Fighting discrimination for four decades

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim.

AFTER leading a multicultural stand against the government’s plans to axe Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act last year, Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim will speak at a conference next month marking 40 years since the establishment of the Act.

Wertheim is one of three Jewish presenters scheduled to appear at the conference organised by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Over two days, the sessions will look at how the legislation has evolved, what it has achieved, its ongoing role and what legal outcomes have been achieved under it.

Wertheim will address the topic “Freedom and social cohesion: a law that protects both”.

“In contemporary Australia there is widespread acknowledgement that discrimination and vilification that is directed against people because of the colour of their skin or because of their race or national or ethnic origin is morally wrong,” Wertheim said. “It violates the most elementary principles of justice and our sense of a fair go. Because of our own history, the Jewish people understand this all too well.”

Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation at Monash University Professor Andrew Markus will speak on the topic “Negotiating change in the immigrant nation: public opinion and the transformation of Australia”.

Markus authored the 2014 report Mapping Social Cohesion for the Scanlon Foundation, in which he reported that five per cent of the population experienced discrimination once a month, with those of non-English speaking backgrounds reporting the highest incidence.

University of Technology, Sydney sociology Professor Andrew Jakubowicz, who is a strong advocate for multiculturalism, rounds out the Jewish contingent.

His topic is “Who are the racists in cyberspace? Understanding how to build communities of race hate and the implications for resilience in target communities”.

GARETH NARUNSKY

ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim.