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Oxfam is calling on Australians to call out racism

On Sunday, two men painted themselves black to represent ‘Indigenous Australians’ at an Aussie–icon themed party in the regional Victorian town of Ballarat, another partygoer dressed as Cathy Freeman, wore a cape and painted her face black.

To mock and further stigmatise a minority group that has for generations suffered is not okay. It’s not just a joke.

Australia must and can be better than this.

Oxfam is calling on Australians to act. To call out racism and be champions for change.

Our staff member Sissy Austin, a Victorian Gunditjmara woman, took action into her own hands on Sunday when she confronted the person who uploaded a photo of the men.

When she wrote about it on Facebook, she was bullied and harassed.

Australia must and can be better than this.

It is disrespectful, insensitive and offensive to dress up and mock blackness. It denigrates and humiliates Indigenous Australians, even if the original act wasn’t motivated by hate or malice or was intended to be humorous.

Research demonstrates that racism can have adverse effects on people’s physical and mental health. It can cause anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Racism takes away the dignity of people as an equal member of society. It excludes Indigenous Australians from wider society and sends a message that they aren’t welcome.

Indigenous cultures of Australia are the oldest living cultural history in the world – they go back at least 50,000 years.

So, instead of mocking Indigenous culture, we should respect and celebrate it.

Australians needs more people like Sissy Austin — to be champions for Indigenous rights.

Racism has no place in our parties, in our backyards, at our sporting events or in our society at large.

Oxfam is calling for more Australians to be courageous and call out racism. To speak to friends, colleagues and family members about what constitutes racism so that together we can make our country a place of acceptance.

We ask you to do your bit to stamp racism out by speaking up against racism when you encounter it and join the ‘Racism: It Stops with Me’ campaign.

Australia must and can be better than this.

Dr Helen Szoke
Chief Executive, Oxfam Australia.