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Shepparton groups object to Racial Discrimination Act repeal

Shepparton's multicultural community groups are looking for people to sign an open letter that objects to proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

JOHN LEWIS April 9, 2014 3:10am

Chris Hazelman, Deirdre Robertson and Bobby Nichols are against changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Members of Shepparton Aboriginal reconciliation and multicultural groups are calling for community support in opposing proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District manager Chris Hazelman said an open letter had been drafted asking the Federal Goverment to abandon its plan to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which currently makes it unlawful for a person to publicly ‘‘offend, insult or humiliate’’ a person or a group of people based on their race.

Mr Hazleman said the letter would be circulated among Shepparton community groups and signatures gathered, before being sent to politicians and government leaders.

Mr Hazelman said the repeal could mean a resurgence of intolerance in public discussion.

‘‘The views we don’t want to see may be alive on social media, but they have slowly disappeared from mainstream media. This means they will once again be given free rein in the mainstream,’’ Mr Hazelman said.

Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group co-convenor Bobby Nicholls said the change would be a retrograde step.

‘‘As an Aboriginal person, this will put us back to beyond the 1967 referendum,’’ Mr Nicholls said. ‘‘If we allow this to happen it will create an open licence to attack not just Aboriginal people, but all our multicultural residents.’’

Fellow co-convenor Deirdre Robertson said such a change would have wide implications.

‘‘It comes down to what kind of society do we want to live in? We should be working towards a more cohesive society,’’ Mrs Robertson said.

The letter, which will be sent to political leaders in federal and state governments, cites figures from the Australian Human Rights Commission, VicHealth and a Greater Shepparton Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity survey showing substantial rises in complaints of racism.

The letter, in part, states: ‘‘It is extremely concerning that the Australian Government would be considering any move that will weaken legislative protections against racism, particularly given recent findings of racism in our community.’’

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