080616-VicPol Jewish Community Dinner by stariya

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									                                                           Jewish Community Dinner
                                   Victoria Police, Malvern Town Hall, Monday 16th June 2008
              Dr Helen Szoke, CEO, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission


May I begin by paying my respects to the traditional owners of the land, and to elders
past and present.

I am delighted to be part of this dinner tonight and greatly value the relationship that
we as a Commission have with the Jewish community, Victoria Police and the Victorian
Community more generally. I was privileged to work for many years with Professor
Louis Waller who is a distinguished leader in our legal community and within the Jewish
community, and whose own life experiences he readily shared in our many, many
discussions over the years. Some of my best life advice came from his wisdom!

As most of you are aware, the work of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human
Rights Commission includes our responsibility on a day to day basis for providing
information and education about human rights, producing research reports which
address systemic discrimination and try to find solutions, producing information about
what compliance looks like, dealing with individual complaints and reporting on human
rights.

Intrinsic to our work is to promote diversity and inclusiveness. Australia is a country
that is built on these principles and much of our work at the Commission has focused on
discrimination which occurs in our community on the basis of race and religion. At the
end of June we will release research on racism and employment. We have also
undertaken specific research on the views of young African residents of the City of
Greater Dandenong and will be working with local community to discuss the issues
arising from this work. Our Commission has a specific responsibility to promote
inclusiveness and to contribute to the community building that so many of you are
involved with today.

The other responsibility we have is to promote human rights more generally and most
specifically the rights that are contained in the Charter of Human Rights. These civil and
political rights relate to freedom, respect, equality and dignity – FRED is the acronym
that we use. These rights all underpin inclusiveness and diversity. These rights define
the principles against which we should measure how we treat each other and how we
develop as a community.

This is important when we come to understand discrimination. Research by VicHealth
has identified the way in which discrimination is a cost to the whole community. “As
well as affecting individuals, discrimination has the potential to harm us all by

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                                                                                   Jewish Community Dinner
                                                      Victoria Police, Malvern Town Hall, Monday 16th June 2008
                           Dr Helen Szoke, CEO, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission


         undermining harmonious community relations and social cohesion, compromising
         productivity and placing an unnecessary burden on our health, welfare and legal
         systems.”1

         The research findings indicate that discrimination must be addressed to ensure social
         cohesion and a need for social policy interventions to create shared values and common
         goals and combat inequality. The Canadian government’s Interdepartmental Policy
         Research Sub-committee on Social Cohesion describes social cohesion as, ‘an ongoing
         process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal
         opportunity within Canada, based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity among all
         Canadians.’

         Recently released research conducted in the CGD, the Scanlon Foundation Surveys,
         2007 mapped social cohesion in Australia.2 The survey found that almost five out of ten
         Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) people reported discrimination over the last
         12 months and a minority of respondents (23.5%) born in Australia with both parent
         born in Australia evidence negative attitudes towards aspects of immigration and
         settlement policy.3 The findings in the Scanlon Surveys point to a society ‘that is
         succeeding in establishing and maintaining a high level of positive outcomes within the
         domains of belonging, social justice and worth.’ However it states that there are
         ‘indicators of concern within the domains of participation and acceptance, with a
         significant level of misunderstanding for policy is to foster increased participation in
         community life within areas of high immigrant concentration and further understanding
         of the immigrant experience, of the difficulties of resettlement in unfamiliar
         environments and alien cultures, of the personal impact of discriminatory acts, and of
         the contribution that immigrants have made and continue to make to Australian society.

         The work that must continue to be done has been identified by your community and in
         particular the experience of members of your community of crimes of hate which target
         people on the basis of race or religion or indeed many other attributes. Victoria is
         fortunate in that we have legislation that prohibits vilification on the basis of race and
         religion. This legislation has quite a high threshold in terms of what constitutes


1
  VicHealth More than Tolerance: Embracing diversity for health – Discrimination affecting migrant and refugee communities
in Victoria, its health consequences, community attitudes and solutions’ (2007), p.10
2
  The National survey consisted of 2000 Australians and was stratified by geographic areas and included CGD as one of the 5
LGA’s surveyed.
3
  Mapping Social Cohesion: The Scanlon Foundation Surveys Summary,p.5

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                                                           Jewish Community Dinner
                                   Victoria Police, Malvern Town Hall, Monday 16th June 2008
              Dr Helen Szoke, CEO, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission


vilification but it is also a powerful basis to try and undertake education and to promote
awareness of the damage and loss that vilification makes on our community.



Partnerships such as this one between the Jewish Community and Victoria Police are
critical to build the trust and to allow the communication that deals with the challenges
that face us all as a community.



Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this dinner tonight.




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