The Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW condemns proposed changes to s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

by Esther Lozano - Thursday, 1 September 2016

ECCNSW is concerned about proposed changes to s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act signed by a number of Senators and circulated today.
“The Act should be strengthened not weakened” said Peter Doukas Chair of ECCNSW. “At this time when anti-multicultural elements are active in Australian politics we need the protection of s18C more than ever to ensure racial harmony”.  As the peak body representing multicultural communities in NSW the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW is again committed to fight for maintaining and strengthening the current law.
ECCNSW has also received with concern some of the conclusions coming from the ninth report by the Scanlon Foundation called Australia Today, which examines public opinion on social cohesion, trust, immigration, asylum seekers and ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
The figures show that multiculturalism in Australia is on the rise, where nearly half of the population are born overseas or have a parent born overseas. Every year 13,750 people come to Australia under the humanitarian program and near 190,000 people come under the immigration program, with 68% under the skilled visas system and 32% in the family stream. 
ECCNSW acknowledges that Australia is one of the most successful countries when it comes to multiculturalism, and congratulates the positive outcomes of the report about the sense of belonging, which has increased amongst recent arrivals, as 64% have indicated a sense of belonging to a “great” or “moderate extent”. 
In spite of this data, discrimination is on the rise. The Scanlon Foundation report indicated levels of culturally intolerant people in Australia are close to 20% of the population, instead of the 10% that the coordinators of the report were inclined to think. 
Mr Peter Doukas, the Chair of ECCNSW commented: “In this polarised scenario we look with no surprise and with a high level of concern the advance of the One Nation political party. It shows that there is still fear and a lack of understanding of the differences amongst a significant part of the population.”
In this regard, 77% of members of the newly arrived South Sudanese community have reported suffering experiences of discrimination – more than any other ethnic group. As Mr Doukas commented “Emerging communities in Australia such as those from South Sudan, need additional support. ECCNSW will ensure that the needs of these communities are heard and not lost in the process of settling in.”
Mr Doukas further commented “This report highlights to us that there is still a substantial amount of work to do towards the enhancement of a more cohesive society, in which every single ethnic community feels respected, supported, and at ease with the rest of the community. It also highlights to ongoing role of ECCNSW as the peak body representing these vulnerable communities.”