Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been commended for taking the lead in promoting anti-racism in its work and in sharing the importance of engagement and education in anti-racism with other organisations in its sector.

This commendation comes from the Challenging Racism Project (CRP) of Western Sydney University, which ran four bystander anti-racism workshops in 2021 and 2022 at the request of ADS and which drew 74 participants from 32 organisations.

The training aimed to better inform and equip staff working in the community development and settlement sector to recognise racism and build confidence in knowing how to challenge it.

It was supported by grants provided by Multicultural NSW and Georges River Council and extended to community organisations in the Georges River Council via ADS’s networks.

The workshops provided a range of theoretical and conceptual understandings of racism, impacts of racism and bystander anti-racism intervention, contemporary examples within different sectors of society and media as well as and interpersonal learning via shared experiences.

Participants were also invited to ask questions and share their own experiences throughout the sessions to encourage safe and open dialogue about the issues that mattered to them.

Learning objectives set out for participants were to:

  • Identify and understand interpersonal and institutional racism
  • Understand the impacts of racism
  • Improve awareness of bystander action
  • Develop bystander anti-racism skills
  • Gain bystander anti-racism confidence
  • Foster collegial approach in considering bystander anti-racism responses

The Summary Report from the training workshops notes that:

  • Race-based discrimination is associated with poor mental health and wellbeing, including anxiety, depression, stress and poor quality of life, and
  • Racism has ongoing implications for social cohesion.

The report also notes that a common challenge in tackling racism is the ‘valorisation of the discourse of tolerance, celebrating diversity and promoting harmony’. This can downplay racism in a community, silence those who may have experienced racism, and give the misguided impression that it is not a real issue.

‘It is for this reason that racism and its impacts must be discussed and understood more openly, and on an ongoing basis, to ensure wider awareness in knowing how to identify and disrupt racism in the community.’

It says that where governments around the world promote and rely on policies of multiculturalism and active migration programs, there must also be an investment and engagement with anti-racism.

‘Proactive measure can be taken at all levels of governance and community to support social cohesion, belonging and citizenship.’

ADS has provided a number of opportunities for colleagues in its sector to have dialogue and training to challenge and disrupt racism via bystander anti-racism training.

Anti-racism training is important

Evaluation of the training included pre- and post-workshop surveys which gleaned participant responses on a range of issues, including pro-diversity, anti-racism literacy, confidence in bystander anti-racism, institutional commitment to anti-racism and to perceived benefits of the workshops.

The surveys found that the bulk of participants appreciated the opportunity for further learning and discussion of anti-racism.

As one workshop participant said, ‘I think it’s extremely important to have strong workplace policies and procedures in place to deal with racism.

‘Training options such as this workshop are very important to ensure staff are made aware of what racism looks like, that it has no place in our society and to keep knowledge and skills up to date.

‘While it’s important for us all the take personal responsibility to ensure we address racism, including our own, this needs to be supported by positive modelling from all levels of government, and a whole of society approach.’

Response to the survey question, ‘Do you feel your workplace and/ or manager would support you to respond against an incident of racism?’ was identified as the biggest area of concern.  

‘Despite the majority of 81 per cent of participants responding in the affirmative,’ the report states, ‘a sizeable cohort of 19 per cent were unsure and responded “maybe”.

‘It would [therefore] be beneficial for participating organisations to consider what policies they have in place to ensure cultural and racial safety and how these policies and processes are communicated with staff to ensure full confidence.’

Another question that elicited responses of concern was, ‘How would you rate your confidence in knowing how to respond to an incident of racism?’ Despite the fact that the majority of respondents have a good grasp of racism and it’s impacts, their answers showed this does not translate consistently into having the confidence to know how to respond to an incident of racism.

The report says the majority of participants (pre-workshop) were well-informed and empathetic about issues relating to diversity and racism but achieved further learning through the training workshops. It also says participants valued the chance to have conversations in a safe and guided space, to revisit anti-racism issues and to update their knowledge of anti-racism as it relates to their work and community engagement.

The CRP team encourages all organisations who engage in bystander anti-racism training to consider anti-racism policies, interventions and learning in a holistic way to ensure key issues are addressed in a coordinated manner.

Such training would continue to build awareness and confidence for staff in the sector to better respond to racism in the community and support their clients if they experience racist incidents, its report said.

CRP also acknowledges ADS role in better equipping staff who service culturally and linguistically diverse communities with up-to-date knowledge in the area of anti-racism.

‘ADS have demonstrated their leadership in opening up an opportunity for colleagues in their sector to have dialogue and training to challenge and disrupt racism via bystander anti-racism training.’

Download the Bystander Anti-Racism Training Summary Report May 2022 by Zarlasht Sarwari here.