Reference to 'race'
The question of 'race' as a 'concept' and 'term' is used widely in
parliamentary language, legislation and in the construction of entities with
'race' as part of their nomenclature. The issue of 'race' is a concern to
The use of the term 'race' has the capacity to reinforce negative
perceptions of others from different cultures. This matter ought to be
seriously considered by us and we ought to consider ways by which the
leadership of the parliament could begin to change attitudes around the use of the
term race in our multicultural society.
The Australian Labor Party notes that, in the 2012 Final Report of the
Expert Panel on Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in
the Expert Panel proposed the removal of s. 51(26) and s. 25 of the Australian
Constitution because of their reliance upon 'race' as an 18th
Century concept, and the embedded racist thinking that governs their
Race is used in other applications and has been the basis or cause of
much discrimination in Australia as a consequence. The constitutional changes
recommended by the previous Expert Panel, and the Joint Select Committee on
Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,
have not been proceeded with so the Australian Constitution remains racist.
Leadership and education
Leadership from the parliament is a big factor in multiculturalism. This
is on an individual basis but also as an institution. The recommendations of
the committee report, particularly Recommendation 6 and Recommendation
11, underpin this as a matter of concern.
Labor senators support the evidence provided by witnesses in chapter
four which points to the role of education in moving away from the narrow term
'race' in official parlance. This may also be necessary in broader public
The consequence of this may raise complexities but a greater good is
served by removing 'race' from official parliamentary use. Parliamentarians'
lead on the unacceptability of the use of race may begin to encourage the
non-use in other contexts especially in the public domain where it is often
used in a harmful or hurtful manner to persons of other cultures within our
Whilst Labor supports the intent of recommendations of the committee, a
detailed consultation process would be required to identify the most cost
effective means to practically implement these recommendations.
Senator Patrick Dodson
Senator Kimberley Kitching
Senator the Hon Lisa Singh
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