CEO message: Cultural Diversity Week

This Cultural Diversity Week (21-28 March) is an opportunity for us all to celebrate living in a multicultural community, as well as reflect on the challenges we still face and the work that needs to be done to foster a more welcoming and inclusive Victoria.

On Sunday 21 March, we recognised International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day is observed each year on the day that police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid laws in 1960. In 1979 the UN General Assembly organised an annual week of solidarity with peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination.

In 2021, the theme of the day is “Youth standing up against racism”, which is fitting given the role we have seen young people play in the fight against racism, especially over the past year. At CMY we have been inspired by the work of our Youth Advisory Groups, Shout Out speakers and our youth volunteers, who are leading the way in standing up to racism and advocating for equality.

Two of these eloquent and insightful young people, Shashwat and Akeer, contributed to the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections last year, which earlier this month released its Final Report. It calls for significant changes to address the rise of vilification and hate conduct, and provide Victorians with adequate protection from harm. Read our statement on the report here.

Our research report last year with Australian National University, Hidden Cost: Young multicultural Victorians and COVID-19, examined over 370 young people’s experiences of racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis, and the flow-on effects to their mental health. The survey found that 85 per cent of Victoria’s multicultural respondents reported at least one direct experience of racial discrimination, and 32 per cent had more than six experiences; however there was a severe lack of both formal and informal reporting of incidences of racism.

CMY welcomes the recent announcement from the Australian Human Rights Commission of plans to develop a National Anti-Racism Framework, which is long overdue and needs to happen now. We join the AHRC, MYAN Australia, and many other organisations and individuals across the country in calling on the Federal Government to support the framework, fully resource it and implement it. This is an important compliment to the Victorian Government’s work on the Anti-Racism Action Plan and investment in an Anti-Racism Taskforce to guide the design and implementation of a whole of government Anti-Racism Strategy.

We were also pleased to see the launch of Victoria’s Local Anti-Racism Initiatives Grants Program. Ahead of the State Budget, we welcome this important step from the Victorian Government that demonstrates its commitment to combatting racism in our local community.

Reflecting on the theme of Cultural Diversity Week this year, ‘What does multicultural Victoria look like in 2030?’, we asked some of the young people in our networks for their thoughts. Here’s what they had to say…

“Hopefully, basic acceptance of other cultures – no racism, or harmful stereotypes. Just the basic understanding that people are different. But knowing society, it’s still a pipe dream. Hopefully we’ll make it there soon.” – Leilani

“I think/I hope by 2030 we will have moved forward from a place of learning about multiculturalism to one where every person is already aware of the realities and works to accept and embrace multiculturalism.” – Amit

“To me, multiculturalism in 2030 looks like all the people of the world integrating and enjoying each-others presence. We notice our differences of having various different ethnic/religious backgrounds and are still loving one another for who we are.” – Victoria

A few years ago, CMY embarked on a 2030 visioning exercise, which led us to consider and reflect on the Victoria we wanted to contribute to and how we could make it happen. When I think ahead to what Victoria will look like in 2030, I see a more welcoming and inclusive community, one that embraces difference, stands up against racism, and works together to address inequality. A place where multicultural young people are valued and their voices heard in the community, in Government and within corporate Australia – and a society where every young person has the opportunity to be connected and influential.

It is our collective responsibility to make this vision a reality, by advocating for and supporting the active participation of multicultural youth in all aspects of community life.

Carmel Guerra OAM
Chief Executive Officer