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Over half of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have encountered at least one case of racial discrimination in the past six months, a 20% jump from 2018, the latest two-year survey measuring attitudes to reconciliation in Australia reveals. 

The Reconciliation Barometer 2020, published by Reconciliation Australia, surveys thousands of Australians on the five dimensions of reconciliation between Australia's Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples: race relations, equality and equity, unity, institutional integrity and historical acceptance. 

Alongside increased experiences of racism, the number of Australia's First People who believe Australia is a generally racist country grew from 43% in 2018 to 60% in 2020. 

Just under half of Australia’s non-Indigenous population agree. 

"More Australians now agree with the statement that ‘Australia is a racist country,’ a rise across the board in understanding how racism operates,” Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said in a statement, before explaining the most common forms of racial discrimination are associated with police interactions, real estate agents and service in shops. 

"The vital importance of maintaining protections against racism, of supporting anti-racism campaigns and education, and to truly understand the insidious effects of racism on people's abilities to live their lives cannot be overstated," Mundine added. 

Heightened cases of racial prejudice in 2020 can be linked to Australia’s “increasing political and social polarisation” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the report states. The Black Lives Matter movement, which saw Australians protest against police brutality and institutional racism, also worked to raise awareness of the often subtle forms racism can take. 

The Reconciliation Barometer also revealed that 81% and 86% of non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians, respectively, think it is essential to safeguard an Indigenous body within the Constitution, chiefly so future governments can't abolish it. 

Similarly, around 90% of both First Australians and non-Indigenous Australians believe Indigenous peoples should have a say in matters that affect them, and that the reality of Australia’s shared history should be told through formal truth-telling.

With the vast majority of Australians supporting reconciliation, Mundine said political leaders must act more decisively.

"Our Barometer shows that community attitudes are well ahead of the political response to issues around self-determination, representation, treaty and in understanding and learning about history. This provides a basis for demanding more of our political leaders,” she said in a statement. “Change doesn’t happen without governments, parliaments, corporate and civil society, and the broader community playing their part.”

The report calls on leaders to maintain legal protections against racism, support initiatives that celebrate public education about First Peoples’ history, culture and achievements and ensure future policy development is done in genuine partnership with Indigenous Australians.


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60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Believe Australia Is a Racist Country: Report

By Madeleine Keck