The #RacismNotWelcome movement is a grassroots campaign fronted by former Socceroo Craig Foster AM, whose goal was an anti-racism street-sign campaign across Sydney’s Inner West. it was voted down by mayor steve christou in a move that has been criticised by fellow councilors and organisations.
In a LinkedIn post, Craig Foster originally explained that the bilingual campaign was a:
“Grassroots, community movement that started with the Inner West Multicultural Network, Sydney, to normalise discussion about the racism too many of our First Peoples, our CALD and minority communities experience every day, and to encourage learning about institutional racism, historic barriers and lived experiences.”
However Mayor Steve Christou of Cumberland City Council (in Sydney’s west) voted against the proposal, breaking the 7-7 tie.
Christou told The Guardian that there wasn’t a “racism problem” in his council.
“If those signs were to go up it would imply we had a racism problem in Cumberland…That is just wrong. Nobody condones it. You don’t need to put signs up to tell people how to behave.”
Before the vote, the council heard from residents from a range of backgrounds who said that racism was a problem in the area. Councilor Kun Huang received a letter two weeks before the vote wishing death to “all Chinese”.
Councillor for Wentworthville Ward Suman Saha told the council that, “for those who think there is no racism in Cumberland City Council, let me tell you that unfortunately, it does exist. Will a street place and sign change all of this? The answer is no, but it will be a start. It will send a message to the people that racism will not be welcome in Cumberland.”
Settlement Services International (the country’s biggest refugee and resettlement support provider) has now criticised the decision to vote against the campaign. CEO Violet Roumeliotis said in a statement that she was disappointed to see the initiative shut down.
In a statement, she said, “efforts to support social cohesion must go beyond positive promotion of multiculturalism and actively denounce racism. Racism poses a significant social and economic threat to our country. We only have to look to the US to see it is a potential security threat too.”
Roumeliotis is referring to an attack in Atlanta Georgia last week where a gunman killed eight people at a massage parlor. Six of his victims were of Asian background.
The campaign coincided with the Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan’s new proposals for an anti-racism framework in Australia. This framework is based on recommendations by the Senate committee on issues faced by diaspora communities.
Roumeliotis said, “A standardised framework would ensure a commitment to countering racism from all sectors and all levels of Australian government – including local councils.”
“What is clear from the growing evidence base is that racism in alive and well in Australian communities, and we need a coordinated, national response to better understand its prevalence and enhance anti-racism and social inclusion measures.”
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