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Social inclusion and discrimination
A common theme in the feedback received by the Board about its publication, A Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators How’s Australia Faring? (2009), was the critical link between discrimination and social exclusion and the need to include experiences of discrimination as an indicator of social inclusion/exclusion.
Discrimination may take a number of forms. Race discrimination can be based on appearance, ethnicity, culture and faith. People may also feel discriminated against because of their age, a disability or their sexuality. Discrimination directly impacts on many groups that are already at particular risk of social exclusion, such as people from a refugee background and other vulnerable migrants, people from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, and people with a disability or mental illness—and is likely to have indirect impacts on the other groups.
Discrimination can reduce people’s participation in a wide range of economic, social and community activities.
It can impact on almost all aspects of a person’s life as employment, income, local neighbourhood and community networks, social supports, access to services, health, and participation in community building activities can all be affected. Evidence suggests that in particular, race-based discrimination leads to ill health, reduced productivity, and reduced life expectancy. It also impacts negatively on families and family life and local communities, with serious social and economic costs.
There is currently no national data on the general population’s perceptions of discrimination or the impacts of discrimination. However, the Australian Human Rights Commission is currently a partner in the Constructing Regionally Appropriate Responses to Racism Project. One of the purposes of the project is to map experiences of racism at the local level across Australia.
The research conducted so far found that: around 20% of respondents had experienced forms of race–hate talk (verbal abuse, name-calling, racial slurs, etc), around 11% of respondents identified as having experienced race-based exclusion from social activities and/or their workplaces, 7% of respondents identified as having experienced unfair treatment, and 6% of respondents reported that they had experienced physical abuse or threats to their property based on their race and/or traditional dress.
The ABS collects information about discrimination in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. In 2002, 18% of Indigenous Australians reported experiencing discrimination as a personal stressor in the 12 months prior to the survey. Other research funded by the Scanlon Foundation and conducted by Monash University has found that one in ten respondents experienced discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or religion during 2006–07. It also found that around 10% of respondents from non-English speaking backgrounds experienced discrimination on a continuing basis, that is, at least once per month.
Research conducted by Paradies, Harris and Anderson (2008) has indicated that race-based discrimination when accessing primary health care professionals may lead to some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not being diagnosed and treated for disease in its early stages, when treatment is most effective. This has major implications for Indigenous health as well as for costs on the health care when illness needs to be treated in its later stages.
Figure 1: Social inclusion conceptual framework—participation and resources