Yesterday, on the 25th of May, over 800+ people attended the “Walk For Respect” in Lakemba, in support of unity against racism and bigotry.
Section 18 C protects against offence, insult, humiliation based on race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin. In recent weeks the government has indicated that they want to change this act and remove these protections.
I was very proud to be MC for this event, thanks to Tony Burke, Federal member of Watson and Fernando Abibaird, who sparked the idea that lead to the Walk For Respect event.
To begin the proceedings, Harry Seng sang “Waltzing Matilda” accompanied by Tony Burke on guitar. Harry’s outstanding singing united the crowd and started the event on a positive high note. We then had great guest speakers – Kirstie Parker, a proud Yuwallarai woman from northwest New South Wales, representing the Alliance Against Racial Discrimination, NSW Leader of the Opposition, Mr John Robertson and Mr Robert Furolo, the state Member for Lakmeba. They all spoke passionately about the importance of keeping 18C so we can continue to live harmoniously and respectfully without hatred, bigotry and discrimination.
Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, announced by Brandis, would be the removal of the words “offend, insult, humiliate”, leaving “intimidation”. Section 18D will be removed entirely but the exemptions will be moved into 18C. In addition, he announced a new offence be added to 18C , which is “racial vilification.”
If these changes do occur, this will be the green light for hatred, bigotry, racism and possibly an increase of violence in our society. I remember specifically when Pauline Hanson made her maiden speech, stating, “we’re being swamped by Asians…” this encouraged many people to act disrespectfully towards each other. I recall an incident when I caught a ferry from High St, Neutral Bay to Circular Quay, an elderly man spat on me and said, “Pauline’s right, we’re being swamped by you bloody ugly Asians.” I then immediately reported him to the ferry captain, who just so happened to be dark skinned and was able to empathise with me. He called for the police to detain this racist man. When we arrived at Circular Quay, the police gave this man a stern warning and he was told that he’d be charged and arrested if he was to do this again to anyone. If this incident was to happen again, after the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, there would be no warnings, charges or arrests to stop people from racially abusing one another. Hence an increase in violent behaviour would result from this change and a society of unhappy people.
Together we must stand united and keep this conversation going to prevent this change from occurring. In the meantime please sign a pledge on http://www.againsthate.com.au to show the government that we want to live harmoniously in a tolerant country.
To keep the conversation going, the next upcoming event is 14th June @ UTS Haymarket 10am-3pm. Light lunch provided.