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Racism is not acceptable

 

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If you see or experience racial discrimination, harassment or hatred, don’t put up with it; speak up. 

The information on this page is available in other languages.

If you are the victim of racist behaviour

  • If you are assaulted or threatened with violence, contact the police. In an emergency or life threatening situation, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for police. If you need police assistance, but there is no immediate danger, call the Police Assistance Line (131 444).
  • If there is no violence involved, and if it’s safe to do so, you may want to deal with the situation yourself by raising it directly with the person or people involved.
  • If direct contact does not resolve the situation, or you do not feel comfortable doing this, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).   To lodge a complaint with the AHRC, visit www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints or call the AHRC’s National Information Service on 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 9888.

The power of bystanders

When people who witness racism speak out against it, this makes the person being targeted feel supported, and can make the person being racist reconsider their behaviour. Don’t put yourself at risk. But if it is safe to do so, speak up and stand with the victim. Even a simple gesture can be powerful.

If you see racist behaviour you can:

  • Speak up — call it out as racism, let the perpetrator know it is not acceptable
  • Support the victim — stand next to the person being targeted and ask them if they are ok   
  • Take evidence — record the incident on your phone, take a photo of the perpetrator and report it to authorities 

View the Australian Human Rights Commission tips for bystanders.

Racial discrimination and your rights

In Australia it is against the law to do something in public based on the race, colour, national or ethnic origin of a person or group of people which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. This type of behaviour is classified as racial hatred.

Examples of racial hatred may include

  • racially offensive material on the internet, including eforums, blogs, social networking sites and video sharing sites 
  • racially offensive comments or images in a newspaper, magazine or other publication such as a leaflet or flyer 
  • racially offensive speeches at a public rally 
  • racially abusive comments in a public place, such as a shop, workplace, park, on public transport or at school 
  • racially abusive comments at sporting events by players, spectators, coaches or officials. 

The law aims to strike a balance between the right to communicate freely (‘freedom of speech’) and the right to live free from racial hatred. Some actions may not be against the law if they are “done reasonably and in good faith”.

Racial discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation because of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status like refusing to rent a house to a person because they are of a particular racial background or skin colour.

Racial discrimination also happens when there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people of a particular race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status like a company saying employees must not wear hats or other headwear at work, which is likely to have an unfair effect on people from some racial/ethnic backgrounds.

If you experience racial discrimination or hatred you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The complaint process is simple, free and flexible.

To lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, visit www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints  

National Information Service

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Information Service (NIS) provides information and referrals for individuals, organisations and employers about a range of human rights and discrimination issues. This service is free and confidential.

The NIS can: 

  • give you information about your rights and responsibilities under federal human rights and anti-discrimination law 
  • discuss whether you may be able to make a complaint to the Commission or how the law might apply to your situation 
  • give you information about how to make a complaint, respond to a complaint or deal with specific discrimination issues 
  • refer you to another organisation that may be able to help you 

Please note that the NIS is unable to provide legal advice. 

You can contact the NIS by: 

  • National Relay Service: 1300 555 727 (Speak and Listen) or internet-relay.nrscall.gov.au 

Translating and Interpreting Service

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an interpreting service for people who do not speak English. The majority of TIS National services are free to non-English speakers. 

Counselling and Mental Health Wellbeing

A new 24/7 support service specifically designed to help people through the COVID-19 pandemic is available free of charge to all Australians. 

The support service can be accessed through the Beyond Blue coronavirus page.

For personal crisis and mental health support services you can contact Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time. 

Kids Helpline is a free service for young people aged 5 to 25. Kids, teens and young adults can call 1800 551 800 at any time.

Resources

State and Territory Government information

Refer to your local state government for the latest responses to the coronavirus pandemic. You can also check restrictions in all states and territories using the COVID-19 Restriction Checker.