No place for bigotry in modern Australia
Sydney Alliance and its leadership today gathered to commend the Federal Government’s decision not to proceed with the repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) after a concerted campaign to save legal protections in the RDA.
It was the strong, organised relationships across civil society – assisted and supported by the network of organisations in the Sydney Alliance, that made this change possible. Sydney Alliance Coalition Director Amanda Tattersall addressed the media today in celebrating this decision.
“Sydney Alliance applauds the strong leadership of Tony Abbott and his decision to back down on changing Section 18C and his decision to embrace the fact that racial vilification has no place in a modern Australia,” said Dr Tattersall to the gathered media.
“We want to celebrate in particular the power of an organised civil society and we want to recognise that one of the secret weapons behind this campaign was the deep and lasting relationships that have been built by the Sydney Alliance. We need to advocate for justice.”
The CEO of Arab Council Australia and founding Chair of Sydney Alliance, Ms Randa Kattan said the proposed changes to the RDA would have validated and encouraged offensive and racist behaviour.
“We believe that the Prime Minister has made the right leadership call. It is extremely gratifying that community voices have been heard of this issue. We believe that if the proposed changes had gone ahead members of our community and many other communities would have been subjected to increased racial vilification without any recourse to defend themselves. Racism is absolutely intolerable,” said Ms Kattan.
Asha Ramzan, Executive Officer of the Inner South-West Community Development Organisation echoed Ms Kattan’s sentiments.
“The reason that this matters to me is that I am a migrant and a woman of colour,” Ms Ramzan explained. “ I live this. It’s important for us to understand that this is an ongoing issue about what is right and just and fair.”
Strong relationships between the civil society and community groups was integral to the campaign as Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies explained to the press, “This debate boiled down to; What sort of a society do we want? Is racial hatred and bigotry acceptable in the public discourse? The people responded with a resounding no. The people came together in the thousands and said that we will not accept racial hatred or intolerance in our society. The government is to be applauded for listening to that response.”
As Mark Lennon, Secretary of Unions NSW reiterated, “Every working person across NSW and the country should be protected from racial vilification whether at work or just going about their daily lives.”
The Uniting Church in Australia is a proud member of Sydney Alliance and their efforts to advance the common good and achieve a fair, just and sustainable society. Moderator of the Synod of NSW and ACT, Rev Dr Brian Brown thanked both the Sydney Alliance and the Prime Minister on their leadership on this important issue.
“We are with the Sydney Alliance in focussing on the common good and the issue of racial harmony in this country is very much a common good issue. I would like to thank the Sydney Alliance for the energy that they have put into this campaign. I’d like to thank the Prime Minister for listening to the voice of the people,” said Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator of the Synod of NSW and the ACT as he closed the press conference today.
Lisa Sampson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8267 4303