The Federal Government’s decision to abandon controversial planned changes to racial discrimination laws has been welcomed by a local cultural leader.
The government backed down on plans to alter Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” because of their race or ethnicity, after widespread public criticism.
Under the proposed change, protections against offending, insulting or humiliating someone on the basis of their race would have been removed.
Yuin elder, Pastor Ossie Cruse, said the changes would have represented a “step backwards” for Australia, and opened the door for .
“Discrimination has been a big part of our history as Aboriginal people,” he said.
“It has horrible, lasting effects, and we thought we’d outlived a lot of that stuff.
“We don’t want that to return.
“The only change we want to see is positive change, for the sakes of our children and our children’s children.
“We want to keep working towards a united country where we can all live together peacefully.
“I thought the latest NAIDOC theme [Serving Country] was tremendous, because it acknowledged those Aboriginal soldiers who fought for and laid down their lives.
“That is what we should be seeing more of.”
Pastor Cruise pointed to a disturbing anti-Semitic incident on a Sydney bus last week as a prime example of could become commonplace if racial discrimination laws were watered down.
Five youths, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested after they boarded a school bus carrying Jewish primary school children, and yelled insults including “kill the Jews”, “free Palestine” and “Heil Hitler” at them.
“I was really concerned when I heard about that,” he said of the incident.
“That’s horrible and it doesn’t belong in our country.
“It makes your heart bleed when hear about that sort of stuff, those are just small children.
“I don’t know who those people are [that boarded the bus], or where they’ve got those ideas from, but that sort of behaviour is not Australian.
“It makes me really sad to think that sort of thing still happens.”