One in four non-Indigenous Australians would not know they were discriminating against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people unless it was pointed out to them, a new Beyond Blue survey has revealed.
And nearly seven out of 10 believe “almost everyone has been a racist at some point in their lives”.
So are you the one in four?
Have you ever left the last seat on the bus vacant because you didn’t want to sit next to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander person? Have you ever held your bag tighter, crossed the street or avoided eye contact as an Indigenous Australian approached you?
Have you ever stopped to think what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of such behaviour, for a lifetime?
Discrimination is known to contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing higher incidence of depression and anxiety.
In phase two of its Invisible Discriminator campaign, Beyond Blue asks everyone to check unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour such as off-hand derogatory comments, jokes and exclusion, via our website www.beyondblue.org.au/stop-discrimination.
The Beyond Blue Invisible Discriminator campaign, which will run on TV, in cinemas and online for the next month, is designed to challenge non-Indigenous Australians – particularly those aged 25 to 44 – to examine their behaviour and attitudes – and if they’re not up to scratch, to change them.
Several studies have demonstrated a link between experiences of racism and poor mental health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including a greater risk of developing substance abuse, depression, anxiety and attempting suicide.
Former Northern Territory Senator and Olympian Nova Peris – who launched the first phase of the Invisible Discriminator campaign in 2014 – said leading a very public life for the past two decades had exposed her to “some pretty horrific discrimination”.
“I am sick of the hatred,” Ms Peris said. “I am sick of discrimination and I am sick of people treating each other so badly. It is time to stop and think, and start to pay some respect.”
Beyond Blue Chairman The Honourable Jeff Kennett said almost all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people regularly experience racism and more than 70 per cent report eight or more incidents a year.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are nearly three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than other Australians and twice as likely to die by suicide,” Mr Kennett said. “The higher the dose, the more often the discrimination occurs, the greater the risk to mental health. Stamping out racism and discrimination should be a national priority starting with each and every one of us.”
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the take-away message from this campaign for all non-Indigenous Australians is that ‘You Can Change This’.
“We might not realise how much our words and actions can hurt, but the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person on the receiving end is never in doubt,” Ms Harman said. “Even a single act of discrimination can do deep and long-lasting harm.”
The Invisible Discriminator campaign encourages non-Indigenous people to take action to stop racial discrimination by going to the Beyond Blue website to access links to a range of Indigenous organisations.
TNS: Sample size: n=993; profile: 25-44 year olds, non-Indigenous Australians, weighted to be nationally representative