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Racism, racial discrimination and child and youth health

Research and Publications

Racism is a key driver of ill-health and health inequalities. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to racism’s harms. Intergroup attitudes, beliefs and behaviours are established in childhood, making this a priority time for action.

Report background 

This report focuses on Australian data collected in the last five years (2016–2020) and underscores the high prevalence of racial discrimination experienced by children and young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, and from some ethnic minoritised groups. It also focuses on what works in interventions to reduce the impacts of racism on health. Existing data is under-utilised and substantial data gaps remain. To inform the targeting of future action across policy, research and practice, investment is needed in the analysis of data already collected and to quantify and capture children and young people’s contemporary experiences of racial discrimination. 


What works? Forms of racism and effective anti-racism interventions target at children and young people 

Systemic/ institutional racism - Policies, conditions or practices that disadvantage certain groups in education, housing, employment, media (including online and social media), health care, and in the policing and criminal justice systems and so on. 

  • Advertising and mass media campaigns that feature real-life people and experiences 
  • Regular reviews and data collection on the nature, prevalence and impacts of racism 
  • Regular organisational audits (workplaces, schools, sporting clubs), with accountability for inaction 
  • Improved reporting and monitoring of racism 
  • Legal/policy changes in health care, child protection and out-of-home care, policing and youth justice 
  • Prominence of sovereignty and leadership. 

Interpersonal racism Discrimination between individuals, with varying degrees of frequency and intensity, including verbal abuse, racially motivated assault, ostracism and exclusion, both in person and online. 

  • Promote tolerance by working together in diverse teams 
  • Foster intergroup friendships 
  • Teach students how to be proactive bystanders to racism 
  • Actively learn about cooperation between different groups 
  • Train health, education and social sector professionals who work with children and youth 

Internalised racism - Accepting as true, the pervasive negative societal beliefs and stereotypes about stigmatised racial/ethnic groups. 

  • Training in empathy and perspective taking 
  • Promotion of intergroup harmony 
  • Education on morals and values 

Download full report here. 

Download summary report here. 

Watch our recent webinar here.

Key processes and approaches to address racism

  1. Explicitly name and address racism at a systemic, institutional level
  2. Foreground Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty and leadership
  3. Make anti-racism action life-course appropriate
  4. Co-design with community groups (architects and leaders) as well as children and young people (active participants)
  5. Strengthen collaboration between health promotion, First Nations and ethno-specific agencies
  6. Increase evaluation of interventions and monitoring of racism and racialised inequalities. 


Where to go from here 

While high-quality evidence of effective anti-racism strategies among children and young people is relatively sparse, we have identified promising approaches and key principles for action to enable a more detailed understanding of the response required to address racism as a fundamental cause of ill-health and health inequalities for children and young people. 


Thank you to the authors of this report  

  • Professor Naomi Priest
  • Dr Jun Guo
  • Ms Kate Doery
  • Dr Ryan Perry
  • Dr Katherine Thurber
  • Ms Roxanne Jones
  • With input from Dr Lina Gibaju and Ms Fiona Skelton 

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.