News National Why it’s time for us to ‘step up’ and deal with racism
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Why it’s time for us to ‘step up’ and deal with racism

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Caucasian Australians should think very carefully about eradicating protections from the Racial Discrimination Act because one day they might find themselves needing it, Western Australian MP Ken Wyatt said.

The MP was participating in a political panel at the Garma indigenous festival in Arnhem Land on Saturday, and said governments have never really addressed the issue of racial vilification, and the act does not prevent such commentary on social media.

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“What we have to change is the mindset of Australians that Aboriginal people and any other cultural group individuals wish to vilify, is not warranted because we all have the same capability, capacity, and we all contribute to Australian society,” he said.

Mr Wyatt said growing up in the 1950s and 60s he and his family experienced atrocious racism, and said he was aware his hopes for a world without discrimination were not realistic.

In the party room very few people would ever feel the effects of racial vilification, it would only be a handful of us who would experience that and feel the pain, hurt and grief that goes with racial taunts.

“It’s become covert, and we will never stop people who see any race they don’t like from discriminating,” he said.

“Governments should step up to the mark and ensure the legislation they put in place protects Australians. Certainly in terms of (indigenous people) it should be strong positioning on selling a message that we are no different to any other Australians, and therefore on that basis the colour of our skin should not be a factor people denigrate and vilify us for.”

AAP
Australia’s first indigenous member of the House of Representatives Ken Wyatt. Photo: AAP

He said he wanted to see words in the Constitution to protect against vilification.

The Recognise movement is raising grassroots support for a referendum on recognising indigenous people in the Australian Constitution, and inserting a new section 116A that would ban racial discrimination by the government.

“In the party room very few people would ever feel the effects of racial vilification, it would only be a handful of us who would experience that and feel the pain, hurt and grief that goes with racial taunts,” Mr Wyatt said.

He previously said he would cross the floor if any changes to the Racial Discrimination Act flagged by Attorney-General George Brandis earlier this year squashed the rights of the individual to take action against being discriminated against on the basis of race.

“All people who are subject to racial vilification will need that protection; one day Caucasian Australians may need that act because they are in the minority,” Mr Wyatt said.

– AAP