Responding to racism

If you witness or experience racism, you may want to report it, seek support, or support those who have been negatively impacted. This page provides some information on services and reporting mechanisms available.

Support services

Experiencing racism can be distressing and traumatic. If you have experienced racism, you may want to seek support. Support may come from family, friends or people within your community. However, formal support services are also available.

View support services
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A young Aboriginal woman looking intently at the camera

Reporting mechanisms

If you witness or experience racism, you may want to report it. There are many places you can make a report. Depending on the nature of the incident, some may be more appropriate than others. Some forms of racism are unlawful, and if they occur in public spaces, they may be against the regulations of that particular place.

 

Police

If you think you or somebody else may be threatened or in danger, call the police on 000. You can also report behaviour that you think might be a criminal offense after an incident by phoning the police on 131 444.

 

Australian Human Rights Commission

Federal anti-discrimination law says that people can make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful race discrimination. There is no cost in making a complaint.

The Commission is an independent agency and its role is to get both sides of the story and where appropriate, help those involved to resolve the complaint. The Commission is not a court and does not have the power to decide if what you are complaining about is unlawful discrimination. However, in some cases, for example, where your complaint is not resolved, you may be able to take your complaint to court. The court can decide if what you are complaining about is unlawful discrimination.

The types of behaviour that can be dealt with by the Commission include:

  • racial discrimination in areas including employment, education, accommodation, getting or using services or accessing public places
  • racially abusive comments at sporting events by players, spectators, coaches or officials.
  • racially offensive material on the internet, in the media or any other publications
  • racially abusive comments in a public place, such as a shop, workplace, park, on public transport or at school.

You can make a complaint about racism or discrimination via email at complaintsinfo@humanrights.gov.au or via an online form. You can also phone the Commission for advice on 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 9888.

More information about the complaints process can be found at https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/complaint-information-service/complaints-under-racial-discrimination-act-0   

Bystander action

Witnessing racism can be uncomfortable, but when bystanders stay silent, it sends the message that racism is acceptable.

Taking action against specific instances of racism is a powerful statement of support for the person targeted, and it can make the perpetrator think differently about their actions. For tips on how to engage in bystander intervention, visit our 'Bystander Action' page.

Bystander action
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Three teenagers sitting next to each other. Boy in the middle is wearing a grey hooded jacket and is looking directly to camera.

Other reporting mechanisms

 

Call It Out/ The First Nations Racism Register:

The First Nations Racism Register is a simple and secure way for people to report incidents of racism and discrimination toward First Nations Peoples. The individual reports are collected and analysed by the Jumbunna Institute to inform an annual report which will help raise awareness and drive systematic change. Visit https://callitout.com.au/

 

Islamophobia Register:

Making a report to the Islamophobia Register does not involve a formal investigation, however it is a secure reporting mechanism to build knowledge around incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments that are occurring across Australia. There is also access to victim support through the organisation. You can make a report online and access support at https://www.islamophobia.com.au/report/  

 

Asian Australian Alliance Register:

You can complete the COVID-19 Racism Incident Report to help collect data around incidents of racism for Australians who are of Asian background. You can make a report online at https://asianaustralianalliance.net/covid-19-coronavirus-racism-incident-report/

 

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Community Reporting Tool:

If you want to share your experience but do not want to make a formal complaint, this community reporting tool can be useful to understand the nature of racism and discrimination happening within communities. You can report online at https://www.humanrights.vic.gov.au/get-help/community-reporting-tool/