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Australia’s anti-racism strategy to empower international students

Sumisha Naidu

Tue Aug 28 2012


THE Australian Human Rights Commission has launched a National Anti-Racism Strategy to wipe out discrimination and empower groups such as international students to stand up for themselves. Sumisha Naidu reports.

Australia’s peak human rights body has launched a national strategy to stamp out racism across the country and empower vulnerable communities such as international students to take action.

The National Anti-Racism Strategy and its accompanying campaign, “Racism. It Stops With Me” was initiated by the Australian Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with other government bodies including the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Multicultural Council.

The initiative will be rolled out over the next three years with the goal of generating public awareness about racism in Australia.

Federal race discrimination commissioner Dr Helen Szoke told Meld Magazine she hoped the initiative would also help spare international students from racist attacks.

“It is my hope that the Strategy and its campaign, ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ will raise awareness about the importance of recognising and standing up to racism,” she said.

“I also hope that the Strategy and the campaign will prevent international students from experiencing racism, ensuring they have a more positive and safe experience during their time in Australia.”

Australia’s reputation has suffered among current and prospective international students after a spate of alleged racist attacks against foreign students over the last few years.

Dr Szoke acknowledged this problem had yet to be eliminated in 2012.

“Through the consultations and also our existing work on developing principles that aim to promote and protect the human rights of international students in Australia, the Commission knows that international students are one of a number of groups within Australia that experience racism,” she said.

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The president of the Australian Federation of International Students, Catherine Nguyen, has welcomed the new strategy.

“AFIS has been concerned about racism for many years and has strived to fight against misperception about international students,” she said.

“We welcome the strategy as a step forward in this battle and will assist in our best ability with the campaign to be successful.”

Other supporters of the initiative include celebrity chef Adam Liaw and Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi.

International student rights to be protected

In addition to the strategy, Dr Szoke and the Australian Human Rights Commission are also working on guiding principles to protect the rights of international students.

“These will be launched in October 2012 at the AIEC conference in Melbourne,” she said.

“We have taken on this work understanding that racism is one issue but broader human rights considerations also come into play when looking at the interests of international students.”

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