I rise today to laud the work of our community leaders in defending the Racial Discrimination Act and to join them again to call on this government to step back from the precipice, to step up and say they will make no changes. After a lifetime of work in schools I can tell you that this legislation makes a difference on the ground in our communities. It sets a high standard for all Australians in their dealings with one another, not least of which children and young adults.
I have worked in schools with quickly changing demographics at the pointy end of developing harmonious multicultural classrooms and school grounds, for the most part with adolescents. This legislation has been a touchstone in that work. When mediating between adolescents working their way through racial tensions it has been a godsend. It says clearly that racism is against the law in this country and, in my experience, kids respect that.
The community groundswell to maintain section 18C has been affirming; the impetus to repeal section 18C, though, unedifying. When I saw the footage of the Attorney-General saying everyone has the right to be a bigot I was gobsmacked. I was hurtled back to my classroom full of adolescents saying similarly thoughtless things. I understand though that adolescents are a work in progress, not so this supposedly grown-up government.