About Racism

Racism can take many forms, such as jokes or comments that cause offence or hurt, sometimes unintentionally; name-calling or verbal abuse; harassment or intimidation, or commentary in the media or online that inflames hostility towards certain groups.

At its most serious, racism can result in acts of physical abuse and violence.

Racism can directly or indirectly exclude people from accessing services or participating in employment, education, sport and social activities.

It can also occur at a systemic or institutional level through policies, conditions or practices that disadvantage certain groups.

More than 1 in 20 Australians

say they have been physically attacked because of their race.

It often manifests through unconscious bias or prejudice.

On a structural level, racism serves to perpetuate inequalities in access to power, resources and opportunities across racial and ethnic groups.

The belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others is sometimes used to justify such inequalities.

How prevalent is racism?

  • Of over 1500 people who responded to our online survey, two thirds said that they had experienced racism.
  • Levels of reported racism have been increasing over the past five years.
  • Around one in five Australians say they have experienced race-hate talk, such as verbal abuse, racial slurs or name-calling.
  • More than one in 20 Australians say they have been physically attacked because of their race.
Our own uniqueness is celebrated by embracing someone else's difference. image description Peter ScanlonChairman, Scanlon Foundationimage description

Who experiences racism?

Racist behaviour, such as name-calling and abuse, can be directed against, and emanate from, members of any racial group. However, some people in Australia are more vulnerable to racism and discrimination, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

A survey by Reconciliation Australia revealed that 71% of the general community acknowledge that that Australians hold very high or high levels of prejudice towards Indigenous people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples also experience the continuing legacy of racially discriminatory laws and government policies of the past. The consequence of these policies has meant that social and economic disadvantage has continued from one generation to the next.

Research indicates that people born overseas face higher levels of racism than people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds born in Australia, especially in the workplace. One study found that people with Chinese and Middle Eastern names have to submit over 50% more job applications to receive the same number of interview requests as Anglo-Australian candidates.

How does racism affect individuals and the community?

Racism has a significant impact both on the individuals who experience it, and the wider community. Research shows that there are significant links between experiences of racism and discrimination and poor physical and mental health, reduced productivity and reduced life expectancy.

Further, it is well-recognised that racism presents barriers to social and economic participation which can in turn cause social exclusion and entrench disadvantage, sometimes for generations.

This is what Australians told us about how they feel about racism:

It makes me feel like I am lower than everyone else, an intruder who is not part of this society.image description It offends me, angers me, frustrates me, but most of all it saddens me.image description Dirty. As a white Aussie who speaks English as a first language I am not the recipient of direct racism but I deplore its effects on our society and get sick and tired of seeing friends and peers, who do experience racism, struggle.image description It reduces us all. We are all made less, and our cohesiveness is lessened by it.image description I’m a proud Australian but it does make me cringe. We can do betterimage description
Racism deprives the Australian community of the opportunity to fully celebrate and embrace cultural diversity as an asset to this nation.image description Racism can make people feel uncomfortable or unsafe and that they are not welcomed or accepted. It also portrays Australia in a negative way to the rest of the world. image description Many in our indigenous population live as though they're in a third world country. The racism gap is widest for them. Australia could be so rich in shared culture, so we all miss out.image description It harbours mistrust. It incites hatred. It stops the word 'community' in its tracks.image description