Tips for bystanders

Watch VicHealth’s video on how everyone can play a role in preventing racism

We’ve all been a bystander at one time or another. You hear or see something racist, feel uncomfortable, want to say or do something but aren’t sure what.

Standing up to racism shows the target of the racist behaviour that you don’t support it and can be a powerful sign of support. It can also make the perpetrator think twice about what they’re saying or doing. But often people don’t stand up because they fear becoming the target of abuse themselves.

What you decide to say or do will depend on the situation. You should never put yourself at risk but there are lots of actions you can take that don’t involve confrontation. Even a simple gesture can be powerful and shows the person on the receiving end of the behaviour that they’re not alone.

If you see racist behaviour in public, you could….

Say something icon

Say something if it feels safe to do so. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, in fact it’s often more effective if it’s not. It could be as simple as saying “Why don’t you just leave him/her alone?”

If it doesn’t feel safe to say something, you could….

Tell someone icon

Tell someone responsible such as the driver if it’s happening on a bus or tram or a security guard if it’s happening at a club or venue.

Call the police

Call the police on 000 if you think that you or somebody else may be in danger.


Think about how you can support the target of the abuse. 
– for example, you could go and sit or stand next to them and check if they’re ok.

If you see racist material online, you could….

Report it

Report it. 
Most social networking sites have policies for dealing with offensive content and enable users to report this material. More information is usually available on these sites under “guidelines”, “standards” or “terms of use”.

Say something icon

Say something. Go to the Anti-Hate website to check out messages you can post in response to “haters” online.

If you see racism directed towards a classmate, colleague or team-mate, you could….

Say something icon

Say something. Check out the Speak UP! Handbook for ideas of things to say to counter prejudice in any situation.

Let them know

Let them know they can complain. The Australian Human Rights Commission can investigate and resolve complaints of race discrimination in areas including employment, education, sport, accommodation and the provision of goods and services. The complaints process is free and confidential. For more information go to the Complaints page.

Tell someone icon

Suggest they talk to someone. Most schools, workplaces and sports clubs will have a policy for dealing with bullying and harassment, including racism. You might like to suggest to the person experiencing the racist behaviour that they seek advice from the contact person named in the policy such as the student welfare officer at school, human resources in the workplace or manager or club official in a sports club.
Play by the rules
Click on the image to check out Play By the Rules ‘Racism In Sport' toolkit.


Bystanders (doc)

Bystanders (pdf)

Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke
former Australian Cricket Captain