The goal of the Anti-Racism Hallmark is to suggest research and interventions to combat racism at both the interpersonal and structural levels, with government, community organisations and businesses.
Racism is a pressing social problem both globally and in Australia. Racism is the outcome of beliefs that one social group is superior to others. It manifests interpersonally and structurally, targeting racialised others. Racism is based on a variety of ascribed characteristics including appearance, Indigeneity, ethnicity, religion, caste and others. It is part of everyday life, shaping all aspects of our lives including our education system, health, workplaces, and criminal justice system. It results in differential distribution of power, resources, and opportunities to racialised groups. Racism is a ‘wicked problem’: one which is multi-faceted, constantly changing, and very difficult to solve. While racism shares features around the world, it has locally specific manifestations, making an Australian approach to anti-racism essential.
The Anti-Racism Hallmark Research Initiative responds to this imperative. Our goal is to undertake and disseminate solutions-focused anti-racism research and interventions to combat racism at both the interpersonal and structural levels. We will do this in collaboration with government, community organisations and businesses.
The Anti-Racism HRI spans Indigenous and migration scholarship, which have historically been separate, creating new links between researchers in these fields. We also bring together students, graduate researchers, early-career researchers and senior scholars from a wide range of disciplines including business, health, sociology, education, cultural studies, psychology, legal studies, and economics. Through our community partnerships and interdisciplinary capacity-building activities and research projects, we aim to:
- Build the knowledge base about anti-racism
- Build capacity and collaborations for successfully undertaking anti-racism research
- Translate new knowledge into effective interventions, policies, and practices and work towards developing a set of assets that can be used to support change into the future.
While our research focus will be elaborated and refined in conjunction with our partners and based on our early research, preliminary research themes identified to date include:
- A focus on disrupting and challenging structural racism
- Addressing legacies of colonialism including those within the University of Melbourne
- Addressing anti-racism in the digital space.
The following activities and projects are planned to achieve our engagement, capacity building and research objectives:
Stock-take project: In our first year, we will be undertaking a stock-take of current anti-racism initiatives to ascertain what already exists and their impacts. This foundational mapping will inform our program of research for the life of the Hallmark Research Initiative and beyond.
Research Incubator workshops: Yearly workshops will engage students and researchers from across the career spectrum to foster interdisciplinary links, further inform research priorities, and stimulate creative ideas for seed-funding and other research proposals.
Public seminars: Monthly seminars will feature leading scholars and representative of community organisations undertaking anti-racism research or activities. Seminars will be open to University of Melbourne staff and students, academics and students from other Universities, and community members and stakeholders and support links and engagement between these groups.
Seed-funding grant scheme: Seed-funding grants will be offered in years one and two and will provide opportunities for University of Melbourne researchers to undertake anti-racism research. Funded proposals will include early-career researchers and partnerships with community organisations, government and business.
Symposia: A one-day conference in years two and three will showcase seed-funded projects and others undertaken by our range of internal and external stakeholders.
Research experience program: Undergraduates will be invited to apply for a research experience program stipend which will give them the opportunity to work as research assistants over summer and winter breaks on the stocktake project in year one and on additional HRI-funded anti-racism projects in years two and three.
Projects funded in 2023
Blak history collective
Investigators: Julia Hurst (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts), Jessica Gerrard (Melbourne Graduate School of Education)
The impact and power of the field of Aboriginal history is around us like never before. There are academic history books, books on Indigenous knowledge, research-intensive websites with enormous reach, and then there are podcasts and exhibitions. There is also a resurgence of history-telling by Aboriginal people - often in collaboration with academic historians, but also without them - through cultural centres, documentaries, Indigenous studies units, art, children’s books and more. There has never been such a variety of ways to share history, or such a wide and willing audience.
Yet we are all living through a tricky moment. While the call for truth-telling is making some headway, many Indigenous historians and storytellers are engaging in history-making on the verge of a referendum where some 96 per cent of the population will be voting with the power to intimately shape the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Indeed, as First Nations scholars and storytellers enter the academy at the University of Melbourne, this power is made overt in the everyday construction of knowledge and teaching, through lack of mainstream policy support and cultural awareness, relationality, ethics and methodology needed to create teaching processes in the School of History that support visible self-determined history practices of scholars working in collaboration with storytellers/community historians (who are most appropriate to place, people, age, gender, heritage, and cultural experience) – those people whom history most impacts, and whom stories and histories belong to.
While the discipline of Aboriginal history is beginning to undergo a self-determined transformation resulting in more engagement with the academy, First Nations historians are restricted by our responsibility to community as well as our own belonging, status, and experience of lived history which supports our academic teaching. Indeed, it is not just Indigenous historians' responsibility to ethically engage with and teach Indigenous history. To support a breadth of knowledge-holders as such, the creation of Indigenous history subjects must foreground a balance of ethics and inclusive community storytelling that is not currently available within teaching models in the School of History for all educators to engage with, as well as to support Indigenous historians working within the institution.
The Blak history collective project will develop deep, generative, reflexive, physical relationships about telling Indigenous history with Traditional Owners, Indigenous communities, and individual storytellers to support the teaching of Indigenous history at the University of Melbourne. It will contribute to diverse and inclusive Indigenous storytelling, teaching and research opportunities and ask community, ‘where should we begin?’
Breaking the glass: understanding the barriers faced by scholars of colour in the university sector
Investigators: Lutfun Nahar Lata (School of Social and Political Studies, Arts), Iderlina Mateo-Babiano (Melbourne School of Design), Juliet Rogers (School of Social and Political Studies, Arts)
Racism is an endemic and pervasive problem in Australia and in Australian higher education (Ahmed, 2020). This has impeded the tenure and progression of People of Colour in Academia (POCA) (Justice and Barker 2007). Because of the reluctance to bring issues related to ‘race’ to the fore, POCAs feel that they continue to experience cultural bias, institutional racism, and racial microaggressions, to name a few (Doharty and Madriaga, 2020). When examining the issue from an intersectional perspective (Crenshaw, 1989), a groundbreaking report by the Diversity Council of Australia reported that three out of five culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) women at work experienced racism while one in two experience sexism. In addition, while 78 per cent of CARM women wanted to advance to senior level, 65 per cent of CARM women expressed that opportunities for career advancement were significantly fewer for them. Hence, CARM women remain under-represented at senior levels (DCA, 2023). The lack of understanding on the compounding impacts of intersectional identities, particularly when considering the interaction of gender and race, in academic settings, has further intensified the problem. If not addressed, this can have powerful and harmful effects on staff who identify as POCAs and/or CARM women, affecting their careers and overall wellbeing.
Despite recent advancements by higher education institutions in implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and policy to ‘decolonise’ academia and to shape enduring inclusive and compassionate cultures, institutional and interpersonal racism has further been embedded rather than dismantled in academic settings (Doharty and Madriaga, 2020). Moreover, the effects and the modes of challenging racism in university cultures and relations is not well understood (Justice and Barker 2007; DCA, 2023). POCAs and CARM women resort to diverse tactics (ie, deep surveillance) (Justice and Barker 2007) and draw support from their broader social and cultural networks (Kang, 2022). Yet these approaches can become unsustainable in the longer term. Unless change occurs at a structural and cultural level, POCAs and CARM women will struggle to break the glass/bamboo ceiling (Kang, 2022; Xiao and Handley, 2019), with detrimental implications to achieving diversity in leadership.
We know that people living with the effects of racism everyday are likely to have considerable expertise in how to understand and to challenge racism in the workplace. Within this context, and inspired by the Critical Race Theory methodology of counter-storytelling, this project aims to:
- Document racism and its effects in different disciplines of the University of Melbourne (UoM)
- Understand the impacts of racism on POC staff in SSPS and other disciplines of UoM
- Compare these impacts with other universities in Australia, and
- Collate recommendations for management’s response.
- This project examines the impacts of racism and eurocentrism on staff who identify as people of colour (POC) in a university setting. It is the first project to specifically draw on the expertise of POC staff to address issues of racism within the workplace. It asks what forms racism has taken, what strategies have been used to manage this behaviour – whether structural, cultural or emotional – and what these staff would recommend be changed. Expected outcomes include producing new knowledge on the lived experience of POC academics in Australia, and influencing universities’ diversity and equity principles to reduce the challenges that POC academics experience while navigating the university sector.
Creating anti-racism pedagogical resources
Investigators: Wajeehah Aayeshah (Arts Teaching Innovation), Olivia Meehan (Arts Teaching Innovation), Arzoo Atiq (Computing and Information Systems), Gillian Howell (Fine Arts and Music)
External partners: Mark Finn (Swinburne University of Technology), Muhammad Asadullah (University of Regina, Canada)
This pilot project will develop anti-racist pedagogical game-based resources that could be used by educators for creating inclusive and equitable teaching spaces. These resources will include a diverse range of interactive strategies that can be embedded in the curriculum and institutional settings in multiple ways. That is, directly in curriculum design, collaborative workshops, self-paced reflections, etc. The project will include student partners in addition to six academic collaborators for research and development of these resources. The project will develop a game and ancillary resources on the basis of collaborative research-based data. The student partners will be involved in collecting solution-oriented data from other students around their anti-racist educational experiences. The student partners will be trained before they do so. These interactive sessions will contribute student perspectives and insights. The academics will interview a diverse range of university staff from different institutions in different parts of the world. Interview subjects will particularly include POC, expats, and indigenous academics and professional staff members of educational communities. This project intends to support development of anti-racist curriculum and teaching spaces. It will do so by making it easier and interesting for academics and staff to engage with such important contemporary educational resources.
Challenging everyday racisms in place
Investigators: Zubaidah Mohamed Shaburdin (Rural Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Lisa Bourke (Rural Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Odette Kelada (School of Culture and Communication, Arts)
Racism is entrenched throughout all areas of Australian life, yet discussion of racism usually occurs around sport, politics and institutions. This focus on institutional racism and media stories removes responsibility for the majority of Australians to actively challenge racism. Yet, racism is embedded within daily interactions that subtly work to exclude, disempower and prejudice. These ‘everyday racisms’ are expressed through jokes, off-handed comments, ‘forgetting’ and nonverbal cues, and they work to re-produce and reinforce white ways of doing in our local communities. Racism has also been found to be ‘everywhere different,’ manifesting in specific ways in different communities across Australia. This requires challenging everyday racisms in local communities with place-based messages. To challenge everyday racism in a specific community, this project will gather descriptions of racialised experiences in the everyday and use these as the foundation to create anti-racist messages. The research aims to identify everyday racisms based on the experiences of People of Colour in Shepparton (Victoria) and use these to develop three anti-racism messages which will be distributed to create change in that town. Interviews with People of Colour will be analysed to identify everyday racisms. These narratives will inform an advisory committee made up of those with lived experiences, from grassroots organisations and experts and advocates to develop anti-racism messages that will be distributed via social media and local groups. In this way, the experiences of local People of Colour are used anonymously to develop locally relevant messages to promote change in the community.
Exploring racial literacy and anti-racism within university campus sport
Investigators: Dana Young (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Odette Kelada (School of Culture and Communication, Arts)
External partners: Aish Ravi (Deakin University), Alison Baker (Victoria University)
This exploratory research will use mixed methods to assess racial literacy and anti-racist sentiment and action within campus sport, conducted across two universities. An intersectional lens will be applied to further explore this issue in the context of university commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.
Sport has often been touted as intrinsically ‘Australian’ and as a popular leisure pastime for players and fans alike, and the physical, mental and social benefits of participating in sport are well established (Holt and Neely 2011; Eime et al. 2013; Bangsbo et al. 2016; Andersen, Ottesen, and Thing 2019; The Boston Consulting Group 2017). However, sport - from grassroots to elite competitions - can be viewed as a ‘microcosm of wider society’ (Adair and Vamplew 1997), in which experiences of sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and racism remain rife (Spaaij et al. 2018). Campus sport is offered at universities as a positive way for students and staff to participate in a physical and social activity while members of their university community, and although there is limited empirical evidence for the Australian context, the literature suggests it is also a site of interpersonal and structural racism. Diversity and Inclusion work is underway within the University of Melbourne, with a five-year roadmap outlining that much work needs to occur to provide a culturally safe environment for its staff and students.
This research therefore seeks to explore:
- Firstly, the racial literacy of students and staff involved within campus sport; and
- How universities are undertaking anti-racism action in the context of their organisational commitment to provide a campus free from discrimination.
This exploratory study aims to provide preliminary insights into the racial literacy of students and staff involved in campus sport at the participating universities, the current field of play regarding anti-racism within campus sport, and the barriers and facilitators to addressing these issues.
Rental racism and health: from precarity to equity in the private rental sector
Investigators: Erika Martino (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Ang Li (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Sheenagh McShane (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Rebecca Bentley (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences), Ilan Wiesel (School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Science)
External partner: Farah Farouque (Tenants Victoria)
Substantial population health research in Australia demonstrates how racial discrimination creates racial health inequities. However, despite increasing evidence of racialised housing discrimination, we know little about how different forms of racialised housing discrimination impacts health. Currently, Victoria is facing a housing crisis in the private rental sector (PRS) evidenced by escalating rents, and reduced housing availability. Such conditions have the potential to increase racialised discrimination, such as denied access to rentals, unjust evictions, or discrimination in rental conditions due to appearance, Indigeneity, ethnicity, religion, and/or other attributes. Given exposure to such forms of racialised housing discrimination can generate health inequalities, this project will examine the experiences of, and responses to, rental racism in the private rental market in Victoria. Specifically, this project will consider 1) what forms and to what extent is rental racism experienced? 2) What are the cognitive. affective and behavioural responses to these experiences? and 3) How do these experiences of, and responses to, rental racism impact health? In addressing these aims we will work with Tenants Victoria to recruit survey and interview participants. Critically, the survey will link tenants with reporting mechanisms by embedding the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Community Reporting Tool; and through a series of workshops co-design a Racial Equity Toolkit for the Private Rental Sector. We anticipate that by linking forms of racialised housing discrimination to health, and working with the community, that we can work towards institutional-level actions to enhance inclusion and equity and reduce rental racism.
Best practice to handle racism complaints at Australian universities
Investigators: Wilfred Wang (School of Culture and Communication, Arts), Andrew Deuchar (Melbourne Graduate School of Education), Chi Baik (Melbourne Graduate School of Education)
External partner: Wesa Chau (Resilience Against Racism)
The well-being of international students is key to building a diverse and inclusive campus culture, which is vital to Australia’s efforts in internationalising higher education. University is supposed to be at the forefront of protecting students’ welfare and safety. Although most Australian universities officially acknowledge the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, many international students continue to experience racism during their university studies and life. Research has shown that racism impacts international students’ mental well-being and academic achievement, and damages their opportunities for social participation and mobility. Failing to address racism will damage Australian universities’ global reputations.
Racism takes many forms, from abusive behaviours to microaggression, and appears in online and offline settings. Collaboration and commitment from all stakeholders are needed to improve university governance and policy procedures to address this wicked problem.
This project explores Melbourne-based Chinese international students’ experience with racism and how their universities have handled their complaints. As the largest cohort of international students in Australia, Chinese students typify the experience of microaggression and structural racism in a university setting. Through using surveys and focused group methods, we aim to:
- Examine relevant institutional policy, procedures and racism-related conflict resolution approaches
- Chart the different forms and impacts of racism experienced by international students
- Identify potential gaps between students’ expectations and institutional responses to racism complaints
- Co-develop a toolkit with stakeholders. The toolkit will contain resources and recommendations that advise universities on a) principles to develop reporting systems and b) strategic frameworks to eliminate racism.
Projects funded in 2022
Political Discourses Against Racism and Caste
Researchers: Clayton Chin (SSPS, Arts), Farrah Ahmed (Law), Hamza Bin Jehangir (SPSS, Arts)
External partners: ACU, Jindal Global Law School, Jawaharlal Nehru Uni, Delhi
This pilot project aims to initiate comparative and global approaches to studying anti-racism. To do this, it aims to comparatively investigate and evaluate anti-racist and anti-casteist state action across three countries. The three chosen case studies are (a) the Canadian government’s national anti-racism strategy (2019-2022); (b) the Australian Human Rights Commission‘s national anti-racism strategy (2013-2022); and (c) the Indian state’s constitutional and legal anti-caste aspirations and actions (1950-2022). To facilitate such a comparison, this project draws on theories from legal, political and sociological approaches. It proceeds by exploring the relations, synergies and tensions between anti-racism and anti-casteism to frame the analysis and provide the conceptual and normative resources needed.
These case studies have been chosen for their potential to (a) enhance understanding of the range of anti-casteist and anti-racism initiatives that states could deploy; (b) illuminate the extent to which anti-casteist and anti-racism initiatives have overlapping aims, strategies and outcomes; and (c) explore how anti-racist and anti-casteist discourses might relate to state action on race and caste.
Expected outcomes include increased understanding of state approaches to tackling racism and casteism as systemic issues and fostering inclusive citizenship, which should ultimately contribute to the creation of more effective state anti-racism and anti-casteism strategies.
Exacerbation and attenuation of racism during and after the 2019-2020 bushfires
Researchers: Iain Walker (Psychology, MDHS), Cameo Dalley (SCC, Arts)
External partners: Indigenous orgs, ANU
Natural disasters place enormous stresses on individuals, families, and communities. They often bring people together, enhancing cohesion and belongingness; but they also can increase tension and hostility. Our earlier work after the Australian 2019-2020 bushfires produced anecdotal evidence that, during the fires, Indigenous people in some communities experienced greater incidents of racism. These personal reports raise many concerns, including about the role of racism as a barrier to emergency response services, which are known to support resilience and mental health recovery following bushfire disaster.
On the other hand, we also found anecdotal evidence of Aboriginal agencies leading community support efforts during and after the bushfires, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous locals, thus reducing racism.
This project will develop from that earlier work to explore the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people during and after the bushfires, in two country townships in Victoria and New South Wales. The project seeks to investigate direct and indirect experiences of racism and of communities coming together. Personal experiences need to be understood at individual, community, and institutional levels. For this, the project’s interdisciplinary approach will draw from psychological frameworks of racism, community cohesion, and identity, and from anthropological frameworks on Indigeneity. We will work with Aboriginal community leaders to scope the questions of most relevance for them, to enhance adoption and uptake of the project’s results. We anticipate being able to suggest community-level actions to enhance cohesion and reduce racism, particularly in crises such as during and after natural disasters.
Conspiracy Cultures: Racism and the Crisis of Freedom in Pandemic Times
In recent decades, a range of prominent conspiracy theories rooted in racism have proliferated throughout what is sometimes called the ‘liberal multicultural west’. While some of these individual theories have been the subject of existing research, an analysis of what connects them—both in terms of overlap in their content, and associated personnel—is yet to be conducted.
This project will address this gap by first utilising digital data-collection methods to conduct an empirical analysis of the extent to which prominent conspiracy theories overlap in terms of online content and personnel. By doing this, the project aims to trace the emergence and evolution of a range of prominent racially charged conspiracy theories that seem to distort established forms of racism and anti-racism and conceptualisations of racism to strategically advance a racist agenda.
The project aims to understand the underlying dynamics that have allowed conspiracy cultures to flourish and to continually emerge and evolve. Examples of these conspiracies are the QAnon theory; the Trojan Horse Affair; the Great Replacement Theory; calls to ban Critical Race Theory in schools; and the idea COVID-19 was a ‘plandemic’ created by the Chinese state. In each of these conspiracies, a malevolent racial and racialized force is depicted as acting covertly upon the liberal multicultural west and encroaching on its freedom. This project examines the presumed links between (lost) freedom and race as articulated in these theories and explores how cultures of conspiracy advance racism by constructing those they racialise as simultaneously advancing upon them.
This project will contribute to anti-racism scholarship by first establishing and mapping the extent to which racist online conspiracy groups overlap, as well as by expanding knowledge of how the diffuse phenomenon of conspiricisation, fuelled by paranoia of invasion and contamination, is integral to contemporary racism, providing a deeper understanding of how ‘conspiricisation’ and racism not only overlap but are genealogically linked. By understanding the conspircisation of race, or race as conspiricisation, the project will provide a strong platform from which continued research into this constantly evolving phenomenon, and contemporary racism more broadly, can occur.
Additionally, the project will investigate the extent to which the work of anti-racism itself is constructed by racial conspiracy theorists under the label “woke politics”, as an organising force that is conspiring to disrupt existing social, economic and political arrangements. These project outcomes may assist fellow researchers, policymakers, and community and advocacy groups who are working on anti-racism to do so more effectively.
News and events
ARHRI Symposium for University of Melbourne Researchers
Update: ARHRI Symposium for University of Melbourne Researchers, held 26 September 2023.
Locating Asian Racialisation and the Asian Subject in a Settler Colony
Watch: Jessie Liu explores the way Asian diasporic subjects like Asian Australians are treated as perpetual foreigners despite their long histories with Australians.
Blindfolded, running with scissors: A systematic and critical review of anonymous application procedures
Watch: Dr Victor Sojo presents a systematic and critical review of anonymous application procedures.
Ubiquitous calls to report racism
Watch: Academic Mario Peucker shares insights from three local anti-racism projects from across Melbourne (2019-2023), arguing reporting pathways must be connected to support services of those who experience racism.
The colonial project of gender (and everything else) under the burden of proof
Watch: Dr Sandy O’Sullivan explores the interactions of gender and colonisation on Indigenous people’s identity.
Is Anti-Racism Academically Interesting? Seminar recording
Listen: Professor Ghassan Hage discusses the shared concerns and differences between anti-racism academics and activists.
Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonial Futures
Watch: Professor Yin Paradies explores key scholarship on Western culture, colonisation and modern societies as well as Indigenous worldviews, perspectives and philosophies.
Imagining an anti-racist future
Watch: Amanuel Elias discusses how we live in an era where race, ethnicity and cultural identity determine group and individual place and experience in society.
Speaking and not speaking about race
Watch: Teacher and writer, Alana Lentin explores the ‘war’ on critical race theory as a proxy resistance to the idea that race should be interrogated in instances of settler colonialism.
Professor Karen Farquharson
Social and Political Sciences
Associate Professor Karen Block
Child and Community Wellbeing Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
To get in touch with the Anti-Racism Hallmark Initiative team please contact academic convenor Karen Block by email to: Anti-Racism-HRI@unimelb.edu.au
Subscribe to the Anti-racism newsletter by email to Jenny Li
First published on 5 October 2023.
Share this article