Submission to the Attorney-General regarding changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Here is my submission, on behalf of the Refugee Council of Australia, to the Attorney-General regarding changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Racism and discrimination are issues that have a significant impact on refugee communities in Australia and this submission highlights the impacts of the proposed amendments. RCOA strongly opposes these proposed amendments to the RDA as we believe they weaken protections against racism, racial vilification and discrimination towards refugee communities.

RCOA submits that sections 18B, 18C, 18D and 18E protect from the harm of racial vilification and discrimination, as exemplified by almost 20 years of case law. RCOA believes that the proposed amendments would provide a licence to the community to engage in racist behaviour and may lead to further acts of racially motivated violence. RCOA also argues that there is a lack of a clear rationale for these changes, which have only been brought about after extensive media attention regarding one case. Indeed, research shows that these laws have been considered in less than 100 finalised court cases since 1995 and RCOA argues that the courts have applied these laws reasonably and appropriately.

Many refugee communities know all too well the fine line between racial vilification and racial persecution. People of refugee background consulted in the preparation of this submission emphasised the importance of protecting against racist hate speech, which can easily lead to racially motivated violence, physiological harm and other serious issues. Many refugee communities have fled persecution on the basis of their race, being one of the five grounds on which people are entitled to seek protection as refugees under the Refugee Convention. Refugee communities are among the minority groups who would be most affected by these changes to the law and as such it is important to consider their needs when assessing the proposed amendments.

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