Tackling racism in the ‘best multicultural town in the world’

Sam AtukoralaAs part of Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week, Shepparton Ethnic Council held a morning tea on March 24 at the senior citizens’ centre, where strategic engagement co-ordinator Sam Atukorala said Shepparton said was an “accepting and supporting” community to live in.


A Shepparton Ethnic Council representative says the city is “the best multicultural town in the world”.

However, the Human Rights Commission has said the town had one of the highest municipalities for crimes targeting people of their race in Victoria.

As part of Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week, Shepparton Ethnic Council held a morning tea on March 24 at the senior citizens’ centre, where strategic engagement co-ordinator Sam Atukorala said Shepparton said was an “accepting and supporting” community to live in.

He said there was a large population of people in Shepparton coming from diverse backgrounds, from refugees and asylum seekers to skilled migrants, since it first attracted migrants in the early 1900s.

“They come here, settle down and call Australia home,” Mr Atukorala said.

“When I first came to Shepparton, I realised how unique and wonderfully diverse this town is.’’

 

Cultural Diversity Week
Conversations: Police Inspector Bruce Simpson, Rabia Ali, Eric Egan and police Senior Sergeant Damian Keegan. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe said Cultural Diversity Week was important to celebrate the multicultural community, but also continuing to be “open to change and improvement”.

“We need to break down some barriers, of course, and be mindful that we are inclusive, supportive and respectful,” she said.

Cr O’Keeffe said there “will always be levels of racism”, that would have to be called out.

“But it’s not just saying, well, don’t do that, it’s how, as a community, as a council, we would work together.”

She said the elimination of racial discrimination starts with the youth.

 

 Mayor Kim O'Keeffe
Next steps: Mayor Kim O’Keeffe Photo by Rechelle Zammit

On Monday, March 21, it was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with this year’s theme focussed on ‘voices for action against racism’.

As part of the day, there was an online consultation held by the Human Rights Commission and Shepparton City Council on March 24, for community members to understand their rights and when to take action if they experience racism.

Community engagement senior advisor at the Human Rights Commission Monica Forson facilitated the event and said a reason why it was held for Shepparton was finding comments in the media about levels of racism in particular school environments.

However, she said there was also data on prejudice motivated crimes related to race, and Shepparton came up as one of the highest municipalities.

“It seems to indicate that there is a certain level of racism in the community, which is no different from other community members, but for a regional locality, it is surprisingly high,” she said.

“Our role is to provide people with more education so they’re aware of their rights and aware of the different outlets or mechanisms they can engage to be able to respond to racism,” Ms Forson said.

Mr Atukorala also said that education was important in tackling racism and for people to get in contact with the Ethnic Council, as he said that racism could still go “unnoticed”.

“We’re always trying to actually help these people to report this racism,” he said.

 

Sam Atukorala

Celebrating cultural diversity: Sam Atukorala discusses the importance of Shepparton as a diverse town. Photos: Rechelle Zammit Photo by Rechelle Zammit

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