Voices of courage and resilience play an important role in addressing racism. On Friday 19th of April 2024, Advanced Diversity Services (ADS) partnered with City of Sydney Council to facilitate a conversation recognising the actions of individuals and community organisations in standing up against racial discrimination. This powerful event was one of six events in the City of Sydney Council’s Social Cohesion Program titled ‘Voices Against Racism’ and took place in the St Helen’s Community Centre in Glebe.

The conversation centred on the voices of Salvin Kumar and Rubina Huq, former ADS workers, who shared their own personal and workplace experiences of racism and the actions they took for racial justice.

Salvin shared his experience of encountering blatant racism whilst enjoying a leisurely evening in Darling Harbour with his partner and their friend. Despite his usual confidence, Salvin was left feeling shocked by the derogatory remarks and implicit biases. He froze and found he was unable to assert himself in the moment –  a common response to trauma that highlights the immediate impact of racism on mental health and wellbeing. Salvin also expanded on the complex intersectionality of different forms of discrimination and the validation and comfort he received from friends and colleagues standing in solidarity with him. His decision to report the incident and file a complaint exemplified the importance of taking action for systemic change. 

Salvin Kumar bravely sharing his personal experience of racism and the actions they took for racial justice.

Rubina recounted a disturbing incident where abusive, hateful and hurtful slurs were directed at a group of Bangladeshi families attending a parenting session she was facilitating. Despite the distressing encounter, Rubina and her group remained calm. She immediately reported the incident to both ADS and the event hosts. The debrief process, with both those involved and with the ADS leadership team, was also an important part of the process of standing against racism and supporting one another.

‘We educated ourselves about the impact of racism.  And how silence only serves to continue it.’

These personal narratives served as powerful reminders of the pervasive nature of racism and its detrimental effects on individuals and communities, as well as its impact on social cohesion. Unfortunately, they have not been the only incidents reported to ADS.

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, shared the critical role of ADS in initiating organisational responses to disrupt racism, including the importance of locally focused anti-racism interventions targeting hotspots. Supported by Western Sydney University’s Challenging Racism Project (CRP), ADS delivered four bystander training workshops to its networks and communities.

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, Settlement and Community Services Manager for ADS, speaking about the critical role of ADS in initiating organisational responses to disrupt racism.

Recognising the urgent need for further action, ADS once again stepped up in late 2023 and organised a community forum in response to escalating reports of racism and harassment, particularly targeting women wearing hijab and their children, following the onset of the Israel-Gaza conflict. The forum provided a safe space for affected communities to share experiences and raise awareness, address knowledge gaps and together explore strategies for responding to harassment.

In the face of rising instances of racism and discrimination, events like ‘Voices Against Racism’ play a crucial role in fostering dialogue and empowering individuals and communities to take action. Key messaging included:

  • It is everyone’s responsibility to call out racism when we see or experience it.
  • If you witness someone being racially targeted in public, stand in solidarity with them and check if they’re feeling safe.  
  • Recognise, Respond, Record and Report racism and hate crimes.

Attendees empathised with Rubina and Salvin, shared their own experiences of racism and discrimination, acknowledged the damaging impacts of structural racism and its relation to inequity, and requested further information and resources, particularly regarding bystander intervention training. 

The conversation highlighted the importance of critical thinking when using social media, especially because when abused, it can ignite racism and spread false news and fear. It also emphasised the need to call out explicit and implicit forms of bias and discrimination, even in awkward situations when we witness it within our families and friend circles.

Attendees shared their own experiences of racism and discrimination, encouraged by the bravery of speakers Salvin Kumar and Rubina Huq (seated front left).

Inspired by Rubina’s call to action, ‘We must all work together to create a world where everyone feels welcomed and valued, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Let’s continue to spread love, understanding, and acceptance, and kick out racism for good.’

ADS extends sincere thanks to the City of Sydney for the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to combating hotspots of racism and for providing a space for two amazing speakers to share their lived experiences.

By amplifying voices of courage and resilience, we can work towards building a safer, more inclusive and equitable society for all.