20 Jun, 2013 Last updated: 30 Mar, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

Letter first published in the Bendigo Advertiser 20 June 2013.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

Recent troubling reports exposing racism in Victoria show that it’s time to focus on a solution.

Every racist incident is serious, no matter how insignificant it seems. Our research shows the more racism someone experiences, the more likely they are to suffer from psychological distress, which can lead to other preventable health problems.

Last week, VicHealth and The University of Melbourne released important research that may just hold the key to ending these ugly racist incidents. We need to unlock the potential of people power.

Of the 600 Victorians in regional, rural and metro Victoria we surveyed, the majority (83%) wanted more to be done about racism.

One in three pledged to take action if they saw racism in any of its forms, be it abuse on a train, a hurtful sledge on the footy field or a distasteful racist joke at a barbecue.

But one in four people who were upset by racism wouldn’t act because they didn’t feel confident enough to step in and say or do something.
It is important that we all act if someone is being racist. Even small actions matter, it doesn’t have to be dramatic.

You can support the victim, film the incident, report it to police, challenge attitudes when someone is telling a racist joke, ask them why they feel that way, or simply reassure the target that most Victorians do not stand for this behaviour.

Racism hurts more than feelings and it’s up to every one of us to play our part and make this ugliness a thing of the past.

- Jerril