Racism in the eyes of Young Australians

By · 16 June, 2020 · Blog, Features, News, Youth Representative

Racism was the most raised issue among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the 2019 UN Youth Representative Listening Tour, with 64 percent of respondents selecting it compared with 58 percent of non-Indigenous respondents. In consultations, young people spoke of frequent experiences with structural and systemic racism.

One young person spoke of being denied service on a regular basis at a local store if not in the company of a non-Indigenous person and another spoke of day-to-day “microaggressions” such as people moving their bags away as she walked past. Another young person similarly described being regularly accused of dishonesty and theft despite having done nothing wrong.

“Sometimes, I just voluntarily empty my bag before going into a shop, so I don’t get accused of stealing.”

Young person in consultation, Mount Isa, Qld

“The community has formed this conception that all groups of young black kids are thieves. Often a platform will be given to people voicing this idea; entrenching the perspective.”

Broome Youth Advisory Council Consultation, WA 

Young people in consultations drew strong links between racism and issues relating to mental health and well-being. This is consistent with literature that associates racism with poor physical and mental health outcomes and increased risk of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. In consultations, young people also identified racism as a significant barrier to employment and education. Many shared stories of how they had been bullied at school and turned away from businesses on applying for jobs.

These were a couple of the many examples participants shared. In consultations, it was evident that racism was impacting young people widely and severely.

How do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people think we should tackle racism and discrimination?

Many young people cite education as a powerful tool for combating racism and want to see greater investment in initiatives seeking to build inclusive, racism-free communities. Specifically, young people stressed the importance of improving community knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and languages. They also were strongly supportive of initiatives that promote cultural awareness. Although many emphasised the importance of including schools and workplaces in this effort, they also highlighted a need to promote opportunities for such education to the broader community.

“There has been a rise in racial profiling from police officers and the general community. People are making judgments about us based on the way we look, the cars we drive and the tattoos we have.”

 Youth Empowered Towards Independence (YETI) consultation, Cairns, Qld

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people proposed a variety of solutions to racism, however, the themes of education and awareness building were most prominent.

These themes have directly informed recommendation 4(h) of this report which calls for comprehensive and locally relevant education on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, history, language and culture.

This was an excerpt taken from the 2019 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations Report, it was lightly edited for added context as a stand-alone piece.

Read the full report here.

Find resources for Bla(c)k Lives Matter and our statement on the movement here.

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