism policy points within our school and behaviour codes, everyone can work alongside ARCOs towards the elimination of racism.

Members can access Federation Anti-Racism resources by logging into the Knowledge Centre on Federation’s website.