CEO message: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Today, 21 March, marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Let’s not call it ‘Harmony Day’. This only serves to detract from the real focus of the day, and disregards the lived experiences of so many in our community.  

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on the day that, in 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire on protestors at a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration. In 1979, the UN General Assembly organised an annual week of solidarity with peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination. You can read more about the history and significance of the day in this fact sheet from the Australian Human Rights Commission.  

We know from our work across a range of programs and communities, that racism is a significant and entrenched social issue in Australia. It affects the lives of multicultural young people and their families daily. It is extremely detrimental to their health, wellbeing and life opportunities, as well as the health of the broader community and society. Read our position statement on the issue here.  

At CMY, we want to see a world where all young people are connected, feel a sense of belonging, and can contribute to their families and the community. As one of our core strategic focus areas, we know this is only achievable if we collectively work to deconstruct and dismantle the structural and systemic barriers that exist in our society.  

CMY is committed to our anti-racism efforts through a range of initiatives: from our external work in the education space with Schools Standing Up To Racism; to addressing the lack of representation of young women of colour in leadership and governance roles through a Seat at the Table program; to establishing new partnerships focused on tackling racism in community sport through CMSport.  

Additionally, over the past few years we have committed to looking inwards, and having open and proactive conversations about where we could be doing better as an organisation. This has included work in achieving our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan and progress towards our Anti-Racism Action Plan. We recognise that we must first acknowledge the experiences of racism, dehumanisation and dispossession of First Nations people and the RAP has enabled deep reflection on our role as allies and how this must frame our work with young people and communities from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Today we also acknowledge National Close the Gap Day in Australia, a movement calling for change for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health equality. Learn more.

I encourage you all to commit to taking one action today, whether it’s learning about the significance of this day, opening up a conversation about race and racism with friends or colleagues, or taking some time to listen to the lived experiences of young people we work with here. Take a look at the Australian Human Rights Commission campaign, Racism. It Stops With Me, for a range of resources to support you in having conversations and taking action against racism.  

Thank you to all of our CMY staff, volunteers and young people who contribute to this critical work with openness and passion.  

Carmel Guerra OAM 

If you have experienced racism, we encourage you to report it securely and confidentially to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission via the Community Reporting Tool on our website.  

We acknowledge that this day might bring up different emotions for people. For anyone who might be struggling during this time, we encourage you to reach out to one of the organisations below for support.