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Social Justice and Human Rights Issues:
A Global Perspective

Social justice and racism

Social Justice – what is it?

The statement from Pat Dodson, who was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner from 1993-1998, passionately outlines the complex and very human concept of social justice:

"Social justice must always be considered from a perspective which is grounded in the daily lives of Indigenous Australians. Social justice is what faces you in the morning. It is awakening in a house with an adequate water supply, cooking facilities and sanitation. It is the ability to nourish your children and send them to school where their education not only equips them for employment but reinforces their knowledge and appreciation of their cultural inheritance. It is the prospect of genuine employment and good health: a life of choices and opportunity, free from discrimination."

(Annual Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 1993)

Social Justice happens:

when society, including government, private organisations and people, treats all people with respect, dignity, and equality; and
when all members of society enjoy all the opportunities of our society.

Racism – what is it?

Racism can be defined as “the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others; abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief” [Collins English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved May 17, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism (external website)]

Examples of ‘racism’ today do not always demonstrate a belief in racial superiority. Therefore, the second definition above is more applicable to the HSC Aboriginal Studies course, although it could be expanded to also include negative, stereotypical or prejudiced attitudes targeted at a person or group of people based on their identity, heritage or ethnicity.
A recent example of the complexities of racism faced by Indigenous Australians is evident in the experiences and actions of AFL footballer, Adam Goodes. Goodes was named Australian of the Year in 2014 and you can see his speech, in which he discusses his experiences of racism, here (external website).

Further information can be found at the following websites:

Australian Human Rights Commission, Social Justice Report (external website)

Australian Human Rights Commission, Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report (external website)

Australian Government (external website)

Racism No Way (external website)

Global Issues – Racism website (external website)

Creative Spirits website (external website)

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