ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

ACTCOSS calls for independent oversight, improved complaints mechanisms for racial vilification

21 March 2022

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has called on the ACT Government to improve oversight and review mechanisms to tackle racial vilification and discrimination.

In a submission to the Legislative Assembly Inquiry into Racial Vilification in the ACT, ACTCOSS made several recommendations to help tackle systemic discrimination and racial vilification including:

  • A Royal Commission or similar commission of inquiry into Indigenous disadvantage in the ACT
  • Introduction of independent review and complaints mechanisms for Children and Youth Protection Services and ACT Policing
  • Creation of an ACT Anti-Racism Strategy and legislative reform to allow for legal ‘positive action’; and
  • Funding and empowerment of an independent advocacy voice for Canberrans from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO said: “The daily, lived experience of many Canberrans experiencing racial vilification and systemic racism is traumatising.

“If we are serious about reducing and preventing racism and discrimination, there must be a commitment to full resourcing and implementation of oversight mechanisms, complaint pathways, cultural education programs and training.”

Head of the Gulanga Program, Ms Rachelle Kelly-Church said: “Racial vilification disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples and our children, families and communities are suffering.

“The ACT Government must prioritise redressing harm done to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities. Policies aimed at reconciliation must be a priority of the ACT Government.

“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT are imprisoned at 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous people. The over-policing and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT demonstrates the entrenched racism manifest in our justice system.

“We urgently need interventions to address over-representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system including a high-level inquiry into the issue, and mandatory cultural awareness and safety training for all ACT Policing and Corrective Services staff.

“The over-representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in the ACT child protection system likewise points to a failure to address systemic racism. Compared with other jurisdictions, the ACT consistently underperforms and underspends in this area, at the expense of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children,” Ms Kelly-Church said.

Dr Campbell said: “We lack accountability and oversight mechanisms in the ACT and desperately need accessible complaint pathways for people who are experiencing racial vilification or discrimination.

“Racism makes our community unsafe for so many Canberrans and leads to life-long harm and trauma.

“ACTCOSS welcomes this inquiry and looks forward to seeing recommendations that will begin to address racial vilification and systemic discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and Canberrans from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” concluded Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617.