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UPAV runs anti-racism consultations for FECCA

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Racism occurs anywhere, covertly or overtly, and is often unreported.

These were some of the key themes from the recently concluded community consultations conducted by the University of the Philippines Alumni in Victoria (UPAV). This marks UPAV’s first foray into community advocacy as part of its strategic plan.

More than 45 members of the Filipino community attended the consultations in three locations: Cairnlea, Springvale and Melbourne CBD. The consultations provided rich insights into the participants’ perspectives and experiences of racism. 

While the participants’ diversity in age, professional backgrounds, year of arrival in Australia and place of residence revealed a variety of racist encounters, they shared common experiences around prejudicial treatment, verbal abuse, and often leaving them unreported.

Participants noted they encountered racist behaviours in their workplace, schools, public transport, supermarkets and even during housing inspections. Covert and overt behaviours often took the form of exclusion, verbal abuse, bullying, condescension, stereotypes around Asians, and even assumptions around the (lack of/surprise with) Filipino’s proficiency in English.

One female participant recounted, “My husband and I were accosted in the street and shouted at “Asians, go home.” This has affected us and made us wary of going out in the streets.”

While another shared, “At work, colleagues asked why I am good in spelling.”

Evlin Group photo

Most participants did not report their experiences either because they did not initially recognise the acts as racist, or when they did, they did not know how to report the incident.  Several also decided not to report because of concerns about their personal safety and job security. A few participants did not do anything because they were exhausted and resigned to the fact that nothing would be done. 

As one participant advised, “It is good to pick your battles. In the workplace, there are rules and regulations against racism. But in public places, it is difficult to fight back. It is best to ignore to avoid physical conflict.”

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However, those who reported the incidents to work or school authorities were often met with indifference or lack of action. The consultations also noted instances of ‘positive racism’ when one participant said, “Aussies prefer Filipinos because we look after the elderly.”

The consultations highlighted the need for more training and awareness programs to help prevent racism. The participants also acknowledged Filipinos’ tendencies to perpetuate racist behaviours and appreciated the consultations’ opportunity for self-reflection. 

The two-hour consultations included break-out groups and plenary discussions facilitated by UPAV Vice President and Project Leader Dr Mursha Dalay-on and UPAV Board Advisor Dr Marianne Sison. Each consultation session ended with lunch provided by Tambayan and Filipino BBQ House. 

“We’re really pleased with the turnout and generosity of spirit by our Filipino community,” said Dalay-on. “Retelling one’s personal experience of racism can trigger raw emotions that one has tried to forget. But sharing with fellow Filipinos in a safe space can also be cathartic, knowing you are not alone.”

Community consultations, funded by a grant from the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA), will contribute to the Anti-Racism Framework that FECCA will develop with the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

UPAV President Dale Gutierrez said, “UPAV is proud to lead this consultation as it is part of our Strategic Plan priority around Community Advocacy.” He acknowledged the participants’ contributions for making time on a Saturday and the UPAV members who acted as scribes and organised this important community activity.

After submitting a report to FECCA, UPAV has planned a follow-up activity to help Filipino community members who encounter and experience racism. 

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