The Challenging Racism Project

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The Challenging Racism Project is a project based from the University of Western Sydney which collaborates with academics from Macquarie University, Melbourne University and Murdoch University. It has been principally funded by grants from the Australia Research Council and by other government agencies.

Racism can be understood as:

A phenomenon that results in avoidable and unfair inequalities in power, resources or opportunities across groups in society. It can be expressed through beliefs, prejudices or behaviours/practices and can be based on race, ethnicity, culture or religion (Paradies et al. 2009, p. 7).

In Australia, racism is inextricably linked to the history of colonisation and migration. Until recent years, racist policies and practices were embedded within Australian laws and institutions. The most telling examples of these were the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and the denial of full citizenship rights to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Similarly, the White Australia policy aimed to restrict immigration by people from non-European backgrounds. While legislation now exists to protect the rights of all citizens, there is a continuing legacy today from the effects of these racist policies.

The Challenging Racism project team perceived a lack of comprehensive data on the nature of racism in Australian society. The emphasis of this project has been to generate comprehensive and defensible empirical data on the extent and variation of racist attitudes and experiences (see National Level Findings). The presence of any form of racism is harmful for both the targets of prejudice and for Australian society as a whole. To assist in counteracting the existence of racism, the Challenging Racism Project team have compiled a list of useful and practical anti-racism initiatives and strategies that local governments and individuals can access and use to address cultural prejudices in their own backyard.

Our aims have been to:

  • Generate regional profiles and characterisations of racism for regions across Australia
  • Generate anti-racism suggestions and responses for each regional typology
  • Consult with stakeholders on the utility of the anti-racism materials we have developed.

The national level findings of the various surveys conducted by the Challenging Racism Project aim to provide a clear picture of the perspectives of everyday Australians (n=12512) on the issues of racism, ethnic-relations and cultural diversity. The primary focus of the first survey conducted in 2001 was to develop a measure of the attitudes that respondents hold towards cultural diversity, cultural privilege, the extent of racism, and tolerance of specific cultural groups. The second survey conducted in 2005 was a detailed examination of experiences of racism, including the forms of racist experience and the contexts and responses to those experiences (See 'A History of the Project' and 'Research Methodology' for more information).

This website includes various data sets on racist attitudes, incidences and experiences. The findings of our research have appeared in numerous formats, including an interactive map of survey findings by region, articles, conference papers and reports. Our hope is that the data and publications will assist federal, state and local governments, and local communities, in the development of their own locally-appropriate anti-racism initiatives.

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