Opening the Kep Enderby public lecture on 31 October, EU Ambassador to Australia Michael Pulch said democratic systems would not tolerate racial discrimination in any form, during a pandemic or at any time. “During this crisis we can test how strongly we hold to these values. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in June, launching the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan, the EU’s motto is ‘United in Diversity’. Our task is to live up to these words and fulfil their meaning.”
More than 250 people tuned-in to hear the panel of leading Australian human rights advocates, including moderator Nyadol Nyuon, winner of the 2018 ‘Racism. It stops with me.’ award. “What does equality look like in 2020? How has the COVID-19 response affected diverse communities? How do we ensure inclusion in the recovery? Nyadol, an advocate on issues concerning human rights, multiculturalism refugees and asylum seeker rights, she asked.
In his introduction, Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said “the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the right of all Australians to live free from discrimination.”
Ahmed Dini, who became a powerful voice for the 3000+ Melbourne tower block residents subjected to a hard lockdown with minimal notice in July, said 2020 highlighted pre-existing faultlines and racism. “What is needed is more cultural understanding when it comes to decision making.”
CEO of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights Diana Sayed said community response to the towers shut down was well-received by residents, who saw donations come in from as far as Brussels! “We are all Australians and we need to create a society where everyone’s voice is heard!”
Jason Yat-Sen Li, a leading businessman and voice on inclusion and identity, spoke about the experience felt by international students and Chinese Australians who are “afraid to speak positively about their heritage.”
“If we don’t stand up for our values, international students will go home and think Australian values are not what they are cracked up to be. If we embrace them, they may think our way of life has a lot of advantages. The real question we need to address is how to deal with trust and loyalty. Greater diversity in leadership will highlight the power of working together!”
* The annual event honours the memory of the Hon. Kep Enderby QC (1926-2015), who, as Attorney-General, introduced the Racial Discrimination Bill in the House of Representatives in 1975. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is Australia’s first federal human rights and anti-discrimination legislation.